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Bachelor of Science Dress at Graduation
The academic dress of Durham Universitymarker is fairly similar to that of Oxford. Most Durham colleges insist on undergraduate gowns being worn on formal occasions - primarily matriculation and formal halls (dinners) - exceptions are Van Mildert, St Cuthbert's Society, Collingwood, Stephenson, St Aidans, and The College of St Hild and St Bede (matriculation only). At formal halls, only gowns are worn and doctors normally wear their undress gowns. Members of the University may also wear gowns when attending services at the Cathedralmarker – but this is left to individual choice apart from at certain services (such as the Founders and Benefactors service). Gowns may also be worn to meetings of the university Senate by members of that body.

Note that as some colleges do not wear undergraduate gowns, it is entirely possible to pass through an undergraduate degree at Durham, graduate in absentia, and never have to wear a gown. Alternatively, by attending a college with frequent formals (twice a week at Castle, Chad's and Hatfield) and attending evensong at the cathedral regularly, it is possible to spend a fair proportion of one's life in a gown.


There are four main gowns in the Durham scheme, corresponding to the four levels within the University: Undergraduates, Bachelors, Masters, and Doctors. In addition to these, variants of the Oxford Lay (or Gimp) gown, are used for the MMus and for the undress DMus gown. With the exception of the full-dress doctors' gowns, all Durham gowns are black.


This gown is basically the same as the Oxford Scholars' gown - a knee-length gown gathered at the yoke with elbow-length bell sleeves - but with the forearm seam opened about four inches from the bottom. These are worn in most colleges (but not all) to formal halls (dinners) and to matriculation. Some colleges also insist on their being worn to Junior Common Room meetings. Regulations on the wearing of undergraduate gowns are technically set by the colleges, but in many colleges the regulations are decided by the JCRs.

The Durham Scholars' gown (rarely seen outside college chapels) is longer and has the forearm seam sewn up, e.g. identical to the Oxford Scholars'. The Hild and Bede college gown, retained from before the college became a constituent college of the University, differs from other Durham gowns in being made of brocaded fabric and being shorter. The Senior Man and MCR President at St Chad's wear Durham Scholars' gowns with green facings. The St Chad's undergraduate gown (rarely seen outside of Matriculation) is based on the Oxford Scholars' gown, but adds two black buttons at the lower end of the forearm, joined across the (open) seam by 5 inches of twisted green cord.


Postgraduates at Durham, unlike at Oxford or Cambridge, wear the gown of their highest earned degree on occasions when gowns are worn.


Essentially a larger version of the undergraduate gown. It is longer, coming to somewhere between mid-calf and the ankle, with sleeves hanging down almost as far. The major difference between this and the Oxford BA gown is that the forearm seam is opened for around 15–20 cm above the wrist, where it is held closed with a button and loop. The arm is normally passed through the opening thus created so the arm is exposed from around the elbow rather than being covered to the wrist as is the case with the Oxford gown.

The bachelors' gown is used by all bachelors except for the BD, who use the masters' gown. It is also used for the four-year undergraduate masters' courses, such as the MEng and the MSci.


The masters' gown is identical to the Oxford MA gown, with the addition of a black cord and button on the yoke (making it identical to the Oxford BD gown). It is similar to the bachelors' gown, except that the long sleeves are rectangular and closed at the ends, with a crescent cut out of each sleeve-end, and a horizontal arm-slit just above the elbow.

The masters gown is used for post-graduate masters courses, except for the MMus which has its own gown, and as the undress gown for doctors. Doctors of Divinity wear the gown with a black silk scarf - making this identical to the Oxford DD undress gown, while the junior doctors (PhDs and EdDs) are distinguished by a palatinate cord and button on the yoke.

Postgraduate Diplomas and Certificates: Same gown as BA, ie the bachelors' gown.


The doctors' full-dress gown is, again, identical to that used at Oxford. It is a scarlet cassimere gown (brocaded white satin for DMus) gathered at the yoke and with bell sleeves. The sleeves and facings are in a coloured silk (see below).

Doctors' Silks

The colour of the silk on the gown's sleeves and facings indicates which doctorate the wearer holds. The colours of the silk are:

  • Junior Doctors:
    • EdD (Doctor of Education) - Facings scarlet trimmed with 1 inch palatinate on the inside and the sleeves (from the bottom) 4 inches palatinate and 4 inches white
    • PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) - Scarlet trimmed with 1 inch palatinate on the inside of the facings and the top of the sleeves
    • DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) - Gown is not cassimere but rather wool panama, faced with white silk and bound on inside edge with palatinate purple silk.
  • Higher Doctors:
    • DMus (Doctor of Music) - Palatinate
    • DLitt (Doctor of Letters) - Old Gold
    • DSc (Doctor of Science) - Scarlet
    • DCL (Doctor of Civil Law) - White
    • DD (Doctor of Divinity) - Palatinate

Music Gowns

The MMus and undress DMus gowns are based on the Oxford lay (or gimp) gown. This is similar in shape to the masters' gown but with a flap collar covering the yoke and with inverted T-shaped armholes rather than straight horizontal cuts. Additionally there are panels of lace (known as gimp) near the foot of the gown and (on the DMus undress gown) on the sleeves. Instead of this panel, the MMus gown has a row of lace running from the armholes to the base of the sleeves.


