Students protest ‘hugely disappointing’ graduation ceremony move from Ipswich Town Hall to Waterfront marquee

Students at last year's graduation ceremony at the traditional Town Hall location Picture: JAMES FL

Students at last year's graduation ceremony at the traditional Town Hall location Picture: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: Archant

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition calling for the University of Suffolk graduation to be held at Ipswich Town Hall – after the ongoing Cornhill work led to a change of venue.

Students have been told this October’s graduation ceremonies would be held in marquees on the Ipswich Waterfront rather than the traditional Town Hall location.

The decision has been opposed by more than 1,000 people who have so far signed a petition.

“This is a huge step down from the grandeur and sense of occasion that the Town Hall provides,” the petition states.

“A marquee, by comparison, is hugely disappointing. It will look and feel like a sub-standard event.

“Many of us at UOS have looked forward, for years, to the proud moments when we stand on the Town Hall steps, degree in hand and cap in the air, celebrating our hard work.”

Vice chancellor Helen Langton has moved to calm tension with an online post.

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Prof Langton said the decision had been taken in consultation with the students’ union and to avoid the ongoing Cornhill project “jeopardising students’ experience of the day”.

“As I am sure you can appreciate hosting the ceremony in the Town Hall and Corn Exchange in the middle of what will be a building site will not be a positive experience for anyone involved and we are committed to making sure that this year’s event is equally special and worthy of all your hard work over the years. We have looked at alternatives and concluded that a Waterfront based ceremony and reception is the best and most fitting option,” she added.

“Marquees are used for a range of special events such as weddings, and by many other universities for graduation.

“I can assure you the marquee we will have will be fully heated, lit, with staging and will provide a fitting and suitable ceremonial structure for the occasion. In terms of cost, the changes are by no means a ‘money saving option’ but the most practical solution. We will not be changing the ticket price for this year.”

Georgia Downs, president of the University of Suffolk Students’ Union, added: “The students’ union has been at the heart of the decision making process to move the graduation ceremonies this year from the town centre to the Waterfront.

“My predecessor of the 2017-2018 academic year fully backed the University’s plans through her manifesto and regularly reported through Student Council.

“I will be graduating this year and personally, I cannot wait to celebrate with my friends and family along the Waterfront.”

An Ipswich Borough Council spokesman added: “We respect the university’s decision to move this year’s graduation ceremonies. However, the Town Hall is still available to accommodate them and if their plans change we would be delighted to welcome the students and their families.”