Blue (university sport)

Blue (university sport)

A Blue is an award earned by sportsmen and women at a university and some schools for competition at the highest level. The awarding of Blues began at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. It is found at British, Australian and New Zealand universities.



The first sporting contest between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge was held on 4 June 1827 when a two-day cricket match at Lord's, organized by Charles Wordsworth, nephew of William, resulted in a draw. There is however no record of any university "colours" being worn during the game.[1][2]

At the first Boat Race in 1829, the Oxford crew was dominated by students of Christ Church, whose college colours were dark blue. They thus wore white shirts with dark blue stripes, while Cambridge wore white with a pink or scarlet sash. At the second race, in 1836, a light blue ribbon was attached to the front of the Cambridge boat, probably as it was the colour of Eton. These colours — light blue for Cambridge, and dark blue for Oxford — became the official colours of the two boat clubs, and through the rivalry of the Boat Race became inextricably linked with the universities and contests between the two.[1][3]

University of Cambridge

Sportsmen and women at the University of Cambridge may be awarded a Full Blue (or simply a Blue), Half Blue, First Team Colours or Second Team Colours for competing at the highest level of university sport, which must include being in a Varsity match or race against the University of Oxford. A Full Blue is the highest honour that may be bestowed on a Cambridge sportsman or woman, and is a much-coveted and prestigious prize. In general, the Full Blue standard is approximately that of being successful at a national level of student competition, and the Half Blue standard is that of being successful at county or regional level.


Once light blue had been chosen as the colour of Cambridge's Boat Club, the other university sport clubs followed suit, though out of courtesy would request permission from the Boat Club before awarding such a "Blue". In the 1860s the three senior sports — rowing, cricket and athletics — were awarding Blues, and the presidents of each formed an informal "Blues Committee" to oversee such awards. By 1880 a number of smaller clubs involved in Varsity matches had successfully requested the right to award "Half Blues".[1]

Awarding process

The criteria for awarding blues are different for men and women. Awards are made at the discretion of the men's and women's Blues Committees. The Men's Blues Committee is formed from one representative of each of the Full Blue sports, and the Women's from one representative of each of the Full Blue and Half Blue sports. Each committee meets frequently to discuss issues relating to Cambridge sport.

In some sports with Full Blue status, the varsity match second team is awarded Second Team Colours.

In spite of claims by the Cambridge University Tiddlywinks Club, there is officially no such thing as a 'quarter blue', though as a stance against the often perceived elitism of the culture of 'bluism' quarter blue scarves and apparel are produced.

The awarding of a Full Blue often requires a person to fulfil a number of requirements in the same academic year, particularly in sports with Discretionary Full Blue status. If, for whatever reason, an exceptional sportsman or woman is of or above Full Blue standard but does not fulfil all the requirements for the 'automatic' award of a Full Blue in any given year, the committee then has the authority to grant an Extraordinary Full Blue to that person subject to scrutiny of the particular case. The individual's case must be presented to the Blues Committee in person and must be backed up by substantial evidence and references. The award is unlikely to be made unless the person is of world-class or at least international standard.

Each sport has specific criteria for each award; details of the individual criteria for women's sports can be found here, and are summarised below.

Categorisation of men's sports

Full Blue - whole team
Boxing, Cricket, Field Hockey, Football, Golf, Lawn Tennis, Rowing, Rugby Union, Squash
Full Blue (some) / Half Blue (rest)
Athletics, Basketball, Cross Country, Rugby league, Swimming
Discretionary Full Blue
Badminton, Canoeing, Cycling, Dancesport, Fencing, Judo, Karate, Lacrosse, Modern Pentathlon, Orienteering, Rifle Shooting (small-bore and full-bore), Sailing, Skiing, Water Polo, Real Tennis
Half Blue
Archery, Australian Rules Football, Eton and Rugby Fives, Gymnastics, Chess, Ice Hockey, Korfball, Lightweight Rowing, Mountain Biking, Pistol Shooting, Polo, Powerlifting, Rackets, Association Croquet, Riding, Rifle Shooting (small-bore and full-bore), Table Tennis, Volleyball, Windsurfing, Ultimate Frisbee and Yachting
Currently undecided / under review
Gaelic football

