Cambridge students told they can ‘graduate in absence’ this summer

Graduates will be able to return to celebrate their degree at a later date


In his most recent email to all staff and students of the University on 14th May 2020, Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope has announced that Cambridge graduates who meet the requirements of their course will be able to “graduate in absence” this summer.

Graduating in absence involves a degree being conferred on graduates without them attending a ceremony in person, and this policy has always been an option for students.

Toope informed students that “congregations to confer degrees in person will not take place until further notice, affecting the rest of this academic year and potentially well beyond.”

The Vice-Chancellor explained that undergraduate and postgraduate students will still be able to celebrate their graduation “when it is practical and safe to do so”, returning to their colleges and with a ceremony at Senate House.

The email added that “a working group, including student representation, has already started considering how this might happen.”

Students who do not wish to graduate in absence can defer their graduation until in-person congregations can resume as usual, but Toope warned that this may be unable to happen for another year. This would also mean that students would be unable to show proof of study to employers, and crucially, candidates cannot obtain a degree certificate without graduating.

The announcement explained that “candidates cannot obtain a degree certificate without graduating (in absence or in person), but those who have fulfilled the requirements of their course can still claim to have completed their degree and can obtain a transcript to confirm this.”

The email also hinted at some of the plans for the next academic year, admitting that “the impact of social distancing is likely to mean that we will not be able to deliver all our teaching and learning as we usually do. Although we will work hard to ensure that students can benefit from the in-person experiences that enrich student life at Cambridge, some teaching may need to be delivered on-line.”

Toope reassured students, maintaining that “however teaching is delivered, we will do all we can to ensure that the University continues to provide students with the highest quality education and offers the best possible experience during their time in Cambridge.”

The email today comes after other universities unveiled plans for graduation at a much earlier point. Oxford announced in April that students would be allowed to have degrees conferred in absence or at a degree ceremony at a later date, whilst Durham announced in March that graduation ceremonies would be postponed.

The Vice-Chancellor’s full statement can be found here.

Cover image credit: Imogen Smith