Discworld Wiki

Unseen University is a school of wizardry in Terry Pratchett's fictional Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork, staffed by a faculty composed of mostly indolent and inept old wizards. The official motto of UU is "Nunc Id Vides, Nunc Ne Vides", loosely translated as "Now you see it, now you don't". The unofficial motto is "η β π", or "Eta Beta Pi" (Eat A Better Pie). The university's name is a pun on the real-world Invisible College.

The coat of arms is azure, a livre des sortilèges, attaché en cuivre, sur un chapeau pointu. (That is: a blue field bearing a book of magic spells, with copper clasps, over a pointed hat.) As usually rendered, the coat bears a strong resemblance to the coat of arms of the University of Oxford.

The University is centred around the Tower of Art, out of which it grew; any further attempt at grasping its geography is close to pointless. Due to the high levels of background magic in the vicinity, a typical map of UU vaguely resembles an exploding chrysanthemum and is usually only valid for a day or so, though it is generally agreed that the inside of UU is larger than the exterior walls, under normal circumstances, should be able to contain. This is also the cause of the various physical and biological anomalies that plague it. In some rooms the direction of gravity moves around as a day passes, and some rooms contain other rooms which contain the room one started with (especially problematic for a conga line). The University's gargoyles have taken on a life of their own (not that this is anything unusual for Discworld gargoyles in general). Both a colony of ants in the main university buildings and a flock of ravens roosting in the Tower of Art show unnatural intelligence and, for the ravens, an ability to speak, again, common for entities associated with the University. The fabric of the University is said to absorb knowledge, since all students enter university knowing absolutely everything, and leave admitting they know very little.

One of the most notable rooms in UU is Room 3b. This room is not believed to exist, but a surprising number of classes are scheduled there. In fact, at times of great celebration in the city of Ankh-Morpork it is not uncommon for the entire faculty to be teaching there.

After learning the basics of spellcasting, UU students are challenged to continue their research in the Library which, like the Bodleian Library at Oxford, features chained books - although at Oxford this is done to protect the books from the students, whereas at UU it is done to protect the students from the books. The high concentration of magical lore has warped the Library interior into a locus of L-space where the concepts of distance and direction are only vaguely defined (it is generally described as resembling an M. C. Escher pastiche of the Bodleian or the British Museum Reading Room). There the students will encounter the Librarian (transformed into an orangutan by a magical mishap) and seek out the grimoires binding the more formidable spells. Since the contents of all libraries are in L-Space, it is possible to enter a Library in one city and exit in another. Access to libraries of other times or other realities, however, is at UU restricted to the Librarian himself.

All citizens of Ankh-Morpork are entitled to visit the library, although non-magic users will generally never find their way beyond the more mundane shelves.

The University grounds and buildings[]

The University is a large walled-off complex on the turnwise side of the Ankh, somewhat hubwards of the Isle of Gods. It features several buildings, a large tower and several gardens. The walled complex begins on the rimward side in the street known as the Backs, where one of the gates is located. This entrance is said to be "annoyingly close" to the Guild of Conjurers' Guildhall.

Forming much of the border is the main building, with the garden known as the Main Octangle in its midst, the Clock Tower housing Old Tom (the University's tongueless octiron bell whose strikes make "anti-noise" that silences everything briefly) and a connecting outbuilding linking it to another complex further rimwards that may or may not be University property. The rest of the rimwards border is supplied by the Observatory. Turnwise and somewhat hubwards of the main building lies the Library, housing the largest collection of magical texts known on the Disc; in accordance with L-Space theory, every book ever written anywhere may also be possibly found there, as well as books that might have been written, books that were not written and books that have yet to be written. Further hubwards of this, joined by a small connecting building, is the outer hubwards wall, with the High Energy Magic building recently added. The spot between this building and the Library is the workspace of the University gardner, Modo, a genteel dwarf who was nearly eaten by his own compost pile. Beyond this is New Hall, also connected over the wall via connecting buildings. Further Hubwards lies the Unreal Estate, which used to be the University's landfill but nowadays has been sold on and developed, especially by the budding thaumaturgical industry. The park-like surroundings created here are marred by the extreme amounts of background magic emitted by centuries of accumulated magical waste.

