Unseen University

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Unseen University
coat of arms
Name Unseen University
Location Ankh-Morpork
Use University
Residents Wizards
Built 1282 AM (1 UC)
Founded by Alberto Malich the Wise
Books The Colour of Magic
The Light Fantastic
Equal Rites
Moving Pictures
Reaper Man
Soul Music
Interesting Times
The Last Continent
The Truth
Thief of Time
Going Postal
Unseen Academicals
Notes Motto: NVNC ID VIDES, NVNC NE VIDES (now you see it, now you don't)

"Unseen University, home of the greatest wizards on the Discworld. And one or two of the worst."

The Unseen University (UU) is a school for wizards located in Ankh-Morpork. It was founded in the year 1282 AM (1 UC) by Alberto Malich the Wise.

The Place

The Unseen University has gates of octiron, and single-minded Bledlows to perform the Ceremony of the Keys every night. The University has an octagonal lawn, roses, other plants, and compost heaps tended by Mr. Modo, the university's dwarf gardener. The buildings are of ancient stone, and contain many dark, winding corridors and small rooms, far more than the size of the grounds should allow. The unusual architecture of the building suggests that the top storeys and roof were built before the ground floors. Inside the University is the Great Hall, where the Wizard's four main meals of the day are eaten. Also noteworthy are the hundreds of paintings and busts of former Archchancellors that line the vestibule just outside the Great Hall. Other notable features are the Uncommon Room, the staffroom of the Faculty (see below); the gymnasium (which is for students to practise spells, not exercise, and - as such - is lined and protected very powerfully); the Emperor candle and the Tesseractical floor.

The grounds are enclosed in brick walls, but there are some places where bricks can be removed to offer convenient footholds for young and reasonably athletic students to climb over. The more famous buildings are: The Tower of Art, the Library, and the High Energy Magic Building.

Old Tom is the University's bell and it is made of octiron. Every hour this bell chimes heavy silences which render all sounds inaudible. Sometimes Old Tom also rings during incidents involving a massive amount of magic, making verbal communication very difficult during the emergency.

The Unreal Estate is an area outside of the University walls. The area used to be the University's dumpster, and the magic contamination has until recently made the ground unusable for any housing or farming. However, part of this area has since been developed into the Thaumatological Park. This serves two purposes: it earns money for the University by selling commercially useful by-products of research magic such as the Dis-organiser, and it keeps young wizards trained by Ponder Stibbons usefully occupied after graduation, otherwise there's no telling what minds like those would find to do. As the area is still inherently dangerous, a really cynical senior wizard might reflect that it could even thin their numbers out a bit, which is no bad thing...

The University is unbelievably rich. This comes from the rents of Sator Square, the Plaza of Broken Moons, magical services throughout the city and the classrooms that are rented out for various uses. Much more recently there has been the money made from the Thaumatological Park. Additionally, the University doesn't spend much, on food especially. People donate food regularly to the place, on the basis that if there were a lot of daft old men living on enough magic to rip a hole in two realities near you, you'd want them to be too full to move as well.

The People

For many centuries, the wizards in Unseen University vied for the top position, the Archchancellor. The wizards were also in eight orders, each wizard fighting for the higher positions in the order, and fighting off other orders. (For more on in-fighting of wizards, see also the article Wizard's magic.) After the coming of Archchancellor Ridcully, the power structure stabilized because nobody is able to murder Ridcully. The fighting changed from magical and murderous to quarrels and minor insults between faculty members. Everybody is able to come down alive and have a big dinner in relative calm, (unless the Bursar is insane for the moment or there is major magical disturbance in the vicinity.) There are many, many faculty members who are wizards who specialize in particular studies, drawing no salary, living at the ends of obscure corridors, unknown and unseen by others except at meals or when the more important wizards require the specialized wizards for some reason. Few faculty members like to teach. They have virtual lectures in a classroom, (Room 3b) that does not exist, a happy arrangement mutually understood and respected by Faculty and students alike. The other lecture theatre specifically mentioned in the chronicles is Room 5b, which has its own woes in that Space and Time have come adrift from each other, and a lecturer walking in might discover he's already there and has started taking a class twenty minutes previously. Genuine lectures do happen at the University and are generally well-attended: refer to Equal Rites, where Eskarina Smith clandestinely attends the lectures by hiding underneath the tiered benches, and watching from behind a line of pointy boots. Student wizards do have to pass an exam, with an 88% pass mark, to obtain a Bachelor's degree. After that, a wizard may leave and find work, or stay and do more researches for advanced degrees.

