The mortarboard, or square academic cap, has a long history. It is believed to have developed from the biretta, an ecclesiastical hat that has been around since at least the tenth century. As academic wear in the UK, it was originally reserved for holders of Masters degrees, but now tends to be used by all graduates, though often only at graduation ceremonies.
The tradition of wearing has developed into a tradition of throwing. Multiple boards will be seen flying as part of graduation celebrations. However, in 2016 the University of East Anglia announced that the tossing of the solid mortarboards posed an “unacceptable risk” of injury. Instead, they instructed new graduates to mime the act of throwing and that they could then pay to have mortarboards photoshopped onto their images.
Tradition has continued.
And some newer traditions appear to be creeping in too.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 16 December 2017
Posted as part of Thursday Special