Two sorts of hood are in use in Durham - Simple hoods, consisting of just a cowl, similar to those used at Oxford, and Full hoods, consisting of a cowl and cape, similar to those in use at Cambridge but with rounded corners to the cape. Hoods may be made of silk or stuff (material other than silk - normally cotton) and are normally lined with a coloured silk inside the cowl. The shape in which the hood is made is governed only by tradition, but the materials and colours used are laid down in the University regulations. Many of the hoods feature palatinate - a particular shade of purple that is associated with the University.

Durham uses three distinctly different hood shapes besides the Oxford simple-shape hood [s1]: Durham Doctors [f4], Durham BA [f6] and Durham BCL etc [f7]. All the hoods have a semi-circular curve to the cape. The BA shape hood traditionally has a liripipe as a separate thin rectangular piece attached to it. The BCL shape is similar to the London full-shape [f3] save the curve of the cape. The Doctors' shape is like the BCL but the liripipe sticks out in a 45 degree angle. The reason for such a variation is because as hood shapes evolved through the centuries, some became fossilised and preserved as distinctive shapes.


Some undergraduates choose to wear the Literates' Hood - a black stuff hood with no lining, normally made in the same shape as the Durham BA - but this is unofficial and not prescribed by the University.

St John's College and St Chad's College, like theological colleges generally, both have their own hoods for graduates of their ministerial training courses. The St Chad's hood is of the Durham BCL pattern, in black stuff, the cowl faced inside with 2" college green. The St John's hood is similar, with a blue facing.


The Durham BSc hood.
Bachelors' hoods are full-shape made with black stuff except for the BSc and LLB (made with palatinate silk) and the BD (made with black corded silk). BA, BSc, and BPhil use a slightly different full-shape, with a wider cape than the other Durham degrees.

  • BD (Bachelor of Divinity) Black (this is identical, apart from the shape, to the BD at Oxford and Cambridge) (no longer awarded)
  • BA (Bachelor of Arts) Part lined with white fur and trimmed with white fur on the cape
  • BSc (Bachelor of Science) Palatinate bound white fur with a 0.5 inch scarlet band inside the fur
  • LLB (Bachelor of Laws) Maroon trimmed with white fur on the cape
  • BPhil (Bachelor of Philosophy) Part lined with 4 inches of white silk and trimmed with white fur on the cape
  • BEng (Bachelor of Engineering) Scarlet bordered with 3 inches palatinate and trimmed with white fur on the cape


All masters except the MA and the MEd use full-shape hoods. MA and MEd use the simple shape. All masters' hoods are made in black silk except for the MJur, which is made in palatinate silk. They are lined as follows:

  • Postgraduate:
    • LLM (Master of Laws) Palatinate, bound white
    • MA (Master of Arts) Palatinate
    • MEd (Master of Education) White, edged palatinate
    • MSc (Master of Science) Palatinate, bound scarlet
    • MLitt (Master of Letters) Old gold
    • MMus (Master of Music) White brocade bound palatinate
    • MPhil (Master of Philosophy) Scarlet bound palatinate
    • MTheol (Master of Theology) Black bound 1 inch palatinate
    • MBA (Master of Business Administration) Palatinate with a border of 2.5 inches white, bound scarlet
    • MJur (Master of Jurisprudence) Palatinate bound white fur
  • Postgraduate Diplomas and Certificates:
    • Postgraduate Diploma: Black outer, self-lined black, trimmed with double row of palatinate purple ribbon 0.5 inch wide. These are typically used for PGDE (Postgraduate Diploma in Education)
    • Postgraduate Certificate: Black outer, self-lined black, trimmed with one row of palatinate purple ribbon 0.5 inch wide. These are typically used for PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education)
  • Undergraduate:
    • MEng (Master of Engineering) Scarlet bound 0.5 inches palatinate
    • MMath (Master of Mathematics) Cerise bound white fur
    • MSci (Master in Science) Palatinate bound white fur on the cowl and scarlet on the cape
    • MChem (Master of Chemistry) Palatinate bound white fur on the cowl and palatinate on the cape


Doctors wear full-shape hoods with semi-circular bases, made of scarlet cassimere (except DMus and DSc which are made of brocaded white satin and palatinate silk respectively). The linings are generally the same colours as the sleeves and facings and the gowns:

  • Higher Doctors:
    • DD (Doctor of Divinity) Palatinate
    • DCL (Doctor of Civil Law) White
    • DSc (Doctor of Science) Scarlet
    • DLitt (Doctor of Letters) Old Gold
    • DMus (Doctor of Music) Palatinate
  • Junior Doctors:


Gown and hoods are worn for graduations, but mortarboards, while officially part of the academic dress of the University, are not. When in full dress, Doctors wear soft square hats (known as John Knox caps) with a tump at the centre of the crown rather than mortarboards or Tudor bonnets.


In Durham, the early statutes permit the wearing of a convocation habit but 'under the gown' thought later statutes say 'with gown' instead of under it. The Durham habit survives as part of the dress for the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor which are worn under their laced gowns. There are two forms; one is sleeveless like the Oxford pattern and the other is sleeved so more like a cassock than a habit. In theory, doctors could wear the sleeveless type over their black undress gowns like in Oxford but this is very rare as many do not know that they are entitled to it.


  • Fowler, J. T. (1904), Durham University: earlier foundations and present colleges. London: F. E. Robinson & Co.


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