Fifteen years ago the concept of students demanding a "non-alcoholic social space" would have seemed absurd.

But that is exactly what Aston University is planning to set up in order to boost revenue from its 6,000-strong student population.

The move is a vivid example of how far removed today's undergraduates are from the traditional image.

Out is the archetypal scruffily-dressed lay-about getting up to no good after consuming large quantities of cheap booze.

In is the smartly-dressed, money-conscious studentprofessional much more focused on the end result of their studies than what lies at the bottom of a pint of beer.

Widening participation means less are likely to benefit from rich parents, making part time employment essential. It also means more candidates from different cultural and religious backgrounds, where drinking is not part of their social life.

Both trends are set to continue as the Government focuses on getting half of all 18 to 30-year-olds in university by the end of the decade.

The proportion of foreign students, typically low alcohol consumers, has grown too, as universities seek to capitalise on the extra revenue they bring.

Nick Barnes, Aston University student guild's vicepresident of finance and commercial services, said: "The Government is going for this widening participation drive and encouraging students from non- traditional backgrounds to go to university. From a student guild point of view that is difficult. The students we traditionally targeted were the drinking party animals who live on campus and go to the student doss. But in the last five years there has been a change in student culture. Some are still in it for the fun, but the majority are in it for other reasons.

"In order to run our services we have to be commercial. The problem we are finding is the majority of our students aren't using our commercial services, but they are using the advice services which cost money to run."

Aston's student guild is looking at developing new ways of raising revenues, including the "non alcoholic social space" facility.

It will replace an existing bar with a cafe selling fruit juice, coffee, milkshakes and other non-alcoholic beverages.

Another bar is to be replaced with a fashionable baguette shop and there will be a greater emphasis on catering for health- conscious and overseas students. A pharmacy may also be created, as well as an informal study area where, for example, students can fill in application forms.

"We are no longer looking at evening trade," said Mr Barnes. "We are looking at daytime trade and what individual students want from us. What they don't want is pot noodles and beer.

"Students are much more aware of what they are consuming."

He added: "At the moment we are only really targeting students who live on campus with evening entertainments. There is another 60 per cent that wants something else and that is where we are targeting our activities."

The union plans to conduct market research to assess exactly what students want. Mr Barnes believes the next few years will be critical.

"If things carry on as they are, we will cease to exist by the end of the decade."