UC Graduation processions return to central Christchurch

16 December 2019

Hundreds of proud University of Canterbury (UC) students wearing academic regalia will parade through central Christchurch this week for the first time since before the 2011 earthquakes.

  • graduation_2019_NWS

    The University of Canterbury (UC) 2019 December graduation.

After a nine-year absence, UC’s end-of-year graduands for 2019 will be able to take part in the traditional graduation processions through the city’s streets.

More than 1900 UC students will graduate this week with 1626 graduating in person at the Christchurch Town Hall, watched by friends and family as they receive their UC degrees, diplomas and certificates.

Two graduation ceremonies will be held at the Christchurch Town Hall on Wednesday 18 December, followed by another two on Friday 20 December. There will be graduation processions before all four.

The parades start at the Arts Centre – the original town site of the university for a century and current home to UC Arts’ School of Music and Classics department – and arrive at the Christchurch Town Hall before the ceremonies begin.

UC Vice-Chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey welcomed the return of the tradition, saying graduation ceremonies are an important occasion for students and the street processions add to their visibility for local residents.

“Parading through the central city is a great opportunity for our graduands to share the pride they feel with the local community, and for people to recognise the years of hard work they’ve put into earning their qualifications,” she says.

“We’re very proud of the high calibre of our UC graduates and this is a chance for them to celebrate together with their family and friends, and to look ahead to the next exciting steps in their future.”

December’s graduation ceremonies start at 10am on Wednesday morning when UC’s College of Education, Health and Human Development students graduate. The graduation address will be delivered by Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey.

At 2pm on Wednesday it will be the turn of graduands from UC’s College of Business and Law, who will hear from guest speaker UC Engineering graduate and international businessman Phil Veal.

On Friday morning, UC Engineering and Science students will have their conferment of degrees ceremony, featuring guest speaker Dr David Meates, Chief Executive Canterbury and West Coast District Health Boards.

And at 2pm on Friday, UC Arts students will have their turn, with their graduation address delivered by social entrepreneur, business owner and te reo Māori advocate Anton Matthews.

More than 4000 students graduate from the University of Canterbury each year. Eight ceremonies a year (in April and December) are held to accommodate those who wish to graduate in person, watched by their supporters. There are also special graduation celebrations for Māori and Pasifika UC graduates held annually. 

Following the 2010-2011 quakes, the Christchurch Town Hall was closed for repairs and UC graduation ceremonies were moved to the Horncastle Arena.

The Christchurch Town Hall re-opened in February this year, and UC’s April graduation ceremonies returned to the central city venue, but plans to reinstate the processions were cancelled in the wake of the 15 March terror attacks following police advice.

UC December Graduation dates:

Graduation ceremonies will be held on Wednesday 18 December and Friday 20 December in the Christchurch Town Hall’s Douglas Lilburn Auditorium as follows:

Wednesday 18 December 2019

10am College of Education, Health and Human Development | Te Rāngai Ako me te Hauora

2pm College of Business and Law| Te Rāngai Umanga me te Ture

Friday 20 December 2019

10am College of Engineering | Te Rāngai Pūkaha & College of Science | Te Rāngai Pūtaiao

2pm College of Arts | Te Rāngai Toi Tangata

(Note: April graduation ceremonies will be held on 7 & 9 April, 2020)

About the processions:

In fine weather the procession assembly area is in Market Square at the Arts Centre. The procession begins at 9.20am for a morning ceremony and 1.20pm for an afternoon ceremony. Graduands will move into Worcester Blvd and proceed to the Town Hall via Oxford Tce and Victoria Square. In the event of rain, graduands and staff will assemble at the Town Hall ahead of the ceremonies.

UC graduation ceremonies background:

The first Canterbury degrees were conferred in 1878 in the Canterbury Provincial Chambers with the ceremonies moving to the College Hall, now known as the Great Hall, at the Arts Centre after its completion in 1882. The Christchurch Town Hall became the venue in 1973.

As a result of earthquake damage in the city in February 2011, the April 2011 graduation celebrations were held in a marquee on Ilam Fields. UC graduation ceremonies were held in the Horncastle Arena from December 2011 but they returned to the Christchurch Town Hall in April 2019.


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