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Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 3 March 1998. A Discussion was held in the Senate-House of the following Reports:

The Report, dated 2 February 1998, of the Council on the wearing of academical dress on 'scarlet' days (p. 386).


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I have been asked to draw attention to one point on which the Council's Report is inaccurate.

In 1979 it was argued that academical dress signifies membership of the University and that it would therefore be improper to wear the dress of another university on a formal Cambridge occasion. The Report suggests that this argument no longer carries weight because possession of a Cambridge degree is no longer a necessary qualification for membership of the Regent House, as it was in 1979. It has been pointed out that this is not strictly correct: even in 1979 possession of a degree was not required as a qualification for membership, because M.A. status was sufficient for the purpose, and for that reason all members of the academic staff were routinely and automatically granted M.A. status if they had no Cambridge degree. That is perfectly true, but I do not think it affects the Council's argument; in 1979 it was still necessary to hold either a degree or what one might call a quasi-degree in order to be a member of the Regent House, and that situation persisted until 1994. Since 1994 membership of the Regent House has depended on holding a University office or a College Fellowship, and there is no longer any requirement to hold either a Cambridge degree or M.A. status, or to wear the academical dress that goes with such a qualification.


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, when I came to Cambridge in 1968 to take up a senior office, I was mildly surprised to discover that I had to incorporate as a Cambridge M.A., and before that to produce my Oxford degree certificate. The surprise was only mild, because four years working in Oxford had taught me to take for granted the more arcane ways of the two ancient Universities.

Oxford, in my day at least, took a relaxed view of the formalities of graduation, and I did not have a degree certificate. Oxford charged me five shillings for one, and Cambridge, I seem to recall, sent me a bill for the M.A.

What would have happened, I wonder, if I had declined to incorporate, and insisted on wearing, on ceremonial occasions, not so much a lie as a falsehood? Would I have been summarily dismissed before getting established in my job?

If I may make a serious point, my College, Wolfson, decided that, at its official opening as a full College by the Queen in 1977, members should be encouraged to wear the academical dress of their own institutions. That produced a colourful spectacle. It was a courtesy greatly appreciated by our varied international membership. And it did not cause disaster to the College, or to the University of which it is a part and by which it was founded.

It must surely be right to recognize the reality that many of those working and teaching in Cambridge are graduates of other universities, and, in the words of the Council's report, not divide them into sheep and goats. (In parenthesis, that division has always seemed to me to be unfair on goats, which are markedly more intelligent than sheep.) I hope the Regent House will accept the Council's recommendation.

Professor J. H. BAKER:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am sorry to see this proposal disinterred, and would have liked to think the Council had more important matters on its agenda than fostering the vanity of one of its members. The last campaign was waged on a false premise; and the only reason put forward by the Council on this occasion is similarly flawed, because the arguments which prevailed in 1979 have not really been affected in any material way by subsequent constitutional changes. Members of the Regent House are still nearly all University officers or Fellows of Colleges; and all, without exception, are entitled to either the degree or status of Master of Arts and therefore to the appropriate Cambridge dress. This is not perhaps a requirement, as Dr Whitehead has just pointed out, but an entitlement.

Not only do the Council have no new reason to support their proposal, but they have chosen to conceal from the Regent House the fact that it was sent to the Senate House Syndicate for their advice. Since the proposal is confined to University scarlet days it directly concerns 'University ceremonials', which by delegation from the Regent House are the special concern of the Syndicate. The Syndicate, by a clear majority, recommended that no change be made in the existing regulations. It is quite extraordinary for the Council to dismiss the opinion of the appropriate University body in this way, without comment, especially given the absence of cogent reasons in their Report.

I think I can just about perceive the true motivation behind this proposal, since it is perhaps a natural human tendency to want to wear colourful and eye-catching clothes on special occasions. However, it is a motive stirred solely by personal vanity - which, however modest a vice, should not prevail against the requirements of discipline and ceremonial dignity, which in my submission are virtues.

