Graduation gown colours meaning in the UK

Graduation gown colours meaning in the UK: explained

The weather is looking up, spring has come in and flowers are blooming. It can only mean one thing: it’s grad season! It’s time to dress up and celebrate your hard work at your graduation ceremony. But first, what exactly does the traditional grad dress symbolise? Read on to find out the graduation gown colours’ meaning, and history.

Origins of the Gown and Cap

Graduation gown colours meaning in the UK: explained
Source: Canva

So where does the gown and cap originate from? According to Columbia University, the clergy first wore gowns and hoods. This was later adopted by their students. It dates back to 12th-century European customs. Unlike today, it had some practical reasoning behind it. The gown provided warmth, as many of the buildings were unheated. The cap was also suited to cover the bald heads of the clergy, which was originally done with a hood. In addition, the academic dress was worn daily, serving to set students apart from their fellow citizens. It marked their privilege and apparent learnedness. Some universities, like Oxford, Cambridge or St Andrews, use the academic dress for formal occasions other than graduation. The style and colours for this dress can differ from the graduation style and colour. 

Graduation Gown Style and Colours

Graduation gown colour meanings in the UK: explained
Source: University of Bristol

The colours and styles of graduation gowns differentiate by degrees, rather than personal preference. Different types of degrees require different types of gowns. Many universities also have their own guidelines for colours specific to the degrees they offer. 

Bachelor’s Degree

Students graduating with a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science Degree will typically wear gowns that are black and have short sleeves. Their hood colour will correspond to their department, or specific degree, according to their university’s rules.

Master’s Degree

Those undertaking a master’s will also wear black gowns, however, these will have long sleeves. Again, their field of study determines the colour of their hood.

Doctorate’s Degree

If you’re graduating with a PHD, the colour scheme is different. Becoming a doctor in your field of study is no easy feat. The red gown reserved for those earning their doctorates recognises this. It is long-sleeved with coloured silk. Of course, the degree they have pursued determines the hood.

UK Graduation Traditions

Graduation gown colours meaning in the UK: explained
Source: Canva

There are also other traditions that UK universities will often follow in their ceremonies.  Many universities will start the ceremony with a procession of their students. Often, they will be carrying a ceremonial mace. After the procession, the graduates are called one by one to shake the hand of a senior official. Of course, the ceremony will also include a speech. This can be at the start or end of the graduation and is usually performed by the chancellor or vice-chancellor of the university. And let’s not forget throwing off the caps at the end for a true celebration!

Congratulations if you have your graduation coming soon! Hopefully, you know more about its history now. Graduation is a time of transition, so it is often tumultuous for many of us. If you are feeling nervous about your next steps check out this article.  Good luck wherever your next chapter takes you!

One thought on “Graduation gown colours meaning in the UK: explained

  1. Wow, this is such an insightful post! I t is so interesting how universities vary their traditions associated with graduations!!

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