The Kaastig University
Situated in the centre of the UstKwarteer, the Kaastig University has been a major part of the pattern of Heidelgard life for hundreds of years, and is famed for being the pre-eminent educational centre for Alchemical learning and study in Accitaine for hundreds of years; it was founded back just a decade or so before the Cataclysm, albeit as a much more humble college then. The founding has been widely attributed to the famed and revered (at least to Alchemists) Laeo Tannhauser, the father of Alchemy as it is today. His statue stands at the centre of the Main Quadrangle, and the mysterious circumstances of his disappearance have only added to the aura of mystery and enigma that has built up around his name and legend. Certainly, the University covers a large area of ground and is also structurally impressive, and its architecture lacks the ostentation and impracticality of other establishments in other lands.
The University comprises 5 Faculties, with the most prestigious being the School of Alchemical Studies; the others are, in no particular order, the School of Language and Literature, the School of History and Archaeology, the School of Engineering and Architecture and finally the School of the Natural World. Of these, the school of Engineering and Architecture has the closest relationship to the School of Alchemical Studies, but at this University, there is a surprising degree of broad cooperation and mutual assistance between all the various Schools and Faculties.
Tannhauser’s original doctrine was that the University be in no way affiliated to any religious organisation, seeing that there were plenty of religious seminaries and colleges already, something that did not endear him to the religious authorities at the time, and most certainly not the Society. Since his “disappearance”, the Society has worked slowly and surely to try and bring the University more under its control, but in fairness to the Principals and Heads of Schools, it has had limited success, for though the University offers assistance and expertise to the Society as well as Heidelgard, it has a great deal of autonomy and largely sets its own rules and goals still.
Each School has its own way of doing things and own organisational setup, but as a broad rule there is one Principal who runs and oversees the University (currently Mattias Khronin, a cagey and wiley politician as well as being a skilled Alchemist and scholar), and each School has a Head, normally elected for life (or removed if competence is successfully challenged, not easy). The University Council is made up of all the Heads and Deputies, but their role is usually advisory to the Principal.
Currently there is thought to be somewhere in the region of 3000 students spread across the various Schools, with the largest amount thought to be in the Engineering School; that being said, the most prestigious and perhaps best funded is the Alchemical Studies School, and it is true that it is the most rigorous and demanding of its applicants and students.
It is a very well run and equipped establishment, and whilst each Faculty has its own library and facilities, the main structure, called Tannhauser Hall, is the largest and has several libraries within, along with quarters for many staff, laboratories, lecturing halls and other needful facilities. There is also the well guarded and mysterious Proscribed Materials Wing, thought to hold some particularly contentious and controversial writings, sculptures and antiquities. The Society would dearly like to remove, examine and perhaps destroy whatever is within, but they are bound by the Vaasen Bull, a Society edict passed by the Archimander Cedaric Vaasen in 147 AC, that prohibits such a thing from happening (Cedaric was a Heidelen, and his clemency on his homelands University might explain why there have been no Heidelen Archimanders since); also, the resistance to Society pressure from the University and also the Heidelen Royal Family and Parliament further compounds this issue; indeed, the continuing mild weakening of Society influence within Heidelgard can perhaps be traced to situations such as this.
The University is very active in research and practical studies, and it is a highly sought after role for a young student or staff member to join a practical field project that can be anything from field tests for new weapons or technologies to archaeological expeditions and a great many things in between.
Funding comes from its own efforts, but also a generous stipend from the Monarchy helps bolster coffers, and legacies and donations from wealthy citizens seeking to curry favour (often to buy entry for their own family and friends) also happen; the latter can be an annoying yet practical necessity for some of the more dedicated staff.