A comprehensive support program, which encompasses promotive, curative, rehabilitative and
coordinated services, could alleviate the burden of alcohol abuse among students at higher
education institutions (HEIs) in South Africa. Alcohol abuse is a growing public health and socioeconomic
burden affecting many people worldwide. The high prevalence of alcohol abuse among
students at HEIs has been reported in many countries, and South Africa is no exception. In South
Africa, HEIs must comply with the National Liquor Act 70 of 2008 and related legislation, as well as
relevant municipal by-laws, which regulate the availability of alcohol. Some HEIs have alcohol
abuse intervention programs in place. However, it is not clear if these support programs are
comprehensive and focussed enough to address the alcohol abuse problem as stipulated in the
South African National Drug Master Plan (NDMP) (2013 - 2017).
The overall aim of this study was to evaluate and develop a comprehensive support program in the
management of alcohol abuse among students at HEIs in South Africa. The study followed a
pragmatist approach in three phases to answer the overall research question. In phase 1, a survey
was used to evaluate the current support programs used at various HEIs. In phase 2, appreciative
inquiry AI with stakeholders involved with student support programs was used to develop a
comprehensive support program. In phase 3, an e-Delphi technique was used to refine the
comprehensive support program through reaching a consensus. The study utilized a 3-phased approach. In the first phase, the study used a quantitative
questionnaire to collect data from 105 participants, in line with the NDMP pillars of supply, harm
and demand reduction, and were analysed through descriptive data analysis. With regards to
supply reduction, the results showed no statistical association between supply reduction in relation
to alcohol abuse policy and the management of alcohol abuse among students at HEIs. In harm
reduction, the results of the Kruskal-Wallis chi-square probability also proposes no significant
association between harm reduction and individual psychological vulnerability. With regards to
demand reduction, the Kruskal-Wallis chi-square showed no evidence of differences with respect
to the responses between participants on demand reduction and support programs.
During the AI phases, participants had an opportunity to appreciate the best of “what has been”
and “what is already working” at HEIs and provide inputs on what they aspire for in a
comprehensive support program. Thematic data analysis according to Braun and Clarke was used
to analyse data data and to identify themes to draft a comprehensive support program that will help
in the management of alcohol abuse among students at HEIs.
To address the last objectives of the study, a comprehensive support program that could manage
alcohol abuse among students at HEIs in South Africa was refined, using three e-Delphi rounds.
Consensus was obtained using a Likert scale to evaluate the draft program based on the
comments and recommendations outlined by expert panellists in each of the e-Delphi rounds. As a
result, a more integrated, coordinated comprehensive and focussed support program in line with
the NDMP as required in the South African legislation was developed. Further research should
investigate alcohol abuse at private campuses, colleges of higher learning and universities of
technology in various parts of South Africa.