University ceremonial events

Photo of Encaenia procession entering the Sheldonian Theatre


As you walk past, you may see staff and students dressed in their Oxford gowns, especially for Matriculation in Autumn and Graduation in the Summer. 

These events are not open to the public, but often muster intrigue as to what takes place. Read on to find out more.

The Sheldonian Theatre is the main venue for degree ceremonies, including Matriculation and Graduation.

Ceremonies are only for students and their families to attend. They take place throughout the academic year and include a number of traditions, such as proceedings conducted in Latin and how the students enter and leave the building.

The painted ceiling plays a symbolic part of Matriculation. Entitled Truth Descending upon the Arts and Sciences and comprising thirty-two panels, the painting depicts Truth triumphing over Envy, Rapine, and Ignorance - representing students joining the University to seek and source truth in their studies.  

For further information about attending degree ceremonies please visit the Oxford students website.

Photo of students in caps and gowns entering the Sheldonian Theatre for their degree ceremony


Encaenia is the annual ceremony at which the University of Oxford awards honorary degrees to men and woman who have made a significant contribution in their field. 

Derived from a Greek word, Encaenia is traditionally translated in St John’s Gospel as “festival of dedication.”

The Oxford Encaenia is steeped in history and is a surviving part of a more extensive ceremony called 'The Act'. This used to include ambitious musical works, often composed for the occasion, and traditional features such as a satirical speech, often scurrilous and sometimes scandalous, by an anonymous speaker known as Terrae Filius, 'Son of the Earth'.

The Act was originally held in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, a setting many people thought unsuitable. Such feeling prompted its move in 1670 to the Sheldonian Theatre.

It is an important event in the University calendar and is held on the Wednesday of the ninth week of Trinity Term.

To read more about Encaenia, visit the University website.


Photo of Encaenia procession leaving the Bodleian Library


The University has a clear governance structure consisting of Council and Congregation.

Congregation, the ultimate ‘governing parliament’ of the University, is composed of virtually all academic staff, certain research support staff, administrators and librarians. 

Meetings of Congregation take place throughout the year to discuss significant topics and issues affecting the University. 

Every year, the colleges of the University take their turn to elect two members of Congregation as Proctors and one member as an Assessor.

Proctors are the internal ombudsmen who make sure that the University and its members adhere to its statutes.

A Proctor’s role incorporates student discipline and welfare, as well as oversight of the University's proceedings.

The Assessor has a role of inquiry, often discharged by leading a working group or by conducting a project on a particular policy issue.

Together, they carefully scrutinise the University's governance and decision-making.

The annual inauguration ceremony of the new Proctors and Assessor is held at the Sheldonian Theatre.

The Chancellor’s Court of Benefactors meets annually in autumn to receive and discuss matters relating to the work of the University.

Created in 1991, membership of the Chancellor's Court of Benefactors is a distinction bestowed by the Chancellor, at the request of Council, on those who have made a major contribution to the development of the collegiate University.

A formal Ceremony of Admission welcomes new members to the Court.

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