University of Reading pushes graduation ceremonies to next summer

Pictured: Brontë King, 2019 graduate of the University of Reading.

The University of Reading has postponed its summer graduation ceremonies until July next year. 

The prestigious events, which take place on the University of Reading’s London Road campus, were originally rescheduled for December this year due to the pandemic.

But students will now be waiting an extra seven months to don their gowns. 

In an email to students, Vice Chancellor Professor Robert Van de Noort said: “Following our previous decision to postpone our July 2020 Graduation ceremonies, we have been working to develop plans for an increased number of ceremonies in December.

“After careful consideration, however, we have taken the incredibly difficult decision to postpone the December events to next July 2021.

“We, like many other institutions, have reluctantly concluded that going ahead with these events in December could only be done with significant compromises to the experience of our graduates. 

“It would be necessary to restrict numbers, which would mean guests would not be permitted. Ultimately, we do not believe such an event would give you the opportunity to celebrate your achievements as you deserve with your friends and family.”

Professor Van de Noort added: “As many of our graduates and their guests will need to book travel and accommodation well in advance, we felt we needed to make an early decision to allow as much notice as possible.”

He said that exam results and degree classification will not be delayed, and that graduates will receive their degree certificate in the post rather than at a formal ceremony. 

But response has been mixed, as the Class of 2020 must come to terms with a 2021 graduation after online exams, remote lectures and virtual dissertation hand-ins.

Charlotte Essex, a final year student of English, said: “I’m disappointed that we weren’t only deprived of experiencing a full final year at university, but we’ve also now been let down that the penultimate ceremony, symbolising all of our academic achievements has now also been taken from us. 

“It feels like we’ve been pushed to one side and I genuinely feel like this has clouded my whole experience at university.”

Another student compared the news to “having a leaving party a year after you’ve left a job” and others added it to their list of non-traditional university endings.

Psychology student, Ysabella Knight said: “I feel a bit let down about it being pushed back and I don’t know if I’ll be able to go. It’s unfortunate but because of the world circumstances we just have to take it on the chin.”

Maria Norman added: “I don’t know whether to go or not. It’s a year away and who knows what we’ll all be doing, although it would be a really good excuse to make the effort and see people again.”

Wokingham.Today spoke to Brontë King, who graduated from the University of Reading last year.

She said: “My heart absolutely breaks for 2020 graduates. 

“You start university with that final picture in mind, that final day of celebration with your loved ones and suddenly your having to sit exams and write essays at home, have your social life ripped away from you and having your graduation postponed for a whole year.”

Despite graduating last year, Ms King has been supporting graduates throughout the lockdown period with her social media forum, Gals Who Graduate, to ask each other for help and advice.

She added: “I wanted to do everything in my power to find a way to give 2020 graduates that recognition. 

“On Thursday, July 16, we will be hosting our own virtual graduation ceremony with 100 girls who didn’t get to graduate this year. 

“To family members, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, anyone who knows a student who is meant to be graduating this summer please find a way to celebrate. 

“And to all 2020 graduates, you are incredible. That day will come and it will be even more special because you are the students who graduated in a world pandemic.”

But some students welcomed the date change. 

International student Sara Mattar said: “As an international, having the date changed has been much better for me as there are a lot of restrictions towards traveling. 

“Having the graduation in July rather than December will also mean the weather should be much better.”

Kia Mackenzie, an English Literature student, added: “I cannot say I am surprised it has been postponed again, and personally I think although it’s perhaps not as soon as many of us would like, it makes sense. 

“For me, I had to change to July 2021 graduation anyway as due to my grad job and the commitments involved, I would have been unable to fly back to attend the ceremony. 

“Now this way I can hopefully graduate the way I hoped- surrounded by my family and friends who are all settled into their next steps, rather than the anxiety of ‘what next’ because hopefully that question will have been answered for many of us.”

Since receiving the news that summer ceremonies will not take place, graduates across the country have been finding creative ways to celebrate this milestone in their education. 

For now, garden celebrations will have to suffice as all big ceremonies sit a year away. 

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