Opinion | An online graduation ceremony would be an unsatisfactory ending for the Class of 2021


By Maxwell Livesey, Third Year, Law

Anticipation. That is the word I would expect to use to describe the emotion at a university graduation. Sitting there amongst friends with a sort of nervous excitement, as the graduation ceremony for the Class of 2021 opens. Eagerly awaiting your name to be called to walk on the stage of the Great Hall and obtain your certificate.

Unfortunately, the uncertainty at the forefront of this seemingly everlasting pandemic, could mean that I, and everyone else graduating in 2021, will never get to have this experience. What would we get instead? A seat on the couch at home and a virtual ceremony over Zoom.

Covid-19 and lockdowns have just passed the 1-year mark of ruining our university experience and student life. As lockdown in some form looks likely to last until at least 21 June, undergraduate students graduating this year are set to have almost half of their time at university affected by the virus.

Throughout this year, the soon to become graduates have missed out on in-person lectures and tutorials, playing sports, socialising with friends, nights out, and so much more. To miss out on a real graduation ceremony would just add insult to injury.

Virtual ceremonies cannot replicate the atmosphere and importance of an in-person graduation. Even the most organised online graduation will not live up to the thrill and excitement of the real thing. Graduations are supposed to be a time to celebrate and look back on your time at university; the work you’ve put in and the fun you’ve had. With no gowns to don, no caps to toss and no friends to hug, an online graduation would be an empty experience.

The prospect of an online graduation has even left some students sceptical about whether it would be worth it to attend, with some students even deciding they would rather not attend a virtual graduation ceremony as it would simply not be the same.

The prospect of an online graduation has even left some students sceptical about whether it would be worth it to attend

One of the beautiful parts of being a student at the University of Bristol is graduating in the Great Hall. A ceremony steeped in history in one of Bristol’s most spectacular buildings is something that students expect to attend as their time at the University draws to an end. Instead, the Class of ’21 could miss out on this closing chapter of university life.

Aside from the ceremony, graduations bring students together one last time. Whilst friends stay in touch and will see each other again, inevitably after university people move on to new jobs or other adventures in different cities or even countries and are no longer together in the sense they used to be.

After any graduation, that separation is normal, however in-person graduations give students a final and lasting memory to share with their peers.

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As the end of lockdown sadly ties in with the end of the university term, as well as tenancy agreements, a graduation ceremony is an opportunity for students to come back to Bristol for a celebration. A chance to go back your favourite club, or have another 3 am Taka Taka, or even just experience the city the way it should be experienced.

I remain hopeful that if lockdown restrictions ease as planned and the strong vaccine rollout continues, university life will return to normal, and we won’t have to graduate over Zoom. However, given everything that has happened over the past twelve months it’s difficult to know exactly how the next four will play out.

In uncertain times, the only thing that remains certain is an online graduation would not be a satisfactory ending to the Class of 2021’s time in Bristol.

Featured Image: Unsplash / Good Free Photos

Will you be disappointed if the graduation ceremony is online this year?