Inside the walled complex are the main University Gardens, with the Tower of Art in their midst and two boathouses with jetties, occasionally used by the University's watersports enthusiasts. The University holds rowing contests, but because of the normal state of the Ankh, these usually amount to a jogging/sprinting race on the crusted surface. Entering the gardens over the Ankh is the Bridge of Size, which connects to the Wizard's Pleasaunce, another small garden on the Ankh's turnwise side walled off from Hen & Chickens Field and possibly also gated. At one point, in the novel Sourcery the Pleasaunce contained a temporary new headquarters for the magic-addled staff of the University.

Entrance and exit into the complex is by one of the gates, which probably number at least two (one in the main building facing Sator Square is likely, but not certain). These gates close in the evening, and students who like to get out after this have created an alternate opening known as Scholar's Entry. This is a place in the wall where bricks can be slid out to form a usable ladder, and has always been known only to students. However, many students forget that all the staff were, in their time, students themselves.

Tower of Art[]

The Tower of Art is the tower that forms the University's core. It has a total of 8,888 steps up to the top (On the Disc the number 8 is very mystically significant). This would make each step fractionally over one inch high. Originally the Tower was the only building on campus, but teaching has long since moved on to other buildings. The Tower itself is usually only used for astronomical and other observations requiring altitude, the traditional May Morning chorus song from its top (inaudible to anyone but the chorus, but traditionally applauded by all staff and students from below) and student pranks such as "tobogganing", the use of tea trays to slide down the tower's immense spiral staircase (the effects of centrifugal force make this rather less dangerous than it would appear). In Men at Arms Dr Cruces, head of the Assassins' Guild, used it as a sniper post when he attempted to shoot the Patrician, shortly after he had killed Acting Constable Cuddy of the Night Watch by pushing him from the top. Its builders are unknown. It is certainly older than both the city and the University around it, and some have speculated that it is older than the Disc itself, although evidence for this is scarce. During the novel Sourcery it survives many magical attacks; other, newer towers do not.

Around the top of it a magical species of raven has developed that is much more intelligent than usual. Quoth, the raven from Soul Music and all the books featuring Susan Sto Helit, is one of these.

The Tower of Art is also the motif of the Ankh-Morpork Post Office one-dollar stamp.

The clock tower at Unseen University contains "the tongueless and magical octiron bell of Old Tom. Instead of ringing the hours, it has measured silences equal to the number of hours, which temporarily overruled the din from all the other clock towers."


Any alumnus from Unseen University is generally free to find an unoccupied study (which are in practically infinite supply), take or possibly invent a title and receive board and lodgings but little or no pay. If he is unlucky, he may then attract students, though this has been stated on at least one occasion to be an unfortunate and largely unwelcome development.


The head of UU is the Archchancellor. The Archchancellor is described as being the head of all magic in the same way the Queen is the head of the Commonwealth. That is, he has a lot of potential power but little actual power.

Nevertheless, the Archchancellor is considered an important figure and holds a seat on the Ankh-Morpork council (although this council itself has no power either). He is a sort of magical adviser to the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork as well.

The Archchancellor is elected on the Eve of Small Gods.. Well, not exactly elected, because wizards don't have any truck with the undignified business of voting, and it is well known that Archchancellors are selected by the gods (which wizards don't believe in). The double doors to the Great Hall are locked and triple-barred. An incoming Archchancellor has to request entry three times before they will be unlocked, signifying that he is appointed with the consent of wizardry in general. This process seems to satirise the election of the Pope and the Queen's state opening of Parliament at Westminster.

In more recent times, the lifespan of Archchancellors has been seen to be a bit on the short side, as wizardry's natural ambition took its toll. Unseen University has existed for thousands of years, and the average Archancellor remains in office for about eleven months.

Unseen University has had many different kinds of Archchancellor over the years - big ones, small ones, cunning ones, slightly insane ones, extremely insane ones - they've come, they've served (in some cases not long enough for anyone to complete their official portrait) and they've died. The senior wizard in a world of magic has the same prospects of long-term employment as a pogo-stick tester in a minefield.

It should be noted that Mustrum Ridcully, incumbent Archchancellor at the time of the last Discworld novel, Making Money, seems to have had a very successful and above all, injury free career as Archchancellor. He finally put a halt to UU's traditional method of promotion, by assassinating one's superior, simply by being indestructible. This is related to his habit of springing up behind would-be assassins, shouting loudly at them and banging their head repeatedly in the door.

There is also an Archchancellor at Bugarup University on the continent of Fourecks. At last account, this was Bill Rincewind. When the two Archchancellors met, Ridcully was careful to refer to his counterpart without the capital - as 'archchancellor'.

