The interior of the Sheldonian Theatre, scene of Oxford graduation ceremonies - Photo: © David Iliff - CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Degree Ceremony/Graduation Information

We congratulate all Mertonians eligible to graduate, whether you have completed your undergraduate degree, postgraduate Masters or doctorate or are returning to take your MA.

The degree ceremony is followed by a reception at Merton College; both events need to be booked.

Full information on all aspects of the Degree Ceremony and subsequent reception can be found below.

Contact us

Booking a ceremony information and degree ceremony dates

University of Oxford degrees are conferred at a ceremony held at the Sheldonian Theatre.

Degrees are not automatically conferred at the end of your course and you will need to book onto a ceremony in order to receive your degree certificate; degrees can be conferred in person or in absentia.

Please note that it is University policy that a candidate will not normally be permitted to withdraw from a ceremony once his or her name has been entered. Degree ceremony bookings close 60 days prior to each ceremony date. Once booked onto a ceremony, graduands will be unable to change to another ceremony date during the 60 day period before the degree day. If you decide to withdraw from the ceremony during this time, your degree will be conferred at the ceremony in absentia and you will not be able to attend a future date (unless withdrawing due to exceptional circumstances).

Some ceremonies are booked up many months in advance so please submit a booking request form as soon as possible.

How to book

Undergraduate or Taught Master's students

You will automatically receive an email in mid-December in your final year of study with instructions regarding when and how to book your degree ceremony, through Student Self-Service. If you do not receive an email, contact the Degree Ceremonies team.

It is important that current students provide a non-university email address to enable us to contact you once your SSO account is closed.

Please note that due to a backlog of historic graduands and limited ceremony spaces, students are strongly encouraged to book onto a graduation ceremony as soon as possible after completing their course. If you do not choose a date offered to you, it is unlikely that you will be able to graduate for at least a calendar year (and possibly several years) because the degree ceremonies run on a cyclical basis and are allocated to capacity

Research students

You will automatically receive an email with instructions on how to book your degree ceremony once you have been granted leave to supplicate. If you do not receive an invite at this time, contact the Degree Ceremonies team.

It is important that current students provide a non-university email address to enable us to contact you once your SSO account is closed.

Please note that due to a backlog of historic graduands and limited ceremony spaces, students are strongly encouraged to book onto a graduation ceremony as soon as possible after completing their course. If you do not choose a date offered to you, it is unlikely that you will be able to graduate for at least a calendar year (and possibly several years) because the degree ceremonies run on a cyclical basis and are allocated to capacity

Alumni

You will need to graduate as an 'historic' student, and unfortunately there are only very limited spaces available for in person historic graduands at each ceremony. University policy dictates that in each academic year current students get priority for degree ceremony bookings, and historic graduands can then book any remaining available spaces within that round. If there are no spaces remaining, historic students will be added to the waiting list for their preferred ceremony date and will be emailed directly if a ceremony space becomes available (due to a cancellation) and has been allocated to them.

Historic students wishing to have their degree conferred in absentia will be allocated to the next available Oxford degree ceremony (regardless of space). Degree certificates will be sent to in absentia historic graduands by registered post shortly after the ceremony date.

Please use this form to request a place at a ceremony and the Merton reception (if required). Booking for the next cycle of degree ceremonies opens for historic students in February each year. 

Points to note when booking

  • Booking requests must be submitted at least 60 days before the ceremony date; we cannot accept any bookings after this date. We will do our best to accommodate you on the day you request but this may not be possible.
  • Please ensure all Library books are returned and there are no outstanding debts to the College in your name. Any outstanding books or debts could result in your not being permitted to graduate.
  • You will receive an email with full instructions and detailed information about your graduation one month prior to the ceremony you have been allocated to.

Degree Ceremony and Reception dates

Forthcoming degree ceremonies for the 2018/19 cycle are:

  • Saturday 29 September 2018 at 2:30pm (FULLY BOOKED)
  • Saturday 2 March 2019 at 11am (FULLY BOOKED - Waiting list in operation)
Reception information

Each degree ceremony is followed by a canapé reception held at Merton College for graduands attending the ceremony. Please see Format for the day for an approximate idea of timings.

