“A Formal Meeting of the University”
People often ask why UBC calls its graduation ceremonies “Congregation”. There are no records to say why this term was originally adopted but it has been used by UBC since its first graduation ceremonies in 1916 and is believed to originate from its use in English institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge. According to Wikipedia:
“A congregation is an assembly of people for a given purpose; with respect to a university, it is a formal meeting of senior members of the University. Examples include the Regent House in the University of Cambridge and the House of Congregation and the Ancient House of Congregation in the University of Oxford. Stemming from this tradition, in some universities a graduation ceremony is known as a congregation, even if the ceremony is not a meeting of the university’s governing body in the traditional sense.”
For whatever reason, UBC adopted this term for its graduation ceremonies in 1916 and has used it ever since then when inviting faculty, students and guests to the Annual and more recently the Spring and Fall graduation ceremonies. UBC is unique amongst Canadian institutions in that it appears to be the only institution that still uses this term.
The term ‘Convocation’ at UBC is more often used to describe a group of people – defined by the University Act – including the Chancellor, President, members of the Senate, all faculty members and all graduates of the University. The Convocation, through the Chancellor who serves as its chair, confers degrees, including honorary degrees, and awards diplomas and certificates of proficiency.
In Fall 2007, UBC Vancouver Senate reconfirmed its preference to maintain the tradition of using the term ‘Congregation’ for its graduation ceremonies. In Spring 2008, the UBC Okanagan Senate passed a motion that “Convocation be adopted as the name for meetings of the UBC convocation held at UBC Okanagan for the purposes of conferring degrees, effective June 2008.”