Setting: The United Kingdom (UK) government has acknowledged that there is a problem with excess alcohol consumption, in particular amongst young people. Higher education is an important health promotion setting in which to explore not only how sensible drinking patterns can be facilitated and embedded in students' current lifestyles but also how students, as future citizens, can inform policies which, in turn, will impact on future populations. Objective: This study aimed to explore and disseminate current practice relating to the promotion of sensible drinking amongst students attending higher education institutions (HEIs) in the south west of England. Along with the identification of examples of current practice, the study aimed to identify current issues and concerns relating to alcohol consumption amongst students. Method: Survey data from HEIs across the south west of England were gathered using questionnaires to key respondents in each institution. To further investigate what information on sensible drinking is available for students, an electronic search was made of each of the HEI's websites for relevant materials, initiatives and policies. Results: The HEIs involved in this study used a wide range of approaches and initiatives related to sensible drinking amongst their students. All of these contribute towards encouraging a culture of safer and more sensible drinking-related behaviour amongst students, and towards an emerging body of good practice. Conclusion: With the backdrop of the government's alcohol strategy, and the evidence linking excessive alcohol consumption to less productive student learning, recommendations are made to enhance this work in a more coordinated and sustainable way. © 2013 The Author(s).