Gowns and mortarboards ‘could be compulsory’ under Gove

Proposals part of raft of measures on the table if education secretary gains HE

April 1, 2014

Students could be asked to wear gowns and mortarboards on campus in plans by education secretary Michael Gove to “restore rigour” to higher education, the Times Higher Education has learned.

According to a leaked memo seen by THE, the minister is looking at introducing the strict dress code across all universities over concerns over the “scruffy” clothes worn on campus.

The new sartorial standards are believed to be the first in a series of measures being considered by Mr Gove if he succeeds in his bid to bring the sector under his department after next year’s general election.

It is hoped the new dress code will usher in “a return to the golden age of higher education – the 19th century”, the memo says.

“Universities are always being told to modernise, but maybe we need to look back to some of the traditions that made British universities great,” the memo advises.

“You still see gowns worn in our Oxbridge colleges, which do well academically, so why shouldn’t other universities follow that trend,” it adds.

However, some have said the new dress code idea is too prescriptive, particularly for final-year male students who will be required to wear formal black tie attire at dinner and wheel around a bicycle between lectures.

Some vice-chancellors are believed to have questioned the move on the grounds of institutional autonomy, but their appeals have been rebutted.

“Kim Jong-un has just ordered all male students to have the same haircut – his own – so wearing a gown isn’t really much to ask in comparison to that,” said one Whitehall insider.

“In fact, we haven’t heard any complaints from North Korean students, so a similar move might prove quite popular here.”

Some leading higher education experts have already backed the move, saying it may help to increase overseas recruitment.

“Everyone loves the Harry Potter films and these gowns might give our campuses an air of Hogwarts, which is bound to pull in a few more students,” said Joanna King, head of the Institute for Pedagogic Inquiries.

However, some have questioned some of the other Oxbridge-inspired proposals apparently drafted by Mr Gove.

The mandatory introduction of punting may prove impractical, said one vice-chancellor, who did not want to be named.

“Many rivers near universities are just not suited to this type of leisure activity,” he said. “The ornamental lakes on campuses are probably not safe either.”


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Reader's comments (5)

This is why we need a minister with Michael Gove's vision in charge of HE. If he's willing to go far enough back into the 19th Century, we'll deal with a load of our contemporary issues: Women not advancing fast enough in academic careers - easy, no women. Poor people need support - easy, no poor people. Worried about 'vocational' courses - easy, there won't be any, not even engineering. Concerns about segretating lectures - easy, 'top' universities don't let in non CofE people (plus no women, see above) Genius
Mike Ratcliffe ... WHOOSH !!?*
A good April Fool's joke... but it cuts a bit too close to the truth in countries such as Tajikistan, Central Asia, where there is already a dress code in universities. It doesn't cover gowns and mortarboards (yet?!) - see my blog post at http://sabzalieva.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/high-heels-in-the-headlines-again/ for a story that you'll wish really was an April Fool.
Spoof or not, in Malaysia there is a dress code too. Shirt, tie and long trousers for the men, modest dresses (and no trousers) for the women. Modesty for the ladies is allowed to include all manner of colours and designs, and for non-Muslims relatively short skirts. Overall the result is pleasing. Academic staff are expected to follow the rules too (but without the short skirts). Better still, every class has a student captain who keeps discipline and (this is bliss) fixes up the projector for you before the lecture. No PowerPoint disasters and no jabbering at the back. Curiously, silent texting seems to be OK, but this is progress so it's acceptable. Where would you prefer to lecture?
Ha Ha! I was worried they may introduce a North Korean type of haircut law- I'd have to have a wig made in Michael Gove style.