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4 out of 5 students unhappy with Sportspark graduation

A survey conducted by Concrete can reveal 4 out of 5 students are unhappy with graduating at the Sportspark.

Last week, the university announced this year’s summer graduation will take place at the Sportspark’s Haydn Morris Hallwill, involving 19 ceremonies, and around 6,000 students.

Previous ceremonies took place at Congregation Hall, however, last year’s event was hosted at Norwich City Football Club’s stadium Carrow Road for the first time. A change in venue that received mixed reviews for the management of the off campus event.

It was believed this year’s ceremony would return to Congregation Hall, as previously stated by the university.

At the time of writing, our survey has received 363 individual responses within 48-hours, an indicator of the passionate reception of the news. Whilst 23 percent of students believe the Sportspark is a suitable venue for graduation, only 17 percent would be happy to graduate there.

Many students expressed that the venue is hardly representative of their time at UEA, with one saying they had ‘never stepped foot in the Sportspark.’

Others described the venue as a ‘cheap’, ’tacky’ and ‘unworthy of a proper celebration’. One student said ‘My brothers graduated in Birmingham Symphony Hall and Bath Abbey. I think both me and my parents were hoping for something similarly grand and devoid of a swimming pool.’

When asked if former venue Carrow Road would be a preferable graduation venue, the voting remained at a 60/40 split throughout the duration of the survey, with 60 percent of students stating that this is not a preferred location.

Alternative venue suggestions included The Cathedral, which stood out as a prominent off-campus venue. However, our survey showed, students would prefer to remain on campus with suggestions like The Sainsbury’s Centre, Earlham Park, or a marquee structure by the lake dominating responses.

Students also showed concern towards returning their graduation wear within the one hour window specified by the gown hire company, as the request leaves limited time for them to return to campus for photos.

Issues that occured with Carrow Road included overcrowding, a lack of transport to campus, and the absence of facilities for students and guests with special requirements. When questioned on the insufficient provisions the University said they would learn from these errors.

When contacted for a response to student concerns, UEA’s Chief Resource Officer Ian Callaghan said ‘by holding graduation at Haydn Morris Hall at the Sportspark, we’ve found a solution to both those issues.’

He said Congregation Hall meant students were – ‘not being able to invite more family members’ and that an off-site Carrow Road graduation would mean students were ‘not being able to take photos and show their family around the campus.

Callaghan added, UEA can now ‘guarantee three guest tickets for each student’ due to the Sportspark’s Haydn Morris Hall holding an extra 500 people than Congregation Hall.

‘Graduation is the pinnacle of a student’s time with us and I’m sure graduates will be surprised at the hall’s dramatic transformation on the day of their ceremony. We are working with a professional events company to dress the hall and campus so that it will be host to a fitting climax and celebration of our graduates’ time at UEA.’

Though the SU’s involvement in the decision making surrounding graduation is limited, Concrete spoke to Undergraduate Officer Jenna Chapman who said that ‘a big part of the UEA student experience is being on this beautiful campus so we know a lot of people will be happy to be able to pay one last visit to the lake, to their halls and to Union House.’

She added that the SU will ‘look forward to hearing how the university plans to transform Sportspark into a venue befitting all the hard work of students.

‘Be reassured, we’ll be reminding UEA of their responsibility to make the event fantastic.’

The results of this survey will be forwarded by Concrete to the university to ensure that the concerns of those graduating this summer are voiced – give us your opinion at

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July 2021
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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