The Spring Graduation Ceremony and the Annual Celebration Ceremony are key elements of the academic tradition. These ceremonies are rooted in Medieval continental academia, even if traditions have changed somewhat over the years and each university has made its own marks on the ceremonies. This page explains how Umeå University’s academic ceremonies are conducted.
Both Umeå University’s academic ceremonies, the Spring Graduation Ceremony and the Annual Celebration Ceremony, are held in Aula Nordica on Campus Umeå. Everyone is welcome to attend the 1.5–2-hour ceremony which follows the procedures described further down. The ceremonies also include music performances.
Different categories of guests of honour are celebrated during the Spring Graduation Ceremony and the Annual Celebration Ceremony, but the setup is still similar.
The stage is decorated with Swedish flags and flowers. The centre of the stage is adorned with a rostrum from which speeches are held. During the Spring Graduation Ceremony, the parnassus – which are two leaf-covered rails symbolising a bridge – is placed in front of the rostrum. During the Annual Celebration Ceremony, a round, red mat is used instead of the parnassus. Chairs are placed on stage for the guests of honour to sit during the ceremony.
The rituals of the Ceremony
Watch a video of the 2019 Spring Graduation Ceremony to see the rituals that make up the Spring Graduation Ceremony.
Introduction of the Ceremony
Audience takes their seats in the auditorium
Anyone who wants to attend the Ceremony is welcome to take their seats in the audience. Seating is free, beside a few reserved seats on the front row.
Two faculty marshals open the Ceremony by holding an introductory address to the auditorium. They introduce the various symbols of the ceremony and describe the procedures and rituals that will follow.
The audience rises while the guests of honour, wearing their formal attire, enter the auditorium in procession. The University Management and the faculty conferrers also walk in procession with student marshals leading and closing the procession. The procession symbolises the University’s journey towards the hidden goals of knowledge.
The guests of honour take their seats on stage. This is also where other participants are seated, beside the Vice-Chancellor, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, the University Director and faculty conferrers, who are seated on the first row of the auditorium.
Vice-Chancellor’s welcome address
The Vice-Chancellor of Umeå University opens the Ceremony with a welcome address. The Vice-Chancellor wears the Vice-Chancellor’s chain of Umeå University, which was a gift from the town of Umeå. This is a thick golden chain symbolising the University’s leadership and the flowing waters of the Ume and Vindel rivers.
The Vice-Chancellor wears the Vice-Chancellor’s chain during the Spring Graduation and Annual Celebration ceremonies.
Rituals for conferment, award ceremonies and inauguration of professors and Vice-Chancellors
The guests of honour are celebrated by faculty in a predetermined order: Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Science and Technology, Faculty of Social Sciences and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. Each faculty has appointed a conferrer for their faculty’s degree conferment ceremony. First, the various categories of doctors are conferred. At the Annual Celebration Ceremony, new professors are then inaugurated. Thereafter, the award recipients receive their awards.
These rituals are reminiscent of how a play follows a strict manuscript and uses formal language. The list of terms for academic ceremonies holds explanations of some of the ceremonial terms and expressions.
Conferment of jubilee doctors
Individuals who were awarded their doctoral degrees at Umeå University at least 50 years ago may be conferred as jubilee doctors at the Spring Graduation Ceremony.
The faculty conferrer takes the rostrum and presents their faculty and the doctoral insignia. The conferrer then reads the jubilee doctor’s name, and the jubilee doctor rises and approaches the conferrer. The conferrer greets the jubilee doctor, places a laurel wreath on their head (apart from medical doctors who are conferred with a hat) and presents the diploma. Jubilee doctors do not cross the parnassus, but bow to the applause of the audience.
When all the faculty’s jubilee doctors have been presented, the conferrer thanks them for their contributions to science and wishes them all well for the future. A fanfare of trumpets marks the end of the jubilee doctor conferment ceremony.
Jubilee doctors being conferred in their absence are conferred by the faculty marshal reading the jubilee doctor’s name and handing over the diploma to the conferrer. The conferrer will hold up the diploma uttering the Latin “absens”, after which the diploma is returned to the marshal before being posted to the jubilee doctor.
