Higher education endures. For all the talk of avalanches and market exit, there is a tremendous continuity in HE and its institutions. Chief witness to that is our ancient universities.
Part of that continuity is the ‘student experience’ – sometimes harder to capture than other aspects, but still there. My favourite tool for demonstrating this are the regulations for the Collegium Sapientiae.
It’s worth remembering that other European universities had collegiate structures; the Sorbonne became synonymous with the University of Paris, but it was a college. The Collegium Sapientiae was founded by the 1497 will of Johannes Kerer, who’d been involved in the university of Freiburg since its foundation in 1457.
The content of the regulations is broadly consistent with other sets, but these differ in two main regards. First is their comprehensiveness; they contain a fulsome description of the rules and the rationale behind them. Secondly, and this is my favourite part, they are illustrated. Most of the individual regulations come with a picture. This means they must be among the most beautiful university regulations.
The college closed, but the university remains proud of the regulations. I first spotted them on a visit to the university museum. However, serendipitously I later saw the facsimile edition on display in Mainz. Published in 1957 this is a full reproduction accompanied by a transcribed version of the Latin text and an English translation. Here are a few…
The rules on admission are clear:
Only those who were born in wedlock can be admitted to our house. Our doors may not be opened to those who are married or who live in a state of bigamy; to those who are apostates, blasphemers or to persons of quarrelsome nature, to those who suffer from serious or chronic diseases, those who are feeble in body, to vagabonds, unchaste persons or those who have a sullied reputation…
However, there is a clear mission here:
But our House is open to those who are poor, talented and who thirst for wisdom.
There’s a full suite of regulations for the rooms, their allocation, furniture & inventories.
The President shall show a newcomer to his room. He shall also require the candidate thus selected to make up a list of the furnishings within that room, so that when he takes his departure he may be made accountable for them.
The restrictions on students were considerable. Examples include:
We strictly forbid any form of revelry within our House. Neither shall our scholars indulge in drinking and feasting in inns, where every vice is permissible. We want the scholars of our House to abstain from all such vices and to indulge their youthful high spirits without the stimulus of alcohol…
As very often wickedness steals into the pure hearts of young men under the cover of respectability and hilarity, we allow of no musical instruments within our House. …
Dice, cards, and sticks for casting lots and all games of chance are forbidden. … Chess, however, is allowed.
Learning and Teaching
The college had rules to support students at university. The students had extra disputations in the college, and rules provided extra support for students who needed extra time to complete.
Continuous studying produces choice blooms, but interruptions necessarily result in a downfall. We hereby ordain that every occupant of our House shall attend his lectures, above all the normal ones, attentively and without interruption, with the help of his own book or one that has been lent him – for he who learns without a book, ladles water with a sieve. …
With all these rules, there needed to be a system of penalties for transgression. There’s a fine tariff system; some with specific targeted penalties but many based around the removal of wine for a specified number of days.
As an example, being caught speaking in the vernacular the punishment is loss of your eighth of a litre of wine. Entering the room of other scholars is punished by loss of wine for a week. The first failure to make your bed results in the removal of wine, but if there’s repeated offence then ‘the scholar in question shall be deprived of his bed’.
Kerer, J, 1497, Statuta Collegii Sapientiae Facsimile Edition Ed Beckmann 1957 Jan Thorbecke Verla Lindau & Konstanz