Naked socials and fake weddings: All the weird uni traditions you didn’t know about
Some of these traditions scream ‘cult’
Some UK universities have been around for over 800 years and they have gathered a lot of weird traditions in that time. But it’s not just the ancient universities who boast contenders for the odd uni traditions in the UK.
Every university student knows about a tradition unique to the place they have chosen to study. If you weren’t proudly informed of its history and importance at an open day, did you really pay attention?
These traditions rule the social calendars of some unis and some have scandalous reputations. Some will shock your grandparents and inspire your siblings to follow in your footsteps, but no matter how they’re perceived outside of your uni, they’re dear to the students who continue to uphold these weird and wonderful traditions.
We got down and dirty to discover the weirdest uni traditions from across the country and this is what we found:
St Andrews: Gaudie
You’ve heard of Raisin Weekend and the May Dip by now, but did you know about the St Andrews annual Gaudie?
Hosted by the Kate Kennedy Club every year, the Gaudie happens the evening before the May Dip, where students gather at the pier with torches to commemorate the death of John Honey.
John Honey was a St Andrews student who lost his life saving six crew members from a shipwrecked boat called ‘Janet’. Every year, thousands of students walk the pier with their torches in his memory and listen to the story of this heroic rescue mission.
Following the Gaudie, students head to the SU and house parties to drink the night away before the freezing dash into the North Sea at dawn on May 1.
York and Lancaster: Roses Tournament
This really is the rivalry that won’t die. Since the War of the Roses in the 15th century Lancashire and Yorkshire have been rivals and this is never more obvious today than in the annual Roses Tournament.
This sports tournament organised by the universities respective student unions (YUSU and LUSU) sees the universities go head to head in over 50 sports including cheerleading, rowing, hockey and chess.
Each uni alternates the hosting duties and puts on a massive opening ceremony with performances from uni teams and speakers to begin the event.
For those not participating in the sport, the weekend is essentially a mega piss up with a bitter rivalry at the centre. The competition is close though, with 26 wins for Lancaster and 28 to York, the winning university has alternated every year for the last decade.
Leeds: Otley Run
This brutal pub crawl takes participants to 16 bars over a mile and a half route into Leeds city centre.
The mega pub crawl attracts groups of friends, societies, locals and ex-students reliving the good old days. It typically has 16 stops but groups who are feeling particularly messy can add a few extra.
The Otley Run is a rite of passage for students and requires them to dress up and have a pint in all 16 pubs along the route which loosely follows the Headingley Mile. Few people make it to the end and the entire route usually takes all day.
Every day in Leeds, groups of people in over-the-top fancy dress can be seen stumbling into bars along the route. One student saw “about 30 Velma Dinkleys in all diff shapes, sizes, and genders but identically dressed” and that was a tame day.
Durham: College marriages
Ever thought you’d be married with kids at 20? Well in Durham, college marriages are a massive deal. Basically, college marriages and families are a way to give freshers a network of friends, and the weddings and formals provide the perfect environment to get absolutely slaughtered and make mates.
They also have super extravagant proposals – one Durham student was made to do “a choreographed dance routine to super bass with a Nicki Minaj cardboard cutout”. Another Durham student “put on his whole Scottish formal wear and proposed with a ring”.
Students get married throughout the year and the size and scale of weddings varies but they’re always a total blast, but rest assured there is no legal union involved.
Freshers are allocated ‘parents’ when they join the university and in second year they’re allocated their own children. Some students cultivate huge family trees and keep up with their aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and siblings at family formals.
Edinburgh: Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh Castle
Apparently there’s a superstition among some Edi student that if freshers don’t climb Arthur’s Seat in their first week they will fail their exams.
However, an Edinburgh student also told The Tab that if students don’t climb Arthur’s Seat in their first seven days at uni they get seven years of bad sex – doesn’t seem worth risking.
Another tradition dictates students can’t visit Edinburgh Castle until they graduate otherwise they will never graduate.
Oxford: Formal Exams
Students at the UK’s oldest university have to wear formal gowns for matriculation and graduation as well as for their exams. Oxford is renowned for its strict dress code rules but wearing gowns for exams feels like a step too far.
Most undergrad students wear ‘commoners gowns’ and wear different coloured carnations to show which year they’re in for their exams. The carnation colours change from white to pink to red over the three years of study.
Exeter: Safer Sex Ball
The Exeter SSB has been a tradition for over two decades and is a firm favourite among students. The ball aims to promote safer sex and raise money for the uni’s RAG charities by asking students to come dressed in their underwear.
The event happens in November and features a rodeo penis among other activities for students to try their hand at when they’ve finished necking on the dance floor.
Apparently, there’s an age old saying at Exeter that if you can’t pull at SSB, you can’t pull anywhere. To be honest, it looks like one of the most interesting and fun uni traditions I’ve seen.
Like Oxford, Cambridge has a lot of formal gown rules. A Cambridge student told The Tab: “They’re so regulated, we have to wear gowns and aren’t allowed to take them off. The boys have to wear suits and aren’t allowed to take jackets off.
“We’re not allowed our phones out and we’re not allowed to sing happy birthday or anything.”
They also have to greet their Fellowes (lecturers) in LATIN and the fun only starts when they leave and students can begin Pennying.
Pennying is basically a game where if someone manages to get a penny in your glass you have to down the glass. If they get a five pence in your dessert you have to eat it without cutlery, just using your hands.