Edinburgh VP ‘regrets’ students still missing degrees at uni’s first 2023 graduation ceremony

The ceremony was overshadowed by uncertainty as many students are graduating without classified degrees

Edinburgh University’s first graduation ceremonies of 2023 take place today, uniquely marked by many students graduating without complete degrees or classifications due to the ongoing University and College Union’s (UCU) marking boycott.

The boycott has been a source of anxiety and frustration for many students. Their academic accomplishments, usually recognised and rewarded through degrees and classifications, remain unverified due to a lack of marking, leading to uncertainty around the graduation ceremonies. Last week, the uni’s Vice Chancellor said up to 2,000 Edinburgh students will be graduating without knowing their marks.

Speaking at the commencement for this morning’s ceremony, for the Schools of Physics and Chemistry, Vice Principal and Professor Colm Harmon reflected on the unique and difficult circumstances the graduating class has faced.

Via Edinburgh University website

“The last few years have been different; you have had the most extraordinary experience of university in living memory,” Harmon said, speaking about issues such as the pandemic and cost of living crisis.

Harmon then acknowledged the frustration and anger felt by students, regretting the university’s inability to resolve the boycott issue before graduation.

“We know that some of you or your friends have not yet received the full credit for your efforts, and we still feel uncertain about any final degree outcome or its timing. I’m sorry we couldn’t resolve the issues in time for all of you for today’s graduation,” he said.

Via Edinburgh University website

There is a shared burden in this situation, with both students and faculty grappling with the outcome. Harmon quoted an anonymous academic’s social media post to illustrate this sentiment: “If a student or colleague has a problem I can help with, I always leap to do so. Not doing so hurts. Colleagues, students and friends being angry with us also hurt. Being angry at them for not seeing things our way is tough. It all adds up.”

Despite the tumultuous backdrop, Harmon assured students that the university prioritises resolving the dispute.

“We work tirelessly to resolve the dispute for you, it might take some time, but it is the total focus of everyone to do so, nationally and locally, to improve the circumstances of everybody here at the university. In the meantime, we will continue to support you as we can.”

The marking boycott, implemented by the University and College Union (UCU), is a pivotal aspect of its broader “Four Fights” campaign against the university. This campaign illuminates persistent issues, including unequal pay, job instability, unfair workloads, and a rising trend towards casualising staff roles. As part of this boycott, UCU members have refrained from setting or marking assessments, releasing results, or engaging in any activities related to exams or assessments.


This year’s graduation is a unique moment in the University of Edinburgh’s history. With unfinished degrees and classifications due to an unresolved marking boycott, all eyes are now on the institution and its efforts to resolve this challenging situation.

Featured image via the University of Edinburgh.

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