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Crafting Connections: The Universities Scheme Conference

The hosts of Craftcast visit Berkshire for the 2024 Universities Scheme Conference. They discuss what makes a University Lodge unique and the launch of the University Society Support Network.

The hosts of Craftcast at Berkshire
The hosts of Craftcast

In Episode 9, Season 2 of Craftcast, the Freemasons Podcast, our hosts travel to Berkshire to attend the 2024 Universities Scheme Conference at the Sindlesham Masonic Centre and record an episode on the road. They discuss all that they have experienced throughout the day and also discuss University Lodges and the future of the Universities Scheme.

Reflecting on the highlights so far, James admitted that his favourite was the insightful discussion on migration – the process of supporting students who have been initiated into a Universities Scheme Lodge as they transition to new locations after graduating. This session explored strategies for facilitating a seamless move from their mother Lodge to a Lodge in their new hometown or city, ensuring their continued involvement in Freemasonry.

To provide context for non-Masonic listeners, Stephen explained that the Universities Scheme, a UGLE initiative, comprises a collection of Lodges aimed at enhancing student Freemasonry. It works alongside the women's Grand Lodges as well, cooperating together on most projects. The Scheme's primary goals are to make Freemasonry more attractive and accessible to students, addressing potential barriers they may face.

James, himself a member of a Universities Scheme Lodge, inquired about the differences between these Lodges and traditional ones. Stephen elucidated that Universities Scheme Lodges typically have lower costs, both in terms of time and money, meeting fewer times per year compared to traditional Lodges. They often have a group of experienced Brethren overseeing operations while encouraging student involvement as they join. Crucially, these Lodges are built with the understanding that students will eventually leave, unable to rely on them as the Lodge's future.

James added that in traditional Lodges, members progress through various offices over several years, culminating in becoming the Worshipful Master. However, in Universities Scheme Lodges, this linear progression is less common, as most new Initiates are unlikely to remain for an extended period. Instead, they are offered more flexible opportunities to experience different roles, such as Junior Deacon, Inner Guard, or assisting the Secretary or Treasurer for a year.

The Brethren acknowledged the significance of the migration strategy, emphasising the need to retain members as they move after graduation. They discussed the importance of Secretaries, Lodge Mentors, and Membership Officers in facilitating this process by completing the necessary forms and keeping in touch with departing members.

Turning their attention to the conference itself, both Shaun and James commended the engaging discussions and interactions with Brethren from various regions, sharing common values and experiences. James highlighted his presentation on the Members' Pathway's "attract" hub, which prompted insightful conversations about how Universities Scheme Lodges can attract new members. He encouraged listeners to explore the Members' Pathway resources for a deeper understanding.

Stephen discussed his joint presentation with his mother, launching the University Society Support Network – a new initiative aimed at empowering student Freemasonry. The network seeks to establish student societies within university unions, providing a platform for those interested in Freemasonry, regardless of their affiliation or gender identity. Stephen emphasised that the societies must originate from the students themselves, with the network providing guidance on constitutional support, roles, and responsibilities.

Throughout the captivating interviews conducted by James, attendees shared their perspectives on the conference. Will, a new Freemason from the Loughborough Science and Art Lodge, expressed his enjoyment in meeting fellow Freemasons and learning about the Universities Scheme, particularly the migration process as he prepares for his Master's degree.

Sean Phillips, the current Master of Collegiate Lodge, highlighted the importance of engaging with the Members' Pathway and migration scheme to retain members as they move. He also expressed interest in the University Society Support Network as a means to increase engagement with local universities.

Matthew, the immediate Past Master of Blockley Lodge, the Universities Scheme Lodge for Oxford Brookes University, commended the discussions on engagement during meetings and the migration scheme. He emphasised the importance of keeping in touch with departing members to facilitate their potential return to Freemasonry in the future.

Oliver, a member of Domus Dei Lodge, expressed excitement about the University Society Support Network, recognising its potential to provide a framework for Lodges seeking to enhance their interaction with universities and students.

Throughout the interviews, the Brethren shared their personal motivations for joining Freemasonry, ranging from family connections to a genuine interest in learning more about the organisation.

As the conference drew to a close, the Craftcast team encouraged listeners to explore the Universities Scheme resources, attend future conferences, and get involved in supporting student Freemasonry, regardless of their rank or experience.


Listen to the full ‘Crafting Connections: The Universities Scheme Conference’ podcast.

Listen to the rest of the Craftcast podcast.

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