The Council say it is a matter of 'courtesy' to graduates of other universities to allow them to wear the dress appropriate to their degrees. But it is not a matter of courtesy. Since they attend ceremonies as officers of the University and members of the Regent House, and not as representatives of other institutions, it is a matter of internal discipline. Whatever some people seem nowadays to think, the prime purpose of academical dress is not to aggrandize the wearer. It is a uniform, a habit, which symbolically unites colleagues and represents their common membership of an ancient learned community. Every member of the Regent House is entitled to wear Cambridge academical dress, though it is true that a few are excused hoods for three years after arrival. This may mean that some wear plain black, who have elsewhere gloried in blue, green, yellow, or even tartan - yes, there is at least one overseas university which prescribes a tartan hood - not to mention the varieties of modern designer-wear shapes, or the more outlandish insignia bestowed on graduates in other continents. But what could conceivably be discourteous about requiring anyone to wear the venerable gown of a Cambridge Master of Arts, a gown which was good enough for Newton - see his effigy in Trinity College chapel - and is hallowed by usage time out of mind? To suggest that it is somehow demeaning to any member of the Regent House is an insult to the University, and symptomatic of a creeping tendency to regard the individual as grander than the institution to which she is privileged to belong. When I came here with a Ph.D. from another distinguished university, it never occurred to me to want to wear its claret and blue rather than the black habit which has been the proper Congregation dress in this place for hundreds of years; it would have looked and felt out of place. In any case, all M.A.s are eligible for a higher Cambridge doctorate.

The present proposal is not only unsupported by positive reason; it is also positively irrational. The free-for-all is to be confined to scarlet days, and yet it would allow the non-festal robes of other universities to be worn, even by non-doctors. Our present Regulation 3 is derived almost verbatim from the statutes of 1577, which themselves codified earlier practice, and what it means, and has always meant, is that full ceremonial dress should be worn on red-letter days. Most universities do not have a distinction between ordinary and festal academical dress, and in the absence of such a distinction elsewhere the proposal in the Report makes no logical sense. The proponents must have misread the regulation as simply an order to wear fancy dress: in other words, that we should wear our ordinary uniform on ordinary occasions, but anything goes when we are on public display. The military equivalent would be a standing order for the Guards Division that khaki regimental uniform be worn on all except royal occasions, when officers might dress up in any other costume to which they were entitled by prior association. This proposal is no less incongruous.

The proponents of this Report may well have been misled by the practices of other universities. These are not analogous, however, because other places do not confer degrees on their Regents. Oxford is the only analogy known to me, and I believe Oxford still requires Oxford dress at University ceremonies, though some latitude is authorized at the afternoon garden party on the day of Encaenia. It would be preferable for the Council to organize a garden party here on the day of Honorary Degrees, so that a proper separation could be made between the formal ceremony of a Congregation and the desire in some quarters to display their individuality.

Of course, I must accept it as a fact that some members of the Regent House really do want to show off blue gowns, tartan hoods, furred epitoges, and (I have no doubt) gold chains, kilts, kimonos, swords, spurs, and whatever other paraphernalia they consider appropriate to their rank and position, and that they want to do so most of all in the Senate-House and Yard when the public eye is upon them. But it is not a worthy aspiration. Our formal occasions are widely admired and are much more impressive than those of most other academical institutions, chiefly because they combine a sense of continuity with chaste simplicity. This is particularly true of our congregations for the conferment of Honorary Degrees, and for General Admission to degrees, which (together with the Commemoration of Benefactors) are the occasions principally threatened by this Report. We do not need to copy newer universities in matters of ceremonial, and will certainly achieve no public applause for doing so. Nor is there any good internal reason for doing so. Individual vanity should not be allowed to outweigh communal good order and immemorial tradition. I therefore urge the Council most earnestly to reconsider this Report.


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, how odd, when the rest of the world might expect us to be discussing College fees, that the Council should send us up a Report on academical dress, with the old chestnut about not recognizing the degrees of other universities. Let us abandon the practice of eight centuries, they say, because some people might take offence through not understanding its rationale. In this case offence lies in the eye of the beholder.

