London: In a move to please its transgender student community, the Oxford University has introduced a new academic dress code which allows men to wear skirts or stockings to exams and formal occasions while women can wear suits or white bow ties.
Under the old regulations, male students were required to wear a dark suit with dark socks, black shoes, a white bow tie, and a plain white shirt and collar beneath their black gowns when attending formal occasions such as examinations, reported.
Female students have to wear a dark skirt or trousers, a white blouse, a black ribbon tied in a bow at the neck, black stockings and shoes.
The dress code is strictly enforced by the university authorities, which have the power to punish students deemed in breach of the rules.
Punishments range from fines to rustication the suspension of a student for a period of time or expulsion.
However, the university’s council, headed by Vice-Chancellor Andrew Hamilton, has dropped any distinction between the sexes by deleting all references to men and women.
While students are still required to dress appropriately for formal occasions and exams, they no longer need to ensure their ‘sub-fusc’ the clothes worn with full academic dress is distinctive ‘for each sex’.
The new academic dress code will be applicable from next month.
The reforms were introduced following a campaign by the student union, which argued that transgender students, including transvestite or ‘gender confused’ men and women, could face punishment if they wore ‘inappropriate’ dress.
Jess Pumphrey, the union’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer executive officer, said the change would make a small number of students’ exam experiences “significantly less stressful by eliminating the need for trans students to cross-dress to avoid being disciplined during their exam”.
She said there was “an active transgender community” in Oxford, and every member she had spoken to “had found sub-fusc, under the old regulations, to be stressful”.
“The regulations have been amended to remove any reference to gender, in response to concerns raised by Oxford University Student Union that regulations did not serve the interests of transgender students,” a spokesman for Oxford was quoted by the paper as saying.