The academic regalia usually recognizes three different academic degrees: the bachelor, the master and the doctor. The name of each degree was derived by medieval university custom. The bachelor’s degree, or baccalaureate, takes its name from the medieval practice of “bachelors” wearing a garland of bayberries. The master’s degree was equivalent to a license to teach and sometimes was followed by the express words “Licentia Docendi.” The doctor’s degree, when earned by study, as is true of the Doctor of Philosophy degree, indicates advanced study and independent research in a specialized field of learning, whereas honorary degrees are granted for meritorious service and for distinction in public or private endeavor.
In the medieval university, students and teachers wore gowns indicating their status and scholastic achievement. Those holding a bachelor’s degree wear a gown of worsted material, fastened at the top and distinguished by long pointed sleeves hanging nearly to the knees. The master’s gown, worn open, has long closed sleeves with an arc of a circle appearing near the bottom of a slit for the arm near the middle of the sleeves. The doctor’s gown, also worn open, is faced with a broad strip of velvet and has three bars of velvet on each sleeve.
A hood may be worn with the gown. The bachelor’s hood is three feet long, with a two-inch strip of velvet; the master’s hood is three and one-half feet long, faced with a three-inch strip of velvet; the doctor’s hood is four feet long and faced with a five-inch strip of velvet. The color of the tassel or the velvet strip on the hood indicates the field of study in which the degree was earned or granted; for example: Arts, white; Science, yellow; Education, light blue; Nursing, apricot; Business, drab. Each hood is also lined in silk with the colors of the institution which granted the degree. UNCW’s hood is lined with green and gold.
The appropriate cap for all degrees is the familiar black “mortarboard.” A black tassel, or one of the colors signifying the field of specialization, hanging to the left of the face, is appropriate for all degrees. Those holding a doctor’s degree may wear a soft velvet cap of the color indicating their field of study or, with the “mortarboard,” they may wear a tassel in whole or in part of gold thread.