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Graduations are a wonderful time of happiness, pride and celebration. Ashton College graduating students will be able to take part in the excitement and tradition of graduation in the spring as the April 7, 2018 event fast approaches. This will be your time to shine and be surrounded by those who recognize the significance of your successful program completion. You’ll also be among fellow graduates – some from your program and some from other Ashton College programs. It’s a special day to take time to credit yourself for your hard work.
Just how did all this celebration begin? It’s hard to pin down the first graduation ceremony with so many years of history behind the events, but the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand notes it goes back to the first universities in Europe in the 12th century – a time when Latin was a scholar’s language.
Yes, just like a traditional graduation, your ceremony with Ashton College will include caps and gowns. This is absolutely an outfit to be proud of, regardless of how it fits. For some it may feel like the strangest thing they’ve ever worn, while others will take to it easily. Yours may come to your ankles, or sit close to your knees. The fit of the gown isn’t what’s important – it’s all about the meaning behind it.
In the middle ages, university staff based their daily dress of robes or gowns on what clergy wore at the time due to the church’s influence in that era, in recognition of the institution of knowledge and as a differentiator from other townsfolk, but also to keep them warm in old drafty stone buildings. It was also something of a control mechanism in the Henry VIII era in that wearing the gown was a uniform that standardized what individuals wore at universities which ultimately gave the schools of the day control over even the most minor detail. It was Oxford and Cambridge in 1321 who “forbade excessive apparel” and enforced unity.
It’s rare these days to see a professor in a formal gown during a standard teaching day, but not that long ago, this was the norm. Academic formal wear evolved out of those early beginnings of day-to-day attire to what we see today – most commonly at a graduation or other formal event.
As the practice of formal gowns continued to evolve so did what the gown and its decoration signified. Colours used within the gown and their placement (such as in the hood or on the hood’s edge) along with certain fabrics, embellishments and hood lengths indicate degree, school colours, field of study and other details. It’s become an incredibly interesting system and one Ashton graduates can be proud to be part of.
The hard, flat-topped cap known as a mortarboard cap is believed to have originated in the 15th century and had evolved from a different type of flattish-topped hat known as a biretta which had been worn by catholic clerics, scholars and professors. That tradition – of wearing the biretta – goes back in church history to 1311. The caps were supposedly to signify superiority and intelligence.
There is no certainty on the origin of the shape of the mortarboard. Some state it is to mimic the shape of a book, while others believe it is for the shape of Oxford’s quad in between buildings. The term mortarboard is easier to trace. This name is shared with the board used by masons to lay mortar, though some believe the name itself indicates where the square shape comes from – a representation of a master workman’s mortarboard.
When you put on your cap, do so with a mirror so you can ensure it is flat on your head with the mortarboard parallel to the floor, the front point centred over your forehead and nose. You may want to use bobby pins to keep it in place. Put the tassel on the right front side of your cap.
After your graduation ceremony, you’ll be asked to move your tassel from the right to the left. While this is a tradition that began just a half-century ago, it is one with great meaning. The transition of the tassel’s placement is seen to indicate your movement from student to successful graduate. An interesting side note to this is that for those earning a master’s degree, the tassel starts on the left, then is positioned to the right following the ceremony.
The song sometimes known as “Pomp and Circumstance” was written by Sir Edward Elgar in 1901 as “Land of Hope and Glory”, performed in Liverpool England the same year. Lyrics were added by a poet to celebrate King Edward VII’s coronation. Elgar received a honourary degree in 1905 from Yale and the school played the song, but interestingly, other schools soon picked it up and the use of it during graduation ceremonies spread to schools throughout the world.
Graduation is an extremely important milestone in anyone’s life. Regardless of whether you’ve been through the graduation process once, five times or never, each ceremony is different and is sure to create some excitement and nerves. Take your time getting ready, enjoy the moments you’ll have with your classmates, friends and family and remember to congratulate yourself for an incredibly important accomplishment.