Anger at University of Suffolk's '30-minute graduation' as ceremonies axed

Celebrations at a University of Suffolk graduation for the School of Psychology and Education in 2018

Celebrations at a previous University of Suffolk graduation. This year's event will be very different - Credit: Gregg Brown/Archant

Hundreds of former students have signed a petition complaining after the University of Suffolk cancelled their graduation ceremonies.

Celebrations for more than 1,700 people who graduated in 2020 had been due to be held at Trinity Park in May, after the traditional ceremonies on the Ipswich Waterfront were postponed from last October.

University of Suffolk graduation for the School of Psychology and Education in 2018

A University of Suffolk graduation for the School of Psychology and Education in 2018 - Credit: Gregg Brown/Archant

But now, amid continuing Covid19 restrictions, the plans have been scaled down further, and instead a "graduation event" is to be held in the university's Waterfront building.

Each new graduate can book a half-hour slot, between May 18 and 28, where they will have their photos taken in their gowns, accompanied by up to three guests.

However, many students have been voicing their upset over the decision, with 290 signing an "appeal the 30 minutes graduation" petition on the website.

The petition says: "Graduates worked hard with the increased pressure of the pandemic, and health and social care workers finished promptly to support people throughout a global pandemic.

"Family and friends will have to take a whole day off work to attend a 30-minute ceremony. We will not be able to celebrate with our cohorts."

Lauren Bruen, a 2020 graduates from University of Suffolk who is upset about arrangements for the graduation ceremony 

Lauren Bruen is one of the 2020 graduates from University of Suffolk who is upset about arrangements for the graduation ceremony - Credit: Lauren Bruen

Lauren Bruen, 23, of Ipswich, said: "We are all very disappointed. I think we were all really chuffed when we heard it was going to be at Trinity Park, and thought it was going to be really good.

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"We all completely understand that Trinity Park is being used for Covid jabs, but we wanted it to be postponed until we can have a proper graduation."

Miss Bruen, who completed her BA in event management last year, is now studying for a Master's degree in criminology at UoS.

She added: "It's a great university, great lecturers, but I just don't think we are truly being celebrated for our hard work."

Danielle Diamond, also from Ipswich, who graduated in early and primary education, said: "I'm so disappointed. This is a once-in-a-lifetime ceremony - I would be happy to wait and have a ceremony with the cohort of 2021.

"I'm a mum of three and am very proud of getting my degree at 30, but now I won't be able to celebrate properly. "

She added: "One of my fellow students is Spanish and is currently in Spain, and now she won't be able to go to the graduation at all because it is just for UK-based students. It's so sad."

Another graduate, Megan Railton, said: "I'm absolutely disappointed with this decision after all our hard work. We would all much rather wait for a proper graduation."

She added she felt the graduates of 2020 should have been consulted over the plans. 

The University of Suffolk's Waterfront Building in Ipswich

The University of Suffolk's Waterfront building, where the scaled-down graduation ceremonies will be held. - Credit: Archant

The University of Suffolk said in a statement: "Working together, the University of Suffolk and the Students’ Union are anxious to offer an opportunity for our Class of 2020 to mark their achievement before too much more time has elapsed.

"After carefully considering the latest government guidelines, we are confident we can offer such an opportunity for our UK-based graduates from May 18-28 at the university’s Waterfront Building.

"We recognise that this is not a full graduation ceremony, which would normally involve many hundreds of guests and the opportunity to celebrate with fellow graduates, but there is no certain date when this is likely to be possible.

"Graduates will be able to wear their gown and will be formally congratulated on their achievement by the university in the presence of their invited guests, with the traditional photography opportunities.

"There will be no charge to attend and the university will cover the cost of gown hire for the duration of the event, with the option for graduates to extend their hire should they wish to hold their own celebration at home in the presence of family and friends.

"In recognition that the majority of our graduates are now working, we have tried to be as flexible as possible by offering bookable sessions available in the morning, afternoon, evenings and weekends.

"Bookings opened at the beginning of April, and in the past two weeks over 400 graduates have registered to attend.

"We very much hope more will take advantage of this opportunity to mark their achievement in the coming weeks."