We asked for Lancaster student opinions on the digitisation of graduation documents

Even graduation certificates might go paperless

A survey emailed to first and second year students on 27th April 2023 requested students’ opinions on the digitalisation of their graduating degree certificates, transcripts, and achievement records to help with the universities recently declared climate emergency

With documents for graduation total to ten pages per graduate, digitalising could help reduce the carbon footprint associated with the preparation and delivery. The survey presented four routes: paper documents only, digital documents only, both paper and digital documents, or digital documents with an option to purchase a hard-copy set. 

The digitalised documents would be encrypted and instantly accessible following the publication of your result. It would mean that you can view them at any time, and securely share these documents with other institutions or prospective employers, cutting the hassle of scanning documents.

Being such a divisive issue, with many aspects to consider, we asked for students’ opinions on the matter.

Via @lancasteruni on Instagram

Positives of digital graduation documents?

Lara, who graduated in 2019, believed the digitisation versions “would be ideal for sending to employers however it’s sad that’s all you get for 3+ years of work, it’s nice to be able to display the achievement. Especially when your official graduation photo looks awful like mine does”

Is 30k not enough?

Another student, Leah from Lonsdale College, shares a similar opinion: “It’s nice to have a physical copy to hold onto as proof of what we’ve completed, and we’ve paid so much money to do this degree that it feels a bit cheap if the uni wouldn’t even bother to print us out the certificate. Having a digital copy as well would be fine though!”

Students have already lost so much

Losing out on the certificate would be yet another thing added to the long list of things students have lost out on during their university experience.

A County College student, stresses that they’ve “lost so much (especially my year [2023 grads]) from covid and strikes etc that taking away something as meaningful as handing over the certificate can be, wouldn’t be fair. For future years as well, I feel like it’s a nice way to finish uni, it’s not the same if we have to print it on normal A4 paper at home”.

Via @lancasteruni on Instagram

Invalidates the purpose of holding a graduation

The digitisation of graduation documents has brought graduation ceremonies into question. What would be the point of them? Would it mean queuing up for hours on end just to shake a hand?

Third year Pendle College student Emily emphasises they “don’t think it’s fair for me to have paid £28K for a degree to be expected to print out the certificate myself. It also completely invalidates the purpose of holding a graduation because what exactly am I going to collect?? A high five and a well done??”

Different methods of going green

County College student Isla emphasises that they are “fully aware of the environmental issues that come with paper copies and the carbon footprint that would entail, however there are ways to recycle paper and maybe that could be an option, to still keep things environmentally friendly”

It’s clear that having a physical copy is non-negotiable to many, but there are different routes to becoming greener. While it’s important to consider the environmental impact of graduation documents, it’s evident total digitisation is not the most popular route. 

Sure, email all the boring stuff, like transcripts and records, but at least feed our egos with the printout of the main certificate, which is proof of degree completion. As many have expressed, walking up on the stage and getting a physical certificate helps to materialise all the money, hard work, and sleepless nights, making it feel somewhat worth it.

The survey closes on Wednesday 31st May 2023 at 5pm, so be sure to share your opinion.

Some names have been changed for privacy reasons.

Featured images via Lancaster University on Instagram.

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