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Unseen University

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Unseen University
MottoNunc id Vides, Nunc ne Vides ("Now you see it, Now you don't.")
Established1282 AM (current Ankh-Morpork calendar dates from founding)
ArchchancellorMustrum Ridcully
Location, ,
ColoursBurgundy and midnight blue, with yellow and purple stripes (octarine)
WebsiteUnseen University

The Unseen University (UU) is a school of wizardry in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series of fantasy novels. Located in the fictional city of Ankh-Morpork,[1][2] the UU is staffed by mostly indolent and inept old wizards. The university's name is a pun on the Invisible College, and many aspects of the university are references to Oxford and Cambridge University. The exploits of the head wizards of the Unseen University are one of the main plot threads in the long-running fantasy series, and have played a central role in 13 novels[which?] to date, as well as the four supplementary Science of Discworld novels and the short story, A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices.


The staff usually come in a group in the books in which they appear, though Rincewind initially followed his own storyline, only being a part of the group in the Science of Discworld books and Unseen Academicals, and the Librarian makes solo appearances in several books. Ridcully and Ponder also appeared in Going Postal and Night Watch. Ridcully alone appears in Thud!. The wizards are referred to by their offices (e.g. "ancient runes"), rather than names. 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. In Unseen Academicals, Ridcully has difficulty remembering the Dean's name, despite having started at UU around the same time.


Mustrum Ridcully illustrated by Paul Kidby

The head of Unseen University is the archchancellor, considered an important figure and holds a seat on the Ankh-Morpork council, in which he acts as a magical advisor to the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork.

The archchancellor of UU is considered the leader of all wizards on the Disc (by those at the UU), the first among equals. Unseen University has existed for thousands of years, and the average Archchancellor remains in office for about eleven months.

As of the final novel, the archchancellor is Mustrum Ridcully who assumed the post in Moving Pictures and held it for the rest of the novels.

At the time he became archchancellor, Ridcully had not been seen at the university for forty years, having left the university to look after his family's land.

Ridcully has shown the occasional flash of magical skill. For example, in Moving Pictures, the Bursar is surprised to discover Ridcully's adeptness at using a magic mirror, which, like most Discworld scrying devices, is hard to steer. In Soul Music Ridcully improvises, at short notice and with minimal assistance, a slimmed-down version of the rite of AshkEnte for summoning Death. It is also implied that he has some degree of practical magic knowledge (The Last Continent).

Lords and Ladies reveals that he and a young Esme Weatherwax were in a relationship some fifty years before Ridcully became Archchancellor. He is deeply affected by her death (The Shepherd's Crown).

In the Cosgrove Hall animation of Soul Music he was voiced by Graham Crowden.[3] In 2006's miniseries adaptation of Hogfather he was played by Joss Ackland,[4] and in the 2010 adaptation of Going Postal he was portrayed by Timothy West.[5]


Professor A.A. Dinwiddie. The Bursar is a quiet, reserved person. He took over the job from the previous Bursar, Spelter, after the latter was killed trying to save the library from destruction in Sourcery.

Dinwiddie reacts to the stress of the events in the series by becoming less and less tethered to reality. By the events of Reaper Man, Dr. Dinwiddie is almost completely insensible. The Bursar's insanity has become a byword in Ankh-Morpork: "to go Bursar" is "to go crazy"[citation needed].


The Dean of Pentacles/Archchancellor Henry of Brazeneck College. An obese man (Moving Pictures) who is generally found in his study reading a grimoire or in the great hall. He attends some of the functions that are held by guilds or clubs around the city on behalf of the university.

According to Ponder Stibbons, he is "normally never nice".[citation needed] He is often susceptible to any occult or semi-magical occurrence happening in the university, as well as any fads or trends – most notably in Soul Music. When roused into action he can be very enthusiastic and violent, and is a part-time Watch Special Constable – on the proviso that he not use magic in the course of his duties.

He and Archchancellor Ridcully have been friends since their first days at the university. Their friendship is tested in Unseen Academicals, when the Dean leaves to become Archchancellor of the rival Brazeneck College. The Dean became the first person to voluntarily resign from the university – something previously considered unthinkable (as people usually left "in disgrace, in a box or, in a few cases, in bits"[citation needed]).


The Librarian

The Librarian appeared in the second novel of the series, The Light Fantastic, where he was transformed into an orang-utan.[6] This had certain advantages for a librarian, such as being able to use his hands and feet for re-shelving books.[7] The other wizards have gradually become used to the situation, to the extent that, from Night Watch: "if someone ever reported that there was an orang-utan in the Library, the wizards would probably go and ask the Librarian if he'd seen it."[8]

He is known for his violent reaction to most people calling him a "monkey", as he is technically an ape. He primarily uses the word Ook, inflected for simple affirmations and negations, though he occasionally uses Eeek in moments of panic or rage. Nonetheless, most people seem able to understand him.[citation needed]

As with other members of the UU faculty, the Librarian is referred to by his office and not by a name. There are rumours that, pre-transformation, he was named Dr. Horace Worblehat, though no one speaks about it.[6]

The Librarian is a member of the Librarians of Time And Space, a group who have the knowledge and ability to travel through L-Space, an extradimensional space that connects all libraries and other large accumulations of books.[7]

The Librarian appears in orangutan form in the video games Discworld and Discworld II. In the 2008 TV adaptation of The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic by Sky One, he appears in both human and orang-utan form. His human form is played by Nicolas Tennant,[9] who had previously played Corporal Nobbs in Terry Pratchett's Hogfather.[4]

