A student society, student association, university society or student organization is a society or an organization, operated by students at a university or a college institution, whose membership typically consists only of students and/or alumni.
Early notable types of student societies include nation (university) from the middle ages, Studentenverbindung in the German speaking world, as well as the evolvement of fraternal orders for students and student fraternities internationally.
Aims may involve practice and propagation of a certain professional hobby or cause, or to promote professional development. Examples of common societies found in most universities are a debate society, an international student society, a rock society, and student chapters of professional societies (e.g. the American Chemical Society). Not all societies are based around such a large area of interest and many universities also find themselves home to societies for many obscure hobbies such as a Neighbours society.
Student societies typically have open membership, thus differing from honor societies and fraternities that admit members by invitation only. Students typically join societies at the beginning of the school year when many societies present themselves in a societies fair and campaign to attract new members. The students may pay a membership fee to the society. Since the societies are non-profit organizations this fee is often nominal and purely exists to cover insurance or to fund society events.
Student societies may or may not be affiliated with a university's students' union. Student societies often aim to facilitate a particular activity or promote a belief system, although some explicitly require nothing more than that a member is a present or former student. Additionally, some are not affiliated with a specific university and/or accept non-university students.
Typical examples are:
- Civil Society - To encourage polite behaviour among people.
- Debating society - debates, and oratory.
- Faculty society - uniting students from one university faculty.
- Film society - to show and discuss films.
- Hiking club - Organising trips.
- International student society - Introducing international students to one another.
- Music society - student ensembles.
- Regional society - uniting students from the same region or hometown; a student nation.
- Science fiction society - Meeting to watch science fiction TV, films, and discuss Science fictions
- Taekwondo society, Karate club - Meeting to learn martial arts.
Student societies by location
In Australia, student societies play an important role in university life by bringing together like-minded students to engage in activities the society seeks to promote. An example of a large student society in Australia is the; Business & Commerce Students' Society Caulfield at Monash University Caulfield.
In Flanders, student societies play a unique role in student life. Student societies there have traditionally been politically active, and they played a significant part in the 1960s division of the Catholic University of Leuven into separate Flemish and Walloon universities.
A student society in Flanders is led by a praesidium. The head of the praesidium (and the society) is the praeses. Alternative spellings are presidium and preses. For most positions, Dutch names are used nowadays.
Other positions include:
- vice-praeses: assists the praeses where needed.
- Quaestor: takes care of the money.
- Ab actis: the secretary of the student organisation.
- Cantor: Leads the cantus.
- Vertor: Organises cultural activities.
- Scriptor: Is responsible for creating a Magazine.
- Bacchus: Is responsible for alcoholic beverages. (Title taken from the Roman name for Dionysus)
- Dominus morum: Is responsible for keeping order at a cantus.
Positions are flexible, and change to meet the needs of the student organisation.
Student societies also exist at polytechnics.
New members go through an initiation ritual before becoming full members of a Flemish student society. A new member is called schacht and has to undergo a baptism. The baptism is the first step to integration in the student society. The next (and last) step to becoming a full-fledged member is the ontgroening. After the ontgroening, one becomes a normal member or commilito of the organization, and can join the praesidium if one so chooses. Normal members are also referred to as anciens.
See also: Education in Belgium
- A cercle regroup students from the same faculty
- A regionale regroup students coming from the same location
- An ordre regroup students around some aspects of the student folklore or traditions
These societies sometimes have traditions dating back a hundred years, such as wearing one of the two traditional student hats: the Penne or the Calotte. Their main activity is organising and attending parties or festivals (for example, the 24 hours bike ride of Louvain-la-Neuve or the St V).
The Alma Mater Society at Queen's University is the oldest such organization in Canada, and currently the most extensive in regard to student involvement. It is currently a multi-million corporation employing over 500 students. The day-to-day operations of the AMS are overseen by the AMS Council which includes an annually elected three-person executive (the President, Vice-President (Operations) and Vice-President (University Affairs), selected as a slate), five commissioners who are each responsible for a specific aspect of student life, and three directors who are responsible for overseeing the AMS’ 14 corporate services.
Estonian Students' Society (Estonian: Eesti Üliõpilaste Selts commonly used acronym: EÜS) is the largest and oldest all-male academical student society in Estonia, which is similar to Baltic German student corporations (should not be confused with American college fraternities). It was founded in 1870 at the University of Tartu. It has over 800 members in Estonia and abroad.
