I come from a university where the first two digits of your student number represents when you started in the university. As such people often use this to judge age, whether the person is repeating or changed course, or is an incoming postgraduate. Student numbers are the identifier for students, and are consequently used in all official capacities, but also in terms of clubs and societies. Attempting to join a club without the right two digits can often be difficult; generally lower digits are a serious social no-no. A student number can never be changed, under any circumstances. If someone starts a course with a hiatus of twenty years, they will still be using their original number. There is also the issue of semi-anonymized information being easy to identify if results are given out using people’s student numbers (if someone doesn’t have the same first two digits as the rest of his peers).

Naturally a unique identifier is a positive thing for managing information. Also having consistency in relation to the manner in which information is recorded is also good. So what sort of action could be performed at the level of the institution to remove this bizarre social stigma, and increase campus social integration, without potentially damaging the integrity in the way in which information is managed (and incurring additional costs of implementation).

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    I'm a bit confused. Is the club refusing you entry simply because of your student number, and if you had been exactly the same person but with a different student number you would have gotten in? Or are they using that as a shorthand for age, as you seem to indicate, and once they have realized you were older than them they would have refused you entry anyway?
    – user9646
    Sep 20, 2017 at 12:08
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    So what sort of action could be performed at the level of the institution to remove this bizarre social stigma I am not sure I understand your question. If the first two digits is the problem, then it seems to me not use the first two digits would solve the problem. I still receive credit card paper bills from my bank, they only display the last four digits of my card.
    – Nobody
    Sep 20, 2017 at 12:20
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    Don't post grades publicly (long prohibited at my institution). Use an online learning management system with a private login for each student. Sep 20, 2017 at 12:24
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    If you are talking about Austria, the pragmatic answer is - nothing. All universities in the entire country use the same scheme, and the probability that you will get it changed within your study time are so close to 0 that you shouldn't bother. That is not to say that the problems you mention don't exist, they are just not perceived as nearly bad enough to warrant the concerted effort to roll out a new student ID system.
    – xLeitix
    Sep 20, 2017 at 12:33
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    @Stumbler Then make it harder for clubs to see that information. Allow students to apply for clubs using their student number, but only ever display their real name when a club administrator assesses their application or otherwise investigates them. Surely club administrators cannot make an argument that they need to see he student number unless they use the embedded information to discriminate? Unless discrimination is permissible legally, ethically and socially? And even then you can just appeal to the same IT security concerns. Unless club admins need this number, don't give it to them.
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 20, 2017 at 13:05

1 Answer 1


Changing the student ID numbers will not help. People will still know some students are older than others. It's perfectly normal for some students to be older than others, and most universities cannot function without some older and also younger students.

People should just talk about the value that diversity brings to education - age is part of diversity.

  • It's been quite a while since I asked this question so I had totally forgotten about it. I guess the thing that I had noticed was that it was accepted that new students would join societies and clubs, and those who were not freshers were allowed to, but not expected to (which also has a feedback loop). Ultimately, students after the first year or two stop joining things, and largely stop engaging with extracurricular activities. For my part I was quite ashamed of joining things in third year undergrad. However with hindsight I tend to agree with you - there are more systematic things at play.
    – Stumbler
    Dec 27, 2021 at 23:40

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