13 Weird and Wonderful Facts About UK Universities


13 Weird and Wonderful Facts About UK Universities

09 February 2018


by aparto admin

aparto admin

From haunted castles to bears on campus, Britain’s universities have their fair share of tall-tales and unusual traditions, many dating back hundreds of years. Embracing these unique customs is part and parcel of studying in the UK, and you’ll soon come to treasure the coloured, and often downright bizarre, heritage of your chosen university. To celebrate the weird and wonderful of Britain’s higher education institutes, here we share 13 unusual facts, customs and traditions you never knew about the UK’s universities.

1. The University of York Boasts 14 Ducks for Every Quarter of an Acre of Land

You better get used to the sound of dabbling ducks if attending the University of York, because the campus is home to hundreds of them. Indeed, it’s thought there’s around 14 for every 0.25 acres of land – more than any other university. So popular are ducks among students and faculty members, they’re held near-sacred, and there’s even a blog dedicated to the campus’ winged residents.

2. No Dogs? I'll Keep a Bear Instead

Romantic poet and eccentric socialite, Lord Byron, is regarded as one of the University of Cambridge’s most famous alumni, and rumours of his exploits remain the talk of campus – not least reports that he once kept a tame bear as a pet. It’s thought Byron bought the bear at Stourbridge Fair in the early 1800s, before smuggling it into his university dorm.

3. Stand Beneath Birmingham’s Old Joe Clock Tower, and Risk Failing Your Finals

Nearly every college in the UK has its myths and superstitions, and it’s the same with Birmingham University. Here, students are warned not to stand beneath the clock tower of Old Joe when the bells are chiming, for fear that it will bring bad luck and they’ll fail their final exams.

4. A Chocolate Factory Helped Establish Bristol University

That’s right, scholars at Bristol University owe their education to 19th-century chocolatiers, Wills and Fry, whose generous donations helped the university establish a Royal Charter. While we’re on the topic of chocolate, did you know that Wills and Fry were also the first to produce a chocolate egg to celebrate Easter, in 1873?

5. Durham is the UK’s Most Haunted University

                              From the Lavender Lady in the Castle’s back stairwell to the spectre of an electrician who walks the student theatre; Durham is reputed to be Britain’s most haunted university, perhaps owing to its immense history and eerie castle grounds. We wouldn’t let that put you off, however, as Durham is often ranked among the world’s top 100 universities.

6. Witchy Goings On at Lancaster University’s Pendle College

Here’s an interesting fact for you: Pendle College at Lancaster University takes its name from the Pendle Witch Trials, a series of executions which took place on Lancashire’s Pendle Hill in the early 17th century. In tribute to this heritage, the college’s logo features a witch against a full moon.

7. The Oath of Oxford University

So precious and valuable are some of the volumes held in the Oxford University library, that all new students on campus must swear a historic oath promising to protect and preserve the contents of the Bodleian Library. The oath reads: “I hereby undertake not to remove from the library, or to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document, or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the library or kindle therein any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the library; and I promise to obey all rules of the library.”

8. UCL was the First to Admit Female Students on the Same Campus as Men

Portrait of a happy multi-ethnic group of students studying outdoors and smiling - education concepts
University College London made history in 1878, becoming the first higher education institute to allow female undergraduates to study on the same campus as their male counterparts. Interestingly, the youngest ever Brit to graduate from Oxford University was female, Ruth Lawrence, who achieved this incredible feat at just 13 years of age.

9. Middlesex University Boasts a Royal Secret

Although never officially confirmed, rumours are rife that the Royal Family regularly enjoy afternoon tea at a cottage retreat in the grounds of Middlesex University. The tradition was reputedly started by the Queen Mother, who enjoyed the peaceful aspect of the college’s secluded grounds in the heart of London.

10. Edinburgh University Boasts the UK’s Oldest Student Newspaper

The Student was established in 1887, making it the oldest continually-published student newspaper in the country. Perhaps more interestingly, the paper was established by Robert Louis Stephenson, legendary author of Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

11. Angus the Bull and the Rector of the University of Aberdeen

One of our favourite university traditions comes from Aberdeen, where newly-appointed Rectors (the students’ representative in the University Court) must ride Angus the Bull, the university’s bovine mascot, to a local pub, and there buy a round of drinks for their supporters.
Group of friends hanging out

12. The University of Sussex’s Famous ‘Dissertation Dash’

While most third-year students hand their final dissertation in without any fan-fair, things are done differently at the University of Sussex. Here, hundreds of students turn out for the annual Dissertation Dash on deadline day, and cheer on those who have left it until the final hour.

13. Stirling University’s Very Own Loch Ness Monster

Forget Nessie – if you want to trace the legacy of mythical Scottish beasts, you need only become a student of Stirling University. This historic Scottish college boasts its own loch, which is reputed to be the home of a mythical beast similar to the Loch Ness Monster. Whether there’s any truth in the myth is beyond us, but it does seem like an effective means of discouraging courageous scholars from taking a dip in the campus lake. At aparto, we believe your home isn’t just a room, but a fundamental part of your overall student experience. To find out more about our unique offering of contemporary student accommodation, visit the homepage or contact us today.
aparto admin

you might like these

Residence spotlight: Queens Court, Reading

With university just around the corner, there is so much to look forward to. From meeting new people to exploring a new and exciting city. If you’re pondering on your student accom…

read more
Moving to university? 10 essentials for your suitcase

There’s lots to think about when moving to university for the first time and a whole new city to explore! We’ve done some of the leg work to give you one less thing to ponder – wha…

read more
Our end of lockdown events

The recent lockdowns have undoubtedly been tough on everyone, so we wanted to treat our residents as certain restrictions were eased.  Monday 12th April marked the day of a change…

read more