School of Business

The conferment tradition

The grand ceremony of conferment is the crown jewel of academic events. The first conferment ceremony at the School of Business was held in 1946, the conferement of 2022 being the 16th in order.
Promootiokantaatti 2022

The ceremonial conferment is the most traditional and festive of academic celebrations. In Finland, the conferment tradition has continued uninterrupted throughout academic history with each university playing a role in the renewal of the tradition. Outside the Nordics, this academic tradition has almost disappeared.

Since the 1946 ceremony, the conferment has been held at five-year intervals at the School of Business. Both master's and doctoral degrees have traditionally been awarded in economics and business administration. This is unique also by Finnish standards, as many Finnish universities no longer uphold the tradition of master's conferment and confer only doctors. Before the first conferment, three Ring Ceremonies had been organised, but they were not formal conferment ceremonies. There was usually only one doctor to be conferred at the first ones. 

While each university has its own conventions for the conferment, the act of conferment, church ceremony and banquet have formed the core of the event since the 14th century. The tradition at the School of Business includes events for three days: first, the Laurel Wreath Weaving event, which is organised by the parents of the Spirit of Mercury a day or two before the conferment. On the day of the conferment, the Act of Conferment and the church service (or nowadays nondenominational ceremony) are held, followed by the Conferment Banquet and Ball. On the third day, the gratista (or gratisti) organises a herring breakfast or luncheon.

The doctoral hat and cockade of the School of Business

The doctoral hat of the School of Business was introduced at the first conferment in 1946. The hat is black and the cockade features the school's logo, Mercury's serpent staff.

While participating in the Ceremonial Act of Conferment, all doctorate holders, including those in the audience, are expected to wear their doctoral hat. However, the hat is obligatory only for the doctors being conferred. Newly conferred doctors also wear their hat at the Ceremonial Conferment Ball. The doctoral hat, a symbol of status, merits respect. It should not, for example, be placed upside down on the table. As a symbol of doctoral status, the hat has a history reaching back to the Middle Ages. The present-day design of the doctoral hat was first used in Helsinki University's 200th year anniversary conferment of degrees ceremony, which took place in 1840.

The cockade of the doctoral hat for Business School graduates shows two winged-serpents entwined about a round-headed staff. Beams of light radiate from the head of the staff and the sperpents are encircled by a wreath of olive leaves. The olive leaves represent an ancient region of international trade: the Mediterranean. Mercury's staff (in latin the caduceus) is an emblem of the commerce and merchants. The staff symbolises power,and the two symmetrical serpents a balance between forces of good and evil, while the wings represent diligence. The caduceus also refers to the four elements: the staff the earth, the wings the air, and the two snakes fire and water. The cockade was designed in 1938 by K. Miettinen, a goldsmith with Suomen Kultaseppä Oy, who based his design on the seal used by the Helsinki School of Economics in the 1910s.

Tradition of the ceremonial conferment

A ceremonial conferment is an academic celebration, in which doctorates and honorary doctorates in different fields are conferred, in some universities also master's degrees.

Read more about the conferment tradition in Aalto University and Finland
aalto promootio 1934


Promootio akateemisena juhlana, Johanna Ilmakunnas et al. (toim.), Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden seura, Helsinki 2011.

Heraldinen ja veksillologinen aikakauskirja, Hyrsky Tuomas, CHF 4, 2001

Pohjoimaiden ensimmäinen kauppatieteiden tohtori Vilho Paavo Nurmilahti, Lehtonen Eeva-Liisa, Helsingin kauppakorkeakoulun julkaisuja B-97, HSE Print 2008.

Contact information

The conferment office

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