After the Storm
The town’s Chapel of Verena – locally known as The House of Three Owls – grew in influence over the 22nd century in Streissen. The Verenan cult established a lay school to spread literacy and further educate those who could afford it. This school also provided a start for those wishing to enter the Verenan priesthood. The quiet town of Streissen was a far less interesting place than Nuln, making it an ideal location for serious students to focus on studies, causing it to continue growing in influence and appeal.
As a result, Streissen grew as a centre of the Verenan cult in its own right. Another influx of scholars from Nuln arrived in 2420’s, further increasing the strength of the local intellectual community.
In 2438 I.C., Elector Count Kasper von Alptraum founded the university and bequeathed to it the right to specific tariff revenues. The Verenan priesthood ceded their existing building with its school hall and library to the secular institution — as they became the Owl’s Inn College – in exchange for a permanent role in the university’s governance. A new Temple of Verena was then built in the Tilean style at its present location in the Kirchenhof district.
A medical school was formally added to the university in 2473 I.C. when the Count’s College absorbed the Aelenus Galenus Hostel. Elector Count Marius von Leitdorf became a major supporter of the college as he needed the school to provide for the training of barber-surgeons who would accompany Averland troops in battle.
In 2503, the university faculty was purged of (known) radicals after the end of the Streissen Freistadt.
Owl’s Inn College remains a centre of Verenan study and is the only college which admits women.
Count’s College is favoured by the region’s nobility, at least those who don’t prefer one of the other two for a particular faith’s reason.
The third college is the Sigmarite Torch College. Most professors here are monks of the Order of the Anvil and students are generally planning careers in the priesthood of Sigmar’s Church or as lay workers (someone has to count all the money).
Each college has a Master, six to eight professors (permanent teaching fellows) and about 45 students at varying levels of study (of which a third would live there all year and the rest only present during term). It has ten to 15 other servants and staff. Staff never include unmarried women.
A university fellow who wishes to teach but does not gain a position as a College Professor or who desires more freedom to frame their lessons than a College permits may choose to set up their own school, usually in rented premises as they do not have the funds to purchase a suitable building. Such temporary schools are called hostels and are where poorer students tend to go, unless they are poor enough to be admitted to a College as one of its limited number of “poor scholars” their charters require them to educate (this requires an endorsement, e.g., an orphan whose parents died in a noble’s service might be endorsed as a poor scholar).
Under the Charter of Kasper, students and university fellows are fined for what would otherwise be criminal conduct for townsfolk such as brawling or manslaughter. It is literally the case that if a townsman kills a student he may hang and if a student kills a townsman he will likely only be fined and sent home for the term.
The Charter of Kasper’s moralistic and protectionist stance towards students reflects the simple fact that the university is intended to be a safe place for the noble and well-off to send their boys and young men. A noble family does not expect to have their son hanged, killed in a duel, flogged for a minor offence, acquiring debts the family must pay, being enticed into a “whirlwind romance marriage” with some commoner, or fathering bastards to complicate family trees. The University tries to see to this outcome.
This creates a great deal of friction with the town. Brawls between apprentices and students are common.
Students usually begin their studies between the age of 14 and 19 and may be as old as 29 depending on their course and success in studies.
A would-be first year student is assured entry to a college or hostel if they have the fee and the support of a College professor or hostel professor (which may involve demonstrating potential, presenting a recommendation or an additional financial contribution). The final decision is made by the Chancellor but this largely consists of signing the list of pre-approved admissions.
Each college does have a number of “Poor Scholars”, students who are excused paying more than their room and board. These positions are usually occupied by nominees from patrons of the college who are approved by the college Master. For example, the son of a soldier who died saving the life of a noble might be nominated for such a position as might a bastard child of a noble who is looking to give some assistance.
Students are readily recognized through their prescribed garb of a black tabard (a loose cloth over-coat) and cap. Wags note that a wine cup in one hand and prostitute under the other arm are the real student uniform as one may regard the moral prohibitions of Kasper’s Charter as a virtual guideline to student life.
Most College students are young nobles or the progeny of well-off rising families from Averland and the other southern provinces such as Wissenland. Stirlander students are almost always noble as there are few prosperous commoners in Stirland.
Nuln families only send their youth to Streissen if they are seeking to get them away from Nuln for some reason, usually a particularly bad scandal.