As people's allergies, intolerances, special diets and preferences can be many and varied, we are not able to cater for these individually. Our 'diet' canapés are all gluten-free, nut-free and vegan - and are delicious! If your allergy is very serious but you believe the 'diet' canapés will be safe, please ensure you check/clarify with catering staff at the event before consumption; if you are bringing any guests who have serious allergies then please ensure that they do so as well. We take every care to ensure that our food is safe to eat. However, please be aware that our kitchen uses multiple ingredients, some of which are prepared in facilities which also use multiple ingredients, and as such we cannot guarantee that traces of allergens will not be present.

  • The reception is without charge for graduands, who are invited as guests of Merton College.
  • Each graduand may bring up to three guests to the reception at a charge of £12.50 per guest.
  • You must pre-book and pay for any guest tickets no later than two weeks prior to the ceremony/reception.
    Payment must be made online to secure your reservations at least two weeks prior to the reception by following the instructions which will be emailed to you a month before your ceremony. You will not be able to reserve spaces after this time and guest spaces will be cancelled if payment is not received by this time.
  • Once you have paid for your guests and booked your place(s) at the reception, you will be added to a guestlist and your names checked upon arrival at the reception; graduands' guests will only be able to attend the reception if they have paid.
  • It is traditional for those who have just received their degrees to wear their new robes during the reception.
  • A photographer from Gillman & Soame will be present at Merton College should you wish to have photographs taken in this setting. Please see their website for full details. You can pre-register online or else can complete a form on the day.
  • Graduands and their guests should make their way to Merton College as soon as possible after the degree ceremony.
Format for the day
Time (for 11:00am ceremonies) Time (for 2:30pm ceremonies) Activity
09:30-10:15am 1:00-1:45pm Refreshments available for graduands and their guests.
Graduands collect gowns and tickets.
10:15am 1:45pm Graduands attend Dean’s Briefing and registration.
Guests make their way to the Sheldonian Theatre.
10:30am 2:00pm Graduands proceed to Sheldonian Theatre led by Dean.
11:00am 2:30pm Degree ceremony begins.
12:45pm 3:45pm Reception at Merton College.
3:00pm 6:00pm Day finishes.
  • Refreshments
    • Tea and coffee will be available to graduands and their guests attending the ceremony. This is available from 9:30-10:15am for morning ceremonies, and from 1:00-1:45pm for afternoon ceremonies.
  • Collecting Gowns and Tickets
    • Guest tickets for the ceremony must be collected from college. If graduands pre-order their gown(s) to be delivered to Merton, they will receive these when they collect their tickets. 
  • Ceremony Briefing
    • Graduands must assemble to meet the Dean for a briefing and to register their presence. Please note that graduands are not permitted to participate in the ceremony without having registered their presence with the Dean at the briefing.
    • The briefing takes place at 10:15am for morning ceremonies, and at 1:45pm for afternoon ceremonies.
    • Guests should make their way to the Sheldonian Theatre at this point.
  • Proceeding to the Sheldonian Theatre
    • Guests should ensure they arrive at the Sheldonian not less than 20 minutes before the ceremony and be prepared to present their tickets upon arrival.
    • The Dean will lead graduands to the Sheldonian.
  • Degree Ceremony
    • Graduands will be presented by the Dean to the Vice-Chancellor; graduands will then go outside the Sheldonian where the member of staff assisting with gowning will help them change into their new gown/hood.
    • Graduands then re-enter the Sheldonian in the full gowns and hoods of the degree they have just taken.
    • An example of the full University Degree Ceremony brochure can be found here
  • Reception at Merton College
    • After the ceremony, all graduands and their guests (where applicable) are invited to an optional canapé reception at Merton College. Graduands must book to attend the reception.

Points to note

Multiple degrees

Although it is still possible to take more than one degree at a ceremony, you will only be presented to the Vice-Chancellor for the highest of them and will not be presented for the others.  This means that a candidate will still receive all the degrees (and certificates) to which they are entitled at one ceremony, but will only be announced once.  Please note that in this scenario, where you are taking a degree in person and other degrees in absence at the same ceremony, you should arrive wearing the academic dress/gown appropriate to the status of your highest in absentia degree.  You will then change into the gown of your (higher) degree to be conferred in person during the ceremony.  The Dean, Fra' John Eidinow, is always prepared to deal with queries about academic dress and procedure, and graduands should not hesitate to contact him in case of any doubt.

