Archive for the ‘Academic dress’ Category

For some, the academicals of the University of Oxford is a mix-and-match of incoherencies and chaos. However, what some of them do not know is that Oxford is based on a system of rank rather than ‘faculty colours’. One hood could represent a couple of degrees rather than just one. They indicate the degree holders status and rank within the University. In some ways this is the same as many modern institutions that use the rank system of having one hood for bachelors, one for masters, etc. But, unlike that system, certain degrees (or groups of degrees) are accorded a different or special hood. The reason for this is entirely historical when rank was important. But ever since the invention of faculty colours by the University of London, many institutions started copying its system of one colour representing each faculty (or discipline). Thus, each degree technically has a different hood. They do not have an ‘order of precedence’ like Oxford and Cambridge have. Cambridge also use to use the rank system but ever since the changes of the 1930s, they have assumed the faculty colour system (well, sort of: it’s fallen into chaos now as they have been assigning a bunch of degrees to one hood!) Oxford seems to have attempted to move to the faculty colour system but have stuck in a place in between both systems and now new hoods are created at the whim of the official robemaker, Shepherd & Woodward, who designs hoods based on what material is available rather than basing it on the existing scheme! The current scheme as it is is a bit of a mess and is inconsistent.

Below are my revisions of the hood scheme (if I had my way) in order to rationalize it back to the original system as was intented: rank and precedence. I would not bother with the gowns as they are correct as they are (indicators of the wearers’ standing in the Faculty of Arts) although a good change would be to allow the holders of the MA to wear the MA gown [m1] in lieu of the gimp-lace gown [d4] as they are technically of a higher rank and rank above all those degrees of which holders do not have the MA. Changes in the existing scheme are italicized. I have kept some of the original scheme that are historically ingrained in the system and need no change. The theme of different shades of blue exists in the current scheme and to a certain extent the old original scheme (the different shades of one colour maybe due to the fact that different batches of fabric differ over time and somehow became fossilized into various shades) but I have utilized them here to keep most of the hoods in use as well as grouping certain degrees together and tying it in with the suggested psuedo-faculty colour system. As for convocation habits, the DMus ought to now get one since they must be full members so by virtue they have to be members of the Convocation as well. My suggestion is [d5] scarlet cloth part-lined and with buttons of cherry silk. DClinPsych and DEng now gets a full dress robe: [d2] scarlet cloth faced and cuffed white silk [or for those that do not think they are ‘real doctorates’ replace the scarlet with black cloth instead].

The Oxon MA hood. Just one of the hoods spared in my austerity cuts…

Just in case you don’t know the Grove Code: [s1] Oxford simple shape hood, [s2] Burgon simple shape hood, [f5] Oxford doctors full shape hood, [m1] Oxford MA gown, [d2] Oxford doctors robe, [d4] lay gown with flap collar, [d5] Oxford convocation habit (i.e. ‘chimere’ or cappa clausa with two slits).


BA (inc. first degree masters, e.g. MMath, MEng, MPhys, etc): [s1] or [s2] black stuff or silk part-lined and bound fur

BFA, BTh: [s2] gold silk part-lined and bound fur

BPhil: [s1] or [s2] dark blue silk part-lined and bound fur

BMus:  [s1] or [s2] lilac silk part-lined and bound fur

MB, BCh, BCL, MJur: [s1] or [s2] mid-blue silk part-lined and bound fur

BD: [f5] black silk (corded) lined black silk (taffeta)


MA: [s1] or [s2] black silk lined and bound crimson shot silk

MFA, MPP, MBA, MTh: [s2] gold silk lined and bound white silk

MSt: [s2] green silk lined and bound white silk

MPhil: [s1] or [s2] dark blue silk lined and bound white silk

MLitt, MSc: [s2] light blue silk lined and bound white silk

MCh: [s2] black silk lined and bound mid-blue silk


EngD, DClinPsych (and any other future ‘professional doctorate’): [f5] scarlet cloth lined white silk

DPhil: [f5] scarlet cloth lined dark blue silk

DMus: [f5] cream brocade lined cherry silk

DSc, DLitt: [f5] scarlet cloth lined silver silk

DM, DCL: [f5] scarlet cloth lined crimson shot silk

DD: [f5] scarlet cloth lined black silk

Current hoods abolished in my scheme

BFA: [s2] black silk faced gold silk

BTh: [s2] black silk faced magenta silk

MTh: [s2] black silk lined and bound magenta silk

MBA: [s2] claret silk lined and bound dark gery silk

MPP [Master of Public Policy]: don’t know the regulations regarding this degree but whatever hood it is it would probably not fit in my scheme anyway

