Back in 1982, I went to Uni for the first time. I was introduced to the noble art of rock climbing there, by the climbing club which went under the ignominious name of "The Hillbillies." The club was some two years old at that point.
We did many trips camping and climbing, and it was on one of these I first visited West Penwith, which I fell head over heels in love with. I ended up living there, and will return to live there next year.
Through the time of my studies, I became club treasurer, and one of the mainstays of the group, along with a few blokes who remain firm friends to this day. The club had it's ups and down, some members took spectacular falls, some were overnighted in Snowdon, or lost for a day on the moors. I think the worse accident was one mate who broke his leg in two places, in a lead fall at the Dewerstone.
So, you may be wondering, what is the point of this?
I was thinking, how hard must it be to do this sort of thing today?
We never had insurance, we weren't qualified in any way *, we were not recognised by the college, and barely by the student union. We bought all our own gear, we used hand me down ropes from departing members, our protection was antiquated, and refurbished when needed.
We travelled in any beat up old car we could afford, (I owned a 1959 Ford Anglia,) or hitch-hiked. On trips away in the evenings, those of us who weren't pissed were stoned, but still climbed the next day.
In today's climate, how hard must it be to establish a club, and to provide people like me, from a South Wales council estate, with an experience which would shape and influence the rest of their lives?
As I say, just an idle thought.
* Some of us gained MLC certification, and other quals before the end of my time there.
I think student clubs today are a lot more similar to your experience than you think; at least, the good ones are. I've heard of some that are overrun by rules (SPAs and risk assessments) but the majority retain an air of freedom and chaos as well as being a cheap option compared to other
Ofc, top roping is now frowned upon.
(Caveat, I have only been a member of one student MC)
Our club is still broadly similar to that, but we have a larger budget by the sounds of it. Funding from our members ~(£50 a year, a small amount compared to the average pub/club budget that most students have) and the students union cover the costs of equipment and insurance. The students union has minibuses to rent, and our club members drive their own cars too. Each trip costs around £25pp, the club subsidises the rest and includes all food, transport, gear if needed, accommodation in a hut and whatnot.
We on have 50-100 active members each year as well. We have the odd SPA/ML person but the majority of the members have been taught by older club members and continue to pass that knowledge down. (I was also treasurer for my club last year).