Ceremony Programme

Each graduand’s name, college and degree will be published in the ceremony programme (the ceremony counts as a public event). If you do not wish your name to be in the programme then please contact Degree Conferrals.

Cost of degrees

There is no charge for the conferral of any degree other than the Oxford MA.

There is a University fee of £40 for the MA. You will not be allowed to graduate for the MA unless you have paid this fee. Payment must be made online by following the instructions which will be emailed to you a month before your ceremony.

Further information (gowning, dress code, degree certificates, mobility enquiries etc.)

Dress Code

The dress code/gowning rules vary slightly depending on when your degree ceremony takes place.

For ceremonies between 1 October and 16 July:

  • Graduands should arrive at the ceremony wearing the Oxford gown, academic cap, and where appropriate the hood, to which they have previously been entitled (i.e. the gown of the highest Oxford degree they currently hold, or commoners gown if none), with sub fusc:
    • a dark suit with dark socks; or
    • a dark skirt with black tights; or
    • trousers with dark socks; and
    • an optional dark coat;
    • black shoes;
    • plain white collared shirt;
    • a black tie or white bow tie.
  • Graduands will change gowns/hoods during the ceremony to that of the degree they have just taken and had conferred.

For ceremonies between 17 July and 30 September:

  • Graduands who are being admitted for BAs, BThs, BFAs, and undergraduate masters (e.g. MChem, MPhys, MMath, MCompSci) should arrive at the ceremony wearing the gown of the degree they are receiving, with sub fusc (see above), but not the hood.  The hood will be added during the ceremony.
  • Graduands who are being admitted for all other degrees (e.g. MSt, DPhil) should turn up in the gown of the highest Oxford degree they currently hold (with sub fusc), and will change gowns during the ceremony to that of the degree they have just taken.

For all ceremonies:

  • Candidates serving in HM Forces are permitted to wear uniform together with a gown.
  • The Vice-Chancellor and the Proctors have particularly asked Deans to enforce the dress-requirements for ceremonies and have also arranged for the University Verger to look out for infringements. If you are wearing a skirt, you are particularly reminded to wear black tights or stockings; if you are wearing trousers, you are particularly reminded to wear dark socks and in all cases you are reminded to wear black shoes. Please bear in mind that if you are not dressed as the regulations require you are likely to be prevented from being presented for your degree in person.

Gowns

  • Gowns and hoods should be hired from:
    Shepherd and Woodward Ltd
    109 – 113 High Street
    Oxford
    OX1 4BT
    Telephone: 01865 249 491
    Email: enquiries@shepwood.co.uk
  • Gowns/hoods that have been pre-paid for will be delivered to the College. If you have not paid for your gown/hood you will need to collect it yourself from Shepherd and Woodward.
  • A member of staff will assist you with your gown in College, and will help you put on your new gown/hood outside the Sheldonian during the ceremony.
  • After the official proceedings are over (the ceremony if not attending the reception, or after the reception) you can return your hired gown to the Lodge (bagged and labelled) and we will return it to Shepherd and Woodward on your behalf. If you wish to return it yourself, this must be done no later than 5:30pm on the Monday following the ceremony.

Non-Christian Formula

If you are attending a degree ceremony to receive your MA, DD, DCL, DM or MCh, you should be aware that the standard wording for admission to these degrees by the Vice-Chancellor uses a specifically Christian formula. An alternative, non-Christian formula is available on request. If you wish to be admitted with the non-Christian formula, please select this option on the booking form.

Mobility/Special Arrangements

Note from the Sheldonian Theatre regarding mobility difficulties:

  • We are able to find space on the ground floor for guests who will be seated in their wheelchairs during degree ceremonies, and if space permits will always seat other guests in the same party nearby. There is usually also a small number of seats available on that floor for guests who have difficulty with the stairs.
  • We are however unable to allow advance reservations for any of these seats. Varying numbers of students graduating and types of degrees taken on any particular day make this an unworkable option.
  • Guests in wheelchairs will be directed by the Security staff on the gate to the South doors facing the Divinity School, where there is a ramp. Such guests will find access to the Theatre precincts most convenient by the ramped gate next to the Museum of the History of Science.
  • Parties where one or more of the guests have difficulties with stairs should join the queue at either Door B or D and explain to the steward on the door that they would like ground floor seating if available.

