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  • Writer's pictureThe Gaudie

Make it free on campus’: students reflect on graduations at P & J Live

University staff and graduates have had mixed reactions to the ceremonies thus far

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Seated amidst a sea of robed dignitaries, University Principal and Vice Chancellor George Boyne held court Monday morning.

Hundreds of graduates streamed past Professor Boyne’s ornate chair, tapped on the head as the University’s bespectacled chief executive repeated the Latin phrase ‘Et te creo.’

Yet aside from the tradition resplendent on the stage, much about graduation this year has been thoroughly modern.

Held in the massive Press and Journal Live events venue, located five miles northwest of the city centre, graduates enjoyed free drinks and canapes, alumni giveaways, and plenty of photo opportunities.

Graduates speak out-

Yet, beneath the glitz and glamour, not all aspects of the experience have been positive.

One DHPA graduate, who is currently appealing their dissertation marks after they were graded by a non-specialist, told The Gaudie that their graduation experience had been affected by the ongoing marking and assessment.

They said: ‘It was greatly dampened by the MAB trouble and my lecturer looked sad throughout the whole ceremony. Students who will be awarded a first after the marking strike and second board meeting will not have had the satisfaction of it being in the brochure or feeling like uni is fully over. I am still waiting on results so this felt staged and inauthentic.’

However, this was not a universal feeling.

One graduating LLMVC student (a big fan of the haggis bons-bons) commented: ‘I thought everything was actually really good. I’m a bit disappointed to not be on campus because it’s prettier but everything went smoothly and worked well at the P and J.’

A graduating Geoscience student had similar thoughts.

They told us: 'Initially I was disappointed not to be graduating at the Old Aberdeen Campus however, I was impressed by the facilities offered by the P&J Live for our graduations and have no doubt this was a good choice.'

'It was very enjoyable seeing the variety of degrees, cultures and people represented walking across the stage and I am pleased that the university values individuality; setting a more lenient dress code and allowing us to have our moment whilst walking off stage!'

However, the graduate did think that the University could do more to accommodate graduates and guests from cultures who eschew alcohol.

'I was disappointed that in 2023, there was still a lack of non-alcoholic beverages during the reception. Some were made available but these ran out very quickly.'

Venue location puzzles students-

Several other students explained that they struggled to understand the University’s rationale for holding the ceremonies at P & J Live.

One student told us: ‘It’s upsetting. We have a beautiful, ancient campus that is more convenient and more sentimental for everyone but they are holding it somewhere that students have no connection to.’

‘It makes no sense, make it free on campus, they never think about the students.’

A former graduate added: ‘Having graduated from a degree at P & J Live last year, I will say my experience was a positive one… however, given the choice I would overwhelmingly prefer to graduate on campus and am not sure why it cannot be accommodated. P & J has a lot of space but it felt too big almost.’

While Tuesday’s 3 pm ceremony was full to the brim, several ceremonies have been partially empty. On Monday afternoon, rows of empty seats could be spotted in Hall C, which has a max capacity of 2000.

Lack of funds forces one staffer to walk to venue-

Graduates and staff alike were left reliant on public transportation to arrive at the ceremonies, as the University confirmed earlier this month that they would not be organising shuttle buses to the venue.

For some of the University's minimum wage and shift workers, this proved to be a problem.

One staff member was forced to walk nearly an hour and half to P & J Live on Tuesday morning, with another commenting that the choice was between ‘bus or food.’

While next-day reimbursements were set up to refund staff for their travel, many staffers didn’t understand why the University didn’t organise shuttles- as they had the year before.

To this point, several graduates commented that the venue was easy to get to using car travel, but as one commented: ‘I think my experience would have been a lot worse had I relied on the buses… I was lucky that my parents brought their car.’

Another graduate added: ‘It was easy to get to P & J Live because we have the funds to get a taxi and live close enough… not every student has parents who will shell out for the big day and many took the bus.’

University: Feedback from last year ‘very positive’-

There’s no doubt that the expansive and modern P&J Live has its advantages.

However, graduates have continued to raise the alarm about its inaccessible location and lack of connection to the University campus.

Earlier this month, a University spokesperson said that the majority of last years’ attendees had a positive experience at the venue.

They said: ‘Feedback from last year’s graduations was very positive from a large majority of Summer and Winter graduates. We constantly strive to further improve the graduation experience.’

It remains to be seen if the suggestions of current graduates and staffers will be taken on board.


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