Encaenia is the ceremony at which the University of Oxford awards honorary degrees to distinguished men and women and commemorates its benefactors. It is held annually on the Wednesday of ninth week during Trinity Term.
Encaenia is a Greek word for a festival of renewal; in St John's gospel it is traditionally translated as 'festival of dedication'. The word corresponds to the term 'Commencement', from the Latin, used in many North American universities for the chief ceremony of the academic year.
The Oxford Encaenia is the surviving part of a more extensive ceremony called 'The Act'. This used to include ambitious musical works, often composed for the occasion, and traditional features such as a satirical speech, often scurrilous and sometimes scandalous, by an anonymous speaker known as Terrae Filius, 'Son of the Earth'. The Act was originally held in St Mary's Church, a setting many people thought unsuitable. Such feeling prompted its move in 1670 to the Sheldonian Theatre.
By 1760 the ceremony had assumed a form much like today. It was largely reshaped by the will of Nathaniel, Lord Crewe (1633-1721), successively Rector of Lincoln College, Bishop of Oxford and Bishop of Durham, who left money to the University for this and other purposes.
Procession and Ceremony
On the morning of the ceremony, the Heads of Colleges, university dignitaries and the honorands assemble, in full academic dress, in one of the colleges, where they enjoy Lord Crewe's benefaction of peaches, strawberries and champagne. They then walk in procession to the Sheldonian Theatre on Broad Street.
The University dignitaries enter the theatre in procession; those who are to receive honorary degrees wait in the Divinity School where they sign their names in the Honorary Degrees Book. They are then escorted into the theatre by the Bedels.
Once the proceedings have been opened by the Chancellor, or in his absence by the Vice-Chancellor, each honorand is introduced by the Public Orator with a speech in Latin and admitted to his or her new degree by the Chancellor. The Orator then delivers the Creweian Oration on the events of the past year and in commemoration of the University's benefactors. In alternate years the Professor of Poetry delivers the second part of this speech.
Timings of the day
The Encaenia day consists of 3 elements:
10:30 - Lord Crewe’s Benefaction
11:30 - Encaenia Ceremony
15:30 - Encaenia Garden Party
How do I get tickets to Lord Crewe’s Benefaction?
Tickets are not produced for Lord Crewe’s Benefaction as attendance is restricted to the following members of the University:
- Heads of Houses
- Heads of Division
- Holders of the Oxford Higher Degrees of; Doctor of Divinity, Civil Law, Medicine, Letters, Science, and Music
- The Proctors
- The Assessor
- The Public Orator
- The Registrar
- Outgoing President of the Oxford University Student Union
- Presidents of the JCR & MCR of the colleges of the Proctors and the Assessor
If you are eligible and plan to attend, please inform the University Events Office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
How do I get tickets to the Ceremony?
If you are eligible to attend Lord Crewe’s Benefaction you do not require a ticket to the Ceremony as you will process into the Sheldonian Theatre after the Benefaction.
If you are a member of Congregation please contact the University Card Office to apply for a ticket. There are a limited number of tickets available from the 22nd May, and these will be allocated by date of application.
Public tickets are not available for Encaenia.
I’ve got a ticket to the Ceremony, where do I sit?
Your ticket will tell you which section of the Sheldonian you will be sitting in and which door to go to for entry.
Can I process into the Ceremony?
Only those members of the University eligible to attend Lord Crewe’s Benefaction may process into the Ceremony.
Where does the procession take place/can I watch?
The procession leaves from a college near to the Sheldonian Theatre and walks through Radcliffe Square into the Bodleian Old Quad, through Divinity Schools and into the Sheldonian.
The area will be closed to the general public for the procession but there are points around Radcliffe square where you would be able to see the route.
How do I get tickets to the Garden Party?
Invitations to the Garden Party are sent to all members of Congregation by the University Events Office. If you have not received your invitation or believe your contact details may not be up to date please contact the University Events Office at email@example.com
What do I wear to:
Lord Crewe’s Benefaction?
University of Oxford Academic Dress must be worn.
Higher doctorates should wear their scarlet robe over subfusc, bands and the appropriate cap.
DPhils should wear their scarlet robe over subfusc.
Bachelors and Masters should wear their black gown over subfusc, hood and mortarboard/soft cap.
Those with a degree from Oxford should follow the same rules as for Lord Crewe’s Benefaction.
Those without a degree from Oxford should wear business attire, robes from other universities are not permitted.
Gowns and hoods (from any University), clerical or national dress, military uniform or afternoon dress.
Can I bring a guest?
Guest tickets are not available for Lord Crewe’s Benefaction or the Encaenia Ceremony.
You can bring your spouse/partner to the Garden Party but please be aware that if both parties are members of Congregation – and so have each received an invitation – this does not entitle you to bring a guest each.
Can I bring children to the Garden Party?
You are quite welcome to bring children to the Garden Party but please be aware that this is a large event with no entertainment for children.