Glacier City University
Glacier City University
(lit. Capital/Center Mountain Capital City Greater Academy)
Ancient Universities |
|Draconic (until 1296); secular (1296-present)|
|Endowment||G£ 30 billion|
|Budget||G£ 9.5 billion|
Glacier City University (known by its acronym of GCU) is an elite university located in the Semi-Autonomous Region (SAR) of the same name. Founded in as a university in 1076 AN, GCU is the third-oldest institute of higher education in continuous operation in the Ralgon Empire, and the second-oldest university in the country (after Temple University). It is also among the oldest institutions of higher learning on the Cibola continent.
It is considered an "ancient university" -- that is, an institution of higher learning formed as a university (regardless of its purpose or existence before said formation) before the Draconic faith became the state religion in 1178. It is one of only three such institutions in continuous operation since that date, with the latest of its other six peers being claimed (at least temporarily) by the devastating effects of the long-term 1685 Crisis.
What became GCU's oldest extant college was founded at some point in the 800's AN as a religious institution -- one of many founded in the area in the preceding centuries by the ubiquitous Draconic monks and missionaries in the region at the time. Initially attached to a monastery in the interior of what is now known as the Imperial Quarter, in that era it was simply "the Mountain" to the locals, with the city in the mountain's dormant caldera serving as the center of everything in that region. in Glacier City's sacred mountain (which the city takes its name after). As the mountain town began to expand outside of the city and the population began to grow, the institution began to train people outside the clergy beginning in 859, starting with the local village chiefs.
In 914, the now well-established academy was named "Yamato-Chuo Gakuin," which roughly translates into Capital City Academy. Due to the quirks of the local culture during the Dark Ages, a more literal translation reads "Capital Mountain Center (of the City) Academy." Note that the locals held limited knowledge of geography (physical or political) outside their own environs, and regarded the nearby mountain as the mountain, as the nearest peak half as high as that one was several hundred miles to the west -- well outside their scope of knowledge until the late 1000's.
Beginning in the 1000's, the Academy was already in the process of absorbing high-caliber personnel from nearby institutes of higher learning. During its past century as a unified institution, the Academy had slowly emerged as the largest and most relevant center of education in the Mountain City, and by this point Glacier City was an independent (but relatively inconsequential) city-state, with the modern name applying to all but the eponymous Glacier Mountain itself.
It was during the Medieval Period that Glacier City University began to take its modern form as a premier university in the emerging Ralgonese state some four hundred years later.
End of the Dark Ages
By 1000 AN, the city was now coming into regular contact with tribes to the northern side of its mountainous border (later known as Nixtorm), and the now-seafaring Ralgonese peoples to the west. The Dark Ages were coming to a close in this region, and contact with other long-lost Drag'osian humans was starting to form across the island. In response to these new forces being discovered (as well as the constant external pressure posed by the threat of the island's extremely dangerous fauna), the city situated in Glacier Mountain's caldera became an all-important strategic point for use by the city to evacuate to in times of emergency.
Because of the city's strongly fortified northern border, the region enjoyed much longer periods of relative calm and stability than their neighbors to the north and to the west, resulting in the Mountain City becoming a major destination for those who could afford the increasingly expensive costs of moving to what was rapidly becoming the safest point on the island. Because of the increasing geostrategic relevance that the Mountain offered, the already-prominent Glacier City Academy began to experience the same pressure to expand and consolidate to meet demand and remain relevant against competition from the emerging Temple University in Stormhold, as well as the various religious academies populating the vast coastal plains to the north in Nixtorm.
Formation of the University
By 1076, Glacier City was a fully formed polity, and chiefs for both the city-state and tribal leaders from the north in Nixtorm were regularly educated at the Academy. Regular contact was made with the Ralgonese peoples to the west, who were constantly in battle with the monsters from the island's interior -- the same that had reduced the island to ashes in 228 AN. Hearing of the formation of "universal centers of learning", and noting their own status as such, the religious officials who owned the institution's buildings renamed the Academy in the local language as "The Universal Institute of Sacred Learning in the Mountains of Glacier City." The Universal Institute would retain this name for almost 200 years -- the duration of Glacier City's independence.
The city-state of Glacier City and its environs were annexed by the State of Stormhold, a nearby Ralgonese state whose people had similar ethnicity, in 1260. The university shortened its name to Glacier City University in that same year, helping to launch a larger trend among other peer institutions in shortening their names to allow for saving ink (an expensive resource) on official documents, as well as establishing easily memorable names to stand out among increasingly fierce competition for elite students.
Late Medieval Period
The incorporation of the now-huge medieval metropolitan state of Glacier City would have far-reaching consequences within the larger country it found itself a part of. With the constant demand for able commanders at the front of the never-ending wars with the island's fauna and the struggles for expansion into the resistant territories of the Nixtorm tribal rulers, the growing University found its religious education to be in much less demand than its ability to educate leaders on military knowledge, to include the development of new technology for the front.
Although the caldera itself was home to a massive religious complex that, itself, owned the university, the land itself remained in the hands of the country's rulers as their personal property. By the late 1200's, the local royals had intermarried with the neighboring Stormhold's ruling Ral clan to the point where there was little distinction between one and the other family outside of name and what city one was born in. However, this was a long-term ploy to bring the two thrones closer together and forcibly merge them, as the Ralite rulers habitually disliked the idea of their own country being equal to a much smaller territory, never mind as a diarchy.
