Keele is an odd place of learning with an odd history. It became a University in the early 1950s, when the Government decided that a leftover World War Two training camp on the former Sneyd Estate could be best used to create the 'University of Staffordshire, Keele'.
Keele itself is little more than a tiny village, equipped with one pub called the Sneyd Arms, a Post Office, and not much else. Keele is therefore the only university in Britain to be attached to a village rather than a city.
In the 1960s, a bunch of militant students attempted to declare Keele University an independent sovereign state with a customs post, passport control and all the extras, which must have been fun.
Keele, perched on the side of a big hill, is one of the largest campus-based universities in Europe. It has mud, lots of it; squirrels, lots of them; and most notably a huge set of stately gardens, including big lakes, huge woods, fountains, and flowery bits. Keele also seems to have its own weather, which is generally bad, except for a few glorious days during the summer when the gardens are littered with students basking in the sunshine, lying on top of each other, and partaking of alcohol. Keele is a stone's throw away from the town of Newcastle under Lyme and is also quite close to the city centre of Stoke on Trent, where pubs, bars and clubs abound. These clubs are usually populated by 14-year-old children, and 40 year old women who enjoy dancing round their handbags.
Keele too is blessed with a large quantity of bars. Every hall of residence is furnished with its own individual bar. The university owns two pubs, 'The Golfer's Arms', and 'Union Square'. The Student's Union building houses a large assortment of variously themed alcohol dispensaries, and there are more tucked away in the recesses of Keele Hall1. This large variety of drinking places ensures that there is something to do every night of the week, thus ensuring that the maximum possible number of students actually fail their degree courses. Keele's social life really revolves around two main nights: Wednesdays and Fridays. On these nights, the Union opens up the ballroom to dance music and pop, and 'The Club' for Indie and slightly hardcore dance. Either venue allows for plenty of drinking and the chance of waking up in somebody else's bed.
The last thing for which Keele is famous is its unofficial wood parties. About twice a year, word will be passed along the grapevine of an upcoming 'Woods Party'. These have to be seen to be believed. Two clearings are converted into dance floors, proper club sound systems are somehow installed, and lasers, lights and the works are set up. Usually, a large screen and projector are also set up, and newly released films are shown on an outdoor cinema. The power for all this comes from a couple of generators in a van. People arrive, make fires and watch a film to the accompaniment of liquor - and possibly other substances. The light of dawn usually falls on bleary eyed students wandering round aimlessly after getting hopelessly lost in the woods on their way home, and people in various stages of dew-covered unconsciousness strewn in various positions along the route which should theoretically take them back to their beds. Several hardcore nutters will still be dancing, as they have been all night.
Keele does also issue degrees. It was the pioneer of the dual honours system in the UK, and in its early days all students did a four year course that involved a foundation year covering subjects ranging from Geology to Religion. This was really just an excuse for people to stay in bed in the mornings for longer periods of time and not do any work. It became an optional step for students who weren't really sure of what they wanted to do in their main course, or didn't get the right grades at A level to be admitted straight on to their main courses, or for people who wanted to stay in bed in the mornings and not get any work done. It was eventually abolished in 1999.
Students at Keele usually study two subjects with the aim of getting a dual honours degree at the end of it all. The first year requires study of a subsidiary subject that is unrelated to the student's main course: for instance, a scientist would do an arts or social science subsidiary.