New rules mean that male Oxford University students will be able to sit exams in skirts and stockings and women will have the option of wearing suits and ties. Oxford University has rewritten the laws governing its strict academic dress code following concerns that they were unfair towards transgender students. Under the new regulations, students taking exams or attending formal occasions will no longer have to wear ceremonial clothing that is specific to their gender.
It will mean men will be able to sit tests in skirts and stockings and women will have the option of wearing suits and bow ties.
The laws, which come into force next week, follow a motion put forward by the university’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer society (LGBTQ Soc) was passed by the student union.
Jess Pumphrey, LGBTQ Soc’s executive officer, said the change would make a number of students’ exam experience significantly less stressful. Pumphrey told The Oxford Student newspaper: “In future there will be no need for transgender students to cross-dress to avoid being confronted by invigilators or disciplined during their exam.”
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.
Oxford University 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.”
Simone Webb, president of LGBTQ Soc, said: “This is an extremely positive step, and indeed long overdue.”
She told The Oxford Student: “I am of the opinion that it is possible to keep elements of tradition in this way while making them unrestrictive to trans students, genderqueer students, or students who wish to wear a different subfusc to that which they’d be expected to wear.”