The bedel (from medieval Latin "pedellus" or "bidellus", occasionally "bidellus generalis", from OHG "bital", "pital", "the one who invites, calls") was, and is to some extent still, an administrative official at universities in several European countries, and often had a policiary function at the time when universities had their own jurisdiction over students.


The office can be traced back as far as 1245, and first originated in Paris. In French universities, the position was frequently open to purchase. In the medieval English universities in Oxford and Cambridge, the "bedel" was an administrative assistant of the chancellor and the proctors. The bedel was, among other things, to collect fines and fees, keep rolls of scholars with the license to teach and participate in ceremonial dress in academic processions and on other similar occasions. There were six bedels at Oxford, one superior and one inferior bedel for each faculty, while Cambridge had only two (Cobban, p. 231f). The office of Esquire Bedell is still preserved for purely ceremonial purposes at some UK universities, including the University of Southampton.


The "Pedell" at German universities would also function as a notary and also had a relatively prominent position. At the University of Tübingen, the "pedell" was both responsible for arresting and detaining students in the karzer and functioning as prosecutor in the university court.

In universities in the Netherlands the "pedel" acts as a master of ceremonies. As of 2005 the office is an entirely ceremonial one, the Pedel leading public processions and acting as the master of ceremonies at graduations and Ph.D. examinations. As a master of ceremonies, the Pedel is largely mute. The only words that a Pedel utters in public are " ", announcing that the allotted time for a Ph.D. examination has expired.

At the University of Uppsala in Sweden the function of "pedell" is mentioned for the first time in the statutes of 1626, with a function similar to that of the cursor; in Uppsala there were several pedells, one of which was each morning to appear in front of the rector, serve him at official functions and hold the silver sceptre of the university. He was also to keep a ledger over the students and keep guard over incarcerated students. The pedell at Uppsala wore a richly decorated livery in blue and yellow with silver embroidery, and a wooden staff with a silver button.


The word Beadle, the name for various similar but not identical offices in Scotland and England is of the same origin.


*Cobban, Alan B., "English University Life in the Middle Ages." UCL Press, London 1999.
*Stubbings, Frank, "Bedders, Bulldogs & Bedells: A Cambridge Glossary". Revised and enlarged edition, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1995.
*"Meyers Konversations-Lexikon", Bd 12 (1888), p. 800. []
*"Nordisk familjebok", Vol. 21 []
* cite web|accessmonthday=March 15 |accessyear=2005
title=A word from the Pedel
work=Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

* cite web|accessmonthday=March 15 |accessyear=2005
title=The Defense, Part II
work=Computational Complexity, Lance Fortnow

* cite web|accessmonthday=March 15 |accessyear=2005
title= The Dutch PhD defence is a ceremony, not an examination
work=by David McMullin, TU Delta

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