London — This week I made a pilgrimage to the east coast of Scotland to participate in that classic ritual of modern middle-class life: a university graduation.

Since the setting was St Andrews — a six-centuries-old seat of learning — there was plenty of historical pomp. The vice-chancellor sat at a dais decorated with a coat of arms and addressed the assembly in Latin, while tapping the graduates on their heads with an ancient piece of cloth (supposedly from the Scottish Reformation leader John Knox’s breeches) as they knelt on a velvet cushion.

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