All alumni of the UU have the right to wear a bronze octogram which symbolises their attendance at the school.

The faculty members listed below are well-known simply because they appear more often to the public and are there when the Archchancellor calls for meetings. These faculty members are not known for their lectures or the importance of their subjects. A hot subject, if such it may be called, is any technomancy under Ponder Stibbons's supervision, but in fact, his students are not more single-minded than other research students, and his department does not draw particularly many more students than other departments. Still, Mr. Stibbons's labs in the High Energy Building are often helpful to the Archchancellor in these modern times.

The Top Faculty

Left to right: The Lecturer in Recent Runes, The Dean, The Librarian, The Archchancellor, The Senior Wrangler, The Bursar, Ponder Stibbons, The Chair of Indefinite Studies and Rincew.... oh he's, er, gone.

Note: As of Unseen Academicals "The Dean" is now Archchancellor of Brazeneck College

  • Hex, the University's thinking-engine, although nominally a campus resource, functions as a de facto member of the top faculty

Other Members of the Teaching Staff

The Staff

Former Faculty & Staff

  • Windle Poons, wizard (deceased).
  • Evans the Striped, sports master (deceased).
  • Brother Fingers once worked as an odd-job man at UU.
  • Inspector Lewton briefly hired on as a dormitory bedmaker in Discworld Noir, but only as a ruse to snoop around the campus.
  • Dr. Fettle Dodgast, age 132 when interviewed in The Truth, most likely belongs among the former, not current, faculty by now.
  • Dr Sensibility Bustle, DM, Phil, B.EI L, Patricius Professor of Magic, linguistics expert and hiver researcher (deceased).
  • Professor H.F. Pullunder (Doctor Erratamus) is mentioned by Ponder while reading the Book of Traditions. No one recognizes the name.
  • Dr. Earwig retired to get married to a witch, now Mrs. Letice Earwig.
  • Dr. Housemartin left UU for medical reasons (a bad case of work-related frogs).
  • Professor Maidenhair transferred to Genua, possibly in hopes that people there wouldn't laugh at his name.
  • The Senior Tutor attends a faculty council meeting at the start of Eric, but no later Council meeting includes him. Possibly this is one of the top faculty, not yet promoted to his better-known rank.
  • Prissal Teatar passed away for real at UU some 30 years before Reaper Man, having previously faked his death in jest on multiple occasions.

Former Archchancellors

  • Alberto Malich – founder
  • Archchancellor Bewdley – according to his commemorative statue, disliked Ankh-Morpork intensely. According to The Last Continent, a magical hole opened in his left boot.
  • Archchancellor "Trouter" Hopkins – his actual preserved body is in the great hall, in accordance with his will, in which he stated that he wanted his body to be pickled in alcohol posthumously.
  • Archchancellor William Badger – a very unpopular man, whose likeness is on the University's drain covers.
  • Archchancellor Galder Weatherwax – Archchancellor in The Light Fantastic
  • Archchancellor Cutangle – Archchancellor in Equal Rites
  • Archchancellor-Elect Virrid Wayzygoose – an almost-Archchancellor who died before his own inaugural dinner in Sourcery
  • Archchancellor Ezrolith Churn – Archchancellor in Eric
  • Archchancellor Buckleby – Apparently locked himself in his own wardrobe. Mentioned in Hogfather
  • Archchancellor Spode – mentioned in Hogfather and instituted a rule about locking doors
  • Archchancellor Sloman – mentioned in "A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices"; discovered the Special Theory of Slood
  • Archchancellor Bowell – left an unusual bequest and has a vestibule named after him (see below)
  • Archchancellor Preserved Bigger – left a substantial bequest with the requirement that UU play football at least once every 20 years.
  • Archchancellor Abasti – The ever-changing stained glass window overlooking the Great Hall is dedicated to him.

