webcowgirl: (London Biker)
[personal profile] webcowgirl
Today I went to a graduation ceremony in Cambridge. Now, we can all accept that maybe people will dress differently here than they do in America for graduation - more strange colors and more fur, plus much better built mortarboard hats (without tassles). But did you expect that they would doff them (the hats) to each other? And would you have thought the ceremony would mostly be conducted in Latin, and would consist of the various graduates coming up and kneeling before the dean of the college (or something like that) while he holds their praying hands and, essentially, welcomes them into the fellowship of scholars (in Latin)? I did not. It was very peculiar. Groups of four would come up and a woman (in a hat) would say something like, "I hereby affirm these people are suitably ready to be given the title of Master of the Arts," then she would let go of their hands and they would be be individually called up to get their blessing. I kind of thought that after the woman introduced the groups of four scholars to the seated, robed, dean-type fellow, that when she let go of their hands they would all bust out with lighting bolts and magic wands and we'd have some Griffindor versus Slytherin action, but it didn't happen. However, when it was all done, [livejournal.com profile] wechsler and I did go to Auntie's Tea Room and had some scones, which were very yummy.

Date: 2011-03-27 08:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ajva.livejournal.com
I was told that the point at which the guy's hands were around mine as I knelt in front of him and he spoke something in Latin was precisely the moment at which my degree was conferred. Which is cute, I think.

Date: 2011-03-27 11:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wildbadger.livejournal.com
Scary photograph from BA graduation a long time ago http://www.flickr.com/photos/wildbadger/3067063879/

I received the MA degree in absentia, sitting in a pub in Stony Stratford with a friend who was doing the same, trying to raise our glasses for a toast at precisely the right moment...

More seriously, the University of Cambridge was fairly heavily intertwined with the Latin speaking parts of the Church of England until 1870 when the rules imposed by religion (Fellows of colleges not allowed to marry and so on) began to be relaxed. I forgot to ask for the non-religious version of the Latin, but the woman who conferred the degree used it anyway, somewhat to my relief as a member of the University's humanist society.

Date: 2011-03-27 12:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pir.livejournal.com
Oxford and Cambridge universities are firmly planted in the past. While most universities here do have real degree outfits (rather than the US nylon affairs with zips) most don't do anything in Latin beyond maybe one overall pronouncement. The colouring of the robe, hood and sometimes cap or mortarboard can tell you what institution the degree was conferred by and what level of degree it was.

I'm used to mortarboards having tassels, though, and all the stuff about having it hanging on one side if your degree has not been conferred yet and switching it over.

My degree ceremony (which I would have done in absentia if my mother hadn't insisted) had no Latin that I recall and also had no kneeling or hand holding.

Date: 2011-03-27 03:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thekumquat.livejournal.com
I remember it well (did it for BA and MA... no newfangled things like BSc at Cambridge!) For my first one I was told my 'black' labelled tights weren't black enough and made to change into college-provided ones.

The person holding the fingers of four people is called the praelector, and saying 'I vouch for these people who are of sufficient status in morals and learning to be admitted to the status of X degree of Cambridge University' Or as ours said in rehearsal, "This is where I tell the biggest bunch of porkies since last year, seeing as I've never met half of you before and all I know is you aren't in debt to the university. Now don't panic if you feel me fondling your ankles when you kneel before the Master - I'm just making sure your robe isn't caught on your foot so you don't trip; it's not just because I'm a complete pervert. OK, not just..."

The person up front is the stand-in for the Chancellor of the university (ie not Prince Philip), usually the Master/Mistress of your college. They 'declare the Trinitarian oath over your head', unless you have applied for exemption with a letter from your relevant minister/rabbi/imam/similar, in which case permission might be granted to avoid it, when they try to remember to leave some of the words out and usually fail, according to our Master (great bloke, was Nelson Mandela's defence lawyer back in the day).

I loved the guys declaiming at each other in Latin and thumping their staves - roughly "Who are this rabble you've brought here? Why are they worthy of us? I'm not going to give them degrees!" "I bring them! THey are worthy!" "Oh no they aren't!" "Oh yes they are!"

My MSc ceremony was much more boring (3 hours in the stifling Royal Festival Hall, all in English), but the PhD one at UCL was quite good as the MC had a sense of humour and there were some excellent speeches.

Date: 2011-03-27 10:25 pm (UTC)
lovingboth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lovingboth
Yes, they're a bit resistant to change. The upside is that they're run by a smaller bureaucracy than most. Swings and roundabouts.

Date: 2011-03-28 12:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cynicaloptimist.livejournal.com
Oxford and Cambridge do live in their own little world.

My ceremony was in English, but I did get given my degree on stage in the Royal Albert Hall, which was quite enough pomp and circumstance.

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