Ponder Stibbons[edit]

Professor Stibbons is, among other things, Head of Inadvisably Applied Magic, Praelector and Reader in Invisible Writings, the Master of Traditions, the Camerlengo of Unseen University, the keeper of Hex (the university's computer), and the right-hand man of Archchancellor Ridcully.[citation needed]

His entry in The New Discworld Companion states:

originally rather lazy by nature, he seems to have blossomed to become the youngest and most depressingly keen member of the faculty ... as one of the few wizards at the University with his head screwed on in any fashion, he appears, quite against his will, to be in the front line.[10]

In the film version of Hogfather he is portrayed by Ed Coleman.[4]

Stibbons also appears in the video game Discworld II, in the High Energy Facility. He is characterized differently than in the books, evidenced by his erratic speech patterns and verbal tics, as well as his denials that he is being adversely affected by working on Hex.


Rincewind holds the Chair of Experimental Serendipity, the Chair for the Public Misunderstanding of Magic, and the positions of Professor of Virtual Anthropology, Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography, Reader in Slood Dynamics, Fretwork Teacher, Lecturer in Approximate Accuracy, and Health and Safety Officer. These apparently unwanted positions were awarded to Rincewind provided that he does not receive any salary. Prior to receiving these titles, Rincewind held the post of Assistant Librarian, but it is unclear whether or not he retains the office. Rincewind is often concerned with his life, as many people all across Discworld have attempted to take it.

In the film version of The Colour of Magic he is portrayed by David Jason.[9]

Doctor Hix[edit]

Dr. John Hix – 'Hicks with an X' in Unseen Academicals, after changing his name from Hicks because it didn't suit his position. Dr Hix is a necromancer. Since necromancy is officially banned in Ankh-Morpork, he is instead the Head of the Department of Postmortem Communications (although he acknowledges this is just a fancy way of saying necromancy). Hix has one member of staff, a reanimated skeleton called Charlie. He previously had another member of staff, the late Professor Flead, but Hix bound him to a club at the end of Making Money.[citation needed]

Hix frequently misbehaves, performs evil deeds and makes comments in bad taste as he is required to under university statute, a fact which the other members of UU grudgingly accept. He uses the phrase "Skull ring, remember?" as an excuse for his misbehavior, much like the Patrician's use of the phrase, "Tyrant, remember?".

Hix may be a parody of Peter Higgs.


Hex is the UU's first mainframe computer, though instead of RAM, it is powered by a waterwheel inside a ram skull, and its mouse is an actual mouse. Its "brain" consists of a series of glass tubes filled with ants, which form its processor, and a beehive in a back room, which constitutes its hard drive. It bears a sticker up front saying that there is an anthill inside (a parody of the advertising slogan "Intel Inside"). Initially just a computer, it has gradually developed more of a personality over the course of the series. Ponder Stibbons has by default become the person in charge of developing and operating Hex, though he admits that Hex largely develops itself.

Past archchancellors[edit]

  • Alberto Malich, the first archchancellor and founder of UU. He went to the land of Death when he performed the Rite of AshkEnte backwards, and remained in Death's Domain as Death's assistant and butler. He also appeared in Mort, Soul Music, and in Hogfather where he appeared as Pixie Albert to Death's Hogfather. In the film version of Hogfather he is portrayed by David Jason.
  • Chancellor Galder Weatherwax, a distant cousin of Granny Weatherwax, is chancellor for the first half of The Light Fantastic. He is the 304th Chancellor of the university. In the film version of The Colour of Magic he is portrayed by James Cosmo.
  • Archchancellor Ymper Trymon is archchancellor for the second half of The Light Fantastic. In the film version of The Colour of Magic he is portrayed by Tim Curry.
  • Coin the Sourcerer is the archchancellor during Sourcery.

Others include Cutangle (Equal Rites), Virrid Wayzygoose (Sourcery), Ezrolith Churn (Eric), Sloman, who discovered the Special Theory of Slood, and Preserved Bigger (Unseen Academicals).

Past students[edit]

Past wizards[edit]

  • Drum Billet, a wizard appearing in Equal Rites, later reincarnated as an ant living under Unseen University.
  • Windle Poons, a very old wizard, first appearing in Moving Pictures. He died at the age of 130, before returning briefly as a zombie.


  1. ^ Grant, John; Clute, John (1997). The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. Orbit Books.
  2. ^ Freiburg, Rudolf; Schnitker, Jan (1999). "Do you consider yourself a postmodern author?": interviews with contemporary English writers. LIT Verlag Münster. ISBN 9783825843953.
  3. ^ "Soul Music (1997) Cast". IMDB. Retrieved 27 April 2024.
  4. ^ a b c "Hogfather (2006) Cast". IMDB. Retrieved 27 April 2024.
  5. ^ "Going Postal (2010) Cast". IMDB. Retrieved 27 April 2024.
  6. ^ a b Briggs, Stephen; Pratchett, Terry (2012). Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion... So Far. Gollancz. ISBN 978-0575091214. Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  7. ^ a b French, Emma (April 27, 2017). "Best librarian characters in fantasy fiction". OUPblog. Oxford University Press. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
  8. ^ Pratchett, Terry (2002). Night Watch. Penguin Random House UK. pp. 61, 484.
  9. ^ a b "The Color Of Magic (TV Mini-Series)". IMDB. Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  10. ^ Pratchett, Terry (2003). The New Discworld Companion. London, Gollancz. p. 129. ISBN 9780575074675.

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