Former Archchancellors[]

Former Archchancellors referenced in Discworld canon:

  • Alberto Malich: The first Archchancellor and university founder; sent himself to the land of Death when he performed the Rite of AshkEnte backwards. Staying in Death's Domain, he became Death's Assistant and Butler. Returned (briefly) in Mort and Soul Music, and for rather longer during the events described in Hogfather when he appeared as Pixie Albert to Death's Hogfather.
  • Chancellor Galder Weatherwax: A distant cousin of Granny Weatherwax (they have never met), he is Chancellor for the first half of The Light Fantastic. Note that in The Light Fantastic, he is referred to as Chancellor, but Ridcully subsequently upgrades him to Archchancellor in Lords and Ladies, when talking to aforementioned Granny Weatherwax. He is the 304th Chancellor of the University.
  • Archchancellor Ymper Trymon: Archchancellor for the second half of The Light Fantastic.
  • Archchancellor Cutangle: Archchancellor in Equal Rites.
  • Archchancellor Virrid Wayzygoose: Archchancellor for one night in Sourcery.
  • Coin the Sourcerer: Archchancellor during Sourcery.
  • Archchancellor Ezrolith Churn: Archchancellor during Faust Eric.
  • Archancellor Sloman, who discovered the Special Theory of Slood.

Regular characters[]

Faculty in bathroom

(Left to right) Dinwiddie, Henry, Modo, the Lecturer in Recent Runes and the Chair of Indefinite Studies.

The regular characters usually come in a group, working together (for want of a better phrase) in the books in which they appear, the exceptions to this rule are Rincewind (who follows his own storyline, intertwined with the wizards on several occasions but only being a part of the group in the Science of Discworld books) and the Librarian (who commonly makes appearances in many books). Ridcully and Ponder appeared in Going Postal and Night Watch. Ridcully alone appears in Thud!.

One point of note is that apart from Ridcully, Stibbons, The Librarian, Rincewind and The Bursar (who only gets his name mentioned), none of the Wizards have entries in The Discworld Companion.

  • Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully
  • The Bursar (Dr. Dinwiddie starting in Faust Eric and thereafter; Spelter beforehand. Spelter is no longer able to fill the position of Bursar, as he was killed by the Sourcerer's staff when trying to save the Library from destruction.
  • The Lecturer in Recent Runes
  • The Dean of Pentacles. An incredibly obese man ("...looks like a man who's swallered a bed!" in Moving Pictures) who is generally found in his study reading a grimoire or in the great hall eating. His job at UU as he, and everyone else, describes it is sit around, sleep and eat incredibly big dinners. He also attends some of the functions that are held by guilds or clubs around the city on behalf of the University and partakes of other people's big dinners. The Dean first appeared in Sourcery as a student or postgraduate. He was promoted after the kerfuffle had died down. His major appearance was in The Last Continent while journeying with Ridcully and several of the other wizards. According to Ponder Stibbons, he is "normally never nice". One of the Dean's more interesting characteristics is his susceptibility to whatever occult or semi-magical occurrence is happening, as well as any fads or trends--most notably in Soul Music. The Dean enjoys himself immensely when he gets to use high-powered destructive spells. During times like that, he tends to say "Hut" and "Yo!" frequently. In The Last Continent, he was nicknamed "Two Chairs" by Ridcully, on the basis that he was the only person able to sit on two chairs at once.
  • The Senior Wrangler. Apparently a senior wrangler can be a wise philosopher or a man who looks after horses. The Senior Wrangler of the University encompasses both - he is a philosopher who looks like a horse. While wizards on the Disc are normally celibate, he briefly tries to romance the Cheerful Fairy in Hogfather, and during the events of The Last Continent seems hopelessly infatuated with Mrs. Whitlow, the matronly head of housekeeping at Unseen University. His first name is Horace (Hogfather). (In real life, the Senior Wrangler is the student placed first in the honours examinations in the Mathematics Tripos at the University of Cambridge.)
  • The Chair of Indefinite Studies, who seems to do very little at the university (mainly because no-one knows what his duties are), but does go on an adventure to Fourecks. Unwillingly, it should be noted, as the wizards originally went there for a brief vacation but somebody knocked the wooden support out of the (magical) window, trapping them there.
  • The Librarian (also the Archivist), was changed into an orangutan during a magical accident. There have in earlier books been suggestions that it was not seen as "appropriate" to have an orangutan as a librarian, and these have been discouraged by the Librarian's immense strength. The Librarian hates being referred to as a monkey and is often motivated to take extreme violent action on anyone who mentions "the M-Word" near him. Due to the fact that the Librarian has already had his shape magically changed he has a weak morphic resonance; meaning it is much easier for him to change shape again. Such happens The Last Continent, in which an illness causes his form to change at random to one that matches his surroundings; albeit most of these forms tend to be large, red and hairy.
  • Ponder Stibbons, Head of Inadvisably Applied Magic, Praelector and Reader in Invisible Writings, as well as the keeper of Hex, the University's computer (possibly meaning he is the head of the Technomancy department specifically as well as other inadvisably applied magic, as Hex is the only example of the discipline). At UU, he fulfills the role of the one person in the organisation who knows what's going on and why it's happening and who's doing it, although he often wishes he didn't. The only reason Ponder Stibbons passed the Unseen University graduation exam is that he spilled ink on his test paper before he could turn it over and was allowed to take the test paper of the absent Victor Tugelbend (which consisted solely of the question "What is your name?"). He doesn't support the theory of a beard as a sign of knowledge because of his apparent inability to grow one.
  • Rincewind, Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography (also Assistant Librarian, the Chair of Experimental Serendipity, the Reader in Slood Dynamics, the Fretwork Teacher, the Chair for the Public Misunderstanding of Magic, the Professor of Virtual Anthropology, the Lecturer in Approximate Accuracy and the Health and Safety Officer as stated in The Science of Discworld The Science of Discworld II: The Globe and The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch). These apparently unwanted positions were awarded to Rincewind provided that he not receive any salary, though the sheer number of them entitles Rincewind to up to eight buckets of coal for every day of the year.