Their chance arrived at an opportune moment. In 1296 Jaeg'ar XI died without issue. Instead of an immediate member of his family winning the traditional Games, the Ralite ruler Bael'ar V won them instead. Since the King of Glacier City had to be an adherent of Draconic, Bael'ar V, himself the immediate successor to the first Ralite royal convert to Draconic, converted himself. Regardless of the motivation behind this, the takeover permanently vacated the caldera's palace complex for the next 350 years, leaving it instead to its own devices. These events would allow the University, ruled by a set of priests and stewards, to follow its own devices with almost zero influence due to its nature as a religious institution free of the crown's influence.
Instead of having a succession of kings over the area, a line of hereditary nobles sprang up from Jaeg'ar XI's relatives and ruled as Dukes from 1300. Under heavy influence from the University, these rulers took a special interest in the caldera town's now-vast religious infrastructure, to include its various schools. Using their religious influence, they created a line of deeply intertwined priest-dukes that kept the university heavily funded for centuries afterwards. Their effective puppets occupied the palace until they were expelled from the complex in 1673 and forced to reside elsewhere in the city, along with the Lord Mayor of the Glacier City metropolis.
Consolidation of 1330
However, rule over the Dukes by no means meant rule over the metropolis, which had sprung up from the feet of the sacred mountain and stretched to the rapidly developing docks at the coast. Additionally, the country's pace of modernization was too much for the religious clerics to handle, and they were beginning to find their educational institutions outclassed and outpaced by other rising stars. Increasing pressure from the central government of Glacier City to cultivate a strong, unified university would result fist in the consolidation of the caldera city's various institutions into Glacier City University in 1330.
At first, this consolidation appeared to save space for the religious order on the mountain. The consolidation forced the University's many satellite institutions onto a much smaller area at one of the island's fringes away from the palace, allowing the religious complex to expand more on an otherwise crowded island on the caldera lake, itself a very sacred place. However, this paved the way for the city's rulers to forcibly have the University permanently consolidated onto its present-day, 120 hectare campus on the caldera lake's island.
Long-Term Effects on the Church
This consolidation also paved the way for the Dukes to claw at what little power they could. In a power move, the Duke used his own powers as the resident Church Elder to forcibly separate the University from the Church, after having bribed his counterpart with the Mayoral title for himself and his son (who later died on the battlefield anyway). This freed the University from the Church's increasingly bureaucratic grasp, and forced it to focus on political and religious matters. This had long-term consequences on the political state of the Empire, and also helped the University, now under the Duke's leadership, to step forth and modernize along with the rest of the country -- which was beginning a phase of expansion elsewhere on the Island of Drag'os.
On the religious side of the nation, the loss of the University proved to be a sore blow to the Holy Draconic Church, as its highest-ranking clerics no longer had direct influence on which persons it could allow to pass through those elite and sacred halls. Glacier City University was but the first domino to fall; soon, the practice of forcing Universities to either become secular or fall into the King's hands became commonplace, until This forced the Church to find other means of controlling the Glacier City regional government, even at a time it was losing its grip on higher educational institutions elsewhere. Instead of a widespread, coherent force, the Church instead splintered under this pressure from the national and regional governments. Instead of wielding power nationally, the Church had to settle for its clerics holding onto political offices at the regional level.
In the long-term, regionalization cost the Church dearly, as the Kings of Stormhold added more territories to the Empire. The needs for managing a much more widespread flock drained the Church's resources, and converting the mercantile nobles of Scarterra proved to be an uphill battle. By the time of Nobunag'an's reign, the Church was no longer licensed to carry out anything other than religious education; it had to rely on universities for the job, and most elite institutions were under secular control. Thus, it had to rely on the Ralite kings to properly indoctrinate students in the Draconic faith, and this slowly paved the way for the Church itself to be taken over early in Emperor Shiro's reign (from 1673).
Great Swamp War
It has an endowment of roughly 30 billion Guilders (the second largest among Ralgon universities, after the University of Adrestia), and receives additional funding from Glacier City's government, as well as major corporations for ground-breaking research. The university has an acceptance rate of about 4.5% for undergraduate students. The university enrolls about 1300 fresh undergraduates per term, half of which are usually scions of rich or prominent families. The postgraduate population is, in contrast, larger: 6,500 graduate students call the university home, versus 4,200 undergrads on average. Most postgraduate students are there for research programs, and 75% of such programs lead to a doctoral degree. A small population of roughly 1,000 students per year pursues non-thesis (professional) master's programs. The university has an extremely low student-to-faculty ratio. At just over 4.5, this figure remains the lowest out of the country's elite schools.
The University is world-renowned for its engineering and materials science programs, with graduates leading such projects as the construction of the Erazm Bridge Consortium. Its endowment is the second-largest in the Ralgonese state, at well over 30 billion Guilders. Housing notable global policy institutes such as the Chidao Emperor Institute for Jing Studies, the university's headquarters remain in the Mountain City after over 600 years. GCU remains the only institution allowed to own property within the Imperial City, and also the only non-government organization allowed to operate within the city without an active permit.