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Oxford “committed” to holding in-person graduations for all eligible students

A University spokesperson has told Cherwell that the University of Oxford is “committed” to holding degree ceremonies for all students who may have missed out on theirs due to the pandemic. Several students who graduated in 2020 and in 2021 have been unable to have in-person graduations thus far due to various national government restrictions and other travel restrictions. 

The spokesperson also told Cherwell that the University “took the difficult decisions to postpone degree ceremonies between May 2020 and August 2021”. As there is now a backlog of students waiting for their graduations, the University will hold 46 graduation ceremonies between September 2021 and June 2022 for Oxford alumni. This number is a 50% increase on a normal academic year. 

University graduation ceremonies normally take place before Michaelmas term of the new academic year. One of the University’s objectives is to be “as flexible as possible” with regard to graduation ceremonies.

 Given the changing international restrictions on travel and other uncertainties regarding the pandemic, the University spokesperson stated that the University has also waived the rule that students who withdraw within 60 days of an event have their degrees conferred in absentia. This gives students more freedom to book and confirm their graduation ceremonies. 

However, the University website states that colleges may ask for permission from the Vice-Chancellor and Proctors to allow students who are required to withdraw from their degree ceremony within the 60-day non-cancellation period to rebook their graduations. The University adds that this will only apply in “exceptional circumstances” which do not include work commitments or the unavailability of guests. 

The University spokesperson informed Cherwell that students who did not wish to wait for a ceremony could have their degrees conferred in absentia at their own request. 

They added that “all eligible graduands were invited to  attend an in-person ceremony between September and November 2021”, and that “this included students finishing the studies in 2021 as well as those who finished in 2020 and whose ceremonies were postponed.” 

In a student announcement seen by Cherwell, Trinity College acknowledged that they “realise it is disappointing not to be able to register to attend a ceremony in person at present”. However, Trinity insisted that the “University is doing everything it can” to make sure students get the opportunity to have a graduation.

The degree ceremony consists of several traditional rites and rituals, including statements read out in Latin, all graduates’ names read out by, and bows from the graduates in the Sheldonian Theatre. Specialised gowns are also worn by graduands during the ceremony. The day is also a pleasant opportunity for friends and families to reconnect in Oxford. 

Students doing BA or BFA courses are eligible to receive an MA 7 years after the date of their matriculation. This gives students the opportunity to have a second in-person graduation, provided that they pay the costs (£40) of taking an MA and the costs of hiring a BA gown and hood and an MA gown and hood for the ceremony. 

Graduands are offered the opportunity to book their graduation ceremony dates on online services such as eVision, depending on each college’s graduation guidelines.  

Image: Clare MacNeill via Geograph/ CC BY-SA 2.0

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