University Canada West’s Fall 2023 Convocation is taking place this month. More than 2,500 graduates will be throwing their graduation caps in the air over three days of convocation ceremonies at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver.

UCW held its first-ever convocation 10 years ago at the Italian Cultural Centre. On this graduation day, 55 of 80 graduates were in attendance. Contrast that with Fall 2023 Convocation, where UCW graduates will walk across the stage in six different ceremonies. UCW is returning to Queen Elizabeth Theatre following recent ceremonies at BC Place and The Centre.

What is convocation?

The history of convocation dates back to the Middle Ages, when early universities held gatherings where academic and administrative matters were discussed. These assemblies were precursors to modern convocations.

The University of Oxford played a big role in shaping the modern convocation ceremony. Oxford introduced the concept of a formal academic procession, where scholars and students would process in academic regalia, including the distinctive square-topped cap known as the “mortarboard.” This academic procession became an integral part of graduation ceremonies.

As universities and their traditions spread, the practice of holding graduation ceremonies with academic regalia and formal processions became more widespread. The convocation, which was traditionally a gathering of scholars to discuss academic matters, gradually transitioned into an event to mark the successful completion of a student’s academic program and the conferral of degrees.

The convocation dress code at UCW follows many other institutions. Graduands wear a gown, hood and cap. Graduands often wonder how to wear a graduation cap: the tassel of the traditional mortarboard graduation cap should hang on the graduand’s left side—once the degree is officially conferred and they become graduates, the tassel is moved to the other side to symbolize graduation.

Today, graduation and convocation ceremonies serve as an important rite of passage for students, marking their academic achievements and the transition to the next phase of their lives. While the historical roots of convocation were primarily focused on academic discussions and governance, they have transformed into celebratory events that recognize the accomplishments of students in the context of higher education.

What makes UCW Convocation different?

UCW has added its own touches to convocation over the years, particularly in that the territories on which UCW and its campuses are situated are the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and Sel̓íl̓witulh/səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

The summer ceremonies began with bagpipers leading the graduating students. Drummer Sit-a-Luk Raymond Jones Peter of the Quw’utsun (Cowichan) First Nation then led a procession of the platform party. Rose Guerin, UCW Resident Elder, from Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) First Nation provided a traditional greeting. For the upcoming convocation, Councillor Swutth’tus Calvin Swustus will provide the greeting.

To learn more about UCW’s convocation ceremonies, check out this highlight reel from Summer 2023 Convocation.

Grads from 77 different countries

This fall’s ceremonies will be held again in the beautiful Queen Elizabeth Theatre in downtown Vancouver. The performing arts venue is named for its most famous patron, Queen Elizabeth II, who attended a concert when the theatre opened in July 1959. The auditorium’s broad columns, dramatic crimson seating and textured finishes create an ambiance that is both contemporary and cozy. There will be two ceremonies each day. The first ceremony starts at 10:30 am and the other at 4:30 pm.

Fall 2023 graduates come from 77 different countries and their average age is 30 years old.

You can watch live streams of UCW’s Fall 2023 convocation ceremonies on our YouTube channel or Facebook page. More details about ceremonies can be found on our convocation page.

Published on October 13, 2023.