About the ceremony and academic dress

Elements of the Cambridge degree ceremony have their origin amongst the earliest customs of the University, and so the ceremony is still conducted in Latin. Degrees are sometimes conferred by the Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor, but usually by a deputy, such as the Master of a College.

Graduands are led in procession to the Senate-House from Downing by one of our two Praelectors. The Praelector presents the candidates in groups of up to four, announcing their degrees and declaring that they are worthy to receive them.  Each graduand then kneels in front of the Vice-Chancellor's deputy, who admits the graduand to the degree. The new graduate then rises, bows, and is presented with a certificate.

Academical dress

Those graduating wear formal clothes, following the strict dress code, with the correct gown and hood. There are many different kinds of gowns and hoods, representing the various degrees. The correct combination depends also on whether or not the graduand already has a Cambridge degree.

Those receiving their first Cambridge degree wear the gown which denotes the status they have held in the University before the ceremony.

Undergraduates and affiliated students, including BTh students, wear a Downing College undergraduate gown.

Graduate students who are under 24 wear a BA status gown, while those who are 24 or over wear an MA status gown. They each also wear the hood of the highest degree which they are about to receive.

Those with one or more Cambridge degrees wear the gown and hood of their current highest Cambridge degree. Their dress therefore indicates the status they have held before the ceremony, not the degree which they are about to receive.

The dress code for the ceremony is very strict so please read it carefully. It is possible that someone who is incorrectly dressed will not be allowed to graduate. Please note that national dress is only permitted with prior permission from the University Proctors through the Praelector. If you are in doubt, please consult the Praelector in advance.

If you intend to hire any article of academical dress, you are advised to arrange this with one of the local outfitters as soon as your graduation date has been confirmed.

The principles governing the choice of academic dress are described above. For the degrees at General Admission, these are as follows:

  • BA Degree: Downing College undergraduate gown with BA hood (black cloth and white fur)
  • BA+MEng Degrees: Downing College undergraduate gown with MEng hood (black cloth lined with bronze silk)
  • BA+MSci Degrees: Downing College undergraduate gown with MSc hood (black silk lined with pink and light blue silk)
  • BTh Degree: Downing College undergraduate gown with BTh hood (black cloth, black silk and white fur)
  • VetMB Degree: Downing College BA gown with BA hood (black cloth and white fur)

(Please note that the 'fur' used is now made of synthetic material.)

General admission in June (BA, MEng, MMath, MSci, VetMB, MusB and BTh Degrees only

The 2019 General Admission ceremony for Downing undergraduates will be held on Friday 28 June.

Arrangements for attending the Senate-House, booking of tickets for your guests and reservations for accommodation can be made via your self-service page on CamSIS once booking opens towards the end of the Lent Term. All students eligible to receive their degree during general admission will receive an email when the booking system has opened. The deadline for applications is 1 May 2019.

The maximum number of Senate-House tickets that you can book for your guests is three.

Occasionally spare tickets do become available but this cannot be guaranteed. If you would like to be placed on a waiting list for additional tickets please select the relevant option during the online registration.

Graduation week 2019

The degree certificate will be made out in your name exactly as it appears in the University records unless evidence of a mistake or of a formal change of name is submitted. Any such evidence should be sent to the Tutorial and Admissions Office without delay.

Provisional Timetable 2019

Date to be confirmed: 7.30pm - General Admission Dinner

Date to be confirmed: 6.30pm - Reception for Graduands and families

Friday 28 June 2019:

9.15am to 11.15am - Registration and collection of Senate House Tickets in the Tutorial and Admissions Office (B staircase)

11.15am - Assemble for group photograph outside the chapel and talk by the Praelector about Senate-House procedures

11.45am - Assemble outside Howard Building for procession to the Senate-House

12 noon - Guests advised to leave for Senate-House

12.15pm - Procession to the Senate-House

12.25pm - Guests to arrive at the Senate-House

12.35pm - Graduands to arrive at the Senate-House

12.45pm - Session begins at the Senate-House

13.15pm - Approximate finish time for Downing graduands

13.35pm - Buffet lunch in the Hall and marquee on the Fellows' Lawn

From 15.45pm - Graduation group photographs will be available from the Porters' Lodge

There is no shelter near the Senate-House and visitors are advised to bring umbrellas in case of wet weather.

Please note also that photography, smoking and recording are not allowed in the Senate-House. Your guests will be able to join you outside the Senate-House after the ceremony.

Remember that all guests require admission tickets for entry to the Senate-House. These will be distributed to graduands when they register and collect their gowns from the Tutorial and Admissions Office (B Staircase) earlier in the day.

Note that the University provides full photographic services at the Senate-House when you take your degree. To order official Senate-House photographs see this order form.