The Orders of Wizardry


There are eight terms, each one is roughly one week long, to minimise the time that the professers must spend teaching. However, the students continue to live and study on their own for the remainder of the year. The terms are called:

  • Octinity
  • Rotation
  • Backspindle
  • Hogswatch
  • Evelyn
  • Micklemote
  • Candlerent
  • Soul Cakes

Unseen University Degrees

These are the UU courses in magic and related topics. UU also offers lesser degrees in medicine, law, geology and so on, but lecturers are required to have at least one magical degree from UU before they are allowed to teach.

The full list can be found here.

Customs and traditions

Beating the Bounds

Also known as "plunkers", this ceremony takes place each year at dawn on the 22nd of Grune. The entire faculty walks along the original boundaries of the University, walking through or if necessary over any buildings in the way of the original march route. Any nearby citizens are hit with live ferrets, and any red-headed men (except for one Captain Ironfoundersson) are given a "plunking". Upon return to the University, breakfast is served, in which duck must be present.

In our world the beating of the bounds of Oxford takes place every Ascension day (changes every year but it is either May or June).

Boy Archchancellor

Occurring at around Hogswatch, a first year student is selected to be the Archchancellor for the day. He has the full powers of Archchancellorship, and there is many a tale of him performing all manner of jokes and pranks on the most senior wizards. Because his life expectancy following this will almost certainly be brief, the boy chosen is normally the University's most unpopular student.

This is similar to the idea of a boy bishop, which is present in our world.

The Convivium

The Degrees ceremony, in which the Archchancellor, University Council, eighth level wizards, masters and doctors proceed from the University to the Opera House. They are led by the Commander of the Watch, or if there isn't one, then by a man carrying a pot of mustard and a quill. Foreign dignitaries, city officials and nobles are also invited to this ceremony, and upon arrival at the Opera House, the Patrician will present the graduates with their degrees.

Gaudy Night

This appears to be a follow up of the Convivium, and the new graduates attend a feast in the Great Hall of the University, making an even greater effort than usual to be the best dressed. The winner is thrown into the river by the losers.

This is an celebration dinner at Oxford University, around which the novel Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers is based.

Head of the River

Because of the difficulty of rowing on the river, teams of eight wizards will carry the racing skiffs and run from the University boathouse to the Brass Bridge. The course is known as the "Bumps", and the winning team is awarded a "Brown" (a new pair of brown boots to replace the ones that will by now have been effectively disintegrated). They are now referred to as "Head of the River". One past winner of this race is the current Archchancellor, Mustrum Ridcully the Brown.

May Morning

Every May Day Dawn, the University choir sing from the top of the Tower of Art to the rest of the faculty, assembled below. Although the anthem cannot be heard, the Tower of Art being 800 feet high, the listeners still clap after five minutes, the length of time taken to sing the anthem.

The Poor Scholars

This harks back to the founding days of the University, when young, but poor men with magical talent were accepted into the universities. However, there was no accommodation space for them, so they lived in lean-tos against the walls of the Tower of Art. As a recognition of their determination, the faculty would throw food down to (or at) the poor scholars. Now, this ceremony takes place once a year, and the students gather in Sator Square, where the faculty throw stale bread rolls at them as hard as they can.

Rag week

This is the entire backspindle term. On this week, the wizards are let loose on Ankh-Morpork. Activities include the Short Street Climb, in which the wizards climb sideways across the streets. Some fail to reach the end, and fall into the the Mended Drum. Another custom is tobogganing, in which the wizards go up to the Tower of Art on teatrays, and then toboggan back down. It must be noted that for this to happen, the involved students must have consumed a large amount of alcohol.

Scrawn Money

Also known as "Archchancellor Scrawn's bequest", this rather dated ceremony requires all those who live on University property to assemble in Sator Square, where they are given two pennies, a pair of socks, and a loaf of day-old bread each. They are then allowed to watch the wizards eat lunch.

'Sity and Guilds

Due to the rivalry induced violence between students of the various guilds and the university, it was decided to channel the rivalries into an annual sporting match, similar to football or rugby. The "playing field" was from The Shades to the Tower of Art. Goals are scored by kicking the ball through the door or window of a pub, and the scoring team had to get drinks bought by the other teams. Only one goal per pub was allowed due to the length of some games that had not benefited from this rule. It appears that the Unseen University has not participated in this for some time now.

The Wizards' Excuse Me

A large dance at the end of the Backspindle term, to which the city nobles are also invited. There are two bands and a giant buffet with three dozen kinds of meat.

