A Day in the life of an Oxford University degree day at the Sheldonian Theatre

posted on Friday 6 May


On Saturday the 7 May, hopefully in bright sunshine, the Sheldonian will play host to two degree ceremonies. The Theatre holds around 30 ceremonies a year with approximately 7000 students graduating.

Before 1669, the University Graduations were conducted at St Mary the Virgin Church on the High Street but became too rowdy for such a venue. Gilbert Sheldon commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to design a purpose built graduation venue and graduations have been held here ever since.

Oxford University degree ceremonies are steeped in centuries of tradition. It begins with a procession which is led by the Bedels (administration officials) of Arts, Medicine, Law and Divinity followed by the Vice Chancellor with the senior and junior proctors behind. Proctors ensure the University operates according to its statutes. The ceremony is conducted almost entirely in Latin and the robes worn by academics and Graduands are very similar to those worn for many centuries. The Graduands are presented to the Vice Chancellor by the Dean of Degrees for their college; they then leave the building to change out of their old robes into their new ones to be presented once again to rapturous applause!

Three Women Celebrating their DPhils outside the Sheldonian Theatre

Credit: OU images

Famous faces at ceremonies include Bill and Hilary Clinton, Robert Redford and Ruby Wax.

Degrees are very special for all involved; everyone working at the Theatre takes great care to ensure the smooth running of these special days. Seeing the pride and joy on families’ faces makes it all worthwhile.

Students celebrating being awarded their BAs outside the Sheldonian Theatre

Credit: OU images

As the official ceremonial hall of Oxford University, the Theatre makes a great venue for award days and other formal presentations. Drinks receptions after such an event can be organised in one of our other nearby venues. Do contact us today to find out more.