Saturday, October 16, 2010


Today the ancient traditions of Oxford were on full display.  The streets were filled with new students in their sub fusc for matriculation.  “Matriculation” in Oxford-speak is the ceremony whereby students gain official membership of the University of Oxford.  Before today, each student was only a member of their respective college.  However, once a student “matriculates” they then become a member of the University of Oxford for life.  Matriculated students will always be able to access the Oxford libraries and allowed to vote in the election of the Chancellor.  By matriculating, students become part of the University of Oxford along with the other students that have done so over the course of the previous eight hundred years.

Matriculation dates back to the medieval requirement that every Regent Master should keep a register.  These were the Masters of Arts who taught undergraduates and who formed the main ruling body of the University.  The register established who were the “real” students and deserving of the University’s protection in the frequent “town versus gown” fights.  It also established a record of a student’s progress through their courses.  In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, once the colleges began to admit undergraduates, matriculation became a formal university ceremony.

For new students (known as “freshers”), attendance at the matriculation ceremony is compulsory.  If you do not matriculate, you can never graduate.  The dress code for matriculation is extremely important and rigorously enforced.  Pursuant to University regulations, the required dress for matriculation is sub fusc.  For men, this requires a dark suit, dark socks and black footwear, a white shirt, white collar and white bow tie, a mortar board and gown.

Me in full sub fusc.  Most students buy their cap, gown, and bow tie from local retailers.  However, my bow tie was extra special because it was given to me by a client before I left Texas.  Thanks again Golly, Amy, Julia, and Luci!
All students matriculate with their college.  I started my day by meeting with the other Kellogg freshers at 9:30 AM, where I signed the official Kellogg College register.
We then all walked together to the Examination Schools, where the ceremony took place.
And then we waited...
As the undergrads who had already finished their ceremony partied New Orleans-style from their balconies...complete with bottles of wine and champagne at 10:30 AM!
Several matriculation ceremonies are held throughout the day, with several colleges matriculating at each ceremony.  The heads of the colleges sit at the front of the hall, while the students stand on two sides of the room separated by a center aisle.  Once the ceremony starts, the Vice Chancellor of the University (complete with silver scepter) enters down the the aisle.  The college heads then bow to the Vice Chancellor and ask him in Latin to admit the students from their college to the University.  The Vice Chancellor then replies, "Scitote vos in Matriculam Universitatis hodie relatos esse, et ad observandum omnia Statuta istius Universitatis, quantum ad vos spectent, teneri" (Know that you are today added to the Roll of the University and bound to obey all the statutes of this University so far as they apply to you).  Then the Vice Chancellor gives a short speech (in English, thankfully) and the students are dismissed.  The entire ceremony takes less than fifteen minutes.
Luckily, I was on the very front row so I got to see and hear all of the action.  Photography was prohibited, but I was able to sneak a quick photo.
After the ceremony, we all headed back to Kellogg College for a group photo of the Fightin' Roos.
Getting everyone organized for the picture was a painfully long I took the opportunity to exhibit some of my stand-up comedy skills.
Fiona is the other Law and Finance student in Kellogg College.  She is from Ireland and one of the funniest people I have ever met.  Also, her boyfriend Collin is a professional chef so Leah and I are working hard on an invitation to dinner.
At long last, I was able to meet up with my personal photographer, cheering section and beautiful wife!


  1. I will be starting at Kellogg this Fall, and your blog has been really helpful. I hope I have the strength of character to keep one myself while at Oxford!

  2. Congratulations, Idris, on your acceptance to Kellogg. It is truly a great place to study (and has the best college food in Oxford)!

  3. I am so honored to be part of the Kellogg College community! I've never been to the UK and I hope I will be able to adjust quickly.

  4. Awesome post, really enjoyed it. I got accepted for the Trinity/April term through Kellogg college as well. Can't wait for the matriculation ceremony, didn't even know there was such thing! I thought there would only be a ceremony to graduate :)

  5. great post, not a lot of info in regards this, I will be attending mine this year!

  6. does kellogg college really have the best college food, or is that just the joke that i've heard a lot about how they must have a lot of cereal (because of kellogg cereals...)?

  7. Hehe! I've just finished at Kellogg and have eaten at Christ Church, Worcester and Keble and the food at Kellogg is the best by far.

    I've heard that it's because the Fellows at Kellogg eat the same food as the students and therefore influence the quality of the food on offer. Fellows in other colleges do not eat the same food or eat with the students.

    I shall be commencing my DPhil at Keble next year. I wonder if they'll let me call back to Kellogg every now and then for some good food :-).

  8. "Matriculated students will always be able to access the Oxford libraries"
    SO not true. They take away your Bod card and that is that

  9. The Harrells are correct they can access the libraries as alumni - the Bod's website says:

    "On behalf of the Bodleian Libraries, I am delighted to extend an invitation to all our Oxford Alumni to enjoy the services and resources featured on these pages. This includes continued access to the reading rooms in Oxford, along with the opportunity to attend our exhibitions, lectures, seminars and other events featured throughout the year. As part of our commitment to lifelong learning, it also gives us great pleasure to extend access to a number of online journals and databases for Oxford Alumni to access remotely, anywhere and at any time, free of charge."