Categorisation of women's sports

Full Blue - whole team
Fencing, Football, Hockey, Lacrosse, Lawn tennis, Netball, Rowing, Rugby union, Squash
Full Blue (some) / Half Blue (rest)
Athletics, Cricket, Dancesport, Modern pentathlon, Swimming, Volleyball, Basketball
Discretionary Full Blue
Badminton, Cross-country, Cycling, Gymnastics, Judo, Karate, Orienteering, Rifle shooting (full-bore), Sailing, Skiing, Volleyball, Boxing, Real Tennis
Half Blue
Archery, Canoeing, Canoe polo, Cricket, Eton Fives, Gliding, Golf, Ice hockey, Korfball, Lifesaving, Lightweight rowing, Orienteering, Association Croquet, Pistol shooting, Riding, Rifle shooting (small-bore), Taekwondo, Trampolining, Triathlon, Windsurfing, Waterpolo, Ultimate, Yachting
Currently undecided / under review
Table tennis, Windsurfing


Cambridge University Half Blue blazer and bow tie.

The winner of a Blue or Half Blue is entitled to wear a blues blazer, which is one of the most recognisable and distinctive garments associated with Cambridge University. Full Blue blazers are completely coloured Cambridge Blue. Half Blue blazers have a number of different designs, depending on the wearer's sport; a typical design is an off-white blazer with Cambridge blue lapels and trimmings. There is a variety of other Blue and Half Blue paraphernalia, including scarves, ties, pullovers, bow ties, caps and squares. Such items are worn with pride.

As of May 2011, the colour recognized officially by the University as Cambridge Blue actually has a slight green tint.[4]

Hawks' Club/Ospreys

Men holding Blues, Half Blues or Second Team Colours in a Full Blue sport are eligible to join the Hawks' Club. Women holding any of these awards are eligible to join The Ospreys, which was founded in 1985.[5]

University of Oxford


At Oxford University the committees for awarding Blues and Half Blues works on much the same principles as the Cambridge committees. The principal difference between the two men’s committees is that at Oxford all Captains, regardless of their status as Full, Discretionary or Half Blue must attend meetings of the Committee. Until recently the voting was broken up according to Blues status with Full Blue Captains being allowed to vote on all matters while all the other Captains could only vote on matters directly relating to Half Blue Sports. In Michaelmas Term 2006 the committee finally allowed Discretionary Full Blue Captains the right to vote on matters directly relating to Discretionary Full Blue Sports. This has ended many years of inequality for Discretionary Full Blue status Captains and was largely welcomed by the committee.

The committees are administered by an elected President and Secretary who serve one year. Unlike in Cambridge where the President of Cambridge University Boat Club holds the position, in Oxford any Captain can be elected President, regardless of sport or status.

The role of the President is to call and serve as Chair of any meeting of the committee, of which there are normally 3 per year (6 for the women). They also serve as the representative of the committee and sit on the University Sports Strategy Committee and the Executive Committee of the Sports Federation. Both Presidents along with the Director of Sport represent Oxford at any meetings of a Joint Blues Committee held with Cambridge. The purpose of the Joint Blues Committee is to discuss issues of eligibility for the Varsity match and to settle any disputes between the sporting communities of the two universities.

Oxford University, Oxford University Rifle Club Half Blue blazer and tie

The current executive of the two committees [1] are:

Oxford University Men’s Blues Committee

  • President: Thomas Bloomfield (Modern Pentathlon, Exeter)
  • Secretary: Vit Sipal (Judo, Balliol)

Oxford University Women’s Blues Committee

  • President: Rhian Price (Netball, SEH)
  • Secretary: Ann Hyams (Swimming, St John's)

Both Committees share a common Senior Member. The post currently being held by the Director of Sport Jon Roycroft.


The colour of an Oxford Full Blue blazer is dark blue. The Oxford Half Blue blazer can be one of two designs. Either it is composed of thick vertical stripes of dark blue and off-white, as in the image to the right, or it can be dark blue, as the Full Blue blazer, with two white stripes above the club badge on the left breast.


The club for Oxford Blues is Vincent’s Club, although it is not restricted to Blues. Atalantas is a club for sportswomen at Oxford, and also is not restricted to Blues.

Other similar awards

University of Bristol

The University of Bristol awards 'Bristol Reds' to students who have produced exceptional performance in their respective sports at a level of achievement and commitment beyond that normally associated with University first team play. Though not absolutely necessary, this can be demonstrated by performances or honours beyond student level.

