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Covid-era graduates invited to celebrate at P&J Live entertainment complex

AUSA 'sad' that degree events won't be on campus

By Jake Roslin

Image courtesy of Bill Harrison via (CC 2.0 Attribution Share-alike Licence)

Students who graduated in absentia from Aberdeen University in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic are being invited to belatedly celebrate in person this summer. There have been criticisms however that the programmes, provisionally running 30 June to 3 July, are being held at a commercial venue some six miles from King’s College.

‘I would obviously have enjoyed a graduation in Elphinstone Hall more,’ Parel Wilmering, English & Creative Writing (2021) told The Gaudie. ‘But in past years, that hasn’t happened either, and people were graduating in a tent. I honestly didn’t expect any graduation to happen anymore, and I’m happy that we are getting a belated ceremony. Me and my family can always go [to campus] afterwards to take pictures’.

‘I’m glad they are organising something,’ Rosie Benny, Politics & IR (2021) commented. ‘I’m honestly not that bothered where it is given that the P&J is pretty easy to get to.’

The University told The Gaudie that the centre was ‘the ideal location’ to deliver the event while managing the continued risks of the coronavirus.

‘Transport links provide convenient access to the location,’ a spokesperson said, ‘and the P&J Live also has multiple hotels on site offering accommodation at a discounted rate.’

‘We intend to deliver an event worthy of the occasion,’ the spokesperson continued, ‘celebrating the tremendous success our graduates have achieved under especially difficult circumstances. Those attending will have the opportunity to wear robes, have pictures taken with family and friends and enjoy some hospitality and entertainment.’

Ondrej Kučerák, AUSA Vice President for Education told The Gaudie the student’s association were ‘sad that the graduation ceremonies are moving away from our historic campus for at least a couple of years. We understand why the committee decided to move graduations to P&J Live.’ But he added that students ‘need to be consulted on long-term plans for graduations.’

The venue in which students are presented their degree scrolls by the Principal has changed a number of times. Elphinstone Hall was the usual setting until 2018, but its smaller capacity meant increasing numbers of ceremonies had to take place, especially after the university abolished the £45 graduation fee following a successful AUSA campaign.

This led to the 2019 utilisation of marquees on Elphinstone Lawn and King’s Pitches. While graduating in a ‘tent’ that year aroused scepticism on social media, a survey by The Gaudie afterwards found 92% of students satisfied or better, although there were criticisms of overcrowding and excessive heat.

The University is optimistic the 2022 celebrations will go ahead even if Covid-19 restrictions should increase again, subject to adjustments. ‘We continue to monitor Scottish Government Guidelines and work closely with our partners at P&J Live to ensure the event can be delivered without compromising on quality or the safety of our graduates and their guests,’ they told us.

The University confirms ‘light bites and University memorabilia’ will be available and that graduate outfitters Ede & Ravenscroft will provide robe hire and photography services.

Up to two guests per student will be allowed. As an alternative to the nearby hotels, students and their guests can book overnight accommodation in Hillhead Student Village.

‘The University needs to provide transport to make sure that students are able to get to P&J Live and that the venue is accessible to all,’ Kučerák added. ‘Graduation ceremonies should be a fun and free event to remember forever.’

Link to Gaudie survey on where students would prefer to graduate


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