In Estonia are 10 academical male student corporations. They are joined in League of Estonian Corporations, which was founded on March 28, 1915 by Vironia, Fraternitas Estica, Sakala, Ugala and Rotalia. Estonian student corporations have hundreds of members and alumni worldwide, because after the Soviet annexation of Estonia many members fled to Western countries.
Added to them there are one female student society: Estonian Women Students' Society, five female student corporations: Filiae Patriae, Indla, Lembela, Amicitia, Sororitas Estoniae.
- ESU (European Students' Union) - the umbrella organisation of 44 national unions of students from 38 countries, representing over 15 million students.
- AEGEE (European Students Forum), trying to spread the European idea
- AIESEC (worldwide student organisation)
- BEST (European student organisation)
- EESTEC (Electrical Engineering Students' European Association)
- EFPSA - European Federation of Psychology Students' Associations
- ELSA - European Law Students' Association
- EMSA - European Medical Students' Association
- ESN (Erasmus Student Network), promoting student mobility in Europe and beyond.
- ESTIEM (European Students of Industrial Engineering & Management)
- EUROAVIA (European Association of Aerospace Students)
- IAESTE (worldwide student organisation)
- International Students of History Association
- oikos (worldwide student organisation)
- JEF Young European Federalists - a pan-European network promoting the idea of European Integration
In Germany, student societies are widespread and various, though by lack of support from the universities (and by force of variety), generally do not boast many members. The most popular are the Studentenverbindungen; most of them are moderate and tolerant, although many are restricted to male or Christian members.
On many universities - although in many states not officially recognised - there are student representations, called AStA (Allgemeiner Studenten-Ausschuss), StuVe (Studentische Vertretung) or StuRa (Studentenrat).
Yet, there are also politically and confessionally independent, interdisciplinary and not-for-profit student organisations. One of, if not the leading one in Germany is the Studentenforum im Tönissteiner Kreis e. V. (Student Forum within the Tönissteiner Kreis e. V.) that is part of a European and worldwide network of student organizations, the Politeia Community.
Student societies in Indonesia play a very important role since freedom struggle (before 1945), such as Budi Oetomo, Islamic Students of Indonesia (PII), and after freedom struggle like Muhammadiyah Student Association (IPM).
Student societies are widespread in Ireland's universities, with a wide range of activities catered for, including debating, performing arts, role-play, faculty-based activities, gaming, political activity etc. The range of support for societies varies from university to university, though all universities provide funding and facilities to some extent for societies.
Student societies are usually governed by Officers and a Committee with an "Auditor" at its head. The Biological Society, RCSI's main student society, is purportedly the oldest student medical society in the world. However, it is Trinity College, Dublin which is the location of College Historical Society (1770) and the University Philosophical Society (1853), the two oldest student societies in the world. The Literary and Debating Society (NUI Galway) also has the distinction for being the first known student society in the world to elect a female leader, with the election of Clare F. Fitzgerald as "Auditor" in 1942.
- College Historical Society
- Literary and Historical Society
- RCSI Biological Society
- The Law Society (University College Dublin)
- Literary and Debating Society (NUI Galway)
- UCC Philosophical Society
- UCD Dramsoc
- University College Dublin Symphony Orchestra
- University Philosophical Society
In the Netherlands, there are different forms of student societies. Originally there was just the Corps (for corpus studiosorum), student bodies, starting with the Groninger Studenten Corps Vindicat atque Polit in the city of Groningen on 4 February 1815, as a part of the governing of the education on the universities and to give students the opportunity to develop themselves in all fields of life. On the wave of catholic emancipation starting in the 1890s, small groups of students, gathered around local priests, split off from the liberal, secular (in name anyway) corps fraternities to form their own societies focused on the catholic religion. This started the formation of many other religious societies in the different university cities. In the second half of the 20th century the Catholic split-offs formed an intercity-connection; the Aller Heiligen Convent and the focus on the religion was lost or abandoned.
These societies are now known as student associations in the Netherlands, aimed mostly at social relations and gezelligheid. Most of the corpora now reside in older buildings in the city center, retaining mostly a rather traditional and conservative image. These organizations offer students a wide range of sports, cultural activities ranging from all levels of sports like field hockey, rowing and rugby to extremes like kitesurfing, glider-flying, all for student-friendly prices and development aid organisations and encouragement to start a new club of some sort at all times.
