Oxford students vote to continue traditional dress code for exams

Oxford students voted in favour of a centuries-old traditional exam dress code. Credit: Andrew Matthews / PA Archive/PA Images

Oxford University students have voted overwhelmingly against ending a centuries-old tradition of wearing gowns, suits and mortarboards to exams.

Some students had argued the formal black and white dress was "archaic", looked elitist and put pupils from state schools and poor backgrounds off from applying to the prestigious university.

But in a referendum held by Oxford University Student Union (OUSU), the student body voted overwhelmingly to keep the signature sartorial look for exams.

OUSU announced that 75.8% of students chose to keep it compulsory for students to wear the dark suits, shirts, bow ties and ribbons worn under a gown, known as subfusc, while 24.2% voted against it.

6,242 students or 78% voted to keep the gown and mortarboard compulsory while 22% or 1,759 students voted against.

Harrison Edmonds, a first year history student at University College who led the campaign to keep subfusc, said he was "delighted" with the result.

No matter your background, your race, class, gender, when you go into exams wearing the gown you are equal. The message I get from people from under-privileged or poor backgrounds is that they feel that having the ability to wear their gown makes them feel the equal of Etonians or Harrovians, and that is something they don't want taken away from them. >

Harrison Edmonds