Since 2000, students from Maastricht University in The Netherlands also raise money for charity in the Maastricht Rag. And since 2005, also students from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam and the Utrecht University organize a Rag.
It is not known where the term "Rag" originates, but it is thought to be from the Victorian era when students took time out of their studies to collect rags to clothe the poor. The verb "rag" means to badger or pester someone, and early Rags collecters may have "ragged" passers-by until they made a donation. Much more recently "RAG" has come to stand for "Raise and Give", "Raise A Grand" or "Raising and Giving", although this is a backronym. One story has it that the backronym was coined to convince a manager in a large charity of the value of working with student fundraisers. The first Rag in South Africa was started at the University of Stellenbosch by the male residence Helderberg. In South Africa the name RAG is sometimes thought to stand for "Remember and Give".
Traditionally fundraising activities have centered around an annual Rag Week, in which students would take part in many events (and often perform crazy stunts) to raise money for charity. Often these events are themed such as Warwick's 2005 'Carry on' Theme and their award-winning 2006 'TV' Theme. In most universities fundraising is now year-round and more professional, although hit squads, naked calendars and kidnapping often still play a role.
Many people will have heard of Rag primarily because of a 'Rag mag' - a small booklet traditionally filled with very un-PC humour sold to the local community during Rag Week. Some university Rags with a strong local tradition still sell their (substantially cleaner and funnier) Rag Mags, whilst others use theirs more as information-tools for new students wanting to know more about Rag.
A number of Rags claim to have published the first ever Rag mags:
Sheffield University Rag's Twikker was first produced in 1925. It is also claimed that Manchester University published the first Rag mag, in 1924. An issue of a Rag mag dating from 1923, called "Goblio", is said to be in the archives of the University of Southampton. However, Queen's University Belfast holds the most complete set of Rag magazines in its archives, holding 81 different copies of PTQ (Pro Tanto Quid) from 1927 onwards.
Charity Events: The society organises and runs many events throughout the year for students and the public alike. The events organised vary from university to university, but typical examples include:
Street Collections: Currently known as 'Raids', collectors go out into the streets in different costumes to collect for a specific charity on any given day with buckets rather than the clipboards. Many Rags also organise week-long 'Tours' over the university holidays in which they will travel from town to town, collecting in each one, and raising thousands of pounds for the beneficiary charity.
Megaraids: A Megaraid is defined as a Raid where more than one Rag is present and in recent years these have been organised on a massive scale by charities with some events taking place consistently for over a decade. Charities which have a developed student fundraising events include Barnardo's, Help the Aged, Meningitis Research Foundation, Kidscan, The Meningitis Trust and Cancer Research UK. All Megaraids tend to include a social aspect and often attract former students who still take part.
The current record for the largest total posted by a Rag Organisation is from Loughborough Students Rag: they posted a total of £908,318.32 for the academic year 2007/08, making them Europe's largest and most successful University fundraising organisation.
A Rag's success is usually measured in money raised per student at the University.
In 2003, Bath Rag's total amount raised hit £1 million since their formation in 1967 from Bristol Rag.
Nearly all of the universities of London have their own Rag Weeks and they often consist of students going out with collection buckets. For the last few years the most successful Rag Weeks were held by Barts and The London. In 2005 their total amount raised topped over £1million over the last ten years.
UKRag is a peer-led support and information internet service, with over 1,000 members. The site provides help and peer-support on all aspects of student fundraising, including providing best-practise guides within its own wiki.
The Ragabonds is a group of around 20 graduates and non students who still take part in the Rag 'scene'. Many of them have Rag careers of over a decade and include several members who have raised over £50,000 from street collecting alone.