University of East Anglia puts a stop to mortarboard throwing

Mortarboards being thrown Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A university spokeswoman said injuries caused by falling mortarboards posed an "unacceptable risk"

University students have been asked not to throw their mortarboards in the air due to health and safety concerns.

Some graduates at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich have been hurt by falling hats in recent years, student newspaper The Tab reported.

Students have been urged to mime the throwing action instead, and have hats added digitally to the photo after.

A university spokeswoman said injuries caused by falling mortarboards posed an "unacceptable risk".

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In each of the last two years, students had suffered facial injuries, and last year one person needed treatment in A&E, the spokeswoman said.

"We want to ensure no student's graduation day is ruined by the potential for avoidable injury," she said.

"This has been agreed by our academic dress suppliers who often receive back damaged mortarboards, and our photographers."

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Media captionA student and Education Officer give their views on a throwing mortarboard ban

Mortarboard myths

  • The square academic cap, or mortarboard, often forms part of the customary uniform of university graduate
  • Its name is apparently derived from the idea it resembles the boards bricklayers used to hold mortar, known as the "hawk"
  • Some UK universities, including Cambridge, Bristol, Durham, Newcastle and St Andrews, do not require their students to wear mortarboards - the reason for this is unclear, but is sometimes rumoured to be down to men abandoning their caps in protest at women being admitted to universities
  • Newcastle University says academic dress has not included a mortarboard since 1963, when students celebrated the university becoming independent by throwing their hats into the River Tyne

The university said it had not introduced a specific policy banning the throwing of mortarboards, but instead had "asked our photography supplier not to encourage it during large group sessions".

The university spokeswoman said: "The university accepts some people may still throw their hats. This is their choice and nothing will happen if they do."

The Tab reported third and fourth-year students had been sent instructions from a photography company telling them hats could be added to the photo digitally for £8.

Louisa Baldwin, the Law Society president at UEA, told the newspaper: "If I've paid £45 to hire a bit of cloth and card for the day I should be able to chuck my hat in the air!"

Another student, Alice Cachia, said: "This is health and safety gone mad."

The Health and Safety Executive said the chance of being injured by a flying mortar board is "incredibly small".

"When the concern is actually about the hats being returned in good condition, it's time to stop blaming health and safety," the organisation said.

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