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What is a Congregation ?

Students and alumni/ae who are eligible to receive their degrees may do so at Congregations of the Regent House held on Saturdays at regular intervals throughout the year.  The College Calendar lists the occasions in the year when members are to be presented for their degrees.  The Praelector of the College, Fr Alban McCoy (, is responsible for presenting students at Congregations and vouching for their academic standing.

The Congregation ceremony is one of the oldest traditions in the University of Cambridge.  The conferment of each degree is still an act of the whole University, approved by “Grace of the Regent House”, that is, by a resolution of the governing body. Groups of four graduands are presented to the Vice-Chancellor or a Deputy by the Praelector, who extends his right-hand.  The candidates hold one of his Praelector’s fingers in his/her right hand.  Their academic attainments and personal integrity are endorsed by the Praelector.  Graduands are presented one by one to the Vice-Chancellor of the University or a Deputy, in the presence of the Proctors who are the elected representatives of the Regent House.  Kneeling before the Vice-Chancellor or the Deputy, each candidate is admitted to the appropriate degree, one by one. 

The congregations at which St Edmund's will present graduands in person for the academic year 2017-18:


Saturday 21st October


Saturday 27th January

Saturday 7th April


Saturday 28th April

Saturday 19th May

Saturday 30th June (General Admission)

Saturday 21st July


The congregations at which St Edmund's will present graduands in person for the academic year 2018-19:


Saturday 20th October 2018


Saturday 26th January 2019

Saturday 30th March 2019


Saturday 27th April 2019

Saturday 18th May 2019

Saturday 29th June 2019 (General Admission)

Saturday 20th July 2019

Graduands may also apply to graduate in absentia at any of the congregations throughout the year. A full list of dates can be found here:

Although Congregations are held throughout the year, the Congregations at the end of the Easter term are set aside for the General Admission to Degrees at which most undergraduates proceed to their first degrees at the end of their final term.  In addition to the B.A., General Admission is restricted to candidates receiving the following degrees: MMath with BA, M.Eng (Master of Engineering) with BA, MSci (Master of Natural Science) with BA, Vet. M.B. (Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine), Mus.B (Bachelor of Music) and B.Th. (Bachelor of Theology for Ministry). Please note that the LL.M. and M.C.L. degrees cannot be conferred at General Admission, neither can the M.Eng, M.Sci and M.Math. without the B.A. taken at the same time. The M.B. is also not awarded at General Admission - the earliest this can be conferred is at the ordinary congregation in July. General Admission is generally the last Saturday in June, although occasionally it intrudes into July. The Master, Matthew Bullock, is generally delegated to deputise for the Vice-Chancellor in conferring degrees upon members of the College at General Admission.  He has also conferred degrees upon members of the College on other occasions when he has deputised for the Vice-Chancellor.

Those deemed eligible to graduate

Any member of St Edmund’s College who has fulfilled the appropriate examination and residence requirements may proceed to their degree at Congregation.  Candidates for Diploma Courses do not graduate, although they receive their certificates.  The College will automatically  contact those students whom it expects to present for their “first” degrees at General Admission early in the Easter Term all other students are expected to arrange graduation independently and it is the student's responsibility to make sure they have submitted everything required in order to graduate and that their Degree Committee has approved their degree; this is especially important for PhD students who will need to check when their Degree Committee is meeting and if any corrections they are required to make to their thesis post viva will be done in time; both the hard-bound and electronic copies of your thesis must be submitted at least 10 days before the degree ceremony you wish to attend*. Students will need to confirm explicitly their intention to graduate before the names are submitted to the University Registry.  The Board of Graduate Studies informs graduate students when they have been approved for their degrees and asks them to contact the College to make the necessary arrangements to have their degrees conferred at Congregation. Graduands should sign themselves up to a graduation ceremony of their choice via CamSiS and also contact the Praelector or his secretary, Mr Tobias Langley  (tel.67068) ( in the Tutorial Office. The College will not put forward anyone for graduation who has not settled their College and University bills. 

*See here for more information regarding the final submission of the thesis:

Arrangements for a Congregation

If you wish to put your name forward to receive your degree at General Admission or an Ordinary Congregation, you will need to do so via CAMSIS.  It is your responsibility to make all the necessary arrangements with the College before notifying family and friends.  The timetable for each Congregation is prepared by the Old Schools and the information is generally conveyed to the Colleges a week before the event.   This will be communicated electronically to the graduands in the week preceding the Congregation. The Praelector’s Secretary will circulate a timetable for the day, a list of graduands and the order in which they are presented for their degrees.  Graduands proceed in alphabetical order, peeling off from the right.  They are expected to bring this information on the day of the Congregation.  Information about the dress code will be provided on the College’s web site


