The History of Student Life: 7 Things You Didn’t Know

Memorable and extravagant, today’s student life hardly differs from the experiences students lived through in previous centuries.


Student life is an unparalleled social phenomenon typically associated with revelry, fun, living in the moment, and yes, studying itself. This remarkable period of human life serves as a bridge from reckless adolescence to conscious adulthood. And, inspired by the glitz and prominence of student life, we have inquired into the history of this lavish period, attempting to trace its origins and find out whether it has always been encompassed by the iconic attributes we know it by today.

As a distinct social category, students have been marked by the unrestrained craving for celebration and adventures ever since university communities first emerged. Today’s fascinating image of student life formed throughout the rich history of this phenomenon, which hides some mind-bending facts no reference book would ever feature. Indeed, the historical background of the student’s everyday life displays some surprising traditions and habits that would seem utterly odd to a representative of the modern university lifestyle.

1. They Have Always Been Into Partying

It’s not only today’s student life that is marked by loud merrymaking, making party-crazy students look for essay help from some trustworthy academic writing service like EssayShark. This fanciful practice has been adopted by students since the beginning of academic times. Some medieval chronicles include the accounts of famous historians describing how bright and vibrant students’ leisure activities were. This is how Walter Bower, a Middle Ages history scholar, accounts the striking revelry that took place after the opening of St. Andrews University in 1414: “They spent the rest of the day in boundless merrymaking and kept large bonfires burning while drinking wine in celebration…”

For many, it’s a bit astonishing to discover that roaring alcohol-laden blasts were a regular experience a couple of centuries ago, as a lot of people tend to attribute reproachfully the loose and rather wayward lifestyle only to the current generation of youth. It turns out, however, that our predecessors were no less enthusiastic party animals!

The renowned St. Andrews University is also recognized for its old tradition called “Raisins Weekend.” It centered around the following “ritual”: freshmen would give some raisins to their older peers, receiving in return an invitation to a two-day party, which would end with a foam night. And, at one point in 1930, “raisins” parties got so rampant and uncontrollable that they were banned for three years.

2. Going Wild

Aside from indulging themselves with unrestrained celebrations, students also love to demonstrate their rambunctious temper through engaging in riots and other atrocious activities. Somewhat rebellious by their nature, students sometimes find it hard to curb their young spirit. One of such violent “students-gone-wild” events was an Essex protest, which was caused by some highly controversial lecture and resulted in burnt cars and shattered windows.

Earlier in 1907, about a thousand dissatisfied students staged a rebellion aimed at defending their right to study anatomy through the vivisection practice. They organized a march down London’s main streets and threw bombs during court cases.

Lastly, allegedly the bloodiest student protest in British history was the St. Scholastica’s Day riot in 1355 in Oxford. The destructive commotion broke out after a couple of students assaulted the bartender of the local pub. It’s worth mentioning that this attack wasn’t sudden – over the years prior to the riot, the town had been witnessing a severe conflict between the university students and the townspeople. The day after the riot, around two thousand locals went to the town holding bows and arrows and crying out their threats. Reportedly, about 40 to 60 scholars were slaughtered that day.

3. Even the Poor Were Welcome

For some reason, many people mistakenly assume that in the past, higher education was just a privilege for the rich. But little do they know that the first universities in the UK opened their doors for the people of low social class. The admission records of Oxford, Cambridge, and St. Andrews universities indicate that most students belonged to middle-ranking clergy families.

4. With the Lid On

Unlike the liberal university life we have these days, the student life of the past was quite controlled and regulated. As evidence for the strict regulatory system of the past, we can use the disciplinary reports of the Middle and Tudor ages. They display recorded attempts to keep a tight reign on students’ behavior and their morale. These restrictions included reducing the time for extracurricular activities, banning football, and imposing some other ridiculous regulations deemed to be appropriate by the university authorities.

5. Precocious Students

Unbelievable as it might seem, during the medieval period, student were admitted to universities at a very early age – as young as 12. This strange tendency in the educational system was the case during the Tudor and Stuart periods, and might have been caused by overly long studying programs that could take up to 12 years.

6. Sexism Was Also the Case

The severely unfair treatment of women manifested itself in the education realm, too. Women were mostly unwelcome in studying establishments, which was conveyed through the hanging of an effigy of a female cyclist in 1897. The appalling hanging was a form of protest by male students against the proposal to grant women full degrees. And it wasn’t until 1951 that women were permitted to gain full degrees at Cambridge.

7. “Yes” to Foreign Students

Since the 12th century, foreign students have been allowed to enter British universities. Although there indeed was some prejudice and discrimination that students from abroad faced, the top UK universities were inclined to giving foreign students a chance to gain the proper education. There are some testimonials from Indian students that corroborate the favorable attitude of the university authorities to students from across the globe. Samuel Satthianadhan, a Cambridge student, happened to get a degree in one of the world’s most reputable universities. In his guidebook “Four Years in an English University,” he provided a complete account of his student life, assuring readers that they wouldn’t feel diminished or awkward in the walls of this grand university.


We always view things and notions based on our own experience, which may entail some biases and misconceptions. Seeing the student life from our limited perspective, none of us would think that it could ever display anything from what we covered earlier in this article. In this regard, we hope that we managed to expand your perception of this phenomenon and enrich your knowledge of its all-encompassing history.