Oxford University Students Want to Keep Using Sub Fusc

July 17, 2015

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. mortarboard / ˈmɔr tərˌbɔrd / (n.) – a square hat worn during special school ceremonies
Example: Graduating students should wear their mortarboards during the ceremony.

2. referendum / ˌrɛf əˈrɛn dəm / (n.) – a public vote regarding a particular issue
Example: The school will have a referendum about changing the school uniform.

3. archaic /ɑrˈkeɪ ɪk / (adj.) – referring to something that is very old
Example: Schools no longer use archaic methods of teaching.

4. elitist / ɪˈli tɪst  / (adj.) – looking down on people who have less power and wealth
Example: Some students from prestigious schools tend to be elitist.

5. transcript / ˈtræn skrɪpt / (n.) – an official document containing a student’s grades
Example: Students can get their transcripts after graduation.


Read the text below.
Students from Oxford University have voted to keep the traditional practice of wearing the sub fusc [suhb-FUHSK].

The sub fusc, Latin for “dark color,” is the attire that Oxford University students use during exams. It is either a dark suit worn with dark socks, a skirt with black tights for women or trousers for men. It also includes a white collared shirt or blouse, a white or black bow tie, a black full-length tie or a black ribbon, and black shoes. This century-old tradition also requires students to wear gowns and mortarboards while taking their exams.

The reason behind the referendum was the complaints raised by some students of the university. According to these students, wearing the sub fusc is uncomfortable. They also said that the tradition is archaic and elitist.

Results of the referendum conducted by the Oxford University Student Union (OUSU) revealed that 75.8% of the students wanted to keep the tradition. On the other hand, 24.2% voted against it. When asked about using a gown and a mortarboard, 78% of the students voted for it, while 22% voted against it.

Other universities also have their own unique traditions. For example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has an annual tradition of dropping a piano off a roof to mark the last day that students can drop classes without affecting their transcripts.

In Le Moyne [luh MOYN] College, New York, students enjoy a day off from school during spring. This day off, called the Dolphy Day, starts as early as 2 a.m. During this day, students are allowed to skip classes and enjoy relaxing outside classrooms. 

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you agree that the university should maintain the use of the sub fusc during exams? Why?
·         Why do you think most of the students want to keep the sub fusc?

Discussion B

·         Why are some traditions abolished?
·         What do you think is the importance of having traditions?

July 17, 2015