The eight honorands in 2023's Encaenia
The eight honorands in 2023's Encaenia
Credit: John Cairns


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.

Honorary degree recipients for 2024 announced.


Registration for this year's event has now closed. If you need to contact the events team to modify or cancel your booking, please email [email protected].


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 the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, 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.

An early history of honorary degrees

Lord Crewe's Benefaction, Procession and Ceremony

On the morning of the ceremony, the heads of colleges, university dignitaries, holders of the Oxford degrees of Doctor of Divinity, Civil Law, Medicine, Letters, Science, and Music, and the honorands assemble, in full academic dress, in one of the colleges, where they enjoy Lord Crewe's Benefaction. 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, 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.

Encaenia Lunch

For over 100 years All Souls College has hosted a lunch after the ceremony for the honorands, their guests, and other senior members of the collegiate University and the local community.

Garden Party

To conclude the day’s celebrations the Vice-Chancellor hosts a garden party for the honorands, their guests, and members of Congregation. Please see the FAQ below, 'How do I get tickets?' for further details on invitations.

Encaenia FAQs

What should I wear?

Please see our Encaenia dress code page.

When is Encaenia?

Encaenia is held annually on the Wednesday of ninth week during Trinity Term. Please see the ‘Forthcoming Encaenia dates’ box above.

Timings of the day

The Encaenia day consists of four elements:
10:30 - Lord Crewe’s Benefaction
11:30 - Encaenia Ceremony
13:30 - Encaenia Lunch
16:15 - Encaenia Garden Party

How do I get tickets?

Ceremony: Registration opens towards the end of April and a registration link will be added to this page. Members of Congregation (please see section entitled Congregation Membership below for further details), staff, students, and Academic Visitors can apply for tickets online (will require SSO). Convocation members (alumni and retired members of Congregation) can apply for a ticket, towards the end of April, by emailing [email protected] (please do not email before this point). Your ticket will be emailed to you a few days before the event. Tickets to the ceremony are not available to members of the public.

Lord Crewe’s Benefaction: Attendance is restricted to the following members of the University:

  • Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor
  • Pro-Vice-Chancellors
  • Heads of Houses
  • Heads of Division
  • The Proctors and the Assessor
  • The Public Orator
  • The Professor of Poetry
  • The Registrar
  • Outgoing President of the Oxford University Student Union
  • Presidents of the JCR & MCR of the colleges of the Proctors and the Assessor
  • Holders of the Oxford Higher Degrees of: Doctor of Divinity, Civil Law, Medicine, Letters, Science, and Music

Holders of the Oxford Higher Degrees (described above) are invited to contact the Events Office at [email protected] to apply for a ticket. All other eligible guests will be contacted individually by the Events Office.

Encaenia Garden Party: 

Electronic invitations to the garden party will be sent to all current members of Congregation by the University Events Office by the middle of May each year (please see section entitled Congregation Membership below for further details). If you do not receive your invitation by then, or become a member of Congregation after this date, please email [email protected].

Actively serving retired members of faculty and staff within Congregation are also welcome to attend, as are emeritus professors and those former members of Congregation over 75 who take a deep and active interest in Oxford’s work and success. Please email [email protected] if you would like to attend.

Congregation Membership:

If you are not yet a member of Congregation, you will need to have been granted membership prior to registering for the Ceremony and Garden Party as a Congregation member. Further information regarding Congregation membership can be found on the criteria for congregation membership page.

Can I bring a guest?

Some guest tickets are available for the Ceremony; please check the registration page to see who is eligible to apply for a guest ticket. Members of Congregation can bring a guest to the Garden Party. 

Guest tickets are not available for Lord Crewe’s Benefaction.

Can I bring children to the Encaenia Ceremony?

We would like this event to be accessible to all, including those with caring responsibilities, but please note that the ceremonial nature of the event is not suitable for children under the age of 11. The Sheldonian Theatre is not ideally suited to young children or babies, as most seating is narrow and steep. There are no baby-changing facilities and due to space limitations we are unable to accommodate the storage of prams or other equipment. If you are considering attending with children, we recommend you contact us before registering to discuss the options. Any children (under 18s) attending would be classified as your guest, and need to be with an adult at all times.

Can I bring children to the Garden Party?

You are welcome to bring children to the Garden Party but please be aware that this is a large event and supervision is required at all times. We regret there will be no entertainment provided for children.

I’ve got a ticket to the Ceremony. Where can I sit? 

Your ticket will tell you which section of the Sheldonian Theatre you will be sitting in and where you should enter the building.

Can I process into the Ceremony?

Only those members of the collegiate 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 the Sheldonian Theatre and walks through Radcliffe Square into the Bodleian Old Quad, through the Divinity School and into the Sheldonian Theatre.

The area will be closed to the general public for the procession but there are points around Radcliffe Square where you will be able to see the route.