Academic institutions adhere to many customs and traditions, among which is the tradition of academic regalia.
At American institutions of higher learning, academic gowns are worn primarily at major academic ceremonies, such as commencement and convocation. They indicate that their wearers have earned recognition as scholars. While many scholars are satisfied with a simple black gown, others wear robes, caps and hoods that identify both the institutions from which they received their degrees as well as the nature of the degree itself.
At The American University in Cairo, graduates are adorned in black robes, identified by long, pleated front panels and long, pointed sleeves. In addition, graduates wear a cap, or mortarboard, with a tassel. The tassel is worn on the right-hand side at the start of the commencement and is ceremonially moved to the left at the end of the ceremony, indicating the conferral of the degree.
The members of the stage party often wear more decorative gowns. These gowns are often an indication of a doctoral degree, a terminal degree, such as a Juris Doctor (JD), or are specially designed for the senior administration and faculty members of an institution. Doctoral gowns are distinguished by velvet bars that are either black or the color designating the wearer’s branch of learning.
The hood is the most colorful feature of the academic regalia and represents the principal emblem of the nature and source of the degree held. The hood is lined in the color(s) of the college that granted the wearer’s highest degree, and the color of the border indicates the field of specialty in which the degree was earned. For instance, the Master of Arts hood has a white border, with a gold and dark red lining.
Outstanding bachelor’s degree recipients receive colored ribbons that distinguish them as follows:
Gold: Summa Cum Laude
Silver: Magna Cum Laude
Burgundy: Cum Laude