Over 900 graduates from the University of Bedfordshire (UoB) gathered online to take part in virtual celebrations after their traditional ceremonies were postponed due to coronavirus.
Earlier in the year, the University took the tough decision to postpone the 2020 graduation ceremonies following disruption and safety concerns due to Covid19.
The virtual events were curated by the University to help mark the occasion until the celebrations can happen in person.
Eleanor Stillwell, Academic Events Manager, said, “We saw happy smiling students, many of whom got in the spirit of the occasion and had dressed in academic attire – one graduate even had full white tie and tails on.
“At least one graduating nurse was also able to join in the virtual ceremony during a break in her shift at a hospital, wearing scrubs and a mask.
“Many students had friends and family in attendance and there was whooping and waving throughout the celebrations, which made the challenges of organising a remote, virtual ceremony all the more worthwhile.”
The events, held on 3 and 5 September, saw over 900 final year students from the University’s Business School, Faculty of Creative Arts, Technologies & Science, Faculty of Health & Social Sciences and Faculty of Education & Sport come together online with their lecturers, friends and families, who were able to watch from home and overseas via a live stream on the Beds website.
International students from the University’s worldwide partner institutions were also in attendance, including graduates from Majan College in Oman and Oxford College of Business in Sri Lanka.
“Thanks to a powerful combination of your remarkable resilience & our dedicated staff, you’ve made it.
“Many congratulations. You should be very proud of yourselves, just as we are proud of you,” said Professor Rebecca Bunting, Interim Vice Chancellor of the University, during her welcome message.
As well as listing the graduating students’ names and pinpointing stand-out achievements, the ceremonies were filled with messages from well-wishers across the University’s community, including Heads of Departments and faculties, members of Bedfordshire’s Board of Governors and local VIPs.
“It’s unusual that rather than shaking you warmly by the hand we are meeting online due to the changes posed by coronavirus across the world,” said Helen Nellis, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire.
“Nevertheless, I send you all my heartiest wishes and messages which may be of help for your next steps in life.”
Amongst Bedfordshire’s graduating Class of 2020 was Beds Student Union’s (SU) new student president for 2020/21, Michael Alawaye who completed his degree in BSc Computer Security and Forensics.
Speaking about the unique nature of his final year and his experience of lockdown learning, Michael said, “Studying at home was interesting – I saved a lot of time on little things, like having to dress up and walk to campus, which gave me more time to complete my work.
“However, lockdown rules did impact my degree work due to lack of access to human ‘testers’ and adequate feedback, which meant I had to change my final project plans.
“I also missed having physical access to the library for extra computer access.
“I’ve now started my role as Student President of Beds SU. I want to ensure that the union provides the best opportunities for new and returning students – it’s important that they gain more than just a degree at the University.
“After my role with Beds SU I plan to stay on at Bedfordshire and achieve a PhD researching cyber security and cyber fraud.”
A number of Honorary degree recipients from past years also shared messages of luck, hope and congratulations to all students, including CEO of Sport & Recreation Alliance, Lisa Wainwright, author Adam Croft, former CEO of the Royal College of Nursing, Dr Peter Carter OBE, and broadcaster and vocal coach, Dr Carrie Grant.
You can watch some of their #BedsGrads messages on Facebook.
The University hopes to reschedule the 2020 in-person events for early 2021 once the government advises that medium to large-scale events can re-commence.
Further information for graduates can be found online and social media highlights from the ceremonies can be found on the University’s Facebook and Instagram feeds.