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Formal Hall & Graduation

Oxford is a place brimming with tradition. Some of these traditions are stranger than others. For example, you won’t find many places where students are ‘trashed’ when they finish their exams- pounced on by friends who cover them in champagne, flour, glitter and confetti to kick off celebrations.

Some traditions are shared by both ‘town and gown’ (city and university) alike. These include annual May Day celebrations, when crowds gather to listen as Magdalen Choir sings their welcome to the rising sun on the first day of spring.

A favourite amongst the university’s student population is one that soon becomes a favourite amongst Oxford Summer Course students as well: Formal Hall.

Formal dining in the ‘Harry Potter’ dining hall in Christ Church

At the end of a busy week, cram-packed with work, sight-seeing, exploration and socialising, students dress up a little before meeting for a drinks reception on the college lawn. All of the university’s 38 colleges have their own versions of Formal Hall. These are delicious three-course dinners in beautiful old halls (dining rooms) lined with portraits of famous alumni, patrons and monarchs. In term time, students must wear their academic gowns when attending, and must stand to attention when their tutors enter the room. Don’t worry, though, our Formal Halls remain relaxed affairs. They are a wonderful opportunity to meet more of your fellow students, and catch up with newly made friends…all in rooms that are hundreds of years old!

Gathered together for a final dinner with Oxford Summer Courses

On the final Friday of each course, Formal Hall is followed by a graduation ceremony. This takes place in the Oxford Union, where each student is awarded a certificate to take home with, in recognition of all of their hard work.

This ceremony is a wonderful end to an evening of tradition in Oxford and, of course, to your stay with us here.

Sadly, the following morning it is time to say goodbye. But don’t worry, the friendships made at Oxford Summer Courses are lifelong, and besides… you can always come back next year!


Read more about our student experiences here: Student’s View: “Going to Oxford Summer Courses was the best decision I ever made.”

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A long-standing tradition at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, find out more about formal hall and what you can expect during the last Friday of any summer course you study with us!

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