The University has announced plans to cancel all in-person graduation ceremonies in 2021, including both summer and winter graduations, due to the increasing likelihood of extended coronavirus restrictions throughout the rest of the year.
In an email to students, Vice-Principal Professor Colm Harmon said that those graduating will be able to celebrate virtually, and will have their degree certificates made available on MyEd in addition to being posted to them.
This comes amid uncertainty over how long restrictions will continue to be in force throughout 2021.
Graduations are a significant milestone in many students’ lives.
They often involve family members travelling from far and wide for the ceremony, which seems unlikely to happen under current restrictions.
The reaction from students was mixed.
“It feels just like another disappointment in a long line of disappointments,” said Mica Anderson, a fourth year English Literature student.
“I have been at this university for four years and I have never had a full, delivered year of teaching.”
Regan Sneddon, a fourth year History student, was also disappointed: “I was hoping out of hope that there would be a graduation ceremony this summer.
“That was naïve looking at the current situation.”
Others were more apathetic about the news.
“I personally am not that bothered,” said Rosie Barry, fourth year English Literature and Religious Studies. “I’m a little bit resigned to it.”
But while most felt a combination of disappointment and resignation, some have decided to lobby the University to provide alternative arrangements.
Within hours of the announcement, a Facebook group called the Edinburgh Graduation Campaign was set up.
The group, approaching 700 members at the time of writing, has launched an online petition, is penning an open letter to the Vice-Chancellor, and plans to submit a motion to student council later this month.
They have listed six key positions, including a choice between a virtual graduation or a delayed in-person ceremony and a desire for clearer communication from the University.
The University has since clarified on its website that students will have the option to attend an in-person celebration in future when circumstances permit.
Jack Manners, one of the organisers of the Edinburgh Graduation Campaign, told The Student: “We are pleased the University has since re-clarified their position and are committing to in-person graduations at a later date.
“However, we are deeply concerned about the lack of communication between the University and the class of 2020 since they have graduated, and the potential for this happening to our class of 2021 as well.
“Therefore, we are seeking guarantees for in-person graduations for both years and have proposed the implementation of an independent committee to handle communications between former students and their prospective graduations.
“We have set this out under six proposals which can be seen on our petition.”
As Mr Manners notes, students graduating in 2020 were also offered the option of a delayed in-person ceremony.
However, despite it being almost a year since many of them graduated, the prospect of such a ceremony seems no closer.
One such student was Students’ Association President Ellen MacRae.
Speaking on behalf of the Students’ Association’s sabbatical officers, she said: “Having missed out on graduating in person last summer ourselves, we know that many students will be feeling disappointed at the news that 2021 in-person graduations have been cancelled.
“You have all been working so hard despite the circumstances, and we know many of you want to be able to look forward to having your moment to celebrate everything you have achieved, and to have the chance of that taken away so early is disheartening.”