The academic year at Oxford runs from October to June. The year is divided into three terms: Michaelmas (autumn), Hilary (spring), and Trinity (summer).
Michaelmas term derives its name from the Feast of St Michael and All Angels, which falls on 29 September. Hilary term is named after the feast day of St Hilary, which falls on 14 January, while Trinity term comes from Trinity Sunday, which falls eight weeks after Easter.
Full term is the main undergraduate teaching period at Oxford. It lasts for eight weeks and runs from Sunday of First Week to Saturday of Eighth Week. Weeks of term are designated by numbers, with week 0 (or Noughth Week) referring to the week preceding the start of Full Term.
Ceremonies and events
Ceremonies that take place during the academic year include matriculation ceremonies, which are held at the beginning and end of Michaelmas Term and the end of Hilary and Trinity terms, and degree days, which take place throughout the academic year.
Annual events, ceremonies and sporting fixtures include the following. Please note that, unless otherwise stated, admittance to these events is restricted.
The Vice-Chancellor’s Oration is delivered shortly before the start of Michaelmas Full term. The Oration, which is a spoken annual report for the previous academic year, is delivered at a special meeting of Congregation at which the Pro-Vice-Chancellors for the coming year and the Clerks of the Market are admitted to office. The Vice-Chancellor is also admitted at this ceremony in a year in which the holder of the office changes. The text of the Oration is published in the Gazette and formally presented to a subsequent meeting of Congregation.
The Varsity Rugby Match takes place in December at Twickenham. The first match took place in 1872, just one year after the first-ever international match.
A special meeting of Congregation is held each year on the Wednesday of Ninth Week for the Admission of the Proctors and Assessor for the coming year. The outgoing Proctors deliver an Oration, which is published in the Gazette.
The Varsity Football Match takes place in Fulham in March or early April. It is one of the oldest regular fixtures in world football, having been played since 1873.
The Boat Race takes place in March or early April. The race dates back to 1829, when Cambridge student, Charles Merivale, challenged his friend, Oxford student Charles Wordsworth, to a race. The Boat Race attracts crowds of around 250,000 to the banks of the River Thames for the 4.5 mile course between Putney and Mortlake.
The Romanes Lecture is an annual lecture, given by a distinguished public figure who has been invited by the Vice-Chancellor. The lecture is open to members of the University and the public. Access arrangements are published in the Gazette.
Encaenia is the ceremony at which the University awards honorary degrees to distinguished men and women and commemorates its benefactors. It is held annually on the Wednesday of Ninth Week. Details of how to apply for tickets are published in the Gazette. In the afternoon, the Vice-Chancellor holds a garden party, to which all members of Congregation are invited.
Academic dress is required at all formal University ceremonies, such as Encaenia. It is also worn at matriculation, for University examinations, and for some official meetings.
Academic dress includes a gown, hood and a cap (a mortarboard or a soft cap). Sub fusc (from the Latin for ‘beneath dark coloured’) is the formal outfit worn with academic dress. It comprises a dark suit with dark socks, or a dark skirt with black stockings, or trousers with dark socks, and an optional dark coat; black shoes; a plain white collared shirt; a black tie or white bow tie.
A guide to academic dress, including the appropriate dress for the main University ceremonies, is available in the Staff Handbook.