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Farewell to the Granite City

In-person Graduation returns as students criticise move to P&J Live

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Courtesy of University of Aberdeen

For most of the COVID-19 pandemic, Svea Nöll always expected she’d be able to graduate in person. Yet, as last year’s ceremonies were cancelled for the second consecutive year, Nöll, who studies Language and Linguistics, began to wonder if she would get the opportunity to graduate in cap and gown, something uncommon in her native Germany.

Her delight when the University announced that plans for in-person graduation were moving forward was matched by thousands of fourth-year students, including Politics and International Relations student Scott Hasell, who will have the opportunity to graduate in front of his friends and family after two difficult years apart.

From 4-8 July, students and their families will join in celebration as Summer Graduations are held in-person for the first time since 2019. They follow in the success of the Winter Graduations- which were held in-person in November 2021.

A University spokesperson said: ‘The University community is hugely excited to be able to hold graduations in person again. We are also looking forward to welcoming back, and celebrating with, our graduates from 2020 and 2021 who didn’t get a chance for an in-person ceremony as a result of the pandemic.’

Both the graduation ceremonies and the belated celebrations will be hosted at The Events Centre Aberdeen (also known as P&J Live), a performance arena and convention centre four miles northwest of the University’s Old Aberdeen Campus. 4,900 students and 12,800 guests are expected to attend during the week of festivities.

As The Gaudie previously reported, the University had found Elphinstone Hall, located in historic King’s College, to be lacking as a graduation venue as far back as 2019, when it moved ceremonies to marquees on King’s Pitches and Elphinstone Lawn.

The decision to move the graduations to P&J Live has been met with a mixed reaction from students, some of whom complained that traveling to the new venue caused accessibility problems, a concern the University denied on multiple occasions. Others noted that graduating at P&J Live complicated opportunities to take photos on the Old Aberdeen Campus, something that has been a part of graduation festivities for many.

Nöll commented: ‘P&J is a venue that most of the students won’t have any connection to. The Old Aberdeen Campus is beautiful… it gives the [event] a different ambiance than a massive event complex like the P&J.’

Likewise, fellow graduate Hasell told The Gaudie that holding ceremonies at P&J Live ‘loses the sentimental value’ of graduating on campus for many students, although he doesn’t ‘mind either way.’

Incoming AUSA President Vanessa Mabonso Nzolo, who is also graduating this year, acknowledged student concerns but downplayed the move, telling The Gaudie, ‘Moving the graduation to P&J must be a [disappointment] for many… but as we’re putting our gowns and hats on, I’m sure these concerns will move to the back burner…’

Adam Lambert, AUSA Vice President for Sport, echoed Mabonso Nzolo’s comments, saying: “We’re sad that the graduation ceremonies are moving away from our historic campus, but we are very happy that students will get a chance to celebrate their achievements in person.’

Despite student concerns, the University appears determined to continue its partnership with P&J Live, confirming to The Gaudie that Winter Graduations in November 2022 will also be held at the venue.