‘I had no connection to my uni’: Meet the students who aren’t going to their graduations

‘I couldn’t afford to go’

For many, attending their graduation is a ceremonial right of passage, a way to close the chapter on an informative three plus years spent at university. It can act as an opportunity to catch up with old friends, thank your lecturers and say goodbye to your course mates.

For the gorgeous, gorgeous girlies it’s a day to dress up, planning out the best outfit that isn’t overly formal but still really cute, whilst spending ages preening your hair and makeup in order to catch the perfect snap for an obligatory Instagram post.

For others it can be quite an emotional day, it will potentially be the last time you are in your university city for a long time and also the time when you realise you’re not sure when you’re going to see half of these people again, if ever.

However, due to the Coronavirus, graduations aren’t holding the same gravity for lot of a graduating pandemic students. The ceremonies for many 2020 and 2021 cohorts were pushed back or delayed, sometimes by a whole year, diminishing the importance the day once held. Leaving students indifferent to the idea of going, and some choosing not to attend all together.

The Tab spoke to recent graduates who have decided not to attend their graduation ceremonies. Here’s what they had to say:

‘I didn’t feel like I deserved to go to graduation’

Omari, who graduated from Kingston University in 2021, wasn’t sure when she left college if she ever wanted to attend university at all. Having been disappointed with her A-Level results, she considered continuing on with a career in retail.

Having achieved a Pass in her foundation degree, Omari decided not to attend her graduation. She said: “I didn’t feel like I had worked hard enough or that I deserved to go to graduation.

“I didn’t particularly enjoy studying, or have any solid friendships. So what was there to celebrate? I think the shame around not having the uni experience everyone else seemed to be having was a major contribution behind why I chose to miss my graduation.”

‘I didn’t need the university’s blessing’

John, 24 years old, studied Japanese and Tibetan at University of Oxford, graduating in 2020. After four “often difficult” years at uni including taking a year out in the middle of his degree, John was ready to leave and didn’t feel he needed a graduation ceremony to round his time off.

He said: “While I got on well with my friends and tutors, I chose not to graduate because I didn’t feel like I needed the university’s blessing. I never liked the gowns and Latin, so the idea of rounding off my undergrad with that kind of formality never appealed to me much.

“I wanted to take ownership of my university career and my degree result. I didn’t need a stranger in a pompous outfit to tell me I was good enough.”

‘I was thought it was immoral to attend’

Trina graduated from London Metropolitan University in 2021 with a degree in journalism. Like so many others, her time at university heavily felt the impacts of the pandemic, rendering Trina feeling that it was “immoral” to attend her graduation.

Trina also told The Tab that the whole idea of a graduation ceremony had an element of embarrassment to it, she said: “There was also a element of cringe I suppose. At graduation, people pretend to be genuinely happy for you.

“Awkward photos and the awkward conversations with people that you didn’t really speak to at uni, and having to introduce yourself to guests, it is cringy. But maybe I overthought it.”

‘I had no real connection to my university’

Grace, 25 years old, graduated in 2o19 with a degree in philosophy and economics from the University of Cardiff. She then went straight on to do a masters degree in public administration at the University of Nottingham. Grace said throughout her year spent studying at the university, almost none of her time was spent actually in the city.

Her masters degree had first been affected by strikes then when she returned in the spring term the university announced its closure due to the pandemic, forcing teaching to move online and Grace to remain at home.

Therefore when it came to register for her graduation, Grace made the choice not to go. She said: “Due to strikes and Covid I had very limited contact time in person and actually was refunded some tuition fee money because I complained.

“So to me, going back to Nottingham to graduate, having written my diss and done most of my course from home, seemed totally pointless. I had no real connection to Notts.”

‘I couldn’t afford to go’

Melissa completed both her undergraduate degree and masters at Sheffield Hallam University. She graduated in 2o20 with a undergrad degree in sport & exercise Science, which was postponed until 2021, and in 2022 with a masters in international journalism, the graduations for both she decided not to attend.

For Melissa, due to impacts of Covid, by the time her postponed graduation for her undergrad came around she already felt as though she had celebrated in other ways but for her masters graduation, the decision not attend was a financial one.

“I didn’t go to the first one because it was delayed for a year due to lockdown, and I’d already received my certificate in the post so I didn’t see the point.

“Then I didn’t go to the second one because of money. I was working a full time job so would’ve had to take time off and the fuel to get there and hiring the robes was too much”, Melissa told The Tab.

She said: “I’d not seen anyone from the course for over a year but I was never particularly close with any of them. The lecturers weren’t great to be honest so I wasn’t bothered about seeing them either.”

‘It was more faff than it was worth’

Danny, 22 years old, graduated in 2020 with a degree in English from the University of Bristol. Like many others, Danny’s graduation was postponed until a year later and when it came to register, he felt like he was too past the university lifestyle to attend.

He then went on to do a masters in screenwriting at Leeds Beckett which he graduated from in 2022, the ceremony for which he again decided not to attend.

Like Melissa, his decision not to go was based on finances, saying: “It was in the week and I didn’t fancy taking an invaluable day off work to go and prance around in a silly cape that probably cost me an arm and a leg.

“Then there’s the effort to get there, more money, staying overnight and the rest. It’s a costly trip.”

Reflecting on why he thinks graduations are an important right of passage for some, Danny said: “I feel like people obsess over their graduations because it’s a ceremonial thing to mark the end of a big chapter of your life.

“For me, I feel I marked that in different ways whether it was like a final party with my housemates or a meal out with parents. Going to a graduation ceremony is almost a more impersonal way of marking your experience.”

Related stories recommended by this author:

• Here’s how your uni’s graduation plans compare to everyone else’s

• QUIZ: Match the uni to its graduation venue and we’ll tell you your degree grade

• The poshest graduation venues in the UK which put yours to shame