Degree Certificates

Degree certificates will be distributed by the Dean in college after the ceremony (with the exception of all ceremonies in late-July, when certificates will be posted after the event). If for any reason you do not intend to come to the degree reception you must nevertheless return to college after the ceremony to collect your certificate. Certificates will only be distributed to the new graduates themselves and will not under any circumstances be released to relatives or friends.

  • Graduands whose degrees have been conferred in absentia will have their certificates posted to them shortly after their ceremony date.
  • The name which you held when you completed your degree (were granted 'leave to supplicate') will be the name on your degree certificate and degree confirmation letter. The only retrospective changes that can be made are where an administrative error has occurred or where the University is required to make a retrospective change under the provisions of the Gender Recognition Act 2004.
  • If you have changed your name following completion of your course of study, (for example, through marriage, or by Deed Poll), and wish to demonstrate to a prospective employer or education institution that your degree certificate or confirmation letter belongs to you, supporting documentation showing the name change should accompany the certificate.
  • If for any reason you do not receive your certificate or a current certificate is lost or damaged, then degree certificates can be obtained from the University.

Degree Transcripts

For students who commenced their studies in and after Michaelmas term 2007, transcripts can be requested via the University website.

For students who commenced their studies prior to 2007, transcript requests should be directed to the Academic Office. Please email or call 01865 276379.

Oxford MAs

The status of Master of Arts is a mark of seniority within the University which may be conferred twenty-one terms after matriculation.

You are eligible provided you kept the requisite number of terms in residence and have had your name on the books for the full period. Thus, those who took schools in 2011 or 2012 became eligible for their MAs in Trinity Term 2015. Those with Senior Status qualify in their 18th term. Holders of undergraduate master's degrees obtain the same privileges (but not the same academic dress) as MAs in the term when they would have qualified for the MA had they read for the BA.

  • You must have had your BA or BFA conferred in order to take your MA (you are not eligible to take an MA if your undergraduate degree is an Oxford integrated Master’s degree).
  • The Oxford MA allows you to reach a new status within the University and is not an upgrade of your BA or an additional qualification. It therefore has no subject or class. The University does not issue degree confirmation letters or ECTS statements as proof of your MA. Please use your degree certificate as evidence of this award.
  • Obtaining an Oxford MA is not an automatic process and you must apply to graduate at a degree ceremony (either in person or in absentia). Oxford MAs can be conferred at the same ceremony as your BA provided that sufficient time has elapsed since you matriculated.
  • You should book for a degree ceremony as an historic student.
  • The University charges a £40 fee for all MA conferrals/certificates. You will not be permitted to graduate for the MA until payment is received. Payment must be made online by following the instructions which will be emailed to you a month before your ceremony.

Verification of University Qualifications

If you have not yet taken your degree at a degree ceremony, but need confirmation that you are entitled to your degree, the University can supply you with a letter confirming your status.

Graduates' Rights

All graduates of Merton are life members of the Merton Society. Notification of the annual Merton Society Weekend is given each year, usually with Postmaster and the Merton Record. It usually takes place after 9th week in Trinity Term and is attended by some 80 to 100 members.

Matriculated members of the University who have taken their degrees (i.e. been through the ceremony in person or in absence) are members of Convocation and as such have the right to vote for the Chancellor (an office for life) and the Professor of Poetry (every four years in Trinity Term: next election 2019). Please contact the University Card office to register to vote: university.card@ox.ac.uk.

