What is Oxford University's Encaenia? And Who can Attend? Photo courtesy of Holly Hayes via Flickr Commons.

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Oxford’s Encaenia 2023: What is this Ceremony, When & Where, How to Attend

What is Oxford University's Encaenia? And Who can Attend? Photo courtesy of Holly Hayes via Flickr Commons.

Encaenia is an Oxford University ceremony during Trinity Term in which honorary degrees are awarded to distinguished men and women. The event consists of four parts (the Lord Crewe’s Benefaction breakfast, the Encaenia Ceremony, the Encaenia lunch, and the Encaenia garden party). In this article, I will explain where this ceremony originates, some of its main characteristics, and how to attend. 

Encaenia 2023: When, Where, How to Attend

Oxford’s Encaenia is held on the Wednesday of the ninth week during Trinity Term (or the holiday right after Trinity). Which, this year, should fall the 21st of June. We will post the exact date once we know more! In the meantime, you can check whether you can buy tickets using this link

What is Oxford University's Encaenia?

Encaenia is a ceremony held by the University of Oxford in which the university awards honorary degrees to distinguished people and also commemorates its benefactors. The ceremony consists of different events such as breakfast, a procession to the Sheldonian Theatre, a lunch hosted by All Souls, and a party.

Encaenia is part of a more extensive ceremony (that hasn’t survived in its entirety) called “The Act” – an event that used to include ambitious musical works and satirical (and sometimes scandalous) speeches. The original event was held at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin – a setting many thought unsuitable. In 1670, the Encaenia ceremony was moved to the Sheldonian Theatre, where it still takes place today. 

What does "Encaenia" mean?

Encaenia” is a word of Greek origin, and it means “festival of renewal“, sometimes translated as “festival of dedication”. It also corresponds to the Latin term “commencement”, used in some North American universities as the main ceremony of the academic year. 

Where Does Oxford's Encaenia Take Place?

The ceremony develops over a few different places. In the morning, the heads of colleges, holders of certain Oxford degrees (for example, Doctors), and university dignitaries assemble in one of the colleges to enjoy strawberries, peaches, and champagne (Lord Crewe’s Benefaction). They then walk in procession and enter the Sheldonian Theatre on Broad Street. After the ceremony, All Souls College hosts a lunch (they have been doing it for 100 years) for honorands and their guests, and the celebrations usually conclude with a garden party hosted by the Vice-Chancellor. 

The Chancellor of the University of Oxford leading the Congregation out of the Sheldonian theatre after Encaenia 2009. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Oxford University Honorary Degrees

During Encaenia, distinguished men and women are given honorary degrees from the University of Oxford. Universities typically award honorary degrees to honor exceptional contributions to a school or society as a whole. This type of recognition can be given to individuals with no former education, although most honorary degrees are awarded to people with considerable education and experience in a field. 

Oxford's Encaenia Timetable

Encaenia’s timings of the day are as follow (there are four elements to the day):

  • 10:30 – Lord Crewe’s Benefaction
  • 11:30 – Encaenia Ceremony
  • 13:30 – Encaenia Lunch
  • 16:15 – Encaenia Garden Party

Applying for Encaenia Tickets

Registration to Encaenia is open for members of the congregation, students, staff, and academic visitors (as long as they have SSO). Convocation members can also request tickets via email. Tickets are not available for members of the public. You can apply using this link

Oxford University degree ceremony at the Sheldonian Theatre. Image courtesy of Holly Hayes via Flickr Commons.
An Oxford University degree ceremony at the Sheldonian Theatre. Image courtesy of Holly Hayes via Flickr Commons.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Oxford Encaenia Ceremony

Can you Bring a Guest to Encaenia?

There are some guest tickets for the Encaenia ceremony. You will need to check the registration page to see who’s eligible. Members of the Congregation are invited to bring their spouses or partners to the garden Party (unless you are both parts of it, then you can’t bring other guests). There are no guest tickets for the Lord Crewe’s Benefaction.

Can I Process into the Encaenia Ceremony?

You can join the Encaenia procession only if you are a member of the collegiate University and you’re eligible to attend the Lord Crewe’s Benefaction.

What Should I Wear to the Encaenia Ceremony?

There are different requirements for the ceremony depending on which part of it you attend. 

For the Lord Crewe’s Benefaction, you will need to wear your University of Oxford academic dress. Those with higher doctorates wear a scarlet robe over subfusc, bands, and cap. DPhils wear scarlet robes over subfusc. Bachelors and Masters wear a black gown over subfusc, hood, and mortarboard or soft cap. Current students wear a gown over subfusc. 

For the Encaenia ceremony itself, if you have a degree the same rules that apply to the Benefaction apply also to the ceremony. Those without a degree must wear a plain black gown with a hood over subfusc. Guests from Trinity College Dublin or the University of Cambridge wear the academic dress from their respective universities. if you have multiple degrees, wear the one of your highest honours. Robes from all other universities are not allowed. All others must wear business attire.

Links and Resources

Some relevant links and more information about Encaenia:

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