Women have long been admitted to Streissen University, dating back to its origins as an educational institution for those seeking to enter the Verenan Priesthood. However, they are still only admitted to the Owl’s Inn College.
Hostel students have a far wider background as the fees for hostels are fairly low, allowing any fairly successful tradesman to send a son to a hostel. Hostels are often very specialized in their focus or student body.
There are three student clubs operating much as fraternities. Students often join those to which their fathers once belonged – The Ravens, The Hill Keepers and The Sons of the River.
The fraternities’ official interest is to practice sword-fighting, a skill the university does not teach but which many of its noble or upwardly mobile students wish to learn. Most of their duels, however, involve steins not blades.
None of the traditional clubs accept female students. However, ladies of good character have an effective personal club in the salon of the University’s Chancellor’s wife, Frau Baer.
Less formal, and not officially recognized, associations also exist. This includes the “Pudding League” (named after an infamous tax that sparked rebellion), which was suppressed in 2503 but continues to meet secretly with members mostly from hostels.
University authorities are content to remove official status from radical student groups and deny them use of premises but otherwise don’t take action against them.
University Year and Classes
The university holds classes for just over half the year. Classes start in Fall, the second week of Erntezeit, after the end of Averland Wine Tasting Festival and Pie week. Classes run through to Sigmarzeit 15th. Much of this is time that regular land traffic in the region falls off due to snows and poor road conditions.
During the Summer and early Fall there are no general classes through some studies continue by the truly dedicated. Professors and other faculty use this time for their own travels, research in other institutions or to visit with family.
During the academic year, studies do not take place on the religious days sacred to Imperial gods, the mornings of each Marktag or on any Festag.
Each College teaches classes in the Trivium which includes Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic (the basics); and the Quadrivium of which includes Arithmetic, Geometry, Music Theory and Astronomy (astrology).
All students are expected to learn the Classical language in their first year. Many key tests and “disputations” in which students earn their degrees are conducted in Classical. The fact that senior students can talk among themselves in Classical without being understood by most townsfolk contributes to suspicion of them.
The studies of grammar, logic and rhetoric all involve reading “the great works” and other historical documents. Logic and rhetoric involve the study of Imperial Law.
There are no choices of courses, all students must take the courses the university sets down for a given degree, however most courses are taught by more than one lecturer and this is where some choice comes into play.
Undergraduates in their final year until recently were effectively drafted into the university’s service as scriptorium workers as each copied out a “classic work” as part of their final study before their last disputation. The recent acquisition of a printing press has led to talk of changing this policy.
At the end of each year of study, usually in late Sigmarzeit, a student undergoes a “disputation” before their College Master or hostel Principal, often assisted by other professors or teachers. This is an oral test in which the student must debate whatever questions the examiners consider relevant. The difficulty of disputations varies wildly and is as much an art of knowing what pleases different Professors as it is knowing one’s subject matter.
Though every student must learn to read in order to study, no part of the examination process itself actually involves reading or writing.
Typical examination disputation questions include “Do celestial bodies shine with their own light or with reflected light?”, “In what ways did the union of the Tratten, Geschebi and Abgards into the Avermanni League set the example for the birth of the Empire?”, "What explains those circumstances when a woman may contract as a man?, “Is the cosmos arranged in concentric spheres or in eccentric and epicyclic ones?” or “Is there any purpose to writing on a matter unless it is to disagree with what is already written?”
Lorenzo Valla was a Tilean philosopher of the 19th Century famed for his quarrelsome opinions and also the author of the standard work on the Classical Language, the Elegantiae Linguae. His works are often used as a source of disputation questions.
Kasper’s Feast is held on the 8th of Erntezeit each year (the last day of Pie Week) to celebrate the original university Charter and the start of a new term. Until the Massacre of Streissen, it was customary for a representative of the von Alptraum family to attend. Their place has gone empty since the year of that event.
Count’s College and Torch College each hold feasts to celebrate their college’s founding (respectively, 20 Kaldezeit and 18 Sigmarzeit – which is also Sigmar’s Feast). Owl’s Inn holds a feast to honour Verena on Nachexen 1 (her holy day).
The Chancellor hosts a dinner for the three College Masters the first Backertag of each month, the other significant university officials also attending (e.g., College Proctors, Registrar of Publications) and those hostel Principals the Chancellor chooses to invite.
The Grand Feast on the 21st of Sigmarzeit ends the year. All students who have passed their disputations are publicly honoured and presented with their degrees.