I am proud of the fact that it was I who organized the defeat of the same proposal last time round, eighteen years ago. But it is misleading of the Council to imply that the vote of 151 to 88 was an expression of opinion about academical dress when what actually happened was that I had put the 1979 Council in the dock for constitutional misbehaviour, and my flysheet asked the Regent House to reject the changes because they had not been put in the form the statutes required. The signatories undertook that in the event of winning the vote, which we did, we would write to the Council asking for the same question to be put in a constitutionally acceptable form so that it could be treated on its merits, which we also did. But the Council thought better of it and the issue was dropped, which was of course what some of us also wanted.

Historians might care to note that it was this storm in a procedural tea cup which led to the establishment of the Committee on the Conduct of Business (The Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Peter Swinnerton-Dyer, Professor Sir James Beament, Professor Gareth Jones, and me), and it was the rejection by the Council of the Code of Practice for the Conduct of Business contained in the unanimous report of that Committee which fuelled the dissatisfaction which led to my composing the Memorial which led to the Wass Syndicate. So let no-one say that matters of academical dress are unimportant. This time round I can see nothing wrong with the procedure, so the proposal can be treated on its merits. Not that it has any.

I do not intend to organize the opposition to it, for several reasons. First, it is now up to the next generation to care for the justifiable idiosyncrasies of their University. I have done my bit over the last twenty-five years. Secondly, it is they who will have to skate on the thin ice of ceremonial occasions if these proposals are adopted, for ceremonies which neither reflect the everyday life of the University nor keep faith with its historic past are doomed to Gilbertian ridicule. Thirdly, those who promote this kind of change seem so impervious to argument that it is hardly worthwhile wasting one's breath. And fourthly, I would lose a postal ballot because most voters would not bother to follow the arguments anyway.

But I have two reasons for not giving up yet. The first is that I would like future generations to know that there were at least one or two of us prepared to put the argument for preserving our traditions in this matter, and, secondly, I have not altogether given up hope that the Council might be persuaded to withdraw the Report, just as happened when some of us persuaded an earlier Council to withdraw their ill-advised proposals contained in a Report on posthumous degrees (see the Notice in the Reporter, 1983-84, p. 870).

Let us tackle the question through some formal logic. My proposition is that gowns are worn in the Senate-House for the sole purpose of reflecting one's membership of the corporation whose business is being conducted. Such practices have been common throughout history. My father was a member of the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons, and I possess a handsome picture of their Council in session, dressed in the College's own gowns. When the Queen opens Parliament the House of Lords puts on its ermine, and I believe connoisseurs can then tell the several ranks of the nobility. The members of the European Court of Justice sit in their distinctive gowns, and would certainly brook no intruders. There are endless examples. In a word, our Cambridge gown is our uniform.

Do you, the Councillors who signed this Report, accept this proposition? If you do not, then will you please give your explanation for the wearing of gowns in the Senate-House? I assume that you do accept it. The fact that there are degrees of seniority marked by different gowns, just as there are ranks in the nobility marked by different ermine, is a detail which is of no relevance to the truth of the proposition, which would hold even if we all wore M.A. gowns. Indeed, why else must undergraduates wear gowns in the Senate-House? It follows that a gown or mode of dress which indicates membership of another institution, however praiseworthy the membership or the institution, is simply not relevant during formal proceedings in our Senate-House. The Chancellor, I am sure, is entitled to some very splendid ermine, but we really don't expect him to turn up in it, nor would we expect a Professor of Surgery to wear his Royal College gown.

Logic therefore dictates that, although the regulations could be liberalized so as to permit members of the University not to wear their Cambridge academical dress in the Senate-House, they cannot be modified so as to require those who would avail themselves of this liberty to wear the dress of another institution, such as the academical dress of another university. It would not only be impertinent of this University to legislate in such a manner, it would probably be exceeding its powers if it were to do so. The time has long since passed when a university can enforce dress regulations other than those which pertain to its own academical dress. Dr X can only be excused her or his obligation to wear a Cambridge gown in the Senate-House if I am excused the like obligation, and woe betide the Proctor who tries to tell me what I should then wear instead.

