University plans to replace matriculation with online registration

Ceremony to be maintained but formal entrance to Oxford to happen online—senior college sources suggest academic staff unhappy about the proposals

University administrative officials have drawn up plans to make changes to Oxford’s historic matriculation process, Cherwell can exclusively reveal.

The ceremony, which has remained unchanged for hundreds of years, is the point at which students formally register as members of the University of Oxford.

But changes, soon to be debated at the University’s governing body, would mean that formal entrance to the University happened through online registration rather than at a ceremony in Latin at the Sheldonian Theatre.

Speaking to Cherwell, Jackie Hoyle, the University’s Director of Student Registry, said: “Students are currently formally matriculated to the University at a ceremony which has included the administrative element of logging a student’s details.

“Yet since 2007, each student’s college has already confirmed details of incoming students using the online registration system. The University will now decide whether to adopt a proposal to separate the administrative function of a student’s matriculation from the ceremonial aspect, thereby avoiding this duplication.

“The traditional matriculation ceremony would be retained as a way of formally celebrating the enrolment of a student at Oxford University.”

The changes will need to be passed at Congregation—the ‘parliament’ that governs Oxford’s statute regulations. It includes 4,500 staff members, and meets six times per term.

Yet the proposed move has been greeted with some hostility by staff members, Cherwell has learned. University sources suggest that the response has been mixed, but that “disapproving voices are much louder”.

Congregation members have described the proposed changes as “unlikely” to be passed. Elsewhere, senior college figures have suggested that the measure targets international graduate students, students who are ill on the morning of the ceremony or those who forget to attend.

Professor Matthew Leigh, former Dean of Degrees at St Anne’s—charged with managing the college’s involvement in the ceremony—praised the potential change.

He told Cherwell: “This seems perfectly sensible if it means that we don’t have to make everyone sign their names, then chase those who aren’t there or forget to do so.

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“The ceremony is the thing that matters and that should continue. I still recall the inspiring words of the Vice-Chancellor when I matriculated in 1986. Remembering who came to tea yesterday can be harder.”

If the change was made, it would affect the matriculation ceremony of freshers entering the university in 2018.

Currently, students who miss the ceremony at the start of Michaelmas term of their first year are required to attend further ceremonies which take place at the end of each Michaelmas and the end of each Hilary and Trinity terms.

Senior academics yesterday made clear they were “keen” to hear student views on the plans.

The move online could overturn an almost 800-year-old history of registering students as members of the University through matriculation—deriving its origin from the Latin word matricula.

The tradition is believed to date back to the early thirteenth century, when the first known statute made it compulsory for students to matriculate under a regent master.

However, the ceremony has not always been taken seriously by its attendees. Last year, Trinity freshers were asked to make a charitable donation of £10 after drunkenly chanting pop songs during their matriculation ceremony in the Sheldonian Theatre.

Modernising changes to the University’s historic traditions are unusual. In 2015, students voted in favour of continuing to wear subfusc during examinations, in a vote organised by OUSU.

It followed a student campaign to abolish the “archaic” formal dress, which is also worn during matriculation.

September 2017’s ceremony will be unaffected by the plans.