For students hoping to celebrate their graduation with their peers this year, the latest announcements on Covid19 restrictions are likely to spell disappointment. Unsurprisingly ceremonies slated for the next few months are now being cancelled across the board as restrictions on people gathering in groups continue to tighten.
Several larger universities who would ordinarily graduate in November have already postponed until the Spring, with Bournemouth University setting a date in March and Gloucestershire and Sheffield Hallam Universities opting for May. Others, such as the University of Worcester, have hedged their bets and postponed 'until social distancing restrictions are eased'.
The Waiting Game Continues...
What about the students attending universities that were due to graduate in July but missed out on their celebrations in the Summer? For anyone holding out for a postponed ceremony the uncertainty remains, with universities understandably reluctant to commit to new dates for fear of having to disappoint students once again.
A number of universities, including Bedfordshire, Liverpool and Bristol have hosted virtual graduations online. Although a get together on zoom cannot quite compare to an in-person celebration, students have been making the most of the chance to reconnect with classmates and wear their cap and gown - even if the only stage they get to cross is their living room! That said, the majority of universities have emphasised that virtual celebrations are an added extra and not a replacement for the real thing, which they are still hoping will go ahead at some point over the coming months.
What Are Universities Planning for 2021?
Some universities have put dates in place for Spring 2021 to accommodate those who were meant to graduate this year. These are of course subject to change and, with each passing week, the prospect of having thousands of students together, hugging and toasting their success, seems increasingly optimistic.
Others have mooted the possibility of 'super ceremonies' in Summer 2021, catering to both the classes of 2020 and 2021. Whilst this would give more leeway for the easing of social distancing measures, it will present other logistical challenges to universities and local infrastructure. Many have used the same venues for decades and will struggle to accommodate twice the number of students and guests and, if you've ever been to a university town during graduation week, you'll know that getting a restaurant or hotel booking can be a challenge at the best of times!
Could Socially Distanced Graduations be the Answer?
Over the past few months there have been some amazing stories of theatre performances, gigs and weddings that have found creative ways to implement social distancing without ruining the ambiance of the event. The trouble with graduation ceremonies however is that they involve large numbers of students, all of whom are key participants in the event. An average UK university will have around 500 graduating per day during their graduation season, so even without extra guests it's a lot of people to accommodate.
Graduations are also not localised events, with students and their families often travelling across the country and from abroad to attend. Even if the ceremony itself was socially distanced, there is a significant risk of people crowding onto trains and into hotels and restaurants which is likely to draw objections from local residents.
How You Can Still Celebrate
Unfortunately it looks like, until social distancing guidelines are significantly relaxed, virtual graduations or home graduations are the only option. But we don't want to be all doom and gloom! We've been really encouraged to see thousands of graduates making the best of a bad situation this summer, and finding ways to mark their achievements.
Lots of parents have thrown surprise back garden graduations, complete with themed decorations and a cap and gown. If this is something you'd like to consider, check out our DIY home graduation box, which contains everything you need to mark the occasion and capture those all important graduation photos.
Some students have also seized the opportunity to get creative with their graduation photos too, and have teamed up with a small group of friends or family on campus to get some truly unique photos to remember their time at University. Graduation photography is now one of the most popular categories for online photography platform Perfocal, as students can hire a personal photographer for an hour for £99.