Oxford students attending certain examinations have a strict dress code, known as subfusc. Men must wear a dark suit, black shoes and a white bow tie under black academic gowns. Women, in contrast, must wear a dark skirt (or pants), a white shirt, and a black ribbon tied in a bow around their necks.

While these particular rules would appear to allow for pretty significant androgyny, some transgender students found the rules too restrictive.

And so Oxford changed them. According to a BBC News piece:

Oxford University students will no longer have to wear gender-specific academic clothing after concerns it was unfair to the transgender community.

It will mean men can attend formal occasions in skirts and stockings and women in suits and bow ties. The new rules come after a motion by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer society (LGBTQ Soc) was passed by the students’ union earlier this year.

The Oxford LGBTQ Society’s executive officer, Jess Pumphrey, apparently explained that “the change will make a number of students’ exam experience significantly less stressful.”

The new rules merely allow students to wear the academic garb whichever gender they prefer. I suppose the new rules are progressive, but it seems the best way to actually make the examination experience of students, whether transgender or not, less stressful would be to permit them to wear normal clothes for examinations and not just, well, this stuff:


Permitting students to wear the archaic costume of the opposite sex hardly seems to be a move toward a natural, comfortable experience for students.

The new rules apply to Oxford on August 4. [Image via]

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer