There are so many college-related terms that we don’t really know much about. For example, higher education institutions employ certain expressions to describe a student’s current position at the college or university. Phrases and expressions like academic degree, bachelor’s degree, undergraduate, graduate, extension school, diploma, certificate, etc. can all leave young students a bit worried and intimidated. All of this sounds very serious and probably hard to understand, but of course, it is not.

One particular phrase is usually unknown to even many students. ‘Degree conferred’ is a phrase that every student will hear or see written after a long journey at the college. So, in the following paragraphs, we are going to look at the meaning of this phrase.

Degree Conferral Etymology

To understand the meaning of ‘degree conferred’, we need to look at the etymology of the word ‘confer’. The verb to confer can be linked to the Latin conferre which means to bring something together, to compare or to consult with. It has been first noticed in the English language in the 1400s, where it had an earlier meaning of ‘to summon’, and only as of 1520 has the verb been ascribed with its current meaning. Here’s a more thorough look into the meaning;

  • From the verb, the noun conferral has been traced, now carrying the meaning of an act of bestowing, honoring and group discussion.
  • Conferralas a noun has first appeared in the English language in the 1880s and carried the meaning of presenting an honorary doctorate to an important person.
  • Confer/-ferred,-ferring – the meaning usually involves discussion, comparison of ideas, and of course, gifting or honoring someone. This is the meaning that is nowadays paired with the ‘degree conferring’ that we are about to discuss.

Degree Conferral Academic Meaning

Upon the completion of college/university, and upon the completion of all exams and obligations, a student is required to complete a thesis and the final phase of graduation. Now, upon the very graduation, the student is awarded their graduation diploma; this very act is described as ‘degree conferred’. It means that the student has been handed over and given their diploma. It also means that the student has met all the college/university requirements, as well as that they have passed all the exams and the thesis successfully.

Some believe that the meaning of ‘degree conferred’ is not of a student being handed over their diploma, but rather that a student now has all the benefits and privileges that come with the completion of the degree program. However, surely in this context, ‘degree conferred’ can literally mean ‘degree awarded’, just to be clear.

A degree is actually conferred only when the final degree audit is conducted and the transcript is completed. The date of the degree conferral is shown on the diploma, together with the transcript. Degrees are only conferred when the degree program is completed, so depending on the student, this can take place even after a few years. On the other hand, if a student has completed all of their college requirements and have passed all the exams, but are yet to complete their thesis (or have completed the thesis) then the student is yet to be granted their degree, which means that their degree is pending.

Fun Fact: the first university to confer a degree was the University of Bologna in Italy in the late 12th century. Being one of the oldest universities in Europe, this university was the first to confer a degree of Doctor in Civil Law, as well as other smaller degrees in subjects like medicine. From there on, every major European university started conferring degrees to their students.

What happens before the Degree is Conferred?

It is important to mention that there is a gap between a student completing all of its college obligations and getting their degree conferred. The reason for this lies in the fact that there are three official conferral dates in an academic year. Therefore, the Graduation department of a college or university will declare a Graduation pending status on your record. The Graduation pending status is only available for students who have fully met the requirement of their degree program, which includes completed exams, posted grades as well as a completed thesis. After a student has been given an official graduation date, the status will change from Graduation pending to Degree Conferred.


So, if you didn’t know what ‘degree conferred’ meant, now you know. It is a simple phrase that shows that you have completed all of the obligations and met all of the requirements placed by the college/university. Degree conferred means you have graduated, and all that is left to do is attend the diploma ceremony where you will be given your well-earned diploma.