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Graduation is the action of receiving or conferring an academic degree or the ceremony that is sometimes associated, where students become Graduates. Before the graduation, candidates are referred to as Graduands. The date of graduation is often called degree day. The graduation itself is also called commencement, convocation or invocation. At the University of Cambridge, the occasion on which most graduands receive their BA degree is known as general admission. After degree completion, graduates can be referred to by their graduating year. In the United States and Canada, it is also used to refer to the advancement from a primary or secondary school level.
When ceremonies are associated, they usually include a procession of the academic staff and candidates. Beginning at the secondary school level in the United States, the candidates will almost always wear academic dress, and increasingly faculty will do the same. At the college and university level, the faculty will usually wear academic dress at the formal ceremonies, as will the trustees and degree candidates. "Graduation" at the college and university level occurs when the presiding officer confers degrees upon candidates, either individually or en masse, even if graduates physically receive their diploma later at a smaller college or departmental ceremony.
In Japan, because the school year begins in April, the graduation ceremony usually occurs in early March. Third-year Senior High School students (equivalent to 12th grade in Canada and the United States) take their finals in early February, so they are able to pass entrance examinations in universities prior to graduation. This break may contribute to the emotional charge of the event.
Although Japanese schools differ greatly in size (from a mere dozen to thousands of students), the nature of the graduation ceremony itself remains similar. It usually takes place in the school auditorium or agora, or for poorer schools, in the gymnasium. Special drapes, curtains and scrolls are hung to the walls and doors. A certain number of chairs are reserved for parents (usually mothers) to come, as well as local officials. The students do not wear robes or mortarboards. Depending on the school, they might have to buy and wear a one-time only graduation uniform. Most of the time they simply wear their regular school uniform.
At first, all students from the 1st and 2nd grades (equivalent to 10th or 11th grade) wait. Then the graduates march in to the sound of a classical march, often rendered by the school's brass band. A complex series of announcements are made, which cue the students to stand up, bow, sit down. The homeroom teacher for each class calls out the names of his or her students in the usual gender-split alphabetical order. This means that boys are called out in alphabetical order first, then the girls. Upon hearing their names, the students say はい (Hai) or "Yes" and remain at attention until all students have been called. Recently some schools have discontinued splitting the class by gender. Both the national anthem and school song are sung by everyone. The head of the student council reads a short congratulatory address to the graduates. This is different from a valedictorian speech. Unlike a valedictorian's speech, it is somewhat pre-set and heavily edited by the teachers responsible for the ceremony. Afterwards, the principal launches into a long-winded speech as is the tradition in most schools. Perseverance, hard work and patience are the most common themes brought up on the occasion.
The principal might wear black tie, complete with handkerchief and white gloves. The student’s ID number and name are read out loud, the diploma is handed over in full size (not rolled-up). The student receives it with both hands, raises it up in the air and bows to the principal before leaving the stage. There can be background music playing in the meantime, either from tape or CD, or provided by the school's brass band. Common songs include "Aogeba tōtoshi" and "Hotaru no hikari" (Sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne)
Once the diplomas have been all handed out, a few more announcements and speeches are made, by PTA (parent-teacher association) representatives or someone from the municipal or local government, depending on the school’s status. To the sound of another march, the students leave the auditorium and go back to their class for a final address by their homeroom teacher. During that time, the rest of the school, teachers and students alike, proceed to undress the auditorium, put the chairs away and clean up. A few moments later, the graduates are free to roam around the school, in and out of the teachers’ office, saying their goodbyes to their favorite teachers and reminiscing the good times. Although some tears can be shed at the time, and genuine smiles are seen on all faces, the whole process remains stiff by Western standard. There are no handshakes or hugs to be seen, but instead a lot of bowing and sniffling.
The regular calendar does not end with graduation. The next business day after the ceremony (usually a Monday), 1st and 2nd year students all come back to class. For another two to three weeks, the school continues without the 3rd year students present, which makes for lighter schedules (for the teachers), and quieter hallways at break-times.
In Junior High and High School, the graduation ceremony doesn't get as much importance, only in a few private schools. However, in college, particularly in the National Autonomous University of Mexico and National Polytechnic Institute, the graduation ceremony takes place in a very similar way to the USA.
Graduations from elementary, middle, and preparatory schools (6th,9th and 12th grades respectively) are usually accompanied by a school-organized dance, "ball" -a rehearsed dance routine for parents and family members- and a parent-organized mass, usually in a local Roman Catholic Church.
At the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS), the graduation ceremonies are formal affairs, which include an academic procession by the faculty staff. The WITS choir is always present, and as a fun twist once the academic procession has left the hall, the song "I Got You (I Feel Good)" by James Brown is played over the loudspeakers.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
In the United Kingdom, unlike the United States, students do not usually 'graduate' from school below university level. They will normally leave secondary school, high school or sixth form college (if applicable) with specific qualifications, often GCSEs and A-levels respectively (Standard Grades and Higher National Courses in Scotland). However, these are not diplomas and are not necessarily presented in a formal ceremony.
Many university graduation ceremonies in the United Kingdom begin with a procession of academics, wearing academic dress. This procession is accompanied by music, and a ceremonial mace is often carried. After this, an official reads out the names of the graduates one by one, organized by class of degree or by subject. When their names are called, the graduates walk across the stage to shake hands with a senior official, often the university's Chancellor or the vice-chancellor. Graduands wear the academic dress of the degree they are receiving. At Oxford, however, they wear the dress of their status before graduating (their previous degree, or undergraduate academic dress), afterwards changing into the dress of the degree they have just received. Serving members of the armed forces may wear their military uniform underneath. Member institutions of the University of Wales hold their graduation ceremonies almost entirely in the Welsh language. Some of the older universities may hold their graduation ceremonies in Latin, even though few students understand this language. The Latin section of the ceremony may include a rendition of an anthem, sometimes called the unofficial anthem of all universities, the De Brevitate Vitae, also known as The Gaudeamus.
