Through Convocation, graduates have a life-long relationship with the University of Western Australia.All graduates of the University of Western Australia are permanent members of Convocation.
Important aspects about Convocation
The general definition of the term 'Convocation' is a "gathering together for a large formal assembly". When applied in the context of a university, it refers to those members of the university community who 'when gathered together in a formal meeting' are entitled to have input into aspects of the governance of the university such as voting for members of the governing body or reviewing major decisions, such as changes to statutes.
One of the first universities to establish a Convocation was Oxford (the oldest university in the English-speaking world) where Convocation was the 'upper house' in a bi-cameral university parliament that represented senior members of the university community (such as all the heads of colleges and halls and their deputies, all professors and public lecturers, all doctors of divinity, medicine and civil law, graduates who had attained higher degrees or had ever been regents in civil law or arts, etc.). While the 'lower house' and the university's administration dealt with the day to day governance issues, Convocation played an oversighting role, setting policies, making the university's laws and statutes, electing key office holders, reviewing and approving the financial accounts, arbitrating in disputes and taking responsibility for what we would now term 'strategic planning' by guiding the future of the university.
The term convocation was first used in the late fourteenth century, but this important part of the governance structure did not become more commonly known as Convocation until the sixteenth century. With the advent of modern governance structures including financial regulation, employment acts, and consumer protection legislation now familiar to today's executives, the detailed direct oversighting role that Convocation used to play in University governance is no longer required. However, its role as the electorate of those who can vote in elections for senior positions in the governance structure, review key decisions and act as the custodians of a university’s values and reputation is still extant.
When investigating the governance structure for UWA, Sir John Winthrop Hackett examined university governance models utilised around the world before recommending that Convocation be included in the governance arrangements for the University of Western Australia. In the legislation that outlines the organisational structure for the University of Western Australia, the UWA Act (1911) states that the University shall consist of the Senate, Convocation, the staff and the students.
Not all universities have a Convocation. It is something that now makes UWA special and unique.
Why does Convocation make UWA different? Because Convocation is an integral part of the University, it means that all graduates are regarded as equally important a part of the University, as the staff and students. This means that UWA considers the support we supply to graduates are as important as the services we supply to students.
Many universities only comprise their governing council, their staff and their students. Graduates at these universities are not regarded as part of these universities, but external to it. They have no ongoing role or relationship with the university.
When the UWA Act was drafted in 1911, it created the Guild to represent the interests of students, and created Convocation to represent the interests of graduates. However, while members of the Guild are only students, membership of Convocation (in accordance with its historical precedents) encompasses all the senior members of the University community who are entitled to form the electorate for the university. Today membership of Convocation comprises:
Initially Convocation was jointly responsible with the Senate for the governance of the University of Western Australia. It was the "upper house" in a bi-cameral system of governance in which the Senate was the "lower house". However, in 1944 amendments were made to the UWA Act which made the Senate the sole governing authority, but left Convocation with all its previous legal responsibilities. Convocation therefore still conducts elections for four members of the Senate and retains the right to review all proposed changes to UWA Statutes. It is also required to convene "General Meetings" of the University known as "Ordinary Meetings" to report on the activities of UWA to all those members of the University community entitled to be members of Convocation.
The UWA Act and Statutes assign the following five roles to Convocation:
Council of Convocation (the decision-making body of Convocation) and its various committees meet on a monthly basis.
The Council of Convocation comprises:
Elections are held each year for six Council Members who each serve for a three year term.
The Council of Convocation operates through the following committees:
From parliamentary speeches recorded during 1911 when the UWA Act was debated, we know the clear intentions of the Hon. Sir John Winthrop Hackett and the Premier of the day, the Hon. Frank Wilson, regarding the role that Convocation would play in ensuring the success of the University of Western Australia.
Now, 100 years later, we have the opportunity to utilise the unique organisation known as Convocation to ensure that it fulfils its charter to establish a mutually beneficial relationship between the University and its life-long members, including all 154 000 graduates.