Aims: To report on alcohol use disorders and hazardous drinking from a survey of university students in England in 2008–2009. Methods: A cross-sectional survey using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) was carried out in a purposive sample of 770 undergraduates from seven universities across England. Results: Sixty-one per cent of the sample (65% men; 58% women) scored positive (8+) on the AUDIT, comprising 40% hazardous drinkers, 11% harmful drinkers and 10% with probable dependence. There were large and significant differences in mean AUDIT scores between the universities taking part in the survey. Two universities in the North of England showed a significantly higher combined mean AUDIT score than two universities in the Midlands which in turn showed a significantly higher mean AUDIT score than three universities in the South. When the effects of university attended were extracted in a binary logistic regression analysis, independent significant predictors of AUDIT positive status were younger age, ‘White’ ethnicity and both on-campus and off-campus term-time student accommodation. Conclusions: Undergraduates at some universities in England show very high levels of alcohol-related risk and harm. University authorities should estimate the level of hazardous drinking and alcohol use disorders among students at their institutions and take action to reduce risk and harm accordingly. Research is needed using nationally representative samples to estimate the prevalence of alcohol risk and harm in the UK student population and to determine the future course of drinking problems among students currently affected.