It will mean men can attend formal occasions in skirts and stockings and women in suits and bow ties. The new rules come after a motion by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer society (LGBTQ Soc) was passed by the students’ union earlier this year. The changes, to start from 4 August, have now been agreed by the university.
Jess Pumphrey, LGBTQ officer, said the change would make a number of students’ exam experience significantly less stressful.
Under the old laws on academic clothing – known as subfusc – male students were required to wear a dark suit and socks, black shoes, a white bow tie and a plain white shirt and collar under their black gowns.
Female students had to wear a dark skirt or trousers, a white blouse, black stockings and shoes and a black ribbon tied in a bow at the neck.
If a transgender student wanted to wear subfusc of the opposite sex they had to seek special dispensation from university proctors, who had the power to punish those who breached the rules.
An Oxford University spokesman said: “The regulations have been amended to remove any reference to gender, in response to concerns raised by Oxford University Student Union that the existing regulations did not serve the interests of transgender students.”
Another ‘fustian’ university dress code is relaxed – in order to make trans-gender students more comfortable in the academic examination environment. This seems to be a good outcome from a protest made by trans-gender students, against their having to dress against their gender identity when taking university exams at Oxford.
This is a sign that the English Universities are open to change – in circumstances that are otherwise wedded to the outdated understanding of gender-propriety. Since women were allowed into universities, the old order has had to give way to a more relaxed ethic of student discipline. This can only help trans-gender people to maintain their essential self-respect.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand