A Birmingham student union is facing financial ruin because undergraduates are not drinking as much as they used to.

Aston University's student guild said it would "cease to exist" if it does not find new ways of raising revenue to replace the traditional method of selling drink in bars.

The organisation, which is the hub of the university's 6,000 students, had to be saved from insolvency two years ago by the institution's managers with a one-off grant.

However it is now forecasting a deficit of £39,560 this year, growing to more than £125,000 by the end of the decade.

Student leaders say the situation at Aston is typical of university unions across the country as the prospect of huge debt fuels a more sober generation. About a year ago Warwick University reported its students were only consuming one pint of beer a week on average.

Sarah Griffiths, area convenor of the National Union of Students, said: "People take it a lot more seriously than they used to. They pay so much for their education they don't want to waste their time. The image people used to have of students is definitely on the decline."

Increased cultural diversity among students is partly to blame for the trend, with a greater proportion who do not drink for cultural or religious reasons.

Widening participation policies have also resulted in greater numbers from nontraditional backgrounds who opt to study near home and live with their parents to save money.

And the prospect of leaving university with an average debt currently of £13,500, means more students are mixing study with work, leaving less time to spend in union bars.

Aston's student guild is now exploring new ways of attracting custom, including setting up fruit and noodle bars to exploit healthconscious modern undergraduates.

A five-year plan to turn around its fortunes also includes replacing an oncampus bar with a "non alcoholic social space".

Nick Barnes, vice-president of finance and commercial services at Aston, said: "There has been a huge change in demographics in our students' profile over the last five years.

"At the moment the guild is catering for an alcohol environment.

"But a lot of students don't want to be in an alcohol environment."