In pursuit of its objective, “to establish
and/or enhance the opportunities for
undergraduates and other university
members to join and enjoy freemasonry”,
the Universities Scheme Group has, over the
past year or more, provided direct support to
the nine Lodges that make up the Scheme.
The nature of that support has varied
considerably according to the needs of the
individual Lodge. In all cases, the Lodges
have had notable success in their participation
and pursuit of the objective, which they
have embraced with great enthusiasm.
I have been not just impressed, but excited
by the degree of commitment that has
emerged as, in some cases, Lodges have made
the decision to bring about quite significant
change to their composition and nature.
The nature of the Scheme is such that,
while the most important work is
indisputably that which takes place in the
Scheme Lodges, some elements of the
administration of the Scheme are more
The Scheme Group have attempted to
serve the Lodges involved by offering advice
drawn on experience of university Masonry
and by seeking to ensure that as many as
possible in the Craft are fully aware of the
Scheme’s existence and the scope for
undergraduates to join the Craft, without
having to wait to attain the grand old age
of 21 years. Before too long we will have
to declare ourselves as failures if there are
Masons left in this country who have not
heard this message!
Our early efforts at raising awareness
have had profound effects. The marvellous
advent of the internet has assisted our efforts
formidably. The very simple expedient of
establishing a presence in a small corner of
the UGLE website, with an appropriate mail
box for contact, has produced enquiries of
all sorts, some anticipated, other less so.
Having deliberately raised awareness in
order to support the objective – ensuring
that no one is missing out through want of
information – the most welcome surprise
of all has been the level of interest and
enthusiasm that the Scheme has attracted
from all corners of the Craft.
Most striking of all is the desire among
a number of Lodges to participate in the
Scheme. While it has always been intended
that we should expand the Scheme to a wider
range of Lodges, our timeframe on this has
been driven by demand.
Recognising that it is no longer feasible
to provide all support from the Scheme
Group itself, the Assistant Grand Master
(AGM), RW Bro David Williamson, the
Scheme’s Founding President, has asked
Provinces where there are Lodges that
want to participate in the Scheme to look
at providing the necessary support from
within their own ranks.
This step, with all its appearance of being
purely administrative, has the fundamental
impact of enabling the widening of the
Scheme to meet the enthusiastic demand
that is surfacing. This is the most welcome
challenge faced by the Group to date –
the sensation of pushing at an open door.
As well as driving the timing, this
development has obliged the Group to be
more explicit about the necessary criteria,
indeed the essential qualifications, for any
Lodge wishing to participate (see table
opposite). Some of these are marvellous in
their blatancy; others may not be so obvious;
all are vital. Supporting the objectives of the
Scheme goes, in one sense, without saying.
But an unequivocal statement from the
Lodge to that effect is essential.
The agreement of the Provincial Grand
Master and AGM are also necessary steps.
This will ensure that the Lodge has fully
understood the implications of its
participation, as well as providing a degree
of co-ordination and the avoidance of
overcrowding – too many Lodges in one
location – which could lead to the dissipation
of undergraduates where what is needed is
The question of passing on to young
members the reduction in dues to Grand
Lodge and the Grand Charity, now available
to all Masons under 25, is important to ensure
the avoidance of financial exclusion.
It is, of course, essential that Lodges
joining the Scheme should fully understand
the implications of doing so and commit
themselves in open Lodge. They will need
to consider some difficult questions about
their own structure, including practicalities
relating to meeting dates and time, the cost
of dining and regalia and their style and
They will also need to look at the more
challenging questions of how best to involve
undergraduates during their probably all too-short time in the area and how they help
those same members, when they graduate
and move on, to join convivial Lodges in
their new location.
For Lodges in the Scheme, this is the steep
and rugged pathway. Those looking for soft
options will have to look elsewhere; those
looking to re-invigorate not just their own
lodge but the Craft as a whole, should look
Lodges seeking more information on
the Universities Scheme should view the
UGLE website http://www.grandlodgeengland.org, or contact the Scheme Group
Application for participation should be made
to the Lodge’s Provincial Grand Master.
Oliver Lodge is the Chairman of the
Web site created by Mark Griffin