Undergraduate gowns in Scotland

Undergraduate gowns are a notable feature of academic dress for students at the ancient universities in Scotland.

The most famous form of Scottish undergraduate dress is the red or scarlet gown. It is differenced slightly according to the university at which it is worn. These gowns are worn by students of the Universities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and St Andrews (United College only).

The red gown


It is likely that pre-Reformation undergraduates would have worn a black "supertunica" in common with students at all European universities of the time. By the latter part of James VI's reign, this had formalised into scarlet. Traditionally, the red colour was symbolic of a lower status, and was particularly visible. Popular legend at the universities in question often explains this in terms of discipline: the visible identification with the university being a deterrent to entering local brothels and taverns [ [http://www.ciao.co.uk/St_Andrews_University__Review_61883 St. Andrews University - Review - Fantastic four years - rewritten ] ]

In his work, "A tour thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain", Daniel Defoe notes the presence of the gowns at the Universities of Glasgow and St Andrews in the early 18th century, but also their absence at Edinburgh.

In reference to the University of Glasgow::"Here is a principal, with regents and professors in every science, as there is at Edinburgh, and the scholars wear gowns, which they do not at Edinburgh. Their gowns here are red, but the Masters of Arts, and professors, wear black gowns, with a large cape of velvet to distinguish them." [ [http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/text/chap_page.jsp;jsessionid=827F1E8A67FC0AB848C3F490F819B765?t_id=Defoe&c_id=38 Vision of Britain | Daniel Defoe | Letter 12, Part 2: Glasgow and central Scotland ] ]

In reference to the University of St Andrews::"the students wear gowns here of a scarlet-like colour, but not in grain, and are very numerous" [ [http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/text/chap_page.jsp?t_id=Defoe&c_id=39 Vision of Britain | Daniel Defoe | Letter 13, Part 1: Fife and Perth ] ]

At the University of Aberdeen, the gown (or "toga rubra") has had varied fortunes over the years. During one of the slumps in its use in 1885 it was noted that fewer than one-quarter of students wore it and that its wear was largely restricted to arts students at King's College. Regulations existed compelling gown-wearing amongst students, although were rarely enforced. In 1888, a plebcite was organised at King's by the Students' Representative Council, which continued to support compulsion by 258 votes to 32, and was recognised by the University's Senate. [R.D. Anderson, "The Student Community at Aberdeen 1860-1939"(Aberdeen University Press, 1988), pp.47-48] This was to little avail, with the gown still not becoming universal as it had been previously, and remaining subject to fashion. In the 1850s, Sir George Reid painted an image of an Aberdeen student in the gown, entitled "Salve Toga Rubra". [http://www.abdn.ac.uk/virtualmuseum/pictures_show2.php?prefix=ABDUA&num=30706&firstview=true&mt=not&sign=&viewnumber=&resultsperpage=18&termscount=1&listofterms [0] =]

The "toga" was criticised as being unsuited to the climate of Aberdeen. When worn, it was considered proper amongst the students to be old and worn. A tradition of 'gown-tearing' by older students to new 'bajans' (first years) therefore developed. [R.D. Anderson, "op. cit.", p.13] Opposition to the gown was also evident, during a 1922 attempt to build 'Varsity Spirit', an anti-gown group was formed to protest at its restoration to prominence. In 1924, their views were aired in the university newspaper, stating:::"when we leave the gates of King's we become citizens of Aberdeen in this year of grace 1924, and we ought to dress as such. We ought to do nothing which might serve to separate or to alienate us from the general body the citizens' [R.D. Anderson, "op. cit.", p.89]


The undergraduate gown has lost popularity at different times in the different universities. The requirements of town residence made it impractical, however the more isolated locations of Aberdeen and St Andrews (and by extension, Dundee) ensured a longer heritage.

At present, the gowns are most commonly a feature associated with the University of St Andrews. They are only very rarely found in everyday usage at the other institutions, although are still occasionally seen worn by debaters, societies, student representatives, choirs and attendees at formal events and chapel services. It is perhaps most commonly seen at academic ceremonies, particularly in relation to the installation of a new Rector.

The undergraduate style influences several gowns of office, particularly for members of Students' Representative Councils and Rectors.



The colour of gowns is rarely defined precisely, however the University of Dundee and the University of St Andrews set the correct colour as "Union Jack red" [ [http://www.somis.dundee.ac.uk/calendar/senate/dress.htm University of Dundee: Electronic Calendar ] ] (BCC210).


