In-person graduations are back!

On ten special days this winter, the University’s quads, cloisters and Bute Hall echoed to sounds not heard on campus for two years – the buzz and celebration of graduation ceremonies.

Despite the unprecedented challenges of the last two years, including online teaching, isolation and restrictions on socialising, more than 4,000 UofG students made it through to take the step from graduand to graduate between 29 November and 10 December 2021.

The Bute Hall might only have been at half capacity, but those in attendance were in full voice, whooping and applauding after every new grad walked off the stage. And on the days when the skies weren’t typically Scottish and the weather stayed dry, the traditional procession around the East Quad, led by the University piper, took place immediately after the ceremony, followed by drinks in the marquees, souvenir shopping and photographs.

Graduation ceremony in Bute Hall

"This is a day that will live long in the memory. A culmination of years of application, it is the conclusion of one journey and the dawn of another. Professor Moira Fischbacher-Smith, Vice-Principal for Learning & Teaching

The much-loved fairy lights that are wound around the pillars in the cloisters each winter, known as the 'twinkly Daleks', lit up the short, dark days and added to the atmosphere of celebration, along with the illuminated 'UofG' signs placed in the quads for photo opportunities.

For each student taking part, an in-person ceremony at the end of their degree had never been guaranteed, thanks to the pandemic, and the fact that the events went ahead only made them even more special. There may have been modifications to the traditional ceremony – masks only removed during a graduand’s short time on stage; the flat velvet hat with which each grad was 'capped' not actually connecting with heads – but most of the graduation traditions were intact.

National dress such as kilts, and gowns with their hoods of blue, yellow and purple – or rather, bluebell, whin blossom and bell heather, colours taken from Scottish flora – were very much in evidence.

Each ceremony began with the organist in the balcony playing the Latin hymn ‘Gaudeamus Igitur’ while the academic procession filed into the Bute Hall, led by the Bedellus carrying the University’s ceremonial mace. Dating from 1465, the mace is placed on the table in front of the stage for the duration of the ceremony.

Graduates walking round the quad

New graduates walk round the East Quad in the traditional procession.

The Charge to the Graduates, once they have all received their degree scrolls, is an opportunity for the Vice-Chancellor or his representative to inspire and motivate everyone sitting in front of them in the Bute Hall. The new graduates were reminded of the personal power they each held to instigate change and the fact they could “accept things as they are or fight for the way things should be”. Following in the footsteps of hundreds of thousands of graduates before them for over half a millennium, but overcoming exceptional barriers to experience a graduation day in 2021, this year’s new graduates are well placed to go out and change the world.

Graduation celebrations

Watch the roundup of our fortnight of graduation celebrations above.

This article was first published in January 2022.

Juneyna Kabir in the cloisters"Since I’ve been at Glasgow," says Juneyna Kabir (LLB 2021), "I’ve been looking at the Bute Hall and thinking, ‘that’s where I may graduate one day,’ but then, with the pandemic, thinking, ‘will I ever get to do it in person?’ So it was a really nice feeling! Glasgow, as a backdrop to your graduation photos, is a beautiful place."

Juneyna, who comes from Bangladesh, is one of our Future World Changers, a group of diverse students with inspirational ideas to make the world a better place. Juneyna wants to tackle the fast-fashion, throwaway culture of the textile industry and had a chance to develop this at UofG as a member of our environmental sustainability team GUEST.

"I’m now planning to do the bar exam," she says. "I would like to maybe be a lawyer, or use my legal skills in an environment organisation or renewable energy field, and that might lead me back to Scotland, as the pioneers of renewable energy in the UK.

"As a university and a city, I have so much attachment to Glasgow. As it’s my third graduation, I could have thought, ‘I don’t want to go in person, I don’t need to do that because I’ve already had the experience,’ but I went the whole way and invited my family and friends because of the way I wanted to commemorate my relationship to the University."

Photo: courtesy of Juneyna Kabir

Aref close-up

Aref Ghorbani (MSc 2021) graduated in the very first ceremony of 2021 and recalls how special this made him and his classmates feel. "I am delighted that I had the chance to graduate in person," he says. "Studying online and not being able to meet people was one of the toughest experiences of my life, so you can imagine how it felt to be able to meet classmates for the first time. It was bittersweet." 

Aref came to Glasgow from Iran as a refugee in 2018 and studied Global Migrations & Social Justice. "I wanted to see the picture from the academic point of view, to find out how better I could have a positive impact if I studied this course." Aref is also a classical singer and recently released an album. "That’s why I am here," he says, "because I was a musician who was not allowed to express himself freely, facing severe censorship and not having any freedom of speech.

"My plan is to continue my work within the refugee sector. I’m currently working with the Scottish Refugee Council, but I would like to focus more on integration of refugee musicians and artists. And I will stay in Scotland – Glasgow is my home now."

Photo: courtesy of Aref Ghorbani

Drew Tierney graduating

For Drew Tierney (MEduc 2021), the path to university was uncertain at first, until she was awarded one of 50 undergraduate Talent Scholarships – support given to students who would otherwise face financial difficulties taking up their place at the University.