Dining Rights

Merton MAs and Mertonian holders of any higher Oxford degree may dine up to six times a year at their own expense at the Common Table of the Warden and Fellows (High Table). The Governing Body welcomes the exercise of this right by its old members and on Common Room nights invites them to Dessert after dinner as its guests (usually Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday during Full Term). Please notify the Lodge Porter before 10:00am on the day you are dining (before 9:30am on Friday if you are dining on Saturday or Sunday):

Email: mclodge@merton.ox.ac.uk
Telephone : 01865 276310

The dress code on Sunday evenings during Full Term is Black Tie. You should also state whether you require a vegetarian or special-diet meal, and, if dining on a Common Room night, whether you will be staying for Dessert. Except on Sundays in Full Term, dinner begins at 7:15pm sharp and those dining gather in the Queen's Room (or the Upper Bursary outside term) from 7:00pm. On Sundays in Full Term, dinner is at 7:30pm. Gowns are worn in Hall during Full Term and MA gowns can usually be borrowed from the Porters' Lodge.

FAQs

What should I wear?

Full academic dress must be worn at degree ceremonies, including a mortar board or soft-cap, and your preferred sub fusc. Members of the University serving in HM Forces are permitted to wear dress uniform together with a gown. The cap must be removed when in the Sheldonian Theatre.

You may be refused admission to the degree ceremony if you are not properly dressed.

How do I hire a gown?

Gowns are normally hired from Shepherd and Woodward Ltd, 109 – 113 High Street, Oxford, OX1 4BT, telephone 01865 249 491, email enquiries@shepwood.co.uk.

My surname has changed, will my new surname be on my degree certificate?

The name which you held when you completed your degree (were granted 'leave to supplicate') will be the name on your degree certificate and degree confirmation letter.

The only retrospective changes that can be made are where an administrative error has occurred or where the University is required to make a retrospective change under the provisions of the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

Can I book accommodation at Merton College?

We regret that we are unable to offer accommodation to graduands and/or their guests.

Is parking available?

We are unable to provide parking at Merton College.  If you do travel by car, please note that parking in the city centre is very limited. We recommend that you use one of the Park and Ride car parks on the outskirts of the city centre. Journey times from these car parks to the centre of Oxford vary, but are normally between twelve and eighteen minutes depending on the time of day.

Are there any mobility/special arrangements available?

Details of arrangements for the Sheldonian Theatre can be found under Further information.

Please contact Merton College for details of arrangements that can be made there.

Can I have my photograph taken at the ceremony/reception?

We have been asked by the University Marshal to advise candidates attending degree ceremonies that the official degree-day photographers are located within the quadrangle and that photographers who operate outside the railings of the quadrangle do so without the permission of the University authorities.

The degree ceremony will be recorded and graduands/families/guests are able to purchase a DVD of the ceremony; details are published in the programme issued at the ceremony.

A photographer from Gillman & Soame will be present at Merton College should you wish to have photographs taken in this setting during the reception held after the ceremony. You can pre-register online or complete a form on the day.

Is it possible for guests to take photographs during the graduation ceremony?

Guests are allowed to take photographs without flash, and use a video camera without an additional light source inside the Sheldonian. Official photographers will be based inside the Sheldonian quadrangle following the ceremony, where you may purchase a copy of your ceremony on DVD or graduation memorabilia from the Oxford University Shop.

Are animals allowed at the ceremony/reception?

Only guide dogs are permitted inside the Sheldonian Theatre and at Merton College.

Please contact the Degree Conferrals team for details of arrangements to be made at the Sheldonian Theatre.

Please contact Merton College for details of arrangements that can be made there.

Will I be able to amend the details of my booking?

On-course students will be able to amend their details, excluding the ceremony date, up until 30 days before their chosen ceremony. After that date you should contact Merton College directly.

Historic students should contact Merton College directly.

What if I cannot attend a degree ceremony on the dates I have been offered?

You may choose either to graduate in absence or to decline and complete a booking form selecting the next suitable date. If you select decline, it is unlikely that you will be able to graduate for at least a calendar year, because the degree ceremonies run on a cyclical basis and are allocated to capacity.

Can I book a place at a ceremony if I have not completed my degree?

Taught students in their final year of studies will receive an invitation to book a ceremony. Students on taught courses, who are not in their final year, will not be able to book a place until the start of their final year.

Research students will not be able to book a ceremony until they have been granted leave to supplicate.

Students will not be able to attend a ceremony if:

  • they have not passed all required examinations; or
  • they have outstanding battels; or
  • they have outstanding library fees.

Do I need to pay anything for graduation?

