According to the late Terry Pratchet, “ritual and ceremony in their due times kept the world under the sky and the stars in their courses.” So what happens, then, if the ‘ceremony’ is postponed? This is a question faced by students not only in the UK, but around the world.
David Richardson – University of East Anglia’s Vice Chancellor – made the unfortunate announcement early last week to all student email accounts. “It is with a great deal of sadness that unfortunately I have to announce that this year’s graduation ceremony has been postponed.”
The news comes as no great surprise after months of enforced government restrictions in the light of steadily rising infections. Accordingly, “the focus instead will be to look ahead to 2022, when the pandemic will be under greater control and social restrictions will hopefully completely lifted, to enable all our students to come back to UEA to celebrate their graduation in the way they want to.”
And yet frustration still exists. Graduating students at Lancaster University were faced with similar news earlier this month when the university announced that “graduation ceremonies for the undergraduate Class of 2021 will take place at an extended summer graduation session in July 2022.” Meanwhile, Wales’s two largest universities – Cardiff and Swansea – also postponed graduations for a second year running.
However for graduating students in Norwich, rescheduled dates have not yet been declared.
But not everyone is following suit. Students at the University of Exeter are yet to know about arrangements for this summer. A UOE student spoke exclusively to this paper, “we were asked whether we preferred to postpone this year’s ceremony in the hope of having a more sociable event next year. I don’t think any final decision has been made”.
If not, then why not? Universities are faced with a difficult choice between planning for a socially distant ceremony or delaying plans for next summer. With many students keen to celebrate their graduation on time, universities face tremendous pressure from students to cement plans for any future ceremony. But the unpredictable and unprecedented nature of our times makes this an ever more challenging task.
Instead, today’s students are faced with a difficult reality. The very act of graduating is still possible, but the party must wait. The question now isn’t if, but when will it happen?