Awarding of Degrees Policy

POLICY

Degrees are conferred by a member of the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees, by the President of The University of Tennessee or by the president’s designee. Degrees are conferred on one of three dates throughout the year: the last Friday in May, the third Friday in August, and the Friday of the second full week in December [1] following completion of all requirements. Students must be enrolled in, or completing, at least one credit hour during the term of graduation.

POLICY EXPLANATIONS AND PROCEDURES

I. Attendance at Commencement and Graduation in Absentia

Attendance at graduation is expected for each student who is completing a degree. If he/she is unable to attend graduation, the student must notify his/her respective dean of a desire to graduate in absentia at least two weeks prior to commencement. Once notified, the Dean will inform the Registrar. The student must then make arrangements with the Registrar for pick-up or delivery of his/her diploma.

  • Diplomas will not be released to anyone (spouse, friend or family member) other than the graduate without written authorization that grants specific permission from the student. The Registrar may release diplomas to a designated college official on written request from the Dean.
  • Diplomas will not be released to any graduate whose record shows an official account ‘hold’. Students should check Banner Self Service in advance of graduation to identify and address remaining obligations related to the ‘hold’.

II. Conferring of Degrees

The degree is conferred following the completion of requirements on one of three designated degree conferral dates throughout the year:

  • The last Friday in May;
  • The third Friday in August; and,
  • The Friday of the second full week in December.
  • All diplomas are issued with the name of "The University of Tennessee" and are signed by the President, the Chancellor and the Secretary to the Board of Trustees. Diplomas are ordered and issued by the Registrar.

    III. Participation in Commencement Exercises

    Any student who anticipates completion of his/her requirements at the end of a specific term must complete and submit to the Registrar an “Intent to Graduate Form” (the form and relevant deadlines can be found on the web site for the Office of the Registrar). Diplomas will be ordered and a ‘draft’ commencement program will be created based on the information submitted. However, no student will be allowed to participate in Commencement or receive a diploma until all degree requirements have been met and all final course grades have been entered by an appropriate college official. Such information must be submitted at least 5 business days prior to Commencement.

    Students are only allowed to participate in one commencement exercise for each earned degree. Those who did not participate in the May commencement and who wish to participate in December commencement must inform the Dean and Registrar in writing no later than November 1 to insure inclusion in the commencement program. Those who planned, but were unable, to participate in the December commencement exercises who wish to participate in the following May ceremony must inform the Dean and the Registrar no later than April 15 to insure inclusion in the commencement program.

    IV. Degree Conferral Requirements

    For May Degree Conferral:

    • If degree requirements are completed and certified by the Registrar 5 business days prior to the date of the official commencement, students will be allowed to participate in the commencement event and receive diplomas bearing the same date as their commencement event (i.e., the May degree conferral date).
    • If requirements remain uncompleted after the May degree conferral date, students receive an “I” (incomplete) grade for each course that is not completed by the official end of the spring term (i.e., June 30). Students would be expected to complete this coursework during the summer term. No fees are charged for completion of such coursework as long as all requirements are completed prior to the last day of Summer 3 Term.
    • If he/she must complete additional coursework for his/her degree program (such as a rotation/clinical experience) after the official last day of the spring term, the student must enroll during the summer term (Summer 3), assuming the required coursework is available during the summer term. Tuition and fees for this term may be waived on the recommendation of the college. In such an instance, the August degree conferral date applies (assuming the required coursework is available during the summer term and all degree requirements are completed and certified by the Registrar by the appropriate deadline).

    For December Degree Conferral:

    • If degree requirements are completed and certified by the Registrar prior to 5 business days of the date of the official commencement, students will receive diplomas bearing the same date as the commencement event (i.e., the December degree conferral date)
    • If requirements remain uncompleted after the official last day of the fall term, students will receive an “I” (incomplete) grade for each course that has not yet been completed and are expected to complete the requirements during the spring term. No fees are charged for completion of such coursework as long as all requirements are completed prior to the last day of spring term (June 30th). In this instance, the student may participate in the May commencement event IF all requirements are completed and certified 5 business days prior to the May commencement date.
    • If the student must complete additional coursework for his/her degree program (such as a rotation/clinical experience) after the official last day of the fall term, the student must enroll during the spring term (Spring 2), assuming the required coursework is available during this term. Tuition and fees for this term may be waived on the recommendation of the college (prior to registration, students should be advised regarding any implications for student loans and repayments in the event they are registered for only one credit hour). In such an instance, the May degree conferral date applies (assuming the required coursework is available during the spring term and all degree requirements are completed and certified by the Registrar 5 business days prior to the commencement event).

    For August Degree Conferral:

    • If degree requirements are completed and certified by the Registrar within 5 business days prior to the official August degree conferral date (i.e., the third Friday in August), students will receive diplomas bearing the same date.
    • As there is no formal commencement event in August, students who complete their programs during a summer term must arrange for pickup or delivery of their diplomas. after September 1 through the Office of the Registrar. Fees may be charged for mailing and/or special handling.
    • If requirements remain uncompleted after the official end of the summer term, students receive an “I” (incomplete) grade for each course that has not yet been completed and are expected to complete the requirements during the fall term. No fees are charged for completion of such coursework as long as all requirements are completed prior to the last day of the fall term. In such instances, the December degree conferral date applies (assuming all degree requirements are completed and certified by the Registrar prior to 5 business days before the December conferral date).
    • If students must complete additional coursework for the degree program after the official last day of the summer term, the student must officially enroll during the fall term, assuming the required coursework is available. Normally, tuition waivers are not available in such instances.  Prior to registration, students should be advised regarding any implications for student loans and repayments in the event they are registered for only one credit hour.

