Postponing graduations is yet another kick in the teeth to Bristol Uni students

Even the universities minister says graduations should go ahead

Bristol Uni announced on Tuesday that all graduation ceremonies would be postponed until Spring 2022.

The announcement this week postponing all graduations in summer 2022 is yet another kick in the teeth for Bristol Uni students who have been shafted for over a year.

With Covid restrictions due to ease on June 21st, students are rightly confused why they will be able to sweat all over strangers in nightclubs, but graduation events have been postponed.

Not only that, but even the universities minister, Michelle Donelan, told The Tab that she would “strongly encourage universities, if it is in line with the restrictions, to hold graduation ceremonies.”

In a statement, Bristol Uni insist that they had no choice but to cancel the ceremonies, blaming “ongoing uncertainties surrounding large scale events (particularly those held indoors)”, but with Boris Johnson saying only last night that the roadmap is on track, Bristol Uni’s explanation makes little sense to tens of thousands of Bristol finalists and graduates.

After over a year of Zoom university, finalists were looking forward to the one and only event this year that would’ve been “normal”, yet even that has been taken away, and we don’t understand why.

An angry Bristruth about graduation

Bristol Uni’s explanation, as with other universities, is that graduations take huge amounts of planning, and with uncertainty around large-scale events, they said they that cancelling would “cause more upset and disappointment for our students”.

I disagree. Most students would understand a cancellation if the government mandated it. Sure, we would be upset, but we would not blame the university.

To be fair, the government is being slightly vague about mass events from June 21st, but the clear expectation from the roadmap is that events will be able to take place, especially with Boris Johnson saying earlier this week that he sees nothing in the data preventing lockdown from easing, and Michelle Donelan saying they should go ahead.

So if we’re expecting lockdown to ease as planned, and a cabinet minister says ceremonies should go ahead, that shows that Bristol Uni’s decision is ridiculous.

Another angry Bristruth about cancelled graduation

Ceremonies could have been held outdoors on the Clifton Downs, where the Freshers’ Fair is normally held, which makes this decision even more confusing, and the university did not respond to our question on whether outdoor ceremonies have been considered.

The university wants us to blame the government, and to be fair, I do. Students have been an afterthought throughout the pandemic, and they are the reason we are paying full fees for an equivalent service to the Open University.

But at the end of the day, the university made this decision, not the government. All the signs say that mass events will be going ahead from June 21st, but the university did not have the courage to hold out longer.

I finished my undergraduate degree in June 2020, so my graduation was postponed this time last year, and it has been postponed again. Many 2020 graduates feel that there’s no point to having a ceremony nearly two years after finishing.

Bristol Uni says that ceremonies are already being planned for 2022, and that they are not the only university to postpone ceremonies, but Sophie, who also graduated in 2020, says that there is no point having a ceremony next spring, nearly two years after finishing her degree. She says it “doesn’t feel significant” and that there’s “no excitement” anymore. Quite.

A final angry Bristruth about graduation postponement

What sticks in my head is that nightclubs will be open, but graduations are cancelled. It makes students so angry, and rightfully so.

Although the government absolutely deserves blame for this, the bottom line is that the university bottled it, and let down tens of thousands of people.

This decision was the university’s – the council insist they did not advise cancellation, and the Department for Education has not commented. Which leaves us with uni management.

After being sold Blended Learning and not getting it, after trying to hide Covid statistics, after threatening collective punishment, after reports of security staff literally hitting students, we now have a major life event postponed, all because the uni fears the government might cancel it.

The university should be standing up for students. Management should be pushing ahead with ceremonies unless the government tells them otherwise. And with the government saying the roadmap is going ahead as planned, the university should also be going ahead as planned.

Instead, they chose fear and reticence at the cost of their students. They chose to hide behind “uncertainty” and fear, rather than courage of their convictions.

And I think I speak for the classes of 2020 and 2021 when I say that that is disappointing, maddening, and utterly disgraceful.

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