Bedders, also known as bedmakers, are perks of the Cambridge and Oxford system. They are employees of an individual college (in the Oxbridge sense of the term) and basically clean up student rooms.


Bedders typically perform tasks such as cleaning sinks or bathrooms, pushing the hoover round and oddly enough, making beds. In my case my bedder empties my dustbins every day and performs other tasks on a less frequent basis. Sheets are changed once a week for example.

Some good natured bedders have been known to go as far as doing students' washing up or tidying their room, but they are under no obligation to do this, they are not servants. There are reasonable limits to their duties. If you make a huge disgusting mess, it's not up to them to deal with it.

Relics of a past and decadent age?

Some consider bedders to be relics from another age, when the University was full of young gentlemen who had servants at home and would never consider making their bed or cleaning their own room (and who probably could not tell one end of a broom from another).

To an extent this is true, but bedders do have another role to play. Your bedder checks on you every day and if he/she finds you unconscious, collapsed in a pool of your own vomit she is likely to get help for you (and maybe even help you clean up), whereas in other universities no one might notice for a day or two.

Some people form friendships with their bedders. Although there are many people that students can supposedly talk to, such as their tutor, or the college nurse, the prospect of talking to someone "official" can sometimes be daunting. Of course, some people hardly see their bedder because they are not awake in the morning, which is when bedders tend to perform their duties.

Bedders through the ages

Many, many years ago, bedders were servants, definitely lower down the social scale than the students. Today they are just normal people, although some students tend to forget this.

The amount of service provided has shrunk over the years. My father has fond memories of how in his day, he would leave a bag of dirty clothes outside his room and it would be returned the next day, washed and ironed. These days of course students have to wash their own clothes.

It's possible that one day the tradition of bedders may be proclaimed an archaic privilege of a long gone elite and ended. Although there have been incidents such as bedders using students' computers to look at porn or stealing items, these remain very much isolated and many bedders have been employed by the college for many years and are very loyal to it. It would be a shame to lose such a valuable service.

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