On the 26 March, a campus-wide email announced that there would be no graduation ceremony taking place this summer as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Just over two months later, UEA Vice-Chancellor Prof David Richardson announced that plans were underway to accommodate this year’s finishing students in the graduation ceremony at the end of the next academic year, in 2021. And now a video posted to UEA’s social media congratulates the students and looks back on the academic year since the outbreak of coronavirus.
“Congratulations and be proud and do different,” the video urges. “The world needs you, proud UEA graduate, it needs you now more than ever before. And we’re all here, our UEA staff, students and 140,000 graduates living all around the world, cheering on you.”
This year, the graduating students will receive their degrees through the post to conform with social distancing measures. The decision was “one of the hardest things I have had to do in my time as Vice-Chancellor,” wrote Prof Richardson. The graduation was due to take place from July 15-22.
Many students were left disappointed at the announcement. Jessica Barrett, former Deputy Editor of Concrete at UEA, told the Eastern Daily Press, “We’ve worked too hard for our degrees to be merely posted to us.” An online petition demanding firm dates for the delayed graduation ceremony gathered more than 500 signatures in the first hour of it being posted.
On June 10, Prof Richardson announced the dates for next year’s ceremony were being planned for July 12-30. In the meantime, the video, released July 23, commends the work of UEA students since the start of the pandemic and reaffirms the plans for next year will be going ahead.
“In the past few months, some of you have gone straight to the front-line and supported those in need. And many more of you have been stocking food banks, delivering supplies to the shielding or providing childcare for key workers,” the video says.
“And we’ll see you back in the Home of the Wonderful in 2021 to don your caps and your gowns and to celebrate all that you’ve achieved.”
In the meantime, students have been asked to provide the university with their latest contact details so that staff will be better able to contact graduates next year to return for their celebrations.