Each graduand is allowed up to a maximum of three guest tickets for the ceremony in the Senate-House.  Applications are made when signing up via CamSiS.   Graduands and their guests are invited to join the Master and the Praelector for lunch or afternoon tea before the Congregation, depending on the timetable for the day.  There is no charge to the graduands, who may also bring up to three guests at their own expense. The charge for the meal will vary  according to the timetable and payment should be made by the Friday before the Congregation.  Details of the charges for guests will be supplied by the  Praelector's Secretary in the weeks preceding the ceremony.  Admission to the Senate-House is by ticket only.   Access is provided for wheel chairs and prams.   First-aid will be provided by St John’s Ambulance.  Graduands’ guests are required to enter the Senate-House before the formal beginning of the Congregation. 

Graduation day

Graduands and their guests are invited to meet in the Garden Room.   A buffet lunch will be served on the day of General Admission and the July Congregation, when many postgraduates proceed to their degrees.  On all other occasions a formal lunch or afternoon tea will be served in the dining hall. The Master and Praelector will both welcome the graduands and explain the ceremony.  

Graduands are required to attend a rehearsal in the College chapel directly after lunch or afternoon tea.   Graduands should arrive fully robed.    The Praelector will explain the ceremonies to graduands and lead them through a rehearsal.  As graduation is a formal occasion, an appropriate standard of dress is expected. The dress code below is strictly enforced at ceremonies, and if you do not observe it, you may not be permitted to graduate on a particular occasion. After the rehearsal the Praelector leads the graduands to the Senate-House for the ceremony.

The ceremony

Congregations are held in the Senate-House which was built between 1722 and 1730 to designs by James Gibbs.   Originally Congregations were held in the University Church of Great St Mary’s opposite the Senate-House, and later in the Old Schools in what is now called the University Combination Room.  The Old Schools, immediately to the west of the Senate-House, are the original buildings of the University, incorporating much of the fourteenth century ‘schools’ of the University, built on a site given to the University in 1278.

Smoking, photography, video and tape-recording are not permitted in the Senate-House.  Mobile telephone and pagers should be muted and not used.    There will be an official announcement to this effect at the commencement of each session.  

The University of Cambridge was established by 1209. The ceremony of graduation is among its oldest traditions.  Many aspects of ceremony reflect the University’s foundation.   With the exception of some brief announcements at the beginning of each session, the ceremony is conducted in Latin.   Pages two and three of the official programme for each Congregation provide an explanation and translation of the formula for the presentation for degrees. Graduands are presented College by College in order of the date of the foundation.

Dress at Congregation 

It is essential that all graduands wear the correct academical dress when they are presented for their degrees at Congregation. Graduation is a formal occasion and an appropriate standard of dress is expected. The dress code below is strictly enforced at ceremonies, and if you do not observe it, you will be excluded from the ceremony by the proctors. Officials inside the Senate-House will carefully inspect the dress of each candidate. If you are in doubt, please seek the advice of the Praelector in the days before the ceremony. The full rules regarding dress for congregations are set out in the University’s Statutes and Ordinances. The following rules apply

Option 1

A black or very dark grey or very dark blue suit. The suit must be dark enough not to contrast obviously with a black gown.

A plain, long-sleeved white shirt,

Formal black shoes. Sandals are not permitted,

Black socks,

White bow-tie and bands.

Option 2

A black, very dark grey or very dark blue suit, or a dark skirt without a jacket or a long-sleeved dress.

A plain, long-sleeved, white shirt or blouse.

Formal black shoes with no buckles. Open toed shoes and sling-backs are not permitted. Sandals should not be worn.

The heels of the shoes should be below two inches.

Unpatterned black, nearly-black, or natural coloured hosiery.

Conspicuous jewellery and hair-grips are not permitted.

Bands are optional for women. They may be worn only with a properly collared white shirt.

All Graduands must:

  • Be formal and tidy

  • Hairstyles should be neat

  • Dress should be black

All Graduands are asked to refrain from:

  • Chewing gum in the Senate House

  • Clapping in the Senate House

  • Taking pictures in the Senate House

  • Carrying handbags into the Senate House

Please note that you can be prevented from graduating if you do not adhere to the dress code.



