Imagine yourself in 20 years’ time. You and your second spouse have just had a row over who’s gonna take the kids to school today. You’ll have made up by the time Emmerdale’s on tonight though, which you watch twice as often as you have sex. You’ll go to the pub with your mates on a Thursday, and while you stare wistfully at the condensation on the glass, you’ll think back to the last time you were properly alive: at your last uni pre-drinks.
Truly pre-drinks are the best part of uni, the energy of a room full of loads of people you know, and loads of people you don’t. The ability to play drinking games without feeling at all self-conscious, and the freedom to spew at 11pm and still keep going. There’s a common joy to be found at every uni pre-drinks, but each one has a distinct vibe and some are undoubtably better than others. What’s on the playlist, for example? What’s the drink of choice? Are there drugs? So many questions.
We toured the country’s higher education institutions, and have spoken before about sampling their nightlife and their post night-out takeaways. Now it’s time to compare how the pre-drinks measure up. Here’s to the beers, lads.
The best night out of your entire life. The pres is typical of every uni experience and yet somehow better. The Newcastle students drink faster and seemingly imbibe more with each sip, like they can physically open their gullets and pour that shit straight in there. If you leave your drink for too long you will inevitably be forced to “see it off”. It’s all a big game and Newcastle students are winning. It’s very flares, vests tied around backs with strings and lil sunglasses vibes. Everyone is friendly, pics are plentiful and the tunes are techno and remix central. Every mainstream song you know, they knew it for months before you and know a REALLY good remix to best you. And lest we forget, the (not so) humble treble. Lethal bois. Look, what can I say, Newcastle is just elite.
How battered do you get? 10/10 it’s fucking Newcastle oooo are yaaaaa.
What’s on the playlist? A song with three features remixed five times, so much that you have no idea what the OG song was. But you somehow recognise it.
Crack out the prosecco, it’s time for a loud one. Rah. Here amidst the beautiful old structures of Scotland’s capital you’ll find boys and girls spunking daddy’s money all over the place like his wallet’s hooked up to a machine gun of privilege. Red wine is left at the door lest you get it on their nice rugs, and you can perish the thought of taking public transport to the club. Ew.
How battered do you get? 3/10 (we can afford drinks in the club obv).
What’s on the playlist? ABBA.
Hyde Park is scary, and the walk to your pres will make you feel a little bit like you’re about to die. Then eventually you’ll meet the weird variety of Leeds students and question how the uni once had such a solid vibe when really it’s all over the place. They’re smart, they’re strange, they’re not as vibe focussed as Bristol or Newc but they DO like vodka. And gin. And spirits of all kind. If Leeds is in the business of one thing it’s getting abso smashed.
How battered do you get? 8/10 got in a fight with some boys outside the Maccies by Pryzm.
What’s on the playlist? Strangely also ABBA.
Glasgow pre-drinks are nice pre-drinks. The host provided some crisps and a few (really cheap) cans of Strongbow for beer pong. Everyone was in fancy dress, and I made some nice friends. The walk (and it is a walk) to the club is scenic, and my new mate texted me the next day asking if I had fun so honestly can’t complain.
How battered do you get? 7/10.
What’s on the playlist? Girls Aloud.
Unless you go to Durham, this will be the strangest pres of your life. Unlike any other uni pres, you do a bar crawl of their colleges and it really is like Harry Potter but with Dark Fruits. Everyone is, as expected, very posh. One of the college bars we went to had a piano and a student just sat down and started playing it. That’s so Durham. When I went out for a cig I saw a “college mother” and “college father” getting married like it was a real thing that other uni students do. Preposterous. You will, however, find the good ones in the Durham madness and be so grateful to vibe with someone a little less rah while you can. The poshos do it large too, you know.
How battered do you get? 6/10. It’s Durham I mean come on.
What’s on the playlist? Some kind Ariana Grande, we’re simple people at heart.
Sheff is truly the last remaining refuge for indie students in the UK. It’s the only place you’ll go to a pres and legitimately hear Arctic Monkeys playing without someone booing over the top of it. It’s messy, it’s a bit grim. Five pound rounds will kill you and West Street will bury you comfortably in your grave. I still haven’t fully recovered.
How battered do you get? 10/10 put a Ristorante pizza in the oven when I got back and left it in there all night. Never ate it.
What’s on the playlist? R U Mine – AM.
If there existed a generator for uni pre-drinks, this would be the default product. We’re talking ring of fire, we’re talking people taking their tops off, we’re talking *those* charts on the wall, we’re talking someone vomming at 10pm. If there’s a box, Exeter ticks it. After all, gotta go hard to make that early TP queue.
How battered do you get? 9/10.
What’s on the playlist? The Spotify top 50.
A Piccolo kinda night with a mix of pop classics and Mr Brightside style tayooons. There’s games, there’s mandatory downing, there’s prosecco out of pint glasses. It’s neither one thing nor the other, but distinctly unay. Much like Cardiff. And when you call the Uber, the Cardiff students will inevitably call him “drive”.