There are several differences between the gowns at the various universities, including:
* Aberdeen - The gown is shorter than others and is often referred to as a 'toga'.
* Dundee - The yoke and collar of the gown is variously referred to as "Stewart blue" or "liturgical blue" and is associated with the city of Dundee's patron saint, Mary the Virgin. [http://www.dundee.ac.uk/pressoffice/grad99/procession.htm]
* Edinburgh - The gown is entirely scarlet.
* Glasgow - Permits a "narrow band of silk on the breast of each side of the gown of the colour of the hood-lining proper to the lowest degree in the Faculty" to adorn the gown. [http://senate.gla.ac.uk/calendar/cal2005/01-intro.pdf]
* St Andrews - the gown has a maroon yoke and collar. :The various colleges of St Andrews wear differing gowns; the distinction between United College and Queen's College existed even before the latter became independent as the University of Dundee. Today, the students of St Mary's College wear a simple black gown. The members of the non-statutory St Leonard's College are not entitled to wear the red gown as the college has no undergraduates amongst its number.

Gowns of office

Many universities also have gowns of office for their student representatives. These are often variants inspired by the red gown, often differenced by facings.

The Glasgow University Students' Representative Council executive uses wholly purple gowns. Full listings of gowns worn by the University of St Andrews Students' Association are available at the Academic dress of the University of St Andrews entry.

Other undergraduate gowns

* St Mary's College at the University of St Andrews (in effect, the faculty of divinity) uses plain black gowns for its undergraduates. The gown is described as being made of black stuff, knee length with short open sleeves and with a violet cross of St Andrew on the left facing. The colour of the cross corresponds to the material used for hoods in the Faculty of Divinity. Black lined with violet (MTheol) and Violet with the cowl and apron edged with white fur (BD).

ee also

* Academic dress
* Academic dress of the University of St Andrews

External links

* [http://www.somis.dundee.ac.uk/calendar/senate/dress.htm Academic dress of the University of Dundee]
* [http://senate.gla.ac.uk/calendar/cal2005/01-intro.pdf Academic dress of the University of Glasgow]


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ancient university governance in Scotland — The ancient university governance structure in Scotland is the organisational system imposed by the Universities (Scotland) Acts, a series of Acts of Parliament enacted between 1858 and 1966. The system is applied in the University of St Andrews …   Wikipedia

  • Academic dress — or academical dress is traditional clothing for academic settings, primarily tertiary and sometimes secondary education. It is also known as academicals and, in the United States, as academic regalia. Contemporarily, it is commonly seen only at… …   Wikipedia

  • Student gown — Student gowns are a form of academic dress worn by undergraduate students at a number of institutions:Ancient universities in the United Kingdom* Undergraduate gowns in Scotland (red gowns) ** Academic dress of the University of St… …   Wikipedia

  • Academic dress of the University of Edinburgh — The University of Edinburgh was founded in 1582.Use of academic dressAcademic dress is compulsory at official ceremonial occasions, such as graduation and the installations of Rector and Chancellor. As with the other ancient universities in… …   Wikipedia

  • University of Cambridge — Latin: Academia Cantabrigiensis Motto Hinc lucem et pocula sacra (Latin) Motto in English …   Wikipedia

  • University of St Andrews — Infobox University name = University of St Andrews native name = latin name = Universitas Sancti Andreae apud Scotos (University of St Andrew amongst the Scots) image size = 126px motto = ΑΙΕΝ ΑΡΙΣΤΕΥΕΙΝ (AIEN ARISTEUEIN) ( el. Ever To Be The… …   Wikipedia

  • Durham University — University of Durham Shield from the arms of Durham University Latin: Universitas Dunelmensis Motto Latin: Fundamenta eius super montibus sanctis …   Wikipedia

  • First professional degree — A professional degree prepares the holder for a particular profession by emphasizing competency skills along with theory and analysis. These professions are typically licensed or otherwise regulated by a governmental or government approved body.… …   Wikipedia

  • University of Derby — Established 1992 gained University Status 1851 Teacher Training College) Endowment £15.5m [1] …   Wikipedia

  • University of Oxford — Coordinates: 51°45′40″N 1°15′12″W / 51.7611°N 1.2534°W / 51.7611; 1.2534 …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.