Academic Celebrations and Traditions

The University of Turku was established in 1920. Funded with a public fundraising, the University of Turku was the first Finnish-language university in the world. However, the roots of academic traditions go back to the 13th century, when people left Turku for Central Europe to study at university. Initiated by Queen Christina of Sweden, the country’s first university, the Royal Academy of Turku, was established in Turku in 1640.

The most notable celebrations include the Anniversary Celebration, which is celebrated on the day the University was established, the Kalevala Day on 28 February, Opening Ceremony of the new academic year at the beginning of September, and Ceremonial Conferment of doctoral degrees which is celebrated every 2–3 years.

Ceremonial Conferments

The Ceremonial Conferment of doctoral degrees is the most traditional and solemn of all the academic ceremonies: the ceremony lasts for 2–3 days and honorary doctors as well as doctors from all faculties are conferred.

In the University of Turku, the Ceremonial Conferment is celebrated every 2–3 years.

The Finnish Ceremonial Conferment traditions have their roots in Uppsala. The ceremony begins with the Sword Sharpening Ceremony. The swords are whetted with grindstones that are rotated by the doctors’ companions. The ceremony includes dinner, some speeches, and, finally, a ball.
The Conferment ceremony begins with a procession with the Head Marshal, flags, Rector, Chancellor, visiting rectors and chancellors and the professors. They are followed by the conferrers, honorary doctors and doctors arranged according to their faculties.
The ceremony includes speeches and music as well as the Conferment itself, which takes place partly in Latin. The conferrers place the doctor’s hats on the doctors and hand them the swords and the diplomas.

After the ceremony, the Academic Procession marches into the Ceremonial Conferment Service held in Turku Cathedral. In the evening, a Ceremonial Conferment Banquet and Ball are organised.

>> More information on the Ceremonial Conferment of doctoral degrees

Opening Ceremony

At the beginning of September, the Opening Ceremony of the new academic year is celebrated. Students and staff are invited to the daytime programme, the Opening Carnival. The programme of the carnival includes awarding the Teacher, Course and Language Deed of the Year, Rector’s speech, music, and presentations of faculty and subject organisations as well as different hobby organisations.

The Opening Ceremony will be organised as a virtual event this year. The celebration is intended for the entire University community as well as for the friends and partners of the University.

>> The Opening Ceremony and Opening Carnival 2021


Anniversary Celebration

The Anniversary Celebration of the University of Turku i.e. the founding anniversary of the University is celebrated in February, usually on the Kalevala Day on 28 February. The roots of the celebration go back to 1920, when the Turku Finnish University Society established the University of Turku on the Kalevala Day.

The celebration includes the Rector’s speech, music, a speech in honour of the occasion, awarding the Alumni of the Year, and distributing academic medals. Refreshments are served after the celebration.

A dark suit is recommended.

Academic Day

Annually, the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University organise jointly the Academic Day to honour the Royal Academy of Turku which was established in 1640.  The celebration is arranged around the establishing day of the Academy 26 March.

Queen Christina of Sweden established the Royal Academy of Turku in 1640 with the support of Governor General Per Brahe and Bishop of Turku Isaacus Rothovius. After the Finnish War in 1809, the name was changed to the Imperial Academy of Turku. After the Great Fire of Turku, the University was transferred to Helsinki in 1828 and it was renamed the Imperial Alexander University in Finland.

Public defences of doctoral dissertations

Approximately 170 public defences of doctoral dissertations are held annually in the different faculties of the University of Turku. Public defences are open for everyone that is interested and they are presented in the University’s calendar.

The public defence of a doctoral dissertation always begins a quarter past the hour, and that is when the audience needs to be present. This is when the Candidate, the Custos and the Opponent enter the hall.

The ceremony is opened by the Custos, the academic supervisor of the doctoral dissertation, after which the Candidate holds their lectio praecursoria, a brief presentation on their doctoral dissertation directed at the audience. Finally, the Candidate asks the Opponent to present the remarks that they consider the doctoral dissertation to give reason for. The Opponent presents a brief statement that deals with the position and significance of the dissertation’s topic for science as well as other general questions. After the methodical and general questions, it is time for the detailed examination that can last for a maximum of four hours, however, usually less than two hours. Having finished the examination, the Opponent stands up to present the final statement.

The Candidate thanks the Opponent, after which they ask those present that have any remarks about the doctoral dissertation to ask the Custos for permission to take the floor. After the remarks and the answers, the Custos stands up to end the ceremony.

The Candidate, Custos, and Opponent are usually dressed in a dress coat or corresponding dark suit. The guests are also dressed in a dark suit, but the audience may dress up as they wish.

Graduation ceremonies

All the faculties of the University of Turku organise graduation ceremonies for their Master’s degree graduates once or twice during the academic year. The graduation ceremony can be organised in the Old Academy Building, the faculties’ own facilities, or outside the campus, for example.

The programme varies depending on the faculty in question, but, usually, they begin with an entrance procession. The ceremony includes speeches, music, and the giving of a keepsake.

Graduation ceremonies are a part of the continuum based on the former Ceremonial Conferment of Master's degrees highlighting the University’s autonomous status. Ceremonial Conferments of Master's degrees were organised already in the Royal Academy of Turku in the 1640s.

Professor lectures

Professors selected to at least a five-year position traditionally give a public lecture when they start in their professorship. 

Professor lectures are open, public events where 2–4 professors from different fields give a 15-minute popularised presentation on their field of science and research.

Professor lectures are held approximately once a month on Wednesdays. Closer dates and details on the professors and the titles of their presentations are available in the University’s events calendar.

Annual events organised by the Student Union of the University of Turku
  • Subject associations i.e. associations operating under the Student Union and connecting students of the same subjects or closely related subjects organise informal welcoming parties for new students at the beginning of the autumn term. The programme is linked to the traditions of each subject. Different faculties may have different names for the events.
  • According to Nordic academic tradition, student associations organise informal academic seated meal celebrations called ‘sitsit’, or sometimes ‘sitz’ in English. The celebration is associated with a light-hearted atmosphere, eating, drinking and singing drinking songs, as well as giving speeches. Several subject associations also have more informal celebrations.
  • The Anniversary Celebration of the Student Union of the University of Turku i.e. TYY is celebrated in November. The dress code includes a dark suit and academic medals – yet the atmosphere is casual. The Anniversary Celebration culminates in the afterparty brunch the following morning.
  • Annually, a Shrove Tuesday carnival is organised jointly by the student unions of Turku at the Vartiovuorenmäki hill.
  • During the First of May i.e. vappu, the Student Union of the University of Turku organises the TYYlikäs vappu event that begins at the Turku Art Museum hill on the eve of vappu at 5.30pm. At 6pm, thousands of participants put their student’s caps on their heads. Then, the crowd moves towards the Runeberginpuisto park, where the Student Union of the University of Turku and the Åbo Akademi University student union Studentkår put a student’s cap on the Lilja statue’s head. Vappu continues on 1 May at 10.30am at the Vartiovuorenmäki hill with a picnic and some programme.