The 20th century also saw, especially in the 1960s, the formation of more independent societies at the universities itself, partly as a reaction against the elite status of the corps, abolishing hazing and religious links and some even opening up to non-students. These non-Corps student societies are known as study associations (aimed at extracurricular activities for students, such as study trips, lectures, parties or drinks) or are general associations, for sports, literature, arts, etc., founded at the university itself.
The tradition with student societies in Norway reaches back to 1813, when Norwegian Students' Society in Oslo was founded. The major student societies in Norway are those in Oslo, Trondheim and Bergen. The societies in Oslo and Trondheim operates the student houses, and do also have subgroups who are engaged in theatre, political debates, radio, TV and newspaper. Bergen Student Society are not in charge of the city's student house, but are arranging political debates, lectures and cultural discussions at Det Akademiske Kvarter.
A Norwegian tradition is to appoint an animal as the high protector or majesty of the student societies, such as His Majesty the Golden Pig (Oslo), The Black Sheep (Trondheim) and His Majesty the Hedgehog (Bergen). The zoological Majesties have their own order of honours, awarded to members of the student societies and member of the academic staff at the institutions, as well as visiting members of the Norwegian royal family.
Student leisure activities in Sweden are usually organised by the students' unions (studentkårer, studentkår in singular). Swedish student unions cover the whole area from arranging most of the big parties, cultural activities and sports event, to acting as an equivalent of trade union for the students so their voices can be heard regarding the content and forms of education. The union is usually divided in smaller parts called sections, sektioner, according to what subjects of programs the students study. Generally all kinds of smaller societies, political, religious or just dealing with different kinds of hobbies, are organised within the students' union rather than as separate units.
An exception to this are the two ancient universities in Uppsala and Lund. There, most activities except "trade union" issues are organised by the student nations, the oldest student societies in Sweden, now thirteen at each university. The Uppsala nations have a history stretching back to ca 1630–1640, and were likely formed under the influence of the Landsmannschaften in existence at the northern German universities frequented by Swedish students. The nations in Lund were formed at the time of the foundation of the university (1666) or shortly thereafter. The nations take the names from the Swedish provinces from which they traditionally recruited their members, but do not always adhere to the strict practice of limiting membership according to those principles.
As a former Soviet Union state, Uzbekistan holding some of the best Universities in Central Asia. First universities established back in 1920s at Turkestan Socialist Republic.Today many of these universities have their own student societies.These societies providing information and support for students who wants to study abroad at Tashkent.
Many student societies in the US are focused on the interests of the student members, whether it involves community service, the ethnicity of the members (such as a Black Student Union or Hillel), their religion, or their political interests (such as College Republicans). Others focus on a specific social cause, whether by topic or specific to an area (even international). For example, Refresh Bolivia is a student-run nonprofit community which originated at Harvard University; it is dedicated to constructing a "maternal & child care oriented community health center" in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
- AEGEE - European Students Forum
- AIESEC - The International Platform for Young People to Explore and Develop their Potential
- BEST - Board of European Students of Technology
- Colleges Against Cancer
- Delft Management Society
- EESTEC - Electrical Engineering Students' European Association
- ELSA - European Law Students' Association
- Erasmus Student Network
- ESTIEM - European Students of Industrial Engineering and Management
- European Geology Students Network
- IAAS - International Association of Students in Agricultural and Related Sciences
- IAESTE - The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience
- IAPS International Association of Physics Students
- IFMSA - The International Federation of Medical Students' Associations
- EMSA - European Medical Students' Association
- IPSF - International Pharmaceutical Students' Federation
- IVSA - International Veterinary Students Association
- ISHA - The International Students of History Association
- NACURH - National Association of College and University Residence Halls
- oikos (students for sustainability in economics and management)
- OBESSU - Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions
- oikos International - International Student-driven Organization for Sustainable Economics and Management
- SCOPE Maastricht - Study Association Maastricht University, School of Business and Economics
- Secular Student Alliance
- SIFE - Students In Free Enterprise
- STAR - Study Association RSM Erasmus University
- Students for the Exploration and Development of Space
- Toronto Secular Alliance
- WOSY - World Organisation of Students and Youth
- Fraternities and sororities in North America
- Honor society
- Student accommodation
- University of Strathclyde Students' Association
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