To clarify matters for the Council, let me put this obvious point in legal language. The University is only entitled to prescribe regulations for the wearing of academical dress by virtue of Statute B, VI, 1. 'Acad-emical dress' in that Statute means academical dress of this University, because that has always been its inter-pretation in the Ordinances which flow from the Statute, an interpretation which has never been challenged and is obviously not now being challenged (else it would not be necessary to propose changes in the regulation).

For the avoidance of doubt, and here I allude to the point raised by Mr Kirkman, I should add that none of these considerations have any bearing on the wearing of academical dress on social occasions, such as the Honorary Degrees lunch or in Colleges, which are not covered by regulation. I believe that in Oxford the custom at the Encaenia garden party is to welcome any gowns whatever.

Finally, Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I had hoped never to be presented with the opportunity to air the following point, but the publication of this Report compels me to do so. Vice-Chancellors seem to have got into the habit (an apt phrase, to be sure) of thinking that they do not have to obey the academical dress regulations. If that were acceptable, then no-one need obey the regulations, people could wear what they liked, and this Report would be unnecessary. I recall an occasion not long ago when His Royal Highness the Prince Charles, M.A., gave a lecture in the Senate-House for which the invitation stipulated that academical dress was not to be worn, contrary to Regulation 2. That ruled out my attendance, so I did not see what happened, but I did see a photograph in a newspaper which recorded the extraordinary sight of the Vice-Chancellor and the Prince, without gowns, being led to the lecture through Senate-House Yard by the University Marshal in his gown with one of the maces over his shoulder. A few weeks later the Prince was photographed giving a lecture in the Sheldonian, wearing a gown, as were his audience. The irony is that presumably he was wearing his Cambridge M.A.

It is said (though I have not myself witnessed it) that Vice-Chancellors and Pro-Vice-Chancellors have appeared in gowns which are not 'appropriate to their respective degrees', in the words of Regulation 2. If that is now in order, then we can all follow suit and wear what we like. If the Council are serious about these regulations, and approve of Vice-Chancellors being exempted from Regulation 2, will they please amend their Report and propose accordingly. If not, will they please ask the Proctors to attend to the transgression? When I was a Proctor I took a bottle of port off a Regius Professor; a Vice-Chancellor surely ranks a whole case.

Every so often a member of the Library Syndicate, which I have the honour to chair as the deputy for the Vice-Chancellor, will suggest that the Syndicate gives up wearing gowns, and I always reply 'Are you proposing that we break Regulation 2, or that the Syndicate should propose that the requirement to wear gowns at official meetings contained in that regulation be rescinded?' The response is usually 'But surely you can dispense members from the requirement?' I certainly cannot, nor can the Vice-Chancellor. It would be worrying indeed if we were ever to concede that the Vice-Chancellor had the power to release anyone from an obligation of the Statutes and Ordinances. That is what Graces are for.

I invite the Council to withdraw their Report.


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, while a Report on academical dress is to be welcomed for promoting discussion of a neglected subject, I regret that I cannot support the Council's proposals. Their aims are laudable, but not only will these proposals fail to achieve those aims; there is a danger that they may make the situation worse, not better.

The principal and, to my mind, fatal, flaw in the Report is that the Council's proposals introduce possible discrimination between non-Cambridge graduates. At present Cambridge does not discriminate between incomers on the basis of their degrees. They receive B.A. or M.A. status gowns when they arrive. Three years later, if they are members of the Regent House, they receive the complete degree of M.A. under Statute B, III, 6; unless they are graduates of Oxford or Trinity College, Dublin, and are entitled to the additional privilege of incorporation ad eundem gradum.

The Council claim that allowing the wearing of 'foreign' academical dress on scarlet days will remove a sense of discrimination felt by incomers with doctorates. The reverse will happen. A London Ph.D. will be able to wear London festal robes, yet his or her distinguished colleague who happened to achieve a doctorate in one of the many universities without academical dress will be left wearing the black M.A. gown. The Report states that 'Cambridge is an international university which recruits its staff from among the graduates of other universities all over the world…'. Have the Council forgotten that many of these universities have no academical dress, let alone doctoral robes?

To discriminate between Cambridge doctors and non-Cambridge doctors is one thing, but for the University to start discriminating between the holders of non-Cambridge doctorates is a retrograde step. The Council are in fact proposing that we not only separate the sheep from the goats, but proceed to divide the goats as well, depending upon whether they are more or less like the sheep!

