Although there is a large number of subjects available at the University of Cambridge, there is only a small number of degrees awarded: so the basic first degree is a B.A. (bachelor of arts), though the student may be reading for the Natural Sciences tripos or for the English tripos. This is a cause for confusion for those familiar with the system at other universities, where the basic science degree is usually a B.Sc. or similar.

Each degree at Cambridge has a distinctive hood and gown. The gowns are commonly worn when academic dress is required (dining at hall in most colleges and at college occasions). The hoods are only worn on scarlet days and at congregations of the Senate. The degrees and a description of their hoods are listed below. The degrees are listed in order of rank, and it is interesting to note some peculiarities of the Cambridge system: the bachelor of divinity (B.D.) degree is ranked higher than a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.); this reflects the origins of the university as a place of training for church clergy. The Ph.D. is the lowest ranking of the doctorates offered by the university, and likewise, reflects the fact that this is a relatively modern American invention: up until World War II most university lecturers would only hold a master of arts (M.A.) degree and the doctorates were awarded honoris causa. There lies a similar situation with university posts: whereas most American Universities have pantheons of professors of every grade and stripe and colour, the basic university post is that of "Lecturer". The next grade up is that of "Reader" and the final grade is "Professor", reserved for a select few, which title therefore, carries much greater weight and importance than at any American university.

Doctor of Divinity (D.D.)
scarlet cloth lined with dove-coloured silk (turquoise-blue shot with rose-pink)
Doctor of Law (LL.D)
scarlet cloth lined with light-cherry silk
Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
scarlet cloth lined with mid-cherry silk
Doctor of Science (Sc.D)
scarlet cloth lined with pink silk shot with light blue
Doctor of Letters (Litt.D.)
scarlet cloth lined with scarlet silk to match the cloth
Doctor of Music (Mus.D.)
cream damask lined with dark-cherry satin
Bachelor of Divinity (B.D.)
black corded silk lined with black silk
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (Vet.M.D.)
mid-cherry silk lined with scarlet cloth
Master of Surgery (M.Chir.)
black corded silk lined with mid-cherry silk
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
black corded silk lined with scarlet cloth
Master of Arts (M.A.)
black corded silk lined with white silk
Master of Law (LL.M)
black corded silk lined with light-cherry silk
Master of Music (M.Mus.)
black corded silk lined with dark-cherry satin
Master of Science (M.Sc.)
black cloth lined with pink silk shot with light blue
Master of Letters (Litt.M.)
black cloth lined with scarlet silk
Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.)
black cloth lined with blue silk
Master of Engineering (M.Eng.)
black cloth lined with bronze silk
Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.)
black cloth lined with dark green silk
Master of Education (M.Ed.)
black corded silk lined with light blue silk
Master of Natural Sciences (M.Sc.)
black corded silk lined with pink silk shot with light blue
Master of Studies
black corded silk lined with yellow silk
Bachelor of Medicine (M.B.)
mid-cherry silk, the hood lined with white fur and the tippet edged with white fur
Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine (Vet.M.B.)
the M.B. hood width and edging of fur two inches wide to the tippet
Bachelor of Music (B.Mus.)
the M.B. hood and tippet but of dark-cherry satin
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
black stuff, part lined with white fur, the tippet edged with white fur
Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.)
black stuff, part lined with blue silk and an edging of white fur, the tippet edged with white fur
Bachelor of Theology for Ministry
black stuff, lined with black silk, the tippet edged with white fur

The tippet is the square cape to which the hood is attached. Where unspecified, the cloth may be wool, cotton or synthetic material. The white fur is traditionally rabbit, but nowadays usually synthetic.

Members of the university wear the hood and gown of the highest degree held. There are other degrees of the University not included on the list because their colours are simply not seen today: e.g. the Bachelor of Surgery degree (B.Chir.). In the case of the B.Chir. degree, this is because all medical graduates of the university are awarded the B.Chir. and M.B. degrees within weeks of each other. The M.B. degree takes precedence and the B.Chir. hood and gown are therefore never seen (or would, theoretically, only ever be seen for a few weeks at the end of December and the beginning of January).

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