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Posted 24 April 2013

New hoods and robes for UCD graduations

There’s a line in the original sartorial almanac of universities - George W Shaw’s Academic Dress of British & Irish Universities  - that seeks to describe the range of colours and styles used by universities in the British Isles:

“Most of the new universities have not included faculty colours in their schemes, the hood indicating only the university and the level of the degree.  This can only be regarded as a progressive step, since the proliferation of faculties, covering every possible subject, would make impossible demands on resources as well as creating for the robe makers!  The simplest scheme of all is seen at the University of Teeside, where a single hood is used to cover all degrees, whereas the National University of Ireland has over 66 hoods.”

Although the number of hoods and colours used by NUI constituent colleges was reduced from 66 in 1999, the number and variety of colours remained high, with UCD offering 28 colour combinations.

UCD robes

Originally, the colours were to match faculties but over time and with changing structures and new cross-disciplinary degrees, the colours lost some of their meaning.  For example, although the colour for Arts is white and for Human Sciences and Social Science is fawn, UCD’s BA students all graduate in white.  Similarly Business & Law (BBL) graduands wear strawberry - the colour allocated to Commerce - even though half of their degree stems from Law, where the colour is prune. 

In order to give UCD graduates and their graduation ceremonies a sense of distinctiveness and strengthen their connection with the university, a consultation process with staff and students was undertaken to consider adopting specific UCD colours for our graduations.  The early options included suggested college colours but this was rejected as structures can change and such a selection would not deal with interdisciplinary degrees.

The traditional sporting colours of the university, dating back to 1910, are St Patrick’s blue and saffron. Gradually these colours have been adopted by the students and by the University.  The scarves given to new students during their welcome ceremony are proudly worn throughout college and even a few professors have been known to sport them.

So, it wasn’t an enormous leap to look at these colours with the view to adopting them for graduation.

The final designs – which went through various focus groups with staff and students – proposed rounded hoods (known as Aberdeen CNNA shape) up to masters level and a square fold style (known as London shape) for masters and PhD, and various colour combinations of St Patrick’s Blue, Saffron and a deep blue, which has been named Celtic Blue.  The shape of the hoods sits wider on the shoulders than the existing design and should prevent that regular slip up to the throat so many graduands experience.

There was considerable discussion around the colour of the robe for the PhD degrees.  Navy, deep green and pale blue were considered.  Red was an obvious colour as it was already used but when the samples were made up, the St Patrick’s Blue proved to be much more popular.

Mortar boards also came up for discussion at a UMT Plenary meeting.  The question of why only the women wear the mortar boards prompted anecdotes of gender-based glass ceilings but the explanation turned out to be much more straightforward.  According to the robe maker, the tradition was based on the fact that women wore hats indoors while men removed theirs.  Actually, the mortar boards were supposed to be optional.  So, when the rober was asked to extend the mortar boards to the men, he had one request – that the graduates be asked not to toss them into the air for the cliché photo at the end of the ceremony. 

The colours and designs were passed at academic council on October 4th 2012 and will be worn at this year’s first conferring on June 6th when the medical and nursing students graduate.

Academic processions are a central part of each conferring ceremony.  The graduates and their guests enjoy the colour and formality of the occasion. 

Many academics will have received their degrees under the NUI colours and can of course continue to wear these robes. As an alternative, they may wish to adopt the new colours.

Next September, when the main cohort of conferrings is held, the full impact of the new colours will be seen as the campus is drenched in St Patrick’s Blue and saffron.

(Produced by UCD University Relations)


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New hoods and robes for UCD graduations
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