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Conferment Ceremony Tradition

The conferment ceremony is a festive occasion where doctors and doctors honoris causae from different fields of science are conferred the doctoral degree. The word ‘promotion’ - literally advancement or furtherance – underscores the great esteem for education.

The conferment tradition started in the Middle Ages when universities wanted to celebrate the conferment of academic titles. The first conferment in Finland was organised at the time of the Royal Academy of Turku in 1643. The royal decree of founding the Royal Academy in Turku linked it to the academic traditions of the Uppsala University and via Uppsala to the University of Paris. According to this old tradition, universities confer degrees to doctors and masters. At the University of Tampere only doctoral degrees and the titles of doctor honoris causa are conferred. At the University of Tampere, the first Conferment Ceremony of Doctoral Degrees took place in 1965.

Many of the conferment traditions have remained the same throughout the years and the language of the conferment ceremony continues to be Latin. The doctoral insignia are a part of the conferment tradition. The hat symbolises the freedom of science and the sword the sharpness of intellect and the truth. The sword is the weapon of the spirit defending the truth, right and good which are the result of the researcher’s powers of reasoning.

The conferment ceremony events include the Ceremonial Sword-Whetting, the Conferment Ceremony, the Procession to the church service, the Conferment Banquet and Ball and the Cruise.

The history of conferment ceremonies at the University of Tampere

The tradition of conferment ceremonies at the University of Tampere starts in Helsinki at the time of the School of Social Sciences. In May 1956, the Faculty of Social Sciences organised a Ceremonial Conferment of Master’s Degrees. As the masters walked in a ceremonial procession to Kallio Church, the small college that operated in Franzéninkatu in Sörnäinen in Helsinki became more widely known.

With the conferment ceremony in 1956, the School of Social Sciences took its place with the other keepers of academic traditions. The conferment ceremony at the School of Social Sciences caused controversy. For example, the University of Helsinki expressed its disapproval for the use of certain academic insignia and the ceremony gained a lot of publicity in the press.

The next conferment ceremony was organised in Tampere in 1965 where the School of Social Sciences had operated for nearly five years by that time. The conferment ceremony was important as, apart from the Master’s degrees, two doctoral degrees were also conferred to the School’s own students Mr Erkki Pystynen and Mr Seppo Randell. In addition, the School of Social Sciences got its first honorary doctors as Mr Väinö Linna, Mr Heikki Waris, Mr Touko Markkanen, Mr Rainer von Fieandt and Mr Eino Saari were conferred the title of doctor honoris causa. The ceremonial procession to Tampere Cathedral was something totally new to the people in Tampere.

The following conferment ceremony was organised at the 50th anniversary of the University in 1975. This time Master’s degrees were no longer conferred so it was no longer necessary to appoint the Ceremonial Garland Weaver or organise the Garland Weaving Ceremony. In ten years the School of Social Sciences had become a university and in 1974 it became a state university.

In the main conferment ceremony in 1975, the doctoral degree was conferred to 11 doctors honoris causae and 30 doctors from the University of Tampere. The theme of the 50th anniversary of the University was ‘a celebration of work and science’. The Student Union of the University of Tampere boycotted the celebrations as it opposed the university administration system. Thus the conferment ceremony was conducted sombrely without great displays of joy or high jinks. There was no sword-whetting, ball or cruise. The conferment committee decided to organise only the official conferment act. Any other programme had to be organised by the doctors themselves.

In 1985, in connection with the University’s 60th anniversary, ‘a great celebration of science’ was organised. At that time, the University celebrated with abandon and the City of Tampere named a street to honour the University. The next big conferment ceremony was organised in 2000 in connection with the University’s 75th anniversary. At that time over 300 conferees were conferred the title of doctor in the conferment ceremony.

The conferment is a dignified celebration to honour centuries-old traditions. The three-day festivities include academic celebrations combined with local traditions. After the Conferment Ball at the Old Town Hall the doctors gather at the fountain in the Central Square. Feet that are tired from dancing can be refreshed in the waters of the fountain and the most zealous doctors have taken a swim in the early hours of the morning.

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