UL graduates to be conferred in absentia

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University of Limerick Campus. Picture: Alan Place

UNIVERSITY of Limerick (UL) graduates will have a Covid conferral next month but they’ll have to wait a while longer before they can celebrate their graduation.

UL’s autumn conferring ceremonies were due to take place during the week of August 24 to 28 but the ceremonies were cancelled earlier this summer.

And while the actual ceremonies have been postponed, the students will be formally conferred in absentia on Tuesday August 11. This is to ensure they can apply for employment opportunities and further study.

In an email to students, Prof Kerstin Mey said: “It is hoped that we would be able to hold a physical conferring ceremony for our 2020 graduates in 2021 when it is safe to do so.”

Professor May, who was recently appointed as the first ever female president of an Irish university, said UL’s Academic Planning Group in conjunction with UL’s student representatives, UL Student Life and UL Postgraduate Students’ Union, had explored a number of options with a view to holding physical conferring ceremonies.

However, they had not found a solution that would comply with public health guidelines in relation to social distancing and reducing contact.

The autumn conferrings are usually the university’s largest graduation event, bringing more than 12,000 people on to the campus throughout the week.

Kayley Hardiman, who is due to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and New Media in August, said it was very disappointing that UL had cancelled the graduation ceremonies.

While acknowledging it would be very difficult to hold graduations while adhering to public health guidelines, she remarked, “I don’t think students will like this decision.”

She said postponing celebrations until next year will mean “a lot of graduates probably won’t go because they’ll have moved on.”

Her classmate Jordan Lynch said she was glad the university was looking at postponing rather than outright cancelling graduations but agreed it wouldn’t be the same.

“We will have moved on to different places and jobs and may not be able to make the time for it.”

“I’m emigrating to London soon and if travel restrictions remain the same, a two-week quarantine either side of my graduation is just not realistic. I probably wouldn’t be able to make it.”

Catherine Hallinan, who is due to graduate with a Bachelor of Business Studies in August said she was disappointed that the graduation ceremonies were cancelled.

She is the first in her family to have attended a third level institution and said she is more disappointed for her parents.

“The sacrifices they made for me to go to college and not being able to see me graduate is heartbreaking,” she said.

“It’s a very anticlimactic end to our time in UL. Coronavirus robbed us of our goodbyes to our friends, lecturers, and the campus.”

“Graduation was always something that motivated me throughout the assignments and long nights studying.”

Catherine said she was aware that UL’s student union had fought hard for a viable alternative to the Autumn conferring ceremonies and she wanted to thank them for that.

Still, “it’s hard to have closure on the best years of my life,” she said.

Early this year, more than 130 new doctors from UL were the first graduates to be conferred in absentia.

At this time, a decision has not yet been reached on whether UL’s conferring ceremonies in January will take place as normal.