Despite the UK’s lockdown restrictions lifting on 21st June, UEA have made the decision to postpone graduation – again. The Class of 2021 will be the second cohort to miss out on a graduation ceremony after the Class of 2020 ceremony was postponed as a result of the first lockdown in late March.
Soon-to-be graduates in the Class of 2021 received the devastating news on 29th March informing them of the cancellation. The email students received said the ceremony was postponed over concerns of the UK experiencing a “third wave” in the summer. While the UK is well ahead in its vaccination programme, “further restrictions on international travel” will prevent students from returning to the country for the event.
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Richardson, said he has reflected on what students would expect for their graduation. From the email, it sounded as though another postponement was a last resort, as he has explored all possible options for this year. However, knowing it wouldn’t be the same, the decision was made to postpone it.
Although this is devastating news for all, any international students currently in their home country will feel relieved in the knowledge they won’t be missing out on their graduation. While travel restrictions are still imposed until 17th May at the earliest, some countries are either still in lockdown or have travel restrictions imposed.
The university wants to ensure no-one is missing out on an enjoyable experience. The Vice-Chancellor also said in his email to the students “the focus instead will be to look ahead to 2022, when the pandemic will be under greater control and social restrictions will hopefully be lifted to enable all our students to come back to UEA to celebrate their graduation in the way they want to”.
Although rules are being relaxed for sports audiences, I agree with the Vice-Chancellor’s email. The Vice-Chancellor and the rest of UEA, including the SU, have the students’ best interests at heart. Graduation is designed to bring students back together to celebrate their achievements and should not be split because of restrictions other countries have imposed due to the pandemic.
I believe it’s a fair decision to cancel this year’s graduation in light of the current situation across the globe. Not knowing how far we will be with the vaccination programme, the university wouldn’t want to run the risk of inviting international students back who haven’t yet been vaccinated, even if there was a decision to have a separate graduation for those who are currently impacted by lockdowns and travel restrictions.
While students still have to wait for their official graduation ceremony, they can rest assured they will be able to have something to continue saving up for and to look forward to when there isn’t as high a risk of the situation worsening and the eye of the pandemic storm is behind us.