Wednesday 27 January 2021

Email to graduating students

Summer 2021 Graduation Ceremonies

Message from Charlie Jeffery, Vice-Chancellor

Dear students,

I am writing to let you know that the summer Graduation ceremonies will be delivered online, creating a virtual graduation celebration for you, your friends, family and supporters.

I know that many of you may be disappointed not to have an opportunity to celebrate together in-person, but we are going to create an occasion worthy of your successes and achievements.

Why has the decision been made now?

We have taken this decision because of the continuing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. There is an increasing number of large event cancellation announcements – most notably, late last week, Glastonbury, which was scheduled to take place in late June. It is clear that any form of physical gathering involving large numbers of people will not be advisable, and may well not be allowed, over the summer of 2021.

We want to let you know now, because amongst all the uncertainty, we know the importance of having plans in place that you can look forward to. But we need to have the safety not just of staff and graduating students, but also of friends, family and supporters in mind. Even as the vaccination programme rolls out, it seems extremely unlikely that it will be safe to bring large crowds together by July 2021.

When will the virtual graduation celebrations take place?

It is important that you receive the conferment of your award so you can progress your career plans, so we are organising your online graduation ceremonies for each of our Faculties for August 2021.

This will be the third time we have successfully hosted virtual ceremonies, with inspirational talks from our honorary graduates and students. It’s been wonderful to see so many students, family and supporters sharing their stories and enjoying the celebrations, and we look forward to helping make your ceremony as special and memorable for you and your friends.

Please note that this decision is only about graduation ceremonies. These ceremonies typically see more than 1100 people gathered in close proximity at twelve separate ceremonies held in Central Hall, bringing thousands of people a day to campus. It is the volume of people associated with graduation that has prompted our decision to move the ceremonies online. I also know that our Hull York Medical School MB BS students who are eligible to graduate in the Summer will do so at the University of Hull ceremonies, and they will be in touch soon about their plans.

In terms of decisions about in-person teaching, we are committed, when it is safe to do so, and when government guidance allows, to scale up in-person teaching under our blended learning plans, and hope this will be available to all students in the Summer Term. We are reviewing all of our Covid safety measures during this period of lockdown and will be working to ensure our teaching spaces can operate safely and continue - as we have done so far - to avoid classroom-based Covid transmission.

Our commitment to you

For now, though, let me say that I am truly sorry that the rite of passage of graduation has been affected in this way by the pandemic. Again, I know that this may be disappointing, but it is important to me that we are open and transparent with you, and that we give you as much certainty as we can about the remainder of your time at York.

I want to reiterate to you the commitment I made to our January 2021 graduating class in our online graduations last week – that as soon as it is safe to do so you will be invited back to campus to participate in a graduation ceremony in Central Hall so that you can celebrate together with your family, friends and supporters. We will continue to monitor government guidance but it seems most likely that we will be able to schedule these celebrations in Spring 2022.

Let me close by reminding you how important it is, especially with the new variant of Covid which is more easily transmissible, that we continue to look out for each other. Do follow all the safety measures and – if you are in York – use our on-campus rapid results testing centre regularly so we catch infections early before they spread.

We will send further information on graduation in the coming months but for now, please continue to stay smart, supportive and safe.

Best wishes

Charlie