Ceremonies Update - 23 October 2020
Future celebrations for 2020 ceremonies
The decision to postpone and then cancel our 2020 graduation ceremonies for now, has been one of the most difficult we have ever made. Although we can't yet plan for large events, we are absolutely comitted to working with the class of 2020 to celebrate with them and their family and friends when we can.
Since the moment we knew that COVID restrictions would impact on our original November dates, we searched for solutions that would enable us to adapt our ceremonies in line with government guidelines to keep everyone safe.
We worked with staff at York Minster to understand the implications of reducing capacity to maintain physical distancing in our much-loved graduation venue. We knew that having fewer, or no guests would be hugely disappointing for students and their families. We surveyed students in June to make sure that our decisions were informed by those whose views mattered the most. At that time, we hoped that postponement would be possible and 82% of respondents told us that they’d attend a ceremony in February 2021.
Allowing for two guests per graduating student we expect between 4,698 and 5,268 people during the graduation period.
We spent months planning for an increased number of smaller ceremonies, spread out over several days that would allow us to accommodate this number of people. We wanted to do everything possible to keep York Minster as the venue for graduation ceremonies because we understand how much this experience means to our students.
Unfortunately, in light of increasing COVID restrictions and uncertainty it has become clear that it would not be possible, or even legal, to hold multiple ceremonies indoors for several hundred people.
We were always aware that ongoing restrictions could have an impact on graduation ceremonies. Our contingency plans included alternative indoor venues, including our own chapel on campus and the possibility of further postponement. However, the challenges of hosting socially distant ceremonies means that we are unable to determine additional or alternative ceremony dates beyond February.
We felt it was important to inform students at the earliest opportunity that we could not go ahead with the ceremonies rescheduled for February. We are continuing to work with York Minster to seek future opportunities if the situation around the pandemic improves, but given the current uncertainty, we did not want to create any further expectations or timelines we’d be unable to meet.
We are asking our graduates, in light of the above information, whether they would now like us to provide an online graduation ceremony. If this option is not preferred, we will of course consider a future event where we can celebrate their achievements with family and friends, even though we are unable to say when this may be or what form it may take.
We are incredibly saddened not to be able to offer our Class of 2020 a timely opportunity to celebrate their achievements. We share the feelings of disappointment that our students are expressing, and we know they deserve recognition for completing their studies during a pandemic. We sincerely hope that one day we will be able to provide an alternative celebration in place of these cancelled graduation ceremonies. We are very sorry that we cannot give an indication of when this might be.