    V. Awarding of Degrees and Diplomas at Times other than Commencement

    On rare occasions it is necessary for students to receive their diplomas at times other than the three official degree conferral dates, such as for the following reasons:

    • The student desires to accept an internship or residency position between the time degree requirements are completed and the next regularly scheduled degree conferral date and an official diploma is required.
    • The student desires to take state or national board examinations that are scheduled before the next regularly scheduled conferral date and an official diploma is required.

    The request for issuance of a diploma at times other than one of the three official degree conferral dates must be initiated by the student through the Academic Affairs Office of the college in which the student is enrolled. The following is required:

    • A formal written request addressed to the dean of the college.
    • Specific rationale and documentation. Appropriate documentation would include correspondence from the intern or residency program indicating that the student will be accepted into the program only if the degree has been awarded and they cannot accept either a letter from the dean certifying that requirements have been met or a transcript issued by the Registrar. The same would apply to applicants for state or national board examinations, i.e., statement indicating that completion of requirements or transcript would not be accepted.

    If the Dean determines that the request is valid, the Dean will ask the Chancellor to request that the President of the University authorize the awarding of the degree on the date that the requirements for the degree are completed. Upon notification of approval from the President for the awarding of the degree, the Dean will notify the Registrar that the degree is to be conferred, once all degree requirements are completed and certified by the Registrar.

    Once copies of all correspondence and certifications are received by the Registrar for inclusion in the student's permanent file, the diploma will be ordered. The student must work with the Office of the Registrar to arrange for delivery or pickup of the diploma. Fees may be charged for mailing and/or special handling.

    VI. Presentation of Diplomas to Graduates and Commencement Ceremony Procedures

    Diplomas are passed from the Dean to the graduate. [Note that the ‘diploma’ provided during the ceremony is not official; the official diploma can be picked up by the graduate after the ceremony, assuming that all degree requirements have been completed and that there are no official ‘holds’ on the diploma].

    Intermediary Presentations:

    Diplomas are passed from Dean to an intermediary person who hands the diploma to the graduate. Such persons may be a parent or immediate family member of the graduate and may only come from one of the following groups:

    • Board of Trustees members
    • University-Wide Administration
    • UT Health Science Center Faculty, Staff and Administration

    Family Member Presentation of the Diploma:

    • The person wishing to make the intermediary presentation should make such a request to the Dean of the graduating student who in turn will advise the Vice Chancellor for Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs.
    • Upon the recommendation of the Vice Chancellor for Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs (or designee), the Chancellor may grant special permission for trustees, faculty or senior leadership persons to participate in presentation of diplomas to their family member.
    • If permission is granted by the Chancellor, the Academic Ceremonies Committee Chair will be notified  by the Vice Chancellor of Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs (or designee) of the authorized participation.
    • The Chair of the Academic Ceremonies Committee will provide the intermediary with the necessary information and instructions.
    • Persons who have been granted permission to be the intermediary will be required to:
      • Wear academic regalia
      • March in the processional
      • Be seated on the stage in the Faculty Section
    • During the ceremony, the intermediary person, in anticipation of their graduate:
      • moves from the Faculty Seating section to a place beside the Dean and identifies the appropriate graduate;
      • receives the diploma from the Dean and hands it to the graduate;
      • returns to his/her seat in the Faculty Section.

    Academic Regalia Guidelines

    The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) will provide academic regalia for those who are required or expected to attend Commencement. Expenses for the Trustees, President, Commencement Speaker, individual giving invocation and benediction, Faculty Senate President and Academic Ceremonies Committee members will be incurred at the institutional level. Expenses for UTHSC faculty or staff required or expected to attend may be charged to the respective departmental account. Student fees cover the rental costs for regalia for one commencement event.

    For students, proper academic regalia for graduation include black robe (with chevrons, if appropriate), plain black mortar board, and hood appropriate to the discipline. No additional adornments (e.g., lapel pins, fraternity/sorority stoles) should be worn with the cap and gown with the exception of UTHSC-issued honor stoles and nationally recognized professional honor society stoles. Faculty regalia may be more variable since many faculty choose to wear the regalia from the institution that awarded their terminal degrees.

    Students, faculty and staff must be dressed in proper academic regalia in order to participate in commencement. 

    Additional suggestions for commencement are as follows:

    • Men: wear dark trousers and shoes and a buttoned shirt (to attach the front of your academic hood).
    • Women: wear comfortable, dark, low heels (for ascending/descending steps to the stage), and a blouse with buttons (to attach the front of your academic hood). Bring extra bobby pins to secure the mortarboard.
    • The mortarboard should be placed so that the cap is parallel to the floor (not tilted in any direction).
    • The tassel is worn on the right side until directions are given to move the tassel to the left; the tassel may be kept by the graduate as a memento.
    • Academic regalia can be quite warm; dress accordingly.
    • Take photos with family and friends before the ceremony and return regalia (including your honor stoles) as soon as possible after the ceremony.
    • Leave personal belongings with family/friends during the ceremony.

    Footnotes

    1. A full week being defined as a week with five business days (thus Mon - Friday all in the month of Dec). [Return to text]

PDF version

Approval Date

December 17, 2013 revised & approved)
May 7, 2013 (revised & approved)
September 20, 2011

Group

Committee on Academic and Student Affairs

Next Scheduled Review

December 2016

Office of Responsibility

Academic Affairs