Foundation of Students' Representative Council, 1884

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Edinburgh University's Students' Representative Council was founded in 1884.

The stimulation for the foundation of the Council was provided by the Tercentenary Festival of 1884. There was widespread anxiety lest the celebrations be marred by the outbreaks of student rowdiness associated with other public occasions, in particular, the election and inaugural address of the University's Rector. The Senatus Academicus thus welcomed the initiative of a group of students headed by Robert Fitzroy Bell (1859-1908) and David Orme Masson (1858-1937), who argued that a representative council could aid in maintaining order and decorum, in promoting student social life, and in fostering a 'wholesome esprit de corps' and a spirit of loyalty towards the university. A first formal meeting of the Students' Representative Council was held on 17 January 1884, bringing together representatives from the university's many clubs and societies. Its first task was to maintain order at the inaugural address of Rector Stafford Henry Northcote, 1st Earl of Iddesleigh (1818-1887) and at the torchlit process that followed. This the SRC accomplished so successfully that it was entrusted with policing the Tercentenary Festivities. It was nonetheless dissatisfied with the limited place allotted to students in the official programme of events. After protest, the SRC was finally permitted to organize five events: a torchlight procession, a performance of a drama based on Sir Walter Scott's novel The Fortunes of Nigel, a reception for foreign guests, a formal ball, and an informal smoking concert.

The SRC was soon imitated by the other Scottish universities and was granted formal recognition as the official representative body of Edinburgh's students by the Universities (Scotland) Act 1889. It used its success in the Tercentenary festivities to launch an appeal to fund its first priority: the opening of a Student Union, eventually achieved in 1887.

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  • Robert Anderson, 'Ceremony in Context: The Edinburgh University Tercentenary, 1884', Scottish Historical Review, 87 (2008), 121-45 [[1], accessed 1 August 2014]
  • Sir Thomas Henry Holland, 'Introduction', in A. Logan Turner (ed.), History of the University of Edinburgh 1883-1933 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1933), pp. xiii-xxx.