Archchancellor Bowell's Remembrance's bun and penny

An extant bequest pays for one small currant bun and one copper penny to be placed on a high stone shelf on one wall of this vestibule (circular hall) every second Wednesday. No one knows why this is done, or even why the vestibule is named Archchancellor Bowell's Remembrance (Hogfather)

The Hunting of the Megapode

A veritable heyhoe-rumbledown as all fellows pursue the Megapode through the college buildings with much mirth and good spirits.

Archchancellor Preserved Bigger's Bequest, or Poore Boys Funne

The Bigger's Bequest is a very large fund. Monies from the interest on the fund cover approximately 87.4% of the college food bill. It does however carry conditions, in order for the UU to have access to these funds they must play Football at least once every twenty years. Food is important to the modern wizard: the University appears to be regualted as tightly as any ship at sea by its mealtimes, which happen at approximately two-hour intervals throughout the day and night, like the ship's bells that tell sailors what watch they're on. Therefore while there is much grumbling and reluctance, the vital necessity to play football is acknowledged in Unseen Academicals.

Flora and Fauna

The grounds are closed and heavily contaminated with magic, so a special ecosystem has evolved within Unseen University, with many wondrous creatures not found elsewhere, and many highly intelligent and civilized varieties of common house pests. These include:

  • .303 Bookworm in the Library.
  • Ants; some pull carts, some ride on beetles. One time, a clan of ants built a sugar pyramid for the mummy of a deceased queen (on the walls the true secret of longevity was inscribed, but it was lost when it was washed out).
  • Bedbugs in Rincewind's mattress, smart enough to take the mattress with them when they feel they need to flee the University.
  • Cockroaches; billions of them can march with their steps perfectly in time.
  • Critters in the Library.
  • Escaped demons in the cellar.
  • Flying insects (including bees) who are not only capable of leaving a room by the window through which they entered, they can unerringly pick out a tiny hole in the glass no larger than a small coin, and enter and leave via this aperture.
  • Marmosets were planned to be used by a previous Archchancellor in order to communicate throughout the university (a piped system).
  • Rats who seem to understand human speech. Some have moved to under the Patrician's Palace and sometimes serve the Patrician, Lord Havelock Vetinari.
  • Owls - The Ankh-Morpork Post Office Handbook & Diary notes that there are a large population of owls living in the upper attics of UU. The wizards did once try and use the owls are an internal postal-service to deliver the letters and memos. However these were very intelligent birds, and saw the letters an an easily obtainable source of nesting material. The letters had to be retrieved from owls and stamped 'defected on by owls' (although most people can see this when they get it).
  • Ravens talk and are very inquisitive, but not very bright.
  • Swear-Words, cussed into being by Ridcully during a time of great magical potential.
These creatures can be found in: Equal Rites, Sourcery, Guards! Guards!, Reaper Man and Night Watch.

Gargoyles - There are a large colony of gargoyles covering much of the ancient buildings of the Unseen University. The first appear in Equal Rites. In wet weather they delight in spitting the water over passing students. In the event of a serious storm however, they have been known to leave the walls and hide under the attics, holding 'that just because your are ugly, doesn't mean you have to be stupid'. In Sourcery the entire gargoyle population abandoned UU, descending to ground level and fleeing across the immaculate grass lawns, sensing the approach of the Sourcerer.

The University still dumps magical rubbish carelessly in the back alleys of Ankh-Morpork. The eating of magical rubbish led to the rise of the rat Clan, composed of rats not only intelligent but also fluent in human speech. These rats are important characters in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents.

Gaspode, the thinking-brain dog for the Canting Crew, may also have got his thinking abilities and human speech from eating Unseen's rubbish (or, as he says in Men at Arms, by sleeping next to the High Energy Magic Building), dumped by time-honoured custom in the Unreal Estate. (Details in Moving Pictures and Men at Arms). This was certainly the case for The Amazing Maurice, an otherwise bright feral tomcat who, before eating Unseen's rubbish at one step removed, was scratching a bare living on the margins, but then got a Big Idea.

Schleppel, a boogeyman, was invited to move into the University's cellars after the events of Reaper Man, and happily looked forward to preying on its various wildlife. It is uncertain how he may have fitted into its curious ecology.


The name of the Unseen University probably comes from the Invisible College