What if a University burns down?

What If a University Burns Down?

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The question “What if a university burns down?” has been around for some time now, with many people coming up with theories on how to handle the situation. A university is a big institution with many departments keeping vital documents on both employees and students. That aside, a university is also likely to have costly equipment and tools.

Well, some parts of the university can actually burn down. It wouldn’t be that bad unless expensive facilities burned down. The big question is, what would happen if student records get burned down? Will the university require all students to retake their course or allow them to graduate with their bachelor’s degrees immediately? 

What if?- Myths and Misconceptions

People love the juicy urban myth or urban legend because it gives them what they want to hear. What would happen if a university burns down? What do you think the student would like to hear? Of course, they want the easiest way out. And that’s exactly the myth circulating around this issue.

According to this myth, in case a university burns down, all the students would earn their bachelor’s degrees immediately.  

Debunking the myth

Let’s look at this issue critically. For a start, universities cover large swathes of land on which there are hundreds of structures. It would be impossible to burn down the entire university unless one uses a powerful bomb.

Secondly, this myth assumes that, after a devastating catastrophe, the university would discharge all the students.

As witnessed when catastrophes hit colleges, these institutions never abandon their learners, as in mass shootings. They have to find safer alternatives.

In August 2002, New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The total loss incurred was $650 million, and the college canceled the fall semester. Scott Cowen, the university’s president, encouraged students to continue with their classes at other universities as the mess was being cleaned up. Once the university was cleaned, the students were recalled to resume classes.

In another case, there was a massive shooting that took place at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University on 16th April 2007. The shooting occurred in two buildings, the Norris Hall and the West Ambler Johnston Hall.  

In the shooting, 32 students were killed, while 17 sustained serious injuries. The college administration suspended classes, but only for a week. Those students were awarded grades after abbreviating their coursework. The other students that passed on received their degrees posthumously. 

A University Administrator Debunks The Myth Further

Dr. Vincent Miller, the president of the Valdosta State University (VSU), was asked what would happen if the university burned down. His response was quite inspiring.

“When people think of Universities, the first thought that comes to their mind is buildings. Although, online courses have made learning even more flexible. Meaning, students can learn from anywhere and earn their degrees.”

He said that if VSU burns down, the administration will seek alternatives quickly and find a location to continue offering their courses. They would also organize ways to instruct students and may rent facilities or erect temporary structures to allow classes to continue.

Most universities share resources, it won’t be hard to find a university with facilities that will accommodate the affected student while measures are taken to restore their damaged university.

A college isn’t about the structures but students and their tutors. Students can continue learning online and have their degree certificates printed off-campus.

In short, burning down a university will not stop learning, and students won’t be awarded automatic degrees. This is necessary to preserve the quality of higher education. 

What would happen to student records?

So what would happen if a college burns down before digitizing student records? In such an unfortunate event, students will have a hard time proving that they had passed certain exams and the grades they got. The only way around this is to seek these grades from tutors. Some professors keep student records on their computers, or they may have them in hard copy form.

If this affects you, you can reach out to your professors to show proof of your grades. This will give the university an easy time recreating your record.

What if the professor doesn’t have your records or the professor for a particular course has passed on? There would be no way to prove that you have passed a course. Unfortunately, you would have to retake it. In the universities, there are no short-cuts.

The Reality

No university can award degrees if there’s no evidence that students passed their courses. Most Universities put up measures to remedy the situation in case of a disaster. Today, technology has allowed universities to digitize their data and store them online (in the cloud).

Data stored online is easily asscesible from anywhere. Therefore, if the whole university is razed down and all computers destroyed, students’ data will still be available.

What will happen after a disaster strikes a university will depend on the decision made by its administration. Worried about passing your classes and getting good grades? Read our article on “How to create a study plan,” which will help you stay organized and ace your grades.


The myth that students will automatically graduate if their college burns down isn’t valid. If that was the case, we could be witnessing many fire breakouts in the universities. 

Many lazy students dream of burning down faculties as the easy way out. The internet allows free storage of data therefore students’ information is safer online. This also includes most of the University’s records i.e. Library records. If you are a student and your university burns down, don’t worry about your academic records.

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