It is depressing to find the Council forming their arguments only in terms of members of the Regent House who hold doctorates. That too is an example of discrimination which runs contrary to their declared aim of removing divisions and injury to feelings. Many non-Regent University members hold non-Cambridge doctorates. Are the feelings of incoming graduate students so unimportant that the Council cannot even bring itself to consider them? This Report would seem to suggest so. Even within the Regent House there are those who have 'foreign' degrees but not doctorates. Are they not equally entitled to pride in their academical dress? This Report displays a regrettable lack of interest in anyone who does not have a doctorate.

This Report also seems to ignore the fact that academical dress is worn regularly in Cambridge University and not just on scarlet days. Quite apart from frustrating the natural desire of non-Cambridge graduates to wear their own gowns and hoods at ordinary Congregations or at sermons, the Council's proposals will consequently involve some graduates in extra cost. A Cambridge M.A. with a Bristol Ph.D. will need to buy two hoods: an expensive doctoral hood that can only be worn on scarlet days, and an M.A. hood for all other occasions. A Bristol M.A. with a Cambridge Ph.D. will only need one hood that can be worn on all occasions. Few people will want to buy a special hood that they can only use once or twice a year.

Pity the poor Esquire Bedell! Under the proposed regulations the Senior Esquire Bedell will still be required to be 'familiar with all details of academical dress of the University and shall draw the Vice-Chancellor's attention to unauthorized variations'. When Birmingham academical dress is being worn on a scarlet day, is it 'academical dress of the University' for this purpose? If not, then presumably none of the rules regulating Cambridge academical dress apply?

I shall look forward to sitting on the reserved Senate bench at General Admission this year, wearing my M.A., Wales, gown and hood over a lime-green lycra bathing costume. The graduate of an overseas university without academical dress will be able to sit alongside me wearing only their lycra bathing costume, claiming that this is the academical dress of his or her university! Nothing in the Council's proposals will prevent this happening.

I put it to the Council that this Report is well-intentioned but ill-considered and that it would have disastrous results if implemented. Discrimination by academical dress would increase and the solemnity and simplicity of our academic ceremonial will be destroyed. If the Council are serious in their desire to tackle this problem amongst members of the Regent House, the extension of incorporation ad eundem gradum to graduates of all universities is the only necessary step. Conferring a Ph.D. instead of an M.A. under Statute B, III, 6 is hardly a revolutionary idea. We have a noble and logical system of academical dress. We can destroy it in haste and repent at leisure for the next seven hundred years.

As a codicil to these remarks, I notice that in proposed Regulation 4 the Council do not exempt the Vice-Chancellor or any deputy from the requirement to wear only Cambridge academical dress at all times. The omission of the Deputy High Steward from the list is presumably a careless piece of drafting?

In recent times the Vice-Chancellor and the Pro-Vice-Chancellors have been seen at Honorary Degrees in strange gowns that cannot be Cambridge academical dress as they are not authorized by Ordinance. The Chancellor, High Steward, Deputy High Steward, and Commissary can do as they please; they are not subject to the University courts. Under the new constitutional arrangements to which the Council refer, the Vice-Chancellor or any deputy is no longer so exempt. If these gold-laced creations are to appear again the Council really ought to promote an authorizing Grace, or the Vice-Chancellor might suffer the indignity of being prosecuted by a member of the University for an offence against the General Regulations for Discipline. That would detract somewhat from the dignity of his office.

Miss K. A. WHITAKER (read by Mr T. N. MILNER):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, academical dress, like all clothing, is about identity. There is a reassuring communality about academical dress; it engenders unity, creating an anonymity in which all are equal for intellectual, meritorious reasons. Since 1948, men and women have been united in their Cambridge degrees, the important visual symbol of this being the University's academical dress.

