Dress at degree ceremonies

Dress at graduation is traditional, and is governed by strict regulations in keeping with a formal ceremony of the University. This page describes the most important details, and also aims to offer some practical tips. If you are in any doubt as to what constitutes acceptable dress, or have questions, please contact the Praelector’s Secretary as soon as possible in advance of the ceremony.

Some general tips

You will need your hands free during the ceremony, so we recommend that you do not take any items into the Senate House other than those that can be discreetly stowed about your person in pockets (i.e. no bags, umbrellas, cameras, etc.). Mobile phones should, needless to say, be switched off.

General dress rules

Option 1

  • plain, dark suit (preferably black; dinner jacket suits are permitted)
  • plain, long-sleeved white shirt with winged collar
  • white bow tie
  • white bands (which should be worn over the top of the hood band)
  • plain black formal shoes (no sandals)
  • unpatterned black socks
  • heavy jewellery should not be worn

Options 2

  • a long-sleeved plain white blouse
  • unpatterned black skirt (reaching at least to the knee), or suitable dark long-sleeved dress, or plain black trousers
  • shoes must be plain, black and formal (i.e. court shoes or brogues, not sandals, boots or sling-backs, and nothing with very high heels, buckles or other decoration; toes should not be visible); remember that you must be able to kneel and get up safely
  • stockings/tights should be plain and of a dark or neutral colour; bare legs are not permitted, and elbows should be covered.
  • heavy jewellery and conspicuous hair-grips should not be worn; earrings may be plain studs only

Academic dress

If you have already graduated to a Cambridge degree, either in person or in absence, you should wear the gown and hood of the highest Cambridge degree you have received. The degrees are ranked in the following order, highest first: PhD, MA, MPhil, MEng, MSci, MB, BChir, VetMB and BA. Final VetMB candidates should wear the BA gown and BA hood. Medics taking their MB will usually wear the BChir gown and hood (the BChir ordinarily having been conferred earlier in absence).

If you do not yet have a Cambridge degree, you should wear the hood of the degree (or the higher of the two degrees) that you are taking, and the gown applicable to your status. For post-graduates this will be either the MA gown (if 24 years of age or older) or the BA gown (for those under 24); undergraduates should wear an undergraduate gown (in good condition!). Those taking a degree by incorporation, or the MA degree by Statute B.III.6, should wear the gown and hood of the degree they are receiving.

Hoods should not be draped round the shoulders, but should hang down the back with the band near the neck. Gentlemen are advised simply to allow the band to rest underneath their bow ties. Ladies may find that hoods (especially the heavier, fur varieties) are difficult to adjust and are advised to bring safety pins. Step-by-step instruction on how to pin a hood to a gown can be dowloaded from the right sidebar.

Square caps (mortarboards) are not worn during the ceremony and we do not recommend they be carried into the Senate House.

Hiring Academic Dress

Gowns and hoods can be hired from one of the local tailors if needs be, and should be booked well in advance. The College has an agreement with

Ede & Ravenscroft
71-72 Trumpington Street
Cambridge CB2 1RJ
Hire Orders: 01223 861854
Purchase Enquiries: 01223 350048

A leaflet will be enclosed in the pack of information sent to you when you apply to graduate.