Cardiff University

Cardiff University awards 'Colours' to students who play at county level (Half Colours) or a national level (Full Colours). The student must demonstrate selection/participation in a national side to be awarded Full Colours, and similar with Half Colours. Half Colours can also be awarded for an exceptional contribution to that sports club.

Durham University

The University of Durham awards Palatinates to its sportsmen or women who demonstrate two or more of the following qualities: 'Ability of a High Standard' (international representation), 'Service to a Club' and 'Attitude and Commitment'. The award is called a 'Palatinate' rather than a 'Blue' because Palatinate (a shade of purple) is the historical colour of the university.

Some Durham colleges independently award College Colours, for sporting prowess at a college level.

University of Dublin

The University of Dublin awards Pinks to students at Trinity College who compete at international level, as well as with their college club. A captains' committee, consisting of the captain of each club currently affiliated to the university's Central Athletic Club, meets biannually to elect new Pinks. There are no half-Colours awarded.

The Pinks scarf is plain light-pink, and the tie is navy-blue with a pattern of pink crowned harps, the design for the Blazer is currently lost.

Election to Pink status is extremely difficult, as participation on a first team is not sufficient; one must also compete at international level.

Sporting clubs for elite sportsmen and women also exist at the University of Dublin: the Dublin University Knights of the Campanile for men, and the Dublin University Heraeans for women. However, membership of these social clubs is by no means restricted to holders of the Pink and entry is secret with unknown criteria.

University of London

The University of London awards Purples and Half Purples for competition at the highest level of university sport, in a similar way to Oxford and Cambridge Blues. These are taken to be the equivalent of Blues at other universities.

University of Manchester

The University of Manchester awards Maroons and Half Maroons for competition at the highest level of university sport, in a similar way to Oxford and Cambridge Blues.

The Robert Gordon University

The Robert Gordon University awards Blues and Half Blues in a similar manner to the above universities. the awards are given during the annual blues ball awards ceremony hosted at RGU: SPORT. The award of a Blue allows a medal to be worn with graduation gowns. Another set of awards, the Scarlets and Half Scarlets are awarded to students for non-sporting achievements (e.g. societies) with an equivalent standard required to achieve them.

University of Warwick

The University of Warwick awards Colours and Half Colours for competition at the highest level of university sport, in a similar way to Oxford and Cambridge Blues. These are taken to be the equivalent of Blues at other universities.

'Blues' in Australia

At some universities a Blue is an award given to an individual by the Sports Union or Association of the university for outstanding achievement at a national or international level. Typically the recipient must have achieved a medal winning performance at national or international university competition level or must have won a Gold medal at a regional level.

Australian National University

The Australian National University in Canberra, Australia awards Blues and Half Blues in this way.

University of Canberra

The University of Canberra in Canberra, Australia awards Blues and Half Blues to students that show outstanding achievement in sporting pursuits at a national or international level.

University of Adelaide

The University of Adelaide in Adelaide, South Australia awards a Blue, Half Blue and Club Letters in a similar fashion for outstanding sporting achievement.

University of Sydney

The University of Sydney in Sydney, New South Wales awards Blues for outstanding sporting achievement. Blues are nominated in October at the conclusion of the annual university sporting calendar and the successful nominees are presented with their Blues at the Annual Blues Dinner. Blues earn the right to wear the Blues jacket in the traditional stripes of Blue and Gold with the Sydney University Shield.

The University of Western Australia

The University of Western Australia in Western Australia awards Blues and Half Blues to students as well as club members for outstanding sporting achievement.

See also

  • Hawks' Club – social club for men holding a Cambridge Full Blue, Half Blue or Second Team Colours
  • Rugby League Varsity Match – annual rugby league match between Oxford and Cambridge
  • The Boat Race
  • The Colours Match – annual rugby union match between University College Dublin and Trinity College, Dublin
  • The University Match – annual cricket match between Oxford and Cambridge
  • The Varsity Match – annual rugby union match between Oxford and Cambridge
  • Varsity letter – similar award granted by schools in the United States
  • Vincent's Club – social club for men consisting of Full Blues, Half Blues and others of appropriate character at the University of Oxford


External links

Cambridge University
Oxford University
Other universities

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