What happens during Graduation? 

Before the ceremony

When you arrive on campus please go to the Exhibition Centre where you will pick up your gown and guest tickets. As guests will not be permitted to enter the gowning area, we suggest they take advantage of the catering facilities on offer. 

You should arrive at Central Hall 45 minutes before the start of your ceremony. You do not require a ticket - once you are seated your name will be checked by stewards. Once your name has been checked, please do not leave Central Hall.

Guests and guest tickets

Please make sure you have passed your guest tickets to your guests before you go to Central Hall. Guests will be allowed into Central Hall from around 30 minutes before the ceremony start time.

During the ceremony

Most ceremonies last around one and a quarter hours. Each congregation has a Presiding Officer; under normal circumstances this will be the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor or Deputy Vice Chancellor and Provost of the University.

Once graduands and guests are seated in Central Hall the official party enters the auditorium in procession, the Presiding Officer being led by the University Mace Bearer. The Presiding Officer will declare the congregation open for the conferment of awards and give an opening speech.

Receiving your award

Following the opening speech a steward will invite the graduands to receive their awards. The awards will be presented in alphabetical order of department, with higher degrees being presented first, then first degrees, with students within each award being presented alphabetically. You will be seated in the order that you will be presented so it is important that you sit in the correct seat as shown on your seating card. When it is time for your award to be presented a steward will lead you to the front of the auditorium, one row at a time.  

You will line up at the foot of the stairs to the stage where another steward will perform a final check. Wait at the stairs for your name to be called and then walk across to the centre of the stage where the Presiding Officer will shake your hand. If this raises any issues for you (for instance, if your religion does not permit you to shake hands with a member of the opposite sex) please contact graduation@york.ac.uk and we will happily amend these arrangements for you.  

You will then continue across the stage and collect your award certificate from the steward at the bottom of the stairs. 

A short musical interlude will take place half way through the awards being presented.

Student orators

At each graduation ceremony there will be an opportunity for a graduating student to represent their department and give a personal message to their classmates, family and friends. The Student Orator will address the congregation once all the candidates have been presented for their awards. Find out more and apply to be a Student Orator.

Honorary degrees

Honorary degrees are usually conferred towards the end of the ceremony. The honorary graduand will be presented to the Presiding Officer, usually by the person who nominated them for the award. Upon receiving their award the honorary graduate will address the congregation. 

Close of ceremony

Once the honorary graduate has addressed the congregation, the Presiding Officer will close proceedings. The official party will leave, followed by the graduates. Guests are politely asked to wait until graduates have left to exit the hall. 

What happens if I am late?

If you are going to be late for the ceremony, for example if you are stuck in traffic, please get a message to the graduation staff as soon as possible by contacting +44 (0) 1904 32 4042. Depending on how late you are going to be, you may be asked to present yourself to the staff at the information desk in the Exhibition Centre when you arrive, or you may be asked to go straight to Central Hall. If you arrive after the point at which your award was conferred you may not be admitted. 


To help you understand more about your graduation, here are definitions of related terms:

Alumnus (m) or alumna (f)

A person who has graduated from a school, college, university, etc. (From the Latin 'alere,' which means to nourish.)

Plural: alumni (m or both) or alumnae (f)


The qualification that you have received from the University, eg Master of Arts (MA), Bachelor of Science (BSc)


Your certificate is proof that you have been awarded a degree by the University of York. It will be given to you at your graduation ceremony. If you choose to graduate in absentia it will either be sent to you by registered mail or you can nominate someone to collect your certificate for you. Your certificate must be kept safe as duplicates are not issued. 


The act of granting a person their award, which happens during the graduation ceremony. You cannot claim to hold an award from the University until this has taken place.

Also note that PhD candidates are not permitted to use the title Dr until their award has been conferred upon them.


A graduand is person who is about to receive an academic award. They become a graduate upon conferment of that award. You will begin the ceremony as a graduand and leave as a graduate.

In absentia

This literally means “while not present”. If you choose to graduate in absentia, your degree will be conferred upon you at the ceremony without you being in attendance.

Order of conferment

This refers to the order in which degrees are presented during the ceremony. Honorary degrees are conferred first, followed by higher degrees, then first degrees. 

Did you know?

Before your graduation you are referred to as a graduand - a person who is about to graduate.

During your ceremony, at the point of conferment, you become a graduate of the University.

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