It is noteworthy that in earlier Discworld novels that feature Unseen University staff the wizards usually have names but are also dead by the end of the book, or at least never reappear. With Mustrum Ridcully's appearance in Moving Pictures, the wizard deaths cease, but many aren't named any more, either - they are referred to by their offices instead. There is a slight reference to this in The Last Continent, when the wizards notice that they not only don't know the Librarian's name, but they also don't know the names of one another.

Not regular staff[]

Mentioned only once and/or not important to the story.

  • The Chair of Oblique Frogs
  • The Professor of Revolvings
  • Pennysmart, Professor of Extreme Horticulture
  • The Professor of Applied Anthropics, whose function appears to be confined to proving that the Discworld's crowning achievement and entire purpose was the eventual evolution of the Professor of Applied Anthropics
  • The Reader in Esoteric Studies, or the Reader in the Lavatory as the Bursar and most others call him
  • Lecturer in Creative Uncertainty
  • Lecturer in Vindictive Astronomy
  • Professor of Recondite Architecture and Origami Map-Folding
  • Modo, UU's gardener and odd-job dwarf who looks upon his work at the University as a cooperation (they make sure the universe operates normally, he grows their roses).
  • Ladislav Pelc, Prehumous Professor of Morbid Bibliomancy, appearing in Going Postal.
  • Professor Goitre, Posthumous Professor of Morbid Bibliomancy, appearing in Going Postal. Enjoyed 'early death', a form of retirement where one is still available for consultation, and according to the sounds heard via their doll avatars, a generous dinner.
  • Devious H. "Dragonbreath" Collabone - acquired his nickname from having halitosis bad enough to blow a hole in a silver plate, which led to his being encouraged to carry out research for his B. Thau. - "Oyster Communications in a Low Intensity Magical Field" - in Genua, a long way from UU. Promoted rapidly from student via Doctor to Professor in Going Postal.
  • Dr John Hicks, head of the Department of Post-Mortem Communications (which is definitely not the same as necromancy), appearing in Making Money and in Unseen Academicals (having changed the spelling of his name to Hix).
  • Professor Flead, Dr Hicks late predecessor, appearing in Making Money. Currently enjoying a pleasant afterlife haunting the Pink Pussycat Club.
  • Windle Poons see: Undead (Discworld)

Notable past students[]

External links[]

See also[]

  • Hex, the UU computer.


This page uses content from the English Wikipedia.

The original article was at Unseen University. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the Discworld Wiki, the text of Wikipedia:Wikipedia is available under the Wikipedia:GNU Free Documentation License.