Graduation is the awarding of a
diploma A diploma is a document awarded by an educational institution (such as a college or university) testifying the recipient has graduated by successfully completing their courses of studies. Historically, it has also referred to a charter or offici ...
to a student by an educational institution. It may also refer to the ceremony that is associated with it. The date of the graduation ceremony is often called graduation day. The graduation ceremony is also sometimes called: commencement,
congregation A congregation is a large gathering of people, often for the purpose of worship. Congregation may also refer to: *Church (congregation), a Christian organization meeting in a particular place for worship *Congregation (Roman Curia), an administra ...
convocation A convocation (from the Latin '' convocare'' meaning "to call/come together", a translation of the Greek ἐκκλησία ''ekklēsia'') is a group of people formally assembled for a special purpose, mostly ecclesiastical or academic. In a ...
or invocation.


Ceremonies for graduating students date from the first universities in Europe in the twelfth century. At that time Latin was the language of scholars. A ''universitas'' was a guild of masters (such as MAs) with licence to teach. "Degree" and "graduate" come from ''gradus'', meaning "step". The first step was admission to a bachelor's degree. The second step was the masters step, giving the graduate admission to the ''universitas'' and license to teach. Typical dress for graduation is gown and hood, or hats adapted from the daily dress of university staff in the Middle Ages, which was in turn based on the attire worn by medieval clergy. The tradition of wearing graduation hats in Sweden has been in place since the mid-eighteenth century. The cap is typically a white sailor hat with a black or dark blue band around it, a crown motif, and a black peak at the front. The graduation hat tradition was initially adopted by students at Uppsala University. The headgear then became popular across several other European nations as well.


Usually the ceremony and name apply to university degrees (Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral degrees). In a graduation ceremony at the college and university level, the presiding officer or another authorized person formally confers degrees upon candidates, either individually or en masse, even though graduates may physically receive their diploma later at a smaller college or departmental ceremony, or simply receive their diploma through the mail. Ceremonies often include a procession of some of the academic staff and candidates and a
valediction A valediction (derivation from Latin ''vale dicere'', "to say farewell"), or complimentary close in American English, is an expression used to say farewell, especially a word or phrase used to end a letter or message,academic dress Academic dress is a traditional form of clothing for academic settings, mainly tertiary (and sometimes secondary) education, worn mainly by those who have obtained a university degree (or similar), or hold a status that entitles them to assum ...
at the ceremony, as will the
trustees Trustee (or the holding of a trusteeship) is a legal term which, in its broadest sense, is a synonym for anyone in a position of trust and so can refer to any individual who holds property, authority, or a position of trust or responsibility to ...
(if applicable) and the degree candidates. Graduates can be referred to by their year of graduation.

Graduation ''in absentia''

When a student graduates without attending the graduation ceremony, then it is called graduation ''
in absentia is Latin for absence. , a legal term, is Latin for "in the absence" or "while absent". may also refer to: * Award in absentia * Declared death in absentia, or simply, death in absentia, legally declared death without a body * Election in abs ...

United States (non-tertiary graduations)

In the United States, the completion of mandatory schooling is also referred to as graduating, even though it is substantially below degree level. Graduations for
high school A secondary school describes an institution that provides secondary education and also usually includes the building where this takes place. Some secondary schools provide both '' secondary education, lower secondary education'' (ages 11 to 14) ...
, middle school and kindergarten. Also, even for passing from one school year to the next, have been a development of recent years. This has received criticism, being described as "just a way of celebrating mediocrity". In some places, graduation parties celebrating graduation from school, college or university are popular. In a recent 2014 nationwide survey in the United States, $985 was the average amount spent on graduation parties.

By country

The procedures and traditions surrounding academic graduation ceremonies differ around the world. Whereas in the United Kingdom a graduation usually only occurs at university level, in the United States and many other countries graduations also occur at high schools where no higher education qualifications are conferred upon the graduates. In a graduation ceremony the students wear formal academic dress, such as square academic caps and gowns that are used for such occasions. Graduation traditions vary across universities observing different cultures. For example, most universities in Sweden are research-oriented and may present their students with bachelor's, master's, and doctor's degrees covering all academic streams. Universities across the country are based through the Higher Education Ordinance. Most of the national programs provide Swedish, English, math and science among degree courses. In Zimbabwe, graduation ceremonies are often associated with the guest of honor who most often is the ceremonial head of the institution. At state universities the president of the country officiates as chancellor and guest of honor. Every graduate of a state university in Zimbabwe can claim to have shaken the President's hand. The person most associated with graduation at those institutions is Zimbabwe's late ex-president
Robert Mugabe Robert Gabriel Mugabe (; ; 21 February 1924 – 6 September 2019) was a Zimbabwean revolutionary and politician who served as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe from 1980 to 1987 and then as President from 1987 to 2017. He served as Leader of the ...
. At other state institutions of higher learning, the vice presidents or other senior government officials may preside. Otherwise, in countries like
Argentina Argentina (), officially the Argentine Republic ( es, link=no, República Argentina), is a country in the southern half of South America. Argentina covers an area of , making it the second-largest country in South America after Brazil, t ...
and Uruguay, enthusiasm prevails over moderation, as well as taking part in an authentic carnival as part of the celebration that is mostly spontaneous, anarchic, and barely planned in the middle of the streets: hundreds of graduates, familiars and friends gather in an open place, carrying alcoholic drinks, eggs, flour and other messy food; pelting it all over the graduates; whereas the party is public and open to excesses that carry the complaints of all sorts of commerce, neighbours and authorities in the zone due to the concentration of public disorder and filth that lasts until the aftermath and overwhelms the municipal services.

See also

Academic dress Academic dress is a traditional form of clothing for academic settings, mainly tertiary (and sometimes secondary) education, worn mainly by those who have obtained a university degree (or similar), or hold a status that entitles them to assum ...
Commencement speech A commencement speech or commencement address is a speech given to graduating students, generally at a university, although the term is also used for secondary education institutions and in similar institutions around the world. The commencemen ...
Encaenia Encaenia (; ) is an academic or sometimes ecclesiastical ceremony, usually performed at colleges or universities. It generally occurs some time near the annual ceremony for the general conferral of degrees to students. The word is from Latin, mean ...
Exit examination An exit examination is a test that students must pass to receive a diploma and graduate from school. Such examinations have been used in a variety of countries; this article focuses on their use within the United States. These are usually criter ...
Matriculation Matriculation is the formal process of entering a university, or of becoming eligible to enter by fulfilling certain academic requirements such as a matriculation examination. Australia In Australia, the term "matriculation" is seldom used now. ...

Notes and references

External links

The Stories Behind Graduation Traditions
by Ethan Trex, ''Mental Floss'' {{Authority control Educational stages School terminology Ceremonies