History of Graduation

The University has the power to confer degrees on graduands by authority of the founding Papal Bull of 1451. Regulations governing the content and type of degrees awarded have been developed since the foundation of the University, and are currently set by Resolutions of the University Court under powers granted by the Universities (Scotland) Act of 1966. Regulations setting out the entitlement to graduate throughout the University's history can be found in the relevant edition of University Calendar.

Graduation ceremonies follow tradition that has developed over the centuries. Roughly translated as 'taking a step', graduation symbolises the move of the former student (now called graduand) into wider society as a graduate, there to use the talents developed as a member of this society and which the University acknowledges by the conferment of a degree.

The University confers four types of degree:

  • Doctorates awarded as Honorary Degrees in recognition of work of great distinction (for example, Doctor of Laws (LLD), Doctor of Letters (DLitt), Doctor of Science (DSc), and Doctor of the University (DUniv))
  • Doctorates for presentation of original and substantive written work - the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is the only degree awarded in all Faculties
  • Masters' for advanced study taken by graduates (for example, Master of Philosophy (MPhil), Master of Science (MSc))
  • First degrees, such as the Bachelors' in Science, Engineering and some Arts subjects; the principal first degree in Arts and Social Sciences is the Master of Arts. First degrees with Honours are split into three classes - first, second and third. In 1969 Senate decided that, at the disrcretion of the examiners, Second class degrees could be further divided into two divisions.

At graduation, students are presented for degrees by the Dean of the Faculty in which they studied. The order of presentation is that of the 'seniority' of the Faculties and of degree, with 'higher' degrees coming before first degrees. For example, three Deans in succession may present graduands for PhDs, then two may present Masters' and then all the Deans in sequence present their first degrees.

The Procession

The Procession enters the Bute Hall to the strains of the organ playing Gaudeamus Igitur. The playing, and often the singing, of this medieval academic anthem is traditional on such occasions:

Gaudeamus Igitur
Gaudeamus Igitur, juvenes dum sumus, Vivat Academis, vivant Professores
Gaudeamus Igitur, juvenes dum sumus, Vivat Academis, vivant Professores,
Post jucundem juventutem, Vivat membrum quodilbet,
post molestam senectutem vivant membra quaelibet,
Nos habebit humus, nos habebit humus. Semper sint in flore, semper sint in flore!

At the head of the procession comes the Mace, symbol of the University's authority carried by the Bedellus. Behind him comes the person conferring the degrees; by right it is the Chancellor but he may delegate his powers to the Vice-Chancellor (the Principal). In their absence degrees may be conferred by a senior professor, usually the Dean of Faculties or Clerk of Senate. Next come the Professor of Divinity, the Clerk of Senate and the Dean of Faculties, followed by the Deans of the Faculties, members of Senate and other teaching staff.

The Ceremony

After the Mace has been placed on the table in front of the platform party, and before anyone sits, the Professor of Divinity opens the proceedings in Latin with a prayer written by the Dutch scholar, Erasmus (c.1466-1536):

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Aeterne Deus et Clementissime Pater, gratias tibi quam maximas agimus quod nos a fera et agresti vita ad artes ingenuas et scientarum cognitionem deduxeris, quod domum nostram perpetua largitate et misericordia usque ad hunc diem prosecutus sis quod viam nobis et veritatem et vitam in Filio tuo indicaveris.

A te, Pater, petimus ut servi tui graduandi, ab his profecti intitiis, ad metam perfectionis adspirent, et nobis nostraeque reipublicae laudi et ornamento esse possint. Tibi, Pater, Filio, et Spiritui Sancto sit laus, honor et gloria in saecula saeculorum. Amen

The first Dean presents the graduands for their degrees. Each graduand is called, moves forward and kneels to be touched lightly on the head or 'capped' with a flat velvet cap by the presiding official, who pronounces Latin words of conferment. The precise words said vary according to the degree.

For the PhD these will be 'Te Philosophiae Doctorum creamus', which translated is, 'we create you a Doctor of Philosophy'. The words are repeated for each graduand in turn.

With Masters and First degrees, the full wording - for example - 'Te Medicinae Baccalaureum et Chirurgiae Baccalauream creamus' which translated is, 'We create you Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery' is used only for the first graduand, and it is usual to say 'Te quoque' (And you also) for those who follow.

The Bedellus then puts the graduate's hood in place, the Head of the Registry hands over the diploma and the graduate leaves the platform

Hoods are different colours according to the degree conferred with many of the colours being taken from the native flora of Scotland.

Medical Graduates' Oath

Every candidate for the degrees of Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery and Bachelor of Dental Surgery must at graduation subscribe to the following declaration:

I do solemnly and sincerely declare that, as a Graduate in Medicine of the University of Glasgow, I will exercise the several parts of my profession, to the best of my knowledge and abilities, for the good, safety, and welfare of all persons committing themselves or committed to my care and direction; and that I will not knowingly or intentionally do anything or administer anything to them to their hurt or prejudice for any consideration or from any motive whatever. And I further declare that I will keep silence as to anything I have seen or heard while visiting the sick which it would be improper to divulge.

And I make this solemn declaration in virtue of the Provisions of the Promissary Oaths Act, 1868, substituting a Declaration for Oaths in certain cases.

This declaration takes the place of the Latin oath which until 1868 was required of all graduates in medicine. The terms of this oath were:

Testor Deum omnipotentem me hoc iusiurandum pro virili servaturum; victus rationem aegris commodam et salutarem pro virili servaturum; nullius intercessione nec sponte noxium pharmacum cuiquam propinaturum; sed sancte et caste vitam artemque meam instituturum; in quascunque domos intravero ad aegrotantium duntaxat salutem ingressurum et ab omni iniuria inferenda procul futurum: quaecunque inter curandum videro audiverove siquidem ea efferre non expediat silentio suppressurum.

The Charge

When the last graduate has been capped, the presiding official makes a speech giving a charge to the graduates to remember their responsibilities to the University and its reputation. There may also be a comment on some aspect of the University affairs or wider issues affecting the University.

Everyone then rises, the Professor of Divinity gives the Benediction.


Gratia Domini nostri Iesu Christ et caritas Dei et communicatio Spiritus Sancti sint cum omnibus vobis.

The Academic Procession, followed by the graduates, leaves the Hall, bringing the graduation ceremony to a close.

The Academic Procession
The Academic Procession

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