An Oxford Graduation: The Means Justifying the End

Graduation is an exciting culminating ceremony.  It recognises a student’s effort as they are awarded an academic honour. More than recompensing one for rigorous studying , it is also a symbolic reward for the faith, energy, commitment and the indispensable support of relatives and friends . Graduation at Oxford University is solemn. It is a two tier process: handled partly at one’s college and at the central university. As per decorum, it also entails wearing two kinds of gowns. The ceremony is traditionally conducted in mostly Latin. As the Vice Chancellor noted, “The graduation Ceremony at Oxford takes its own dimension; while in some universities the ceremony can be quite informal – solemn ceremonies are proper because the university will be conferring some of its most precious honours, the degrees. “ In this blog post I will narrate my graduation day experience and explain some of the nuanced formal traditions.

I arrived at Jesus College, early in the morning. I wore the full academic dress with the subfusc (a dark suit with dark socks, plain white shirt with a plain collar and a white bow tie) as required. On arrival at the college, we the graduands, were permitted to robe in our graduation gown,  however this was only for the sole purpose of taking official photographs, after which they had to be returned and taken to the changing rooms near the Sheldonian Theatre. The  College also offered an assortment of drinks which ranged from fruit juices to the  finest wine, in one of the college lawns with in the first quad.  The quad was filled with graduating students and their guests, who were almost all suitably  dressed for a formal black tie event.

Arrival at Jesus College in subfusc

After the drinks and photos we  were  hosted to lunch by the College  Principal (Head  of House), Nigel Shadbolt in the second quad. An all white tent was sent up on the lawns. It looked heavenly, the tables were covered in sparkling white cloth, you could see your reflection in the cutlery.  The tables were assembled with neat evenly measured aisles for the guests to walk to their personalised seats with each bearing one’s name.   Similar  to Formal Hall dinners,  Principal struck the gavel and the grace was recited in Latin, to mark the beginning of the festivities. We were treated to a four course meal  that included a succulent salmon dish with a portion of vegetables and also chocolate and raspberries as dessert. The meal had been so neatly presented, I was very impressed to say the least.

At Lunch

Following desert, the Principal delivered his final speech. He urged us (the graduands) to be brave and seize opportunities, even if it meant taking risks. He remarked, “ Value your family and friends because no one regrets  having not spent an extra day in the office, but they do regret having not given enough time to family and friends.”  As he concluded his remarks, he instructed the graduands’ guests to proceed to the Sheldonian for the University Ceremony. He then turned to  the graduands, asked us  to head to the College Hall, where we would receive the “Mistress of the latin, what you have to learn”  in order to please  the Vice Chancellor in the Sheldonian. The Principal would not accompany us to the Sheldonian. “It is customary for the Heads of House to remain in their colleges, looking at the vast empty hall that has been created by its departure of the brightest and best,” he said.

With the Principal

After the briefing, we queued in pairs, and proudly strode from Jesus College, Turl Street to the Sheldoian on Broad Street. We found our guests already seated and consequently we were shown to our seats.  The Vice Chancellor opened with  some remarks. She congratulated the graduands. She reiterated that the degrees to be awarded represented two things.  First , they certify that the number of specific skills have been tested. Second, and more importantly that  the degree, reflects Oxford’s intention to promote certain qualities of mind such as intellectual self reliance, intellectual  honesty and understanding. She emphasised,  “ The crucial and also  most difficult qualities are understanding and the ability to distinguish the truth from the seemingly true.”

Leaving college for the Sheldonian

Just before entering the Sheldonian

The bedel read out the names of graduands and the respective degrees  to be conferred in Latin. For my masters degree, we were asked to stand before the  Vice Chancellor. We made three ceremonial bows. They are a sign of respect.   First to the Vice Chancellor, then  to the left and right  of the Vice Chancellor. After that, the Vice Chancellor recited a relevant formula in latin,  to which we responded “ Do fidem” (I swear).  As newly admitted graduates,  we made one more bow, we left the Sheldonian by the door to the right and went to a room to put on the robes of our new degree (graduation gown.)