Conferment of new doctors
Doctors who have completed their doctoral studies and written and defended their doctoral thesis in a third-cycle subject at Umeå University are conferred at the Spring Graduation Ceremony.
The Spring Graduation Ceremony is introduced by the conferrer holding a short introduction about handing over the doctoral symbols, the doctoral insignia that is, to the faculty’s new doctors. The conferrer places themself by the parnassus in front of the rostrum.
One doctor at a time is introduced by the presenter. The doctor rises and approaches the conferrer. The conferrer places the hat (medical doctors) or the laurel wreath (other doctors) on the doctor’s head, places their hand on the doctor’s left hand to symbolically hand over the doctoral ring, and gives the doctor their diploma. Thereafter, the conferrer takes the doctor by the hand and leads them over the parnassus. This symbolises the doctor joining the ranks of academia and academic teachers from that moment forward.
When all doctors have been conferred, the conferrer returns to the rostrum and holds a congratulatory speech according to the traditions of their faculty. A fanfare of trumpets marks the end of each faculty’s conferment of new doctors, and the next faculty conferrer proceeds.
Conferment of honorary doctors
The title of honorary doctor, doctor honoris causa in Latin, is a distinction which is awarded by a faculty. The honorary doctors are people who have achieved something of major importance for the University or for society, whom the faculty wishes to recognise and tie to its research community. Honorary doctors are conferred at the Annual Celebration.
The conferment of faculty honorary doctors is introduced by the conferrer presenting the honorary doctor to the audience – in Swedish if the honorary doctor speaks Swedish, otherwise in English. Thereafter, the conferrer takes their place at the rostrum and confers the honorary doctor according to the same procedures as for new doctors (see above).
Two things differ, however: the parnassus is replaced by a round, red mat at the Annual Celebration, and the rituals of handing over the insignia to the honorary doctor take place in Latin.
When all the faculty’s honorary doctors have been conferred, the conferrer holds a short congratulatory speech. A fanfare of trumpets marks the end of each faculty’s conferment of honorary doctors, and the next faculty conferrer proceeds.
If an honorary doctor is conferred in their absence, the conferrer will hold up the diploma uttering the Latin “absens”. The diploma is posted to the honorary doctor.
Inauguration of new professors
The professorial inauguration is an academic custom in place at all Swedish universities. The inauguration means that the new professor is solemnly inaugurated to their new post.
The Vice-Chancellor inaugurates new professors. The inauguration commences by a brief speech by the Vice-Chancellor. All new professors and their research are presented in short films shown on a screen.
The presenter introduces the new professors in alphabetical order. The Vice-Chancellor greets each professor, hands over the diploma and conveys the University’s congratulations. The inauguration of professors is concluded with a speech by the Vice-Chancellor to the professors.
The faculties, student unions, Várdduo – Centre for Sámi Research, and Umeå municipality, among others, award scientific and pedagogical awards, as well as to study counsellors and collaborators. Awards are also presented from the foundations that private donors, foundations, organisations and companies have donated to Umeå University. The Vice-Chancellor presents the awards at the academic ceremonies.
The Vice-Chancellor introduces the award ceremony by a short speech. The Vice-Chancellor then presents the award itself and the award recipient, who stands behind the rostrum. When the presentation of the motivation has been read out, the award recipient steps in front of the rostrum to receive the Vice-Chancellor’s congratulations and the diploma. After the Vice-Chancellor and award recipients have shaken hands, the award recipient bows to the audience before returning to their place.
Inauguration of the Vice-Chancellor
In the years when a new Vice-Chancellor is to be inaugurated, the Annual Celebration Ceremony starts with the inauguration of the new Vice-Chancellor. The Vice-Chancellor is inaugurated by the chairperson of the University Board, who starts with a short speech about the recruitment process. The chairperson then welcomes the new Vice-Chancellor up onto the stage to receive the Vice-Chancellor’s insignia, that is the Vice-Chancellor’s chain. Followed by congratulations, the chain is placed on the new Vice-Chancellor’s shoulders.