We spoke to UCL students about why cancelling graduation now was the wrong decision

“The last thing keeping me from falling off the edge just got ripped away”


UCL, 9 months before the big day pulled off the ultimate let down, a decision filled with hastiness and potential ulterior motives. Cancelling Graduation 2021.  It’s gone, poof, into thin air, along with any other remnant of a university experience.

Finalists are universally disappointed and have once again been left feeling totally shafted by the university, questioning where there £9,250 is actually being spent.

The Tab spoke to students about how they are feeling following the news. Many sent in responses on Instagram that you can read below.

We spoke to Emily a Classics finalist:

“Right now I feel as though I am just being ground down by university.”

“Then, for them to make this decision now to cancel graduation right in the middle of deadline and exam season, it just highlights just how little they actually care about student wellbeing. Because, if they did they would have actually put some consideration into when they made this decision. Not just announced it at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Another student told us:

“Sorry so let me get this straight, Sky News just announced that we might have everyone vaccinated by mid-July and then UCL goes and says your graduation- which is in September by the way- is cancelled. Sorry, it’s just a cop-out.

“THEY COULD NOT BE BOTHERED, same as the online teaching, same as them providing decent student well-being. It’s all too much effort for UCL.”

To read the Sky News article the student refers to, click here.

Many people have raised the unpredictable situation in the UK and that UCL’s decision is incredibly premature to be cancelling an event nine months away now. Many finalists feel the announcement is an unnecessary kick in the teeth as they are asked to continue working as usual for exams and coursework by UCL despite the unprecedented and intensely difficult situation they find themselves in.

The fact that over half their degree has not been what they signed up for, coupled with the stress of online learning, as well as unreduced and devastatingly high fees, was quite enough to make this year’s finalists frustrated before the announcement that UCL is also cancelling Graduation. Several have taken to UCLove to appeal for the Union to take action:

Many students found the situation disrespectful because UCL did not email people until gone 9pm, with many students not receiving any confirmation until nearly midnight. Many students were angered that they had found out what was happening via Instagram or a group chat rather than through a formal apology from UCL.

Alex told us:

“It’s understandable that they would cancel out of precaution, however doing so in a short email that provides no clear information as to whether we will even have an online one is just inconsiderate.”

Many are also hugely saddened by the loss of the opportunity to celebrate with family. Considering both the scarcity of celebrations going around at the moment and the magnitude of the achievement:

“First-gen students who’s family must be so proud of them and aren’t being given the space to be properly celebrated as they deserve”

“I have social anxiety and I have always been daunted by the idea of graduation, but I know it is a big deal to my parents and I can’t even bring myself to tell them that they won’t be able to celebrate with me as they have planned/dreamed/hoped.”

The other huge point of contention for finalists is that this decision has been brought about so quickly even though the university is evidently dragging its heels about academic support and mitigation. This update has also galvanised the support for a safety net policy:

“At this point, the very least the university can do is implement a no detriment. With my grades and mental health slipping, my normal University and London experiences robbed from me, and now no graduation cancelled – a no det is probably the only thing that can salvage any hope from this situation

“This feels like a continuation of the disregard for students mental health, embodied by performative measures lacking the necessary input of student feedback”

Even those students who aren’t in their final year have been reaching out and expressing their sympathy for this year’s finalists to The Tab: “I feel so sorry for the finalists”; “I’m not in my last year, but it sucks so much to see my friends go without a goodbye”; “God I thought my life was shit but then I imagine trying to be a finalist at the moment, couldn’t think of anything worse. Makes my first year seem pleasant.”

The decision also comes as an incredibly disappointing piece of news for all of those who were supposed to graduate last year too and who were told they would be able to have an in-person ceremony this year.

Whilst the necessity for cancelling graduation may yet be proved, if the past ten months have shown anything, it is that we shouldn’t be certain of what’s coming. Many students feel disappointed that UCL has been so quick to make this cancellation especially as, until the recent impetus provided by the SU, the university has been so hesitant in its implementation of other policies, such as a ‘no detriment’.

Hopefully, awareness of this latest sacrifice they are asking students to make will catalyse the production of the support policies currently in the works, and students’ discontent and disappointment will be acknowledged.

Overall, the student reaction has been unanimous – this was a bad call by UCL.

Even if their aim was proactive expectations management, all that they have really achieved is to further disenfranchise the finalists already on edge and struggling this year.

The marathon that the last ten months have been has in no way been made easier by the indefinite evaporation of the finish line. Whether cancelling Graduation was going to happen or not, they should have waited, and let hope power our finalists a little way further through the race.