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Bicycles hanging high as the result of a student prank in Lund, Sweden.

University students have a long association with pranks and japes.[1][2][3][4][5] These can often involve petty crime, such as the theft of traffic cones and other public property,[6] or hoaxes.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16] In fact, practical jokes play such a significant part in student culture that numerous books have been published that solely focus on the issue of student pranks.[17][18]

In some university towns, misbehaviour on the part of students became such an issue that a report has been released which studies the issue. The report, Studentification: A Guide to Opportunities, Challenges and Practice, by Universities UK, focuses on six British universities as case studies.

Prank sign "Hugh Hefner Center for Silicone Research" which has been installed as a joke by students at Stanford University. Stanford University often names rooms or entire buildings after generous donors. However Hugh Hefner (the founder of Playboy magazine) is none of them. Also notice that the sign mentions Silicone (which is used for breast implants) instead of Silicon (which is used for semiconductor research at Stanford University).


A statue of the Duke of Wellington in front of the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, which famously has a traffic cone for a hat.

One classic target of student theft are traffic cones. The issue of the theft and misuse of traffic cones by students has gained enough prominence that a spokesperson from the UK National Union of Students has been forced to argue that "stereotypes of students stealing traffic cones" are "outdated".[19]

Some universities have gone as far as to devote entire pages of legislation and advice for students with regards to the consequences and laws involving the theft of traffic cones.[20] Misuse of traffic cones in Scotland has even resulted in serious physical injury.[21]

The traffic cone theft issue came to such a head in the 1990s that it was brought up in parliament.[22]

In 2002, Fife Constabulary declared a "traffic cone amnesty" allowing University of St Andrews students to return stolen traffic cones without fear of prosecution. A police spokesman had said that the theft of traffic cones had become "an almost weekly occurrence".[23]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library : FAQ Student pranks
  2. ^ Kiwiblog » Blog Archive » Student Pranks
  3. ^ Watts, Jonathan (1 November 2003). "Student prank that gave the Chinese a fit of the willies". The Guardian. Beijing. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  4. ^ Debbage, Kaleb (26 February 2007). "Alarming consequences for student pranks". Epigram Online (189). Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  5. ^ Ayala, Jamie (June 14, 2007). "Sticky student prank injures teacher". The Press-Enterprise (California). Hemet: Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  6. ^ Bidmead, Claire (2001). "Nightmare on student street". Higher Education and Research Opportunities in the UK. Archived from the original on May 31, 2006. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  7. ^ Saltzman, Jonathan (December 24, 2005). "Student's tall tale revealed". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  8. ^ "Student's hoax leaves paper red". Regret The Error. December 28, 2005. Archived from the original on January 6, 2006. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  9. ^ Nicodemus, Aaron (December 24, 2005). "Federal agents' visit was a hoax". The Standard-Times. New Bedford: p. A1. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  10. ^ "Tate in a state of Leeds student hoax" (PDF) (49). 2002-10-25. p. 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 23 November 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  11. ^ "Student praised for hoax essay". BBC Online. October 14, 1999. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  12. ^ Great Rose Bowl Hoax, Museum of Hoaxes, accessed April 2, 2008.
  13. ^ "College student pleads guilty to hoax alleging bomb threat on Chicago's Sears Tower". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Boston. July 12, 2007. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  14. ^ "Student admits plane bomb hoax". October 24, 2006. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  15. ^ "Aloha High School Student Brings Hoax Device to School". Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Washington County. December 17, 2004. Archived from the original on January 11, 2005. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  16. ^ Student Created Hoax About Mao’s Red Book - BDL Media China Blog Archived February 24, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Nightwork: A History of Hacks and Pranks at MIT by T.F. Peterson (Paperback - 1 April 2003)
  18. ^ If at All Possible, Involve a Cow: The Book of College Pranks by Neil Steinberg (Paperback - 1992)
  19. ^ "Rowdy students 'must be tackled'". BBC Online. 24 January 2006. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  20. ^ "Worcester Students Union – The Home for Worcester University Students". Archived from the original on May 5, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-19. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  21. ^ "Falling road cone injures student". BBC Online. 19 November 2006. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  22. ^ House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 11 Dec 1996 (pt 15)
  23. ^ "Students urged to cone clean". BBC Online. 23 May 2002. Retrieved 23 November 2010.