For the ceremony itself you will only pay a £40 fee if you are having your MA conferred: payment must be made to secure your MA by following the instructions which will be emailed to you a month before your ceremony.

For all graduands, if you would like to attend the reception at Merton College after your degree ceremony there is a cost of £12.50 per guest.

Is there anything that can prevent me from graduating?

The conferral of your degree is conditional on the passing of all required examinations. If you have any debts or dues outstanding to your college or the University you may not be permitted to graduate.

If you are a research student, you must also submit a library hardcopy and an electronic copy of your thesis at least five days before the degree ceremony.

How do I request the non-Christian formula?

If you are attending a degree ceremony to receive your MA, DD, DCL, DM or MCh, you should be aware that the standard wording for admission to these degrees by the Vice-Chancellor uses a Christian formula. An alternative, non-Christian formula is available on request.

If you wish to be admitted with the non-Christian formula, please select this option on the booking form.

How do I obtain my degree certificate?

Graduands attending in person will receive their degree certificate from the Dean who will be present at Merton College after the ceremony (with the exception of ceremonies in late-July, when certificates will be posted after the event).

Graduands choosing to have their degree conferred in absentia will have their certificate sent to them by recorded post.

If you have already had your degree conferred, but did not receive a certificate following the ceremony, or your certificate has been lost, destroyed, damaged or stolen, visit the degree certificates page.

Can I have a degree certificate before the graduation ceremony?

Your degree must be conferred at a graduation ceremony before a degree certificate can be issued.  If you need proof of your degree before the ceremony, please order a degree confirmation letter.

Can more than one degree be conferred at the same ceremony?

Yes, but only one of your degrees will be conferred in person; the remainder will be conferred in absentia. You may also have multiple degrees conferred in absence at the same ceremony.

I have been invited to a ceremony for my most recently awarded degree but I have a previous Oxford degree which has not been conferred. Can I graduate for each one separately?

You may attend for your most recent degree and have the others conferred in absence at the same ceremony. If you would like to attend a ceremony in person for each of your degrees, you must decline the invitation for your most recent degree and contact your college.

When do graduates become eligible for the MA?

The status of Master of Arts is a mark of seniority within the University which may be conferred twenty-one terms after matriculation. This is not an automatic process and to obtain your MA you must apply to graduate at a degree ceremony (either in person or in absentia).

You must have had your BA or BFA conferred in order to take your MA. They can be conferred at the same ceremony provided that sufficient time has elapsed since you matriculated. You should book a degree ceremony through your college. You are not eligible to take an MA if your undergraduate degree is an Oxford integrated Master’s degree (MBiochem, MChem, MEng, MMath etc).

The Oxford MA allows you to reach a new status within the University and is not an upgrade of your BA or an additional qualification. It therefore has no subject or class. The University does not issue degree confirmation letters or ECTS statements as proof of your MA. Please use your degree certificate as evidence of this award.

How many guest tickets can I have for the ceremony, and is there a dress code for  guests?

If requested, we will reserve up to three guest spaces for the ceremony at the Sheldonian Theatre for you. You need to complete the relevant section on the booking form.

There is no formal dress code, however most guests dress for a formal occasion.

Children aged seven and over are welcome to attend the ceremony, and they will require a ticket if they occupy their own seat. 

How many guest tickets can I have for the reception at Merton College, and is there a dress code for guests?

If requested, we will reserve up to three guest spaces for the reception at a cost of £12.50 per guest. You need to complete the relevant section on the booking form.

Payment must be made online to secure your reservations at least two weeks prior to the ceremony by following the link which will be emailed to you a month before your ceremony. You will not be able to reserve spaces after this time and guest spaces will be cancelled if payment is not received by this time.

There is no formal dress code, however most guests dress for a formal occasion.

Children aged seven and over are welcome to attend the reception but will need their own ticket.

How can friends and family watch the ceremony if they don’t have a ticket?

For friends and family who do not have a guest ticket, live streaming of the ceremony will be available via the livestream.com website. Just select the correct date and time of your ceremony; the live stream will start a few minutes before the ceremony begins.

Following the ceremony, you may buy a copy of your ceremony on DVD. The live ceremony streams will not be published so cannot be viewed after the event. Details of how to purchase the DVD are available in the ceremony programme.