DClinPsych: [s2] dark blue silk lined and bound red silk

EngD: [s2] red silk lined and bound petrol blue silk faced grey silk

Degrees no longer awarded

BLitt, BSc: [s1] or [s2] light blue silk part-lined and bound fur (would have been kept in my scheme)

BEd: [s2] black silk faced green silk

MEd: [s2] black silk lined and bound green silk

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Recently, I have been made a Fellow of the Burgon Society (FBS) through examination of my submission in form of a dissertation about the history and practice of lace, gimp and braid use to trim academic gowns in the UK and Ireland. It was a last minute submission and I managed to get it passed (without it being referred back for corrections) in the nick of time before the next Congregation. I was admitted to the Fellowship on the 8th October 2011.

The dissertation would be published in the Society’s Transactions (its journal) in future so I will not publish it on this blog for now until then (which could take a few years to get it edited to standard, up-to-date, loose ends tied, copyright of images obtained, etc before publication).

I’m now in the process of making my FBS hoods (two versions of it; standard and ‘winter’) but here are some photos of my admission in the Great Hall at Charterhouse, London:

Being admitted by the President.

Hooded by the Marshal.

Returning to my seat with diploma.

Only official photo of me on the day. Taken my Minerva Miller.

Here is the FBS hood that I made myself (albeit after the admission) out of 100% pure silk.

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Part 1 was written two years ago and has since been updated. I will now carry on from where I left off.


Hong Kong Polytechnic University was established in 1972 and received accreditation in 1994. A quick search comes up with this page: https://www28.polyu.edu.hk/cpce_grad/html/grad_dress.htm. It can be seen that the gowns are American in design (even though the description say ‘long pointed sleeves’ the images say otherwise). However, there is very little to go on by the images themselves, for example, the exact nature of the hood shape. Also, what of the masters and doctors?

This page (http://www.polyu.edu.hk/as/graduates/congregarrge_f.html, section 1 sub-section d) gives a more clearer picture with actual images. The doctoral gown is of the Cambridge MusD pattern [d3], worn open, and the hood is Cambridge shape [f1]. A bonnet is worn. The MA gown is what looks like the Oxford Scholar’s gown [u2], worn open, with the Oxford hood [s1] worn in a very awkward way. The BA gown is basic bachelors pattern but worn closed with [s1] hood. The sub degree gown gowns down a further step by having coloured facings that go up the collar.

Overall, the doctoral degrees have a traditional British flavour but the lower degrees seems to have gone with the American influence. The MA gown in the middle of it all leaves a lot to be desired.


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I’ve come across bits and pieces of Hong Kong academical dress in my studies and it is probably one of a few that has eluded me. From what I saw and see, there seems to be some identity crisis with its system of AD. So far, the older universities seem to have kept the design that was inherited by its British ancestors, but with the newer ones, there seem to be a sort of mish-mash of different styles; British, American, Thai, etc. It makes me find that the current systems of AD at certain HK unis are rather bizzare. Of course, I’ve just started doing a bit of looky-uppy and haven’t got the resources to do a full on thesis/FBS on such a subject. This is just a few notes that I wish to write down in ‘real time’ as I investigate into this apparent weirdness. I’ll leave the FBS to a HK colleague. Note that I do not have access to (or the time/effort to access) those old books on world AD of yesteryear, so this is pure web work.


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NB (5th Aug 2011): I have decided to wear the Cantab MA gown as I have a good one in my possession. It thus fulfills the ‘black gown of a traditional master’s shape’ requirement.

It will only be a matter of time before I read for a Fellowship of the Burgon Society. On successful submission, I will become a fellow and be awarded letters and be entitled to wear the society’s academic dress which is as follows:
Gown: A black gown of a traditional master’s shape; or any other suitable black gown to which the Fellow is entitled.
Hood: A black corded silk hood of Dean Burgon shape [s2], lined and bound with ruby shot silk (giving a pink effect).
Cap: A black Bishop Andrewes cap [h4]; or an ordinary black square cap [h1].

The main thing of interest here is how I am left to choose a suitable gown. What would be the gown I should wear as a Fellow? A number of interesting options arises:


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