These proposals are trying to avoid the supposed snobbery of some Cambridge degree-holders by allowing other gowns to be worn; they will fail in this aim by making it easier for so-called 'others' to be picked out by the self-styled 'natives'. It is because clothes are such powerful indicators of identity that people wearing the academical dress of other Universities would be exposed and open to criticism from prejudiced people. In the tribal associations of academical dress - especially festal wear - the gowns and hoods of other institutions declare difference, not belonging; unlike B.A. and M.A. status gowns which allow the wearer to blend into the community more effectively than non-Cambridge gowns.


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak to-day to oppose the proposed changes to the regulations on the wearing of academical dress on 'scarlet' days.

Having read the first six paragraphs of the Report, I thought I had understood what the Council wished to do. I was therefore rather surprised to see the amendments actually proposed. They seem to bear rather poor correspondence to the preceding paragraphs. According to the preamble, the aim is to allow those with non-Cambridge doctorates to wear their 'non-Cambridge robes' on 'scarlet' days. In fact, the amendment would allow any graduate of another university (though not, I note, of the Council for National Academic Awards nor a member of a learned society whose existence, in all probability, is governed by the Privy Council) to wear the gown of his degree on a 'scarlet' day. Thus, I, as a Cambridge Ph.D. and Manchester B.Sc. could dress in my Manchester bachelor's gown and hood on such a day. A Cambridge Ph.D. who is also a Cambridge M.A. would be incorrectly dressed if wearing his M.A. gown and hood. Wearing my Manchester bachelor's gown I would be correctly dressed but the other Cambridge Ph.D. wearing a Cambridge gown would be incorrectly dressed! Not what the authors of the Report had in mind, one feels. However, one does not have to search very far to see what the authors' intentions might well have been.

The first six paragraphs are littered with references to the Regent House the members of which, according to my very rough calculations, constitute about 2 per cent of the members of the University. Furthermore, we find multiple references to Statute B, III, 6. If we assume that about half the members of the Regent House have been admitted to the degree of Master of Arts under this statute then we see that the proposed amendments seem to have been suggested for the benefit of about 1 per cent of the University's members. So much do the first six paragraphs concentrate on the Regent House that one could even be forgiven for believing that the other 98 per cent of the University have no entitlement to academical dress! As I have already shown, however, the proposed amendments would affect non-Regents too - probably far more of them than the Regents.

Nevertheless, let us go on to inspect the Council's argument. I wish to examine what appear to be the two main points. First, the suggestion that, whereas previously the Cambridge gown proclaimed the 'fact of membership', constitutional changes mean that this no longer applies. We read 'membership of the Regent House now depends not on the possession of a degree but on holding a University office or a Fellowship of a College'. Yes: a University office - a Cambridge University office - or a Fellowship of a College - a Cambridge College. It still remains the case that belonging to the Regent House depends on membership - membership of the University - and therefore when appearing in a Cambridge capacity it is surely appropriate that members of the University should be arrayed as such. Personally, I would no more wish to wear Manchester academical dress here than I would Cambridge academical dress in Manchester. Even though, in the latter case, I am (sartorially, at least) forgoing my doctoral status, I prefer to appear as a member rather than (seemingly) as a non-member.

Secondly, the outward and visible sign - the 'visual divisiveness' to coin a phrase - and, no doubt, the significance put on it by observers not so well versed in Cambridge's customs as are all of us. If non-Cambridge graduates were to wear their non-Cambridge dress on scarlet days there would be considerably more visual divisiveness than at present. Members of the older universities may be rather surprised to learn how some of the newer ones clothe their graduates.

Imagine the scene: an observer (having a vague idea that the more colourful a gown the higher the degree) sees two black gowns, one with gold facings and one with silver. His enquiries reveal one is worn by a Master of Philosophy from Thames Valley University and the other a Master of Philosophy from the University of Portsmouth. Seeing a black gown with scarlet facings, he assumes this is at best another master of some sort. Two blue gowns pass by: one light blue with gold facings, the other dark with cream facings. No doubt two very learned doctors. In fact, one marks a Master of Philosophy (Northumbria at Newcastle) and the other marks successful completion of a master's course (taught or research) at the University of Central England, Birmingham. Finally, one of our own Doctors of Science walks past - Sc.D. (Cantab.), a degree we all highly esteem - but our observer's eye has been taken by another scarlet gown topped by not a black velvet bonnet but a matching scarlet one. I think he would be disappointed to learn (from Dr Shaw's excellent text on the topic, perhaps) that this is not a higher doctor like our Sc.D. but rather a Ph.D. (Staffordshire). I'm afraid there isn't a universal academical dress currency in this country as does predominate, for example, in the USA. There isn't even any agreement over which degrees entitle the wearer to a coloured gown as opposed to a black one.