Doctor of Divinity


scarlet cloth lined with dove-coloured silk, that is

silk of turquoise-blue shot with rose-pink

Doctor of Law

scarlet cloth lined with light-cherry silk

Doctor of Medicine

scarlet cloth lined with mid-cherry silk

Doctor of Science

scarlet cloth lined with pink silk shot with light blue

Doctor of Letters

scarlet cloth lined with scarlet silk to match

Doctor of Music

cream damask, lined with dark-cherry

Bachelor of Divinity

black corded silk lined with black silk black

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine


black corded silk lined with mid-cherry silk, the

hood part-lined with cloth

Doctor of Engineering

black corded silk lined with bronze silk, the hood


part-lined with scarlet cloth

Doctor of Education


black corded silk lined with light blue silk, the hood

part-lined with scarlet

Master of Surgery

black corded silk lined with mid-cherry silk

Master of Arts

black corded silk lined with white silk

Master of Law

black corded silk lined with light-cherry silk

Master of Corporate Law


black corded silk lined with light-cherry silk, the

hood part lined with white

Master of Science

black cloth lined with pink silk shot with light blue

Master of Letters

black cloth lined with scarlet silk

Master of Research

black cloth lined with dark plum red

Master of Philosophy

black cloth lined with blue silk

Master of Music

black corded silk lined with dark-cherry satin

Master of Mathematics

black cloth lined with slate blue

Master of Advanced Study

black cloth lined with gold silk

Master of Engineering

black cloth lined with bronze silk

Master of Business Administration

black cloth lined with dark green silk

Master of Finance

black cloth lined with light green silk

Master of Education

black corded silk lined with light blue silk

Master of Natural Sciences

black corded silk lined with pink silk shot with light blue

Master of Studies

black corded silk lined with yellow silk

Bachelor of Medicine

mid-cherry silk, the hood part-lined with white fur and the tippet edged with white fur

Bachelor of Veterinary


the M.B. hood but with an edging of white fur, two inches

wide, to the tippet

Bachelor of Surgery

the M.B. hood but with no fur edging to the tippet

Bachelor of Arts



black stuff, part-lined with white fur, the tippet edged

with white fur; or, until further order, of black stuff,

part-lined with white, the tippet edged with white

Bachelor of Theology for Ministry


black stuff, lined with black silk, the tippet edged

with white fur

In case of a query please contact the Praelector’s Secretary (e-mail:

Candidates taking their first Cambridge degree wear appropriate hood of the degree to be taken.  Hoods clearly indicate the degrees sought by graduands:

National dress

With the agreement of the Praelector graduands may wear national dress, service-uniform or clerical dress instead of dark clothes.   Male candidates wearing national dress and service uniforms do not wear the bow tie instead of bands.

Swords and side-arms are not worn inside the Senate-House.


The square cap or mortarboard is optional.  If you decide to wear one on the day, you should take it off and carry it in your left-hand inside the Senate-House.

If  you are planning to wear national costume or a uniform with academical dress, you should wear the headdress appropriate to the costume or uniform. You should not wear headdresses inside the House unless it must be retained for religious or medical reasons.

II. M.Phil, LLM, MBA, MSc, etc.

A graduate of the University of Cambridge being admitted to a degree wears the gown and hood of the highest degree that he or she has received from the University.

Graduates of other universities should wear the gown of their awarded statutus (determined by age), and the hood of the master’s degree which they are going to receive.

Hiring or purchasing gowns

Hiring academical dress: graduands may hire or purchase acadamical dress from one of the following suppliers:

Ede & Ravenscroft,
71-72 Trumpington Street,
Cambridge, CB2 1RJ,
Hire Order: (01223) 861854,
Purchase Enquiries: (01223) 350048
Ryder and Amies,
22 King’s Parade,
Cambridge, CB2 1SP,
A & E Clothier,
5a Pembroke Street,
Cambridge, CB2 3QY,

Additional information

Taking two degrees: note that some graduands may receive two degrees in a single ceremony; the regular combination is a Ph.D. and an M.Phil.   In such cases the graduand is presented for the higher degree first, wearing the gown and hood appropriate to that degree. They then fall back and join the group waiting to be presented for their M.Phil. 

Official Photograph: an official photograph will be taken of each graduand being admitted by the Vice-Chancellor or one of the designated Deputies and copies may be ordered from The University’s Photographic and Illustration Service, which also provides a professional portrait service nearby. 

Degree Certificates: degree certificates are issued without further charge and are handed to graduates as they leave the Senate-House.   Also available is a special version of the certificate printed in colour.   These may be ordered by applying in writing to Student Administration & Records, 10 Peas Hill, Cambridge, CB2 3PN, at a charge of £25.

Graduation in absentia: graduands who are unable to proceed to their degrees in person may graduate in their absence.  A copy of the degree certificate will be posted by the College.

Kneeling to receive your degree:  graduands whose religious beliefs do not permit them to kneel in such ceremonies must notify the Praelector’s Secretary to relay the information to the Esquire Bedells.  In such cases candidates are permitted to stand. 

The Trinitarian formula: the traditional formula for the admission of candidates is in the name of the Trinity.  Candidates whose religious beliefs do not permit them to admitted in this form should notify the Praelector’s Secretary in good time before the Congregation.

Notes compiled by Tobias Langley, Praelector's Secretary