Rules governing academical dress
It is essential that all graduands wear the correct academical dress when they are presented for a degree at Congregation. The following rules apply:
- A person who already holds a degree or degrees of the University wears the gown and hood of the highest degree he or she has already received from the University. For this purpose, degrees are ranked as follows: PhD, MA, MPhil, MEng, MSci, MB, BChir, VetMB and BA. (Those who are celebrating a degree awarded in absence during Covid should wear the gown for their degree, not their undergraduate gown.)
- Any person who does not hold a Cambridge degree (eg an undergraduate) when being admitted to a degree wears his or her undergraduate (College), BA status or MA status gown (graduates over 24 years old should wear MA gown), as appropriate, and the hood of the degree, or the higher of the degrees, which he or she is to receive.
- Medics receiving the MB normally wear a BChir gown and hood as the BChir is usually conferred beforehand 'in absence'.
- A person being admitted to a degree by incorporation, or to the MA degree under Statute B.III.6, wears the gown and hood of the degree he or she is to receive.
The Cambridge SU has a very good page on gowns, including the following flowchart.
The overall effect should be formal and tidy:
- Beneath your academical dress (gown and hood, but not mortar board), you wear formal, smart clothes, black and/or white: most commonly, a black suit, dress (long sleeved), skirt or trousers with a white blouse.
- A blouse (long sleeved) may be black or white; a black pullover is a permitted alternative, and you may also wear a black or white cardigan.
- Any jacket, dress, skirt or trousers must be black, although a dress may have a white collar.
- Sleeves must be at least three-quarter length.
- Shoes must be entirely black and of sober style (advisable anyway for the walk down to Senate House!); Backless shoes, sandals, peeptoes, boots, buckles or high heals are not permitted.
- Stockings or tights must be worn and must be un-patterned and must be of neutral colour or black with the latter being preferred.
- Any jewellery should be very light, and exaggerated hairstyles and/or hair colouring should be avoided.
- A white bow-tie and bands may be worn (optional) but only with a properly collared white shirt.
- A plain black or dark coloured mask or face-covering. Everyone participating in the ceremony will be expected to wear face coverings inside the Senate House, unless an exemption applies. The only exceptions to this will be staff required to speak during the ceremony, although you will be permitted to remove your mask when your degree is conferred, if you wish to do so.
- You must not take your telephone, handbag or purse with you to the Senate House.
It can be difficult to attach the loop on the neckband of the hood to a light-weight blouse and a black jacket often gives the best results. It is advisable to have some safety pins available to help to secure the hood.
National dress, uniforms etc are generally allowed only if the national dress is black, white and grey, and if the national dress is what the graduand would usually wear at other formal University occasions. Exceptions are made if there are religious requirements. If you wish to wear national dress it is essential that you contact the Praelector at least 3 weeks before the Congregation, as she will need to seek the Proctor's permission.
To take the BA, you wear a Cambridge undergraduate gown and a Cambridge BA hood; if taking two degrees (BA and MEng, or BA and MSci), you wear the undergraduate gown and the hood of the higher degree (the MEng or MSci). If taking the Vet MB, you wear the BA hood to the Senate House (as that of the highest degree you already hold), but will also need a Vet MB hood for ceremonies at the Vet School in the evening: Ede & Ravenscroft will normally lend you one without extra charge if you are hiring a hood from them for the Senate House.
The University's academical costume consists of a gown, a hood (made of different material or in a different colour to denote either the wearer's existing degree or the degree they are about to receive). No head-dress other than a square (mortar board) or bonnet (for a doctor on scarlet days) is permitted (except for religious reasons). In practice, virtually no-one wears a square. If you do decide to wear one on the day, you should take it off and carry it in your left hand inside the Senate House.
Persons taking their first Cambridge degrees wear appropriate gowns (in the case of undergraduates their undergraduate gown which varies in colour or design from College to College), with the hood of the degree to be taken. The hoods clearly indicate the degrees sought by graduands, and those seen at General Admission include (in order of precedence):
- Master of Law: black and light cherry silk
- Master of Engineering: black cloth lined with bronze silk
- Master of Natural Science: black silk lined with pink and light blue silk
- Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine: mid cherry silk and more fur
- Bachelor of Music: dark cherry satin and white fur
- Bachelor of Arts: black cloth and white fur
- Bachelor of Education: black cloth, blue silk and white fur
- Bachelor of Theology for Ministry: black cloth, black silk and white fur.
The fur used is made of synthetic material.
(Those who are celebrating a degree awarded in absence during Covid should wear the gown for their degree, NOT their undergraduate gown.)
Master of Arts (MA)
In almost all cases, persons taking their MA wear the gown and hood of the highest degree he or she has already received from the University. Your College (undergraduate) gown that you wore to receive your BA is NOT acceptable to wear to receive your MA.
Academical dress hire
All of the required items of academical dress may be hired from two main academic hire companies who have outlets in Cambridge: