About the Ceremony

The Commencement ceremony dates back to 1758 and has been held outdoors on the Morningside campus since 1926.

It is a centuries-old tradition in which the President of the University grants degrees en masse to graduating students from eighteen schools, colleges, and affiliated institutions. During this ceremony, remarkable members of the Columbia community and special guests are also recognized through the conferring of medals, awards, and honorary degrees. It is Columbia tradition that the University Commencement address is given by the President of the University.

While each school holds an individual graduation ceremony, the University President is the only person who can confer the actual degrees. As part of the ceremony, each dean steps forward to request that the President confer degrees on the school's candidates; this tradition has become a memorable part of the ceremony. After the University President has conferred all degrees, cheers, applause, and celebration ensue as the class officially graduates.

With thousands of degree candidates, participants, and guests in attendance, the ceremony is an unforgettable, grand-scale celebration that appropriately marks the academic achievements of the University graduates. No degree candidate officially graduates until the University Commencement ceremony is completed.

The Columbia University Commencement ceremony of the 266th academic year will take place on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, at 11:00 a.m. EDT via web broadcast. All eligible May 2020 degree candidates, and February 2020 and October 2019 graduates, from all schools and colleges affiliated with Columbia University, as well as family and friends, are encouraged to tune in to the celebration. An archived video of the ceremony and digital program will be available for viewing shortly after the web broadcast. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020


The virtual ceremony begins at 11:00 a.m. EDT


The University Commencement Ceremony will take place via web broadcast.


In keeping with tradition, the University President is the Commencement speaker.

Teaching Awards

Presidential Awards for Outstanding Teaching are given to faculty and graduate student instructors who have significantly influenced the intellectual development of Columbia students. For more information about this award, visit Office of the Provost

Mentoring Awards

Faculty Mentoring Awards, inspired by the incredible mentoring legacy of Columbia Business School Professor Katherine W. Phillips, are given to senior faculty who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to the professional development of their junior colleagues. For more information about this award, visit Office of the Provost

Commencement History & Regalia

University Commencement has been a Columbia tradition since 1758, when the first ceremony was held at St. George's Chapel on Beekman Street. Learn more about the history of the ceremony and some of the traditions still observed today.

What to Expect

On May 20, 2020, please, tune in at 10:50 a.m. EDT for a web broadcast of this year’s conferral of degrees.