The Bursary

The deadline for settling bills with the Bursary will be midday on a date in mid June 2019 to be confirmed. If you are experiencing financial difficulty, or are anticipating problems settling your college bill you must make contact with your Tutor to discuss this as soon as possible.


All those graduating in person on Friday 28 June 2019 are permitted to remain in College accommodation up to and including the night of Friday 28 June 2019, should they wish to do so. It may, however, be necessary for a few students to move rooms at the end of Full Term as with usual out of NPR arrangements. Rent will be charged on a pro-rata basis.

Parents and Guardians may be accommodated in College on the Thursday and Friday nights, as space permits, on a first-come-first-served basis. Requests for accommodation should be made via your self-service page on CamSIS when you apply for graduation.

As the College is able to offer single, twin and double rooms it is important that you specify clearly which type of room(s) you require for your guests under 'Accommodation Requirements'. (For example, 2 x single room on Thursday, 1 x twin room on Friday.) The cost for this accommodation will be published on the booking page in CamSIS.

Please note that all rooms occupied until the morning of Saturday 29 June must be completely vacated and cleared of all belongings, by 12 noon at the latest.

Any further enquiries you may have can be emailed to the Tutorial and Admissions Office or telephone  +44 01223 334811.

Conferment of degrees at ceremonies throughout the year

If you wish to obtain your degree, the Praelector will be glad to arrange for your degree to be conferred on any of the dates below (subject to approval by the Board of Graduate Studies):

2018: 27 January, 24 February, 7 April, 28 April, 19 May (conferment of MAs for Downing 2011 Matriculands and EMBAs only), 20 July, 20 October, 24 November.

2019: 26 January, 23 February, 30 March, 27 April, 18 May (conferment of MAs for Downing 2012 Matriculands and EMBAs only), 19 July, 19 October, 23 November.

On these congregation dates you may bring up to three guests to the ceremony in the Senate-House. Additional Senate-House tickets are sometimes available but this cannot be guaranteed. If you would like to be placed on a waiting list for additional tickets please contact the Tutorial and Admissions Office.

There is a College Administration Charge of £30. The charge is the same whether the degree is taken in person or in absence.

Lunch for the graduand and one guest are provided free of charge. Additional guests may be invited to the lunch (up to a maximum of three) at a cost of £25 per head. Your total party size cannot exceed five including yourself.

On the May Degree day, due to the numbers involved, MA graduands may bring one guest to lunch and only one guest to the Senate-House. Information regarding the conferment of MAs for Downing 2012 Matriculands and EMBAs on the 18 May 2019 will be available in the Lent Term 2019.

Please complete and return the Congregation Booking Form. The deadline for submission, and payment, is three weeks before the date of any Congregation at which you wish to receive the degree. Some congregations are very popular so you are advised to apply as early as possible to avoid disappointment.

Payment should be made by bank transfer.  Details can be found on the Congregation booking form. When we have received both your booking form and payment is confirmed, we will send you a confirmation email containing a provisional timetable of the day, together with dress requirements and details regarding gown and hood hire.

If you wish to obtain your degree in absence, your certificate will be posted to your mailing address in CamSIS after the Congregation has taken place. Please ensure that you update this accordingly.

Children attending graduation

While it is not considered suitable by the University for children under 5 years of age to attend Degree congregations, they are permitted to enter Senate House and are expected to sit on the lap of a parent or guardian.  For this reason, babies and very young children do not require a ticket for Senate House, but older children will need their own ticket.  Gallery tickets are not issued for children under 10 years of age due to health and safety reasons.  

Children of all ages are welcome to attend the lunch in College, but must be accompanied and supervised at all times while on the premises.  The nature of these events mean that extra care needs to be taken in large numbers of people and vehicles, as well as around hot food and beverages.  Baby changing facilities are available on A staircase, but if you require any additional facilities, such as a high chair, please contact the  Tutorial Office to submit a request.  We will also need to know their age.

Typical timetable for most congregations

Collect academic dress from the outfitters hire shop or designated collection/return point that they will have notified you of.

12 noon - Assemble with your guests in a venue to be confirmed, dressed ready for the ceremony, to collect Senate-House tickets and to meet the Praelector

12.30pm - Lunch with your guests

2.30pm - Graduands to assemble for procession to the Senate-House

2.40pm - Guests to arrive at the Senate-House

3.05 - Graduands to arrive at the Senate-House

4.15pm - Approximate finish time at the Senate-House. Meet guests on Senate-House lawn.

Return academic dress to the outfitters hire shop or designated collection/return point that they will have notified you of.

Congregation enquiries should be made by email to:  tutorial-enquiries@dow.cam.ac.uk or via the Tutorial and Admissions Office (B staircase )  or telephone +44 01223 334811.