Listening to the Latin Recitals from the Vice Chancellor, before replying “Do fidem”

After putting on our robes, we queued up waiting for the doors to be opened.  Once they opened, we were met by applause and cheers. Preceded by a bedel we returned and walked back in, directly facing the Vice Chancellor. This  was a moment to savour.  I walked slowly, taking in all the cheers and applause which marked the admission and appreciation  for the year of unexplainable commitment. We stood before the Vice Chancellor and made one more bow. We were then guided back to our seats.

Taking official photographs at college

Throwing the mortar

At the Rad Cam

At All Souls College

It was special. Few moments have left me profoundly humbled –  walking into the Sheldonian, and being met by a cheerful roar and  applause is one of them. I am grateful for  the support of my mother, my siblings, relatives and friends that saw me through this year. In Jesus College, I found a family, and to my classmates,  as the years melt away, I know I will look  back with affection for the time we spent together. The spirited discussions in seminars, the concurrent essays,  analysis of some of the most complex legal questions and problems –  surely,  the most intellectually challenging experience of my life.  The  solemn graduation ceremony  is the University’s way of appreciating  the years of planning and hard work that have gone into attaining this master’s degree, and rightly so.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 11:09h, 30 September Reply

    Great descriptive narration.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 11:23h, 30 September Reply

    Congs Joel and thanks for documenting the journey for us till the end. God bless u in our career pursuits

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 11:46h, 30 September Reply

    Thank you.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 11:46h, 30 September Reply

    Thank you. Amen.

  • Richard Kiracho
    Posted at 12:03h, 30 September Reply

    Wonderful journey.
    Surely, the Lord has Blessed you!

  • Jonathan Treacher
    Posted at 12:24h, 30 September Reply

    Really fantastic day for myself and my son, Xavier. Very grateful to Joel for allowing us to be his guests on such a special day.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 12:24h, 30 September Reply

    Thank you , Richie.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 12:26h, 30 September Reply

    You are welcome. Thanks for the continued mentor-ship and for honouring the invitation.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 12:36h, 30 September Reply

    A moment of a lifetime! A reflection of grit, focus, pride, and self-satisfaction. Completely mind blowing. Congs Joel on this grand milestone. All the best of luck as you explore new ventures!

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 13:30h, 30 September Reply

    Thank you, for these very kind words.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 14:40h, 30 September Reply

    Mr Joel Basoga was one of the few iconic individuals I met when I had just joined Law School. He became a friend, a brother and a mentor. He has in so many ways inspired me, encouraged me to keep going. Seeing you attain this Degree from one of the world's best University gives me so much joy and most definitely proud of you. Keep shining and being great as always. Congratulations my brother and friend. Proud of you!

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 15:11h, 30 September Reply

    Oh Peter! Ever so kind with your words. I am truly humbled. It was by the grace of God.

    Thank you Your Excellency.

  • Shirlyne
    Posted at 16:22h, 30 September Reply

    Congratulations Joel! You made it! We bless the Lord.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 18:00h, 30 September Reply

    A race well run . Quite an accomplishment. Congratulations Joel. Ad astra

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 18:01h, 30 September Reply

    Thank you.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 18:03h, 30 September Reply

    Thank you, Micheal. I am indebted to you for making me feel welcome in the UK, and for the cooperation throughout. May God bless you and grant you favour in all your endeavours.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 18:03h, 30 September Reply

    Thank you.

  • Michael Uzor
    Posted at 18:07h, 30 September Reply

    A simply fantastic account. We give God all the glory for seeing you through what can be described as nothing short of an academic Everest, which you overcame with flying colors. It has been a pleasure to share this journey with you. Onwards and upwards my fellow Oxonian.

  • Michael Uzor
    Posted at 18:10h, 30 September Reply

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 18:15h, 30 September Reply

    Thank you, Micheal. I am indebted to you for making me feel welcome in the UK, and for the cooperation throughout. May God bless you and grant you favour in all your endeavours.

  • Tabitha Malaika
    Posted at 19:32h, 30 September Reply

    Sometimes life is like stepping onstage at your first piano recital and realizing that you'd never played anything but an instrument with broken keys. Your world shifts, but you're asked to adjust and overcome, to play your music the same as everyone else.

