The first university Lodge, Apollo University Lodge, was founded at Oxford in 1819. It was closely followed by the Isaac Newton University Lodge established at Cambridge, meaning both of the UK’s premier learning institutions had Masonic representation for their students.
Both lodges have continued to attract student members to this day, and have acted as a source of inspiration for other student bodies to start Masonic lodges throughout the UK. The success of these two lodges also acted as a catalyst for UGLE to launch ‘the Universities Scheme,’ which was set up in 2005 with the following objective:
“To establish and/or enhance arrangements and opportunities for undergraduates and other university members to enjoy Freemasonry.”
Since the scheme was launched, more than eighty university lodges have been created. Membership of these lodges includes undergraduates, postgraduates, senior members of the university and alumni. One of the defining features of the university scheme was the decision taken to halve the dues required by those under the age of 25, in an attempt to make Freemasonry accessible and appealing to a younger audience.
Sir David Wooton, the Assistant Grand Master who heads the scheme, tells us a bit more about its significance and influence:
“We know from these long-established university lodges that students – whether undergraduates or postgraduates – enjoy Freemasonry to the full. Through the Universities Scheme, we hope that university members from all over the country will be able to gain the same inspiration, fulfilment, and enjoyment.”
It certainly seems that the Universities Scheme is an excellent way of attracting younger members to Freemasonry, at a time when the Craft needs to do all it can to bolster membership numbers and appeal to new audiences.
Through institutions of higher learning, the men that engage with the Craft will hopefully act as its future custodians, alleviating the worry that Masonry might not be as alluring in the future, as the needs and fabric of society changes.
We feel that such an initiative would benefit from being rolled out more widely, throughout other countries where Freemasonry is in need of new members. We’d love to hear your thoughts about the scheme, and whether you know of something similar that occurs in your country or community.
To find out more about the Universities Scheme from UGLE, you can visit their designated website here.