What to Wear

All students who are graduating (graduands), must comply with the Senate House dress codes. Graduands may not be permitted to graduate if they are dressed incorrectly.

A number of officials (Protors & Constables) are employed in the Senate House to enforce a strict dress code. The Praelector (the College representative who presents graduands at the Congregation) is penalised for any misdemeanours of appearance. Therefore students must comply carefully to the rules for graduation attire below.

Due to the current restrictions, masks are required in the Senate House, and these will be provided by the College.


Dress codes for Congregations are explained in terms of what is 'generally recognisable' as the dress for men & women. This is for the purpose of clarity, and because dress (particularly formal dress), continues to be strongly gendered. Graduands can choose whichever code below they feel most comfortable with, depending on their gender identification.

Men

  • A plain, black suit (e.g. dinner jacket suit). Pinstripes & patterns are not permitted.
  • A plain, long-sleeved, collared white shirt. NB: there is no specification about kinds of collar, but a wing collar sits best with the graduation bands & hood.
  • Formal black shoes with dark soles, and without patterns or any ornamentation. Shoes must cover your feet (e.g. no sandals).
  • Unpatterned black socks. NB: this is to make sure no pattern is visible when kneeling to receive the degree.
  • White bow-tie & bands.
  • Any jewellery must be modest.

Women

  • A plain, black suit (skirt or trousers), or a black skirt or smart trousers with no jacket, or a long-sleeved, black dress. Skirts must be knee-length or longer to allow you to kneel & rise easily when receiving the degree.
  • A plain, long-sleeved, white shirt or blouse, with a black cardigan if required.
  • Formal black shoes with dark soles, and without patterns or any ornamentation. Shoes must cover your feet (e.g. no sandals). The distinction between shoes & sandals depends on whether your toes are covered.
  • Unpatterned sheer black tights.
  • Bands are optional, but should be worn with a collared shirt, a bow tie & a jacket.
  • Any jewellery must be modest. Earrings must be small (less than one inch), and not coloured. Necklaces should be small & plain (e.g. a chain or single string of pearls). Large bracelets & any other elaborate accessories should be avoided.
  • The graduation hood fits differently on women's shoulders; a small safety-pin to hold it on each side is often a good idea.

Gown and Hood

General Admission

  • For the BA degree: Undergraduate gown & BA hood.
  • For the MEng/MSci/MMath/BTh degrees: Undergraduate gown & MEng/MSci/MMath/BTh hood, as applicable.
  • For the VetMB degree: Those who already hold a Cambridge degree: the gown and hood of that degree (in most cases BA gown & hood). Graduands who do not already hold a Cambridge degree: the VetMB hood, with an 'MA status' gown (for those 24 & over) or 'BA status' gown (under 24).
  • For those celebrating (rather than actually graduating): the gown & hood of the degree awarded in absence should be worn.

'Status' gowns resemble MA & BA gowns, but are without strings (the ribbons attached inside the front of the gowns). See Statutes & Ordinances, pp.178-9.

MA Congregation

  • A candidate for the degree of MA must wear the gown & hood of the highest degree previously received from the University of Cambridge.
  • For many, the highest degree received will be the BA, so a BA hood (black, with white fur) & a BA gown should be worn.
  • Often candidates graduate the MA & the MMath together, so a BA hood & gown should be worn.
  • If another degree from the University of Cambridge has been received, each has its own hood & gown. All Masters’ & doctoral degrees, as well as the MB, BChir, VetMB & MusB, rank above the BA. Holders of these degrees should dress accordingly.

As the MA is senior to all BA, & most MA, degrees, candidates must not wear undergraduate gowns. The MA gown & hood are only worn after graduating.

Information regarding MA Gowns & Hoods

  • The MA gown & hood resemble those worn at BA Congregation. However, the gown has full-length sleeves, and the hood is trimmed with white silk instead of fur.

Ordinary Congregations

  • Those already holding a Cambridge degree should wear the gown & hood of that degree (in most cases BA gown and BA hood).
  • If another degree from the University of Cambridge has been received, each has its own hood & gown. All Masters’ & doctoral degrees, as well as the MB, BChir, VetMB & MusB, rank above the BA. Holders of these degrees should dress accordingly.

National, Military & Clerical Dress

The Praelector will apply for permission from the Proctors for those who would normally wear, and have a genuine justification for, such dress on formal occasions. The Praelector must be contacted at least a week before the ceremony.

If permission has not been granted, standard dress (as stated above) must be worn.


Headdress

  • The square cap (‘mortarboard’) is optional, and must be carried & not worn during the ceremony.
  • Permission is not needed for other forms of head covering for religious or medical reasons. Head coverings must be plain black, or plain white.