How battered do you get? 6/10.
What’s on the playlist? House Work or Lush life by Zara Larsson.
On the off-chance someone at King’s dares let you lose in their minuscule kitchen in Elephant and Castle you’ll probably be too distracted comparing what they get for £800 a month by snooping through their bedrooms, bathrooms, closets and mould sitch before sitting grumpily in a corner sipping your can. Also everyone at this pres really has their shit together. Self consciousness is not conducive to good vibes.
How battered do you get? 2/10.
What’s on the playlist? Drill (you’ll pretend to like it).
A UCL pre-drinks is indistinguishable from a KCL pre-drinks save for the people there are just… worse. Like, in every way.
How battered do you get? You’ll leave early.
What’s on the playlist? Premature deployment of Mr Brightside and Come On Eileen.
Manchester students are more afters people than pres people, and try as you might you’ll never inject any energy into their pres because they know the night isn’t ending until the sun rises the next day. I just wasn’t cool enough to be there and you know what that’s okay Liverpool was more fun anyway.
How battered do you get? -1/10.
What’s on the playlist? Idk but it wasn’t Cheryl.
Fucking hell Notts students love drinking games. Drinking with your non-dominant hand? You best believe you’re about to be murdered. Once they get to second and third year they’re drinking concoctions from actual bins that look like the Polyjuice Potion from Harry Potter.
How battered do you get? 11/10.
What’s on the playlist? Stormzy.
It’s difficult to say where the pre-drinks at Liverpool end and the night out begins, because you’ll be smashing booze regardless of what time it is as you hop between about seven clubs over the course of the night. Liverpool students are fans of getting two-litre bottles of mixer and pre-preparing gigantic vodka-lemonades for pres. They are capable of downing them, and will do so if you ask nicely.
How battered do you get? 9/10.
What’s on the playlist? Charli XCX.
A dirty, dirty place with a lot of good people and drugs required to have a good time. You’ll smoke a lot at the pres and do a lil sumthin sumthin’ to prep for the club, and play heaps of games that Cov students invented themselves (they love to do this? random). It’s not necessarily a talky pres, it’s a mission. It’s a two bottles of Echo Falls kinda pres. A four pack of K cider and vodka kinda pres. It’s messy, let’s leave it there.
How battered do you get? 7/10 alcohol wise, but by the time you reach the club you’ll be proper bent out of shape.
What’s on the playlist? Lean and Bop – J Hus.
At Bournemouth pre-drinks occurred in Spoons, and lacking in creativity though it might be, it felt very nostalgic. Can’t really complain when you can order nachos straight to your table and smash a couple of pitchers.
How battered do you get? 5/10.
What’s on the playlist? No music in Spoons… no music in Spoons.
For reasons I can’t quite fathom, RHUL’s pints are sold at London prices even though Egham and London are two different things. Somewhere in the twisted suburbia of non-London you’ll find a very classic interpretation of the uni pre-drinks, with the odd balloon here and there because these RoHo kids are quirky af.
How battered do you get? 3/10.
What’s on the playlist? McFly or Skepta. Pick your poison.
Okay so Lancaster is a slow burn. This is on account of Lancaster students in general having a rep of being kinda boring. They’re not, actually, and you realise this after approx. four drinks when it all goes to shit. You’re screaming Cardi B with some actual angel you met at the pres and you and your mate’s housemate physically slap each other for a bit of fun “made up” beef. Lancaster students have to get rowdy to keep things spicy and fun – it’s not a uni that comes with that reputation naturally, after all.
How battered do you get? 9/10 like I said, drunk to have fun.
What’s on the playlist? Bodak Yellow (obviously).
Pure vibes at Bristol pres and you’re surrounded by piff tings who clearly spend all their loans on Depop. The kinda people that were all Adidas and Neon in first year and now they’re bandanas and Carhartt. Not a big jump but that’s Bristol for ya. The music is out there, some reggae thrown in, you get a sense that everyone is completely aware that they’re cool but they’re also p loose about it – which may all be part of the act. Intellectual conversation is had and the convo is flowing, it’s not a games type of pres, it’s a chatty houseparty kind of pres. There are drugs somewhere. If you’re a Bristol student you can track them down with your keen snout like a sniffer dog.
How battered do you get? 8/10 if you include the drogas.
What’s on the playlist? No no no – Dawn Penn (classssssic Bristol).
Pres at Cambridge is a mixed bag normally in someone’s college room, but you could get portered, which is where the porters come and tell you off for being too noisy, especially if you’re in a college with a don and they’re in their room working late at night – it’ll quickly get shut down. You play drinking games, or you hijack a college formal, drink a whole lotta wine and then go on to a college bar because the drinks are cheap.
How battered do you get? 6/10. Can’t be too drunk when there’s philosophy to discuss.
What’s on the playlist? Bach and Beethoven, obv.
Okay I will level with you, pre-drinks at St Andrews were by a million miles the weirdest of all of the unis I went to, including Norwich. First off, their houses are gross (like, seriously hoover your floor). Second, this was the first place I witnessed people drinking while listening to Jai Ho by the Pussycat Dolls (but only during the chorus) but here’s the thing: No one spoke during this. Weirder still we then went off to the Union which is the most bread and butter school disco-esque night out you could ever imagine. Lovely people though, shout-out Prince Will love you man.
How battered do you get? 4/10.
What’s on the playlist? Lily Allen (I know).
When Warwick students play drinking games, they call it circling, I spent a lot of time debating whether this was cute or lame but nonetheless participated because realistically what else was I going to do? Pres at Warwick most of the time end up being way more fun than the actual night out, which will inevitably end up with one or more members of your party spewing purple vomit all up in some loos. Get me to Viali’s.
How battered do you get? 7/10.
What’s on the playlist? “OMG I recognise this song from TikTok!!”
Aberdeen was the best night out mainly because of the pres. You know how pre-drinking in bars not named Spoons is a bit of an L finance-wise? Well in Abz you can get quite smashed without breaking the bank. A bottle of vodka was like 20 quid. No lie. Then you can head to Tunnels and hit the woah to some Rudimental (or not, I’m not your dad).
How battered do you get? I’m drinkin’ rum…
What’s on the playlist? … and Red Bull.
Pre-drinks in Norwich can go one of two ways, you can either have a few at their very cute SU bar (be warned they will not be happy if you don’t have your ID card) or you can do what I like to call the true Norwich pres. This means a cocktail bar set up in the corner of the living room, Supermarket Sweep on the box, a hot tub randomly, and then retiring at 12am for… umm… something else until 4am. You’ll notice this doesn’t involve actually going out, because Norwich pres never ends. It stays with you. Forever.
How battered do you get? X Æ A-12 / 10.
What’s on the playlist? Snoop Dogg.
Brighton is legit a really nice place to live. So nice that pres are usually at like… actual bars. And not houses. The bar and pub scene in Brighton is unreal. There’s a bar where you can control the music like a jukebox from your phone, a fancy cocktail bar, one where you trade in a lime for a beer (like a real life physical lime you have to bring with you) and one which looks like Henry VIII lived in it. Honestly this is the place you wanna live forever. The students aren’t snobby like you’d expect a bar pres kinda student to be, they’re down and they want all the alcohol content for the lowest price (I mean not as low as if you stayed inside, but low). Everyone’s dressed like your most stylish cousin or a Charli XCX stan. It’s beautifully gay.
How battered do you get? 8/10 but still sober enough to leave the club with a fitty.
What’s on the playlist? Rizzle Kicks ‘cos you gotta support the local bois.
York is a lovely place. You know, if you’re into castles. Pres at York will involve some nice beers with some nice people (away from the cold). Maybe you’ll talk about the football. You’ll neck a VK to try and impress them and they’ll look at you like you’re an embarrassment because that’s just not the done thing here. They’ll make sure you don’t get too drunk you’re sick and leave the club at bang-on 1:30am when everyone has had enough.
How battered do you get? 2/10.
What’s on the playlist? Little Mix.
Crack out the fridge drawer and fill it with a few bottles of juice and voddie and blammo you’ve got a banging pres in a very very untidy house. Obviously the key to a Soton night out is sugar. You chug your sugary pre-drink of choice before landing in Sobar and chugging several Quad Vods, which are very sugary things indeed. Your hangover will be the worst you’ve ever experienced. Like, you’ll be shivering.
How battered do you get? 7/10.
What’s on the playlist? “I swear this is the wrong playlist I don’t listen to Craig David.”
Took a nap in preparation because they said the words “sesh” so much I was genuinely a bit scared. Lincoln was, randomly, one of the best nights out of my life. The pres were rowdy, there was a strange mix of Eminem and that “Because I Got High” song playing. It was a proper friendship group pres, like a house party before a night out. However at one point my host’s flatmates came in and looked at us very pointedly with anger, standing in the corner of the kitchen. Kinda harshed my vibe, uno? There was also a halls fire alarm, which added to the unay effect.
How battered do you get? 6/10.
What’s on the playlist? N Dubz.
No small Brookes pres exists. It’s just not possible. They love nights out too much, they will always be able to wrangle a sizeable group of mates to get down n’ dutty with them. There’s gonna be a lot of vodka and weird mixers, posh talk (Brookes is posh af, FYI, signet rings aplenty) and drinking games where you fully rinse each other. Like “who’s the worst in bed?” level drinking games. Brookes students take no prisoners.
How battered do you get? 9/10 threw up one hour into the club.
What’s on the playlist? Kid Cudi Pursuit of Happiness (nightmare) Steve Aoki remix
Not being funny but Selly Oak is fucking rank. Also all the houses are weirdly identical. Anyway Birmingham students quite like pre-ing outside to avoid looking at the mouldy remains of their pasta, and pre-ing hard to avoid smelling it.
How battered do you get? 8/10.
What’s on the playlist? Jason Derulo.
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