I am getting a masters degree from Cambridge.
I don't know why I am doing it, but my general instinct is: if I am entitled to anything, be it a degree or a free drink, I'll take it.
In fact, I don't have a masters degree. I have a diploma from a five-year programme at a Russian university, which I believe corresponds to a Western masters. In Sweden, I did the final term of a bachelor's degree and wrote a thesis, on which basis I was accepted directly into a PhD programme. Masters degree was introduced later.
So I have a PhD, but I am getting a masters. There is a regulation in Cambridge allowing you a generic masters degree after three years of faithful service. Hopefully, I will never have any use of this degree, but who knows? And it'll be fun. I have for some time looked at pictures from my students' graduation ceremonies and stated, with some envy, that I'd never experience anything like that (mind, I graduated twice in Stockholm City Hall, the venue of the Nobel banquet). But now I will.
For the ceremony, I need a gown (master status without strings) and a hood. I have a master gown without strings which I bought for the first Formal Hall in Cambridge, almost four years ago. It was a very good investment, as I have worn it regularly since then. The strings that I had to cut off are in the drawer of my dressing table, in case I ever need them. The hood I will have to hire from Diagon Alley... ahm, from local robemakers.
The dress code specifies what you are allowed to wear, to the smallest detail. For instance: “Stockings or tights should be worn and should be black or nearly black and without a pattern”. Or: “The only jewellery permitted are wedding and engagement rings”. I wonder whether my doctor's ring can pass for an engagement ring. But I'd better take no risks. “Earrings must be small studs only – the dangling type must not be worn.” What about nose studs and rings? Not that I have any. “Neither coloured nail varnish nor heavy make-up should be worn”. How heavy is “heavy”?
The degree will be awarded “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. Those who have problems with this can be excused, on special application. I will need to decide by tomorrow.