Student Government, the participation of students in certain phases of school management. The most common form of student government is a student-elected group called the student council. Student councils seek to improve school morale and give students the opportunity to practice democratic government through various activities. They also serve as a means of communication between the student body and the administration of a school. Student councils charter and support clubs, plan athletic and social events, operate lost-and-found departments, supervise school elections among students, and help orient new students.

The extent to which student councils participate in school management varies, depending on such factors as the level of student maturity. In some colleges and universities, student councils take the form of certain faculty-student committees. These committees help determine policy on matters such as financial aid to students, courses of study, selection of faculty, and rules for student behavior.

School organizations other than the formally elected student councils contribute to student government through managing various activities. For example, in many colleges and universities a student union provides social, recreational, and cultural activities for all students. Fraternities, athletic organizations, special interest clubs, and other groups also work independently or in cooperation with student councils to serve various student needs and interests.


Elected student representatives helped administer Plato's Academy in ancient Greece. As early as the 12th century, students in various European universities organized themselves into guilds. An important function of these guilds was to provide extracurricular social activities.

Student government is especially common in the United States, where it became popular in the late 19th century. Its use extended from elementary schools to the universities, but occurred most frequently in secondary schools. Experiments in student government varied from single-function committees to highly developed forms patterned after local, state, and national governments.

After World War II, increased political and social awareness led to various movements for educational reform in the United States. College students in the 1960's demanded a greater voice in determining various educational policies and practices. Gradually student pressure led many colleges and universities to adopt governance systems that were more responsive to student opinion and included more student representatives in significant policy-making bodies.

The National Association of Student Councils

represents some 7,000 secondary school councils. The association is affiliated with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, a department of the National Education Association. Aims are to help schools organize and improve student councils. The association was founded in 1931. Headquarters are in Reston, Virginia.

The United States Student Association

represents the students of some 425 colleges and universities through their student governments. Aims are to give expression to student opinion, increase student responsibility and contribution to the college community, and strengthen relations between American students and those in other countries. The association was founded in 1947. Headquarters are in Washington, D.C.