Students reject move to end the wearing of scholars’ gowns

Students vote heavily against the proposed move in OUSU poll

Photo: Akshay Bilolikar

Students have overwhelming voted against a motion on whether OUSU should oppose the wearing of scholars’ gowns in examinations.

In a consultation poll, 2126 students voted against the motion that OUSU should oppose the wearing of differential gowns in examinations, with 1214 in favour, and 33 abstentions. The poll was open for two days and received a total turnout of 3373—around 14 per cent of the student body.

The results of the poll, which is non-binding, will be discussed and voted on in OUSU’s 1st week Michaelmas Council.

The motion was proposed by Wadham students, Matilda Agace and Isobel Cockbur. Writing in Cherwell, Agace, Cockbur and Taisie Tsikas claimed that “the hierarchical gown structure is fundamentally in conflict with ideals of community and equality that the University espouses”. “Many students are made to feel uncomfortable and nervous by the presence of a visual reminder of what they might perceive as their academic inferiority,” they wrote.

It was further suggested that scholars’ gowns, which cost £45, do not accurately represent academic achievement. An argument in favour of the motion on OUSU’s website argued: “prelims results are more of a reflection of a student’s educational background than their grade in Finals”.

However, there has been strong opposition to the banning of scholars gowns. Writing in Cherwell, Thomas Munro said that it would be “perverse to deny those who have achieved academically the rewards of their success”.

Munro further argued: “to remove the right to wear [scholars’ gowns] from those who have already achieved scholarships reeks of envy, rather than any real desire for reform”.

It remains unclear if the poll will prove decisive on this contentious issue. Because the consultation was solely advisory, OUSU council could still technically vote to adopt the policy of opposing differential gowns in examinations in October.