University of Cambridge
At the University of Cambridge, each graduation is a separate act of the university's governing body, the Regent House, and must be voted on as with any other act. A formal meeting of the Regent House, known as a Congregation, is held for this purpose.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Graduates receiving an undergraduate degree wear the academical dress that they were entitled to before graduating: for example, most students becoming Bachelors of Arts wear undergraduate gowns and not BA gowns. Graduates receiving a postgraduate degree (e.g. PhD or Master's) wear the academical dress that they were entitled to before graduating, only if their first degree was also from the University of Cambridge; if their first degree is from another university, they wear the academical dress of the degree that they are about to receive, the BA gown without the strings if they are under 24 years of age, or the MA gown without strings if they are 24 and over.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
At Durham University the graduation ceremony is known as Congregation and takes place in Durham Cathedral, with graduands processing across Palace Green from the Great Hall of University College.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
The Open University
Due to the large number and geographical dispersion of students, unlike most UK universities, degree ceremonies at the Open University are not the occasion on which degrees are formally conferred. This happens in absentia at a joint meeting of the University's Council and Senate ahead of the ceremony. The University's ceremonies – or "Presentations of Graduates" – occur during the long summer throughout Britain and Ireland, as well as one ceremony in Versailles.
United States of America
In the United States, besides "commencement," the term "graduation" is also used in schools below university level such as the high school, middle school and even kindergarten and preschool ceremonies.
The American Council on Education is the authority on academic regalia in the US, and has developed an Academic Ceremony Guide that is generally followed by most institutions of higher learning. The ceremony guide and the related Academic Costume Code provide the core of academic ceremony traditions in the US. High school graduation regalia, however, is generally left to the discretion of the school and often cap and gown colors vary from school to school.
At many large US institutions, where many hundreds of degrees are being granted at once, the main ceremony (commencement) involving all graduates in a sports stadium, amphitheater, parade ground or lawn, or other large – often outdoor – venue is usually followed, but sometimes preceded, by smaller ceremonies (diploma ceremony) at sites on or around campus where deans and faculty of each academic organization (college, academic department, program, etc.) distribute diplomas to their graduates. Another means of handling very large numbers of graduates is to have several ceremonies, divided by field of study, at a central site over the course of a weekend instead of one single ceremony. At large institutions the great number of family members and guests that each graduating student wishes to attend may exceed the capacity of organizers to accommodate. Universities try to manage this by allocating a specified number of graduation tickets to each student that will be graduating.
It is also common for graduates not to receive their actual diploma at the ceremony but instead a certificate indicating that they participated in the ceremony or a portfolio to hold the diploma in. At the high school level, this allows academic administrators to withhold diplomas from students who are unruly during the ceremony; at the college level, this allows students who need an additional quarter or semester to satisfy their academic requirements to nevertheless participate in the official ceremony with their cohort before receiving their degree. In addition, with large numbers of students receiving diplomas and often no specific order they walk in, it is impossible for their actual diplomas to be given to them at the ceremony, thus them receiving simply a blank diploma to be filled later.
At most colleges and universities in the US, a faculty member or dean will ceremoniously recommend that each class of candidates (often by college but sometimes by program/major) be awarded the proper degree, which is then formally and officially conferred by the president or other institutional official. Typically, this is accomplished by a pair of short set speeches by a senior academic official and a senior institutional official:
- "Mr. President, on behalf of the faculty of Letters and Science, I hereby declare that these candidates have met all the requirements for the degree of ... and request that such degree be conferred upon them." "Under the authority vested in me by the State of (?) and the Trustees of ? College, I hereby confer upon these candidates the degree of ..."
For students receiving an advanced degree, many colleges include a Hooding Ceremony in their commencement program, in which the students get to wear a hood. A hood is a symbolic garment, which is worn draped around the neck and over the shoulders, displayed down the back with the lining exposed. The hood’s length signifies the degree; with the institution's colors in the lining and a velvet trim in a color that signifies the scholar’s field. The hood is a part of traditional academic dress whose origins date back many centuries. Today, the hood is considered by some to be the most expressive component of the academic costume. Today’s hoods have evolved from a practical garment to a symbolic one. At Fordham University, graduates of a college put on the hood by themselves en mass after the university president confers the degree upon them from the podium. This is called 'to self-hood'. Doctorates are hooded upon the stage.
- Main article: Commencement speech
A graduation or commencement speech, in the U.S., is a public speech given by a student or by alumnus of a university to a graduating class and their guests. Common themes of the graduation speech include wishing the graduates well in the "real world", cautioning that the world of academe is a special place where they were taught to think (a common variation contradicts this view). Most recently, the trend has been to find a celebrity (often one with no apparent connection to the specific institution or education in general) or a politician to deliver the speech.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Notable exceptions are Columbia University, Davidson College, and Belmont University, where the tradition has been that only the current university president gives the commencement address. Though there is only one commencement, individual colleges and schools of Columbia often invite a speaker at separate graduation ceremonies held earlier or on another day, however.
- Academic achievement
- College graduates
- Educational attainment level
- Educational degrees
- Graduate schools
- Graduate students
- Graduate unemployment
- High school graduates
- High school graduation examination
- Higher education
- School transition
- School to work transition
- The Stories Behind Graduation Traditions by Ethan Trex, Mental Floss
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