    Am glad that you paced yourself and you finally made it!

    Nice write up Joey,

    "Proud" is an understatement!

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 19:47h, 30 September Reply

    Thank you, for these very kind words. Humbled.

    We give glory to God.

  • Innocent
    Posted at 19:54h, 30 September Reply

    Great Narrative of this sporadic moment

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 20:33h, 30 September Reply

    Thank you, Innocent.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 21:57h, 30 September Reply

    Congs Joel

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 02:12h, 01 October Reply

    Thank you.

  • Bwire Emma
    Posted at 04:20h, 01 October Reply

    Congratulations bro. Joel.
    God bless u.

  • Tumu Hurrie
    Posted at 05:04h, 01 October Reply

    Congratulations Joel. Thank you for sharing your journey. It is an inspiration to many.

  • Stainles
    Posted at 05:15h, 01 October Reply

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Stainles
    Posted at 05:16h, 01 October Reply

    Congs Muhna, isuuka ebitabo. You make me proud

  • Nish
    Posted at 05:53h, 01 October Reply

    Congratulations to you Joel, now come join Peking. Nish

    Posted at 07:33h, 01 October Reply

    Congratulations Joel Basoga

  • Unknown
    Posted at 08:50h, 01 October Reply

    I feel like I watched all this live. Great narrative and Congratulations upon the great achievement.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 08:55h, 01 October Reply

    Thank you Emma. God Bless you too.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 08:56h, 01 October Reply

    You are welcome. Thank you.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 08:57h, 01 October Reply

    Webaale Baaba! Thank you, Gabula.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 08:58h, 01 October Reply

    Thank you Nish, hopefully I will join Peking soon.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 08:59h, 01 October Reply

    Thank you for these very kind words. I am glad it gave you a snippet into the proceedings.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 20:42h, 01 October Reply

    Congratulations on this wonderful achievement Counsel Joel. We appreciate God for bringing you this far. To me I believe your hard work and achievement is a very big inspiration to many outside here. We look at you and believe that with effort and hard work everything is possible. Thanks for giving us the belief. I wish you all the best in all that you do. Happy graduation!

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 12:37h, 02 October Reply

    Thank you for these very kind words. We thank God.

  • Biggie
    Posted at 14:49h, 03 October Reply

    As if it were yesterday… We bless the Lord

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 17:30h, 03 October Reply

    Thank you. Biggie.

  • Unknown
    Posted at 12:34h, 04 October Reply

    Nice read boss

  • Unknown
    Posted at 12:48h, 04 October Reply

    Congratulations Joel. You sure makes us proud. Enjoy the great journey ahead. Blessings

  • Unknown
    Posted at 12:56h, 04 October Reply

    You deserve this Joel! Congratulations on this tremendous achievement. Very interesting read..

  • Unknown
    Posted at 12:57h, 04 October Reply

    Gilbert K.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 13:53h, 04 October Reply

    Thank you.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 13:54h, 04 October Reply

    Thank you, Gilbert.

  • Wesley Owens
    Posted at 13:15h, 11 October Reply

    Joel, thanks for sharing this account. It looks like the Oxford graduation ceremony is a very rich and meaningful occasion. Now I know what to look forward to when I graduate next year! Congratulations on all that you have achieved as a student.
    — Wesley

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 20:15h, 11 October Reply

    You are welcome, Wesley. It was a very meaningful ceremony, and I am sure your's, will equally be a wonderful experience. Thank you.

  • Kiira Waibi
    Posted at 04:30h, 22 October Reply

    Again, congratulations are in order Joel. God knows that you deserve this and more. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Keep inspiring.

    God bless you.

  • Joel Basoga
    Posted at 23:36h, 22 October Reply

    Thank you Brian, for these very kind words.

    Amen. You are welcome

  • Unknown
    Posted at 06:17h, 03 May Reply

    Thanks for sharing from your heart. I believe your dad is very proud of the man you have become. Like in lion king, he lives in you, dont mind that his facial appearance is a fading memory.
    Thanks for honoring mom, she is your solid rock. Don't settle keep pushing the boundary lines.

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