Referendum result: Subfusc here to stay, 75% in favour of preserving tradition

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OUSU’s referendum on subfusc has produced a ‘Yes’ result, with a majority of students opting to keep the traditional uniform for university exams.

Most voters also opted to keep the accompanying black gown.

The results, announced on Friday evening, showed 6,403 votes (75%) in favour of keeping subfusc compulsory, against 2,040 students (24%) who voted to make the clothing non-compulsory, with 103 abstentions.

The additional vote on keeping gowns and mortarboards compulsory was similarly balanced,  with 6,242 voting in favour of maintaining the tradition and 1,759 voting against.

The clothing is now likely to stay in place, with another referendum not expected for a number of years.

The referendum amassed an impressive turnout, with 40.62% making their voices heard, the highest turnout on record for any English university student union cross-campus vote.

The issue has proved divisive in recent weeks, with members of the ‘Save Subfusc’ campaign urging students to keep the clothing as an academic tradition, describing the gown and mortar board as ‘egalitarian’.

Members of the unsuccessful ‘Subfusc Off’ campaign, in contrast, raised concerns over the image of elitism sub fusc is said to create, as well as the discomfort of students who do not wish to wear the traditional clothing for their exams.

First-year student Harrison Edmonds, official head of the ‘Yes’ campaign, welcomed the result: “We are delighted at the result, which shows that Oxford students have seen through erroneous arguments of the Subfusc Off campaign, and have seen it as egalitarian uniform that it is. We will continue to push for increased awareness of ways to opt out, but we hope that this will put the issue to bed. We would like to commend Subfusc Off for their spirited campaign.”

Edmonds appeared on BBC Newsnight on Thursday evening to discuss the issue, alongside OUSU Women’s VP Anna Bradshaw.

Balliol student Xavier Cohen, head of the ‘No’ campaign, said he was “looking forward to seeing Harrison Edmonds and the rest of the Save Subfusc team campaign to make it much easier for students to opt-out of subfusc, as they pledged during the campaign”.

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