Having pointed out some of the more bizarre results of amending the rules as proposed, I will finish by suggesting a solution to the problem - if problem it is. It is perfectly simple: Statute B, III, 6 be amended so that those who have a non-Cambridge doctorate may proceed to the Cambridge degree of Ph.D. rather than M.A. if they so prefer. Statute B, III, 7 might also be amended to allow the graduates of universities other than those of Oxford and Trinity College, Dublin to incorporate their degrees here. The charters of many other universities allow these universities to 'admit graduates of other Universities to Degrees of equal or similar rank' (to quote the exact words of one of them), and these universities could be included in Statute B, III, 7. Of course, there may be some asymmetry with the way the relevant clauses work in practice but we would be in a poor position to complain since, from the anecdotal evidence of friends, I gather we are somewhat in Oxford's debt when it comes to incorporation.

I close with the words Newman gives to his character Charles Reding about that other university, 'This is a great place, and should have a dress'. I suggest that the academical dress for the members of this particular 'great place' should be that of the University of Cambridge and not of anywhere else.

Mr A. C. DUNN:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am a graduate student at Jesus College, and hold a first class honours degree from Southampton University. I have been quite happy to wear the B.A. status gown, and now the M.A. gown for the past three years, and at no time have I felt discriminated against. There is one occasion when I would like to wear my B.Sc., Southampton, hood and gown, which is when I take my Cambridge Ph.D. at a Congregation. As I am permitted to wear service dress instead of subfusc at a Congregation to indicate a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force, why can I therefore not wear my Southampton hood and gown? Once I have received my Cambridge degree, however, I would not wish to wear any academical dress other than that of my Cambridge degree.


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, when the University faces other much greater problems, it may seem strange to devote time to discussing the relatively minor matter of academical dress on festive occasions. However, the problem has been posed, of how to eliminate a cause of offence to some members of the Regent House who hold non-Cambridge doctorates. I am not convinced that the solution proposed by the Council is the best one available, and therefore did not sign its Report.

What Colleges permit at Feasts in the privacy of their Halls is their own affair; and the suite of Cambridge festal gowns may not have been designed for colour co-ordination by some learned consultant, though there is a certain unity in its scarlet and black. But is it really desirable for the University's special occasions to be turned from scarlet days into motley ones?

There is perhaps another way forward, which I hope the University will consider, which might well have the same desirable effect of removing a cause of grievance, while preserving the colour-range in processions and on similar festive occasions, thereby indeed 'proclaiming the fact of membership' of the University. That is to invite members of the Regent House who hold non-Cambridge doctorates, who may already wear the Cambridge M.A. gown and hood, to wear as festal gowns a close approximation to the Ph.D. festal gown and hood (I have in mind everything specified in Ordinances, including the scarlet strips, apart from the doctor's lace).

Membership of the Regent House is not lightly earned, and I see no reason why members of doctoral status from other Universities, who are by long-established custom styled as Doctor here, should not be invited to declare that status by wearing an appropriate Cambridge gown on our special occasions. There would be no need for elaborate enquiry about the details of the degree or the university concerned, any more than there would be such enquiry if the Council's present proposal is adopted - the decision on which Cambridge gown to wear would be a matter for the individual member of the Regent House.

No remarks were made on the following Reports:

The Report, dated 16 February 1998, of the Council on the provision of accommodation at Clarkson Road for a Centre for Mathematical Sciences (p. 404).

The Second Report, dated 16 February 1998, of the Council on the provision of new accommodation for the Faculty of Divinity (p. 406).

The Report, dated 16 February 1998, of the Council on College contributions in the financial year 1997-98 (p. 407).

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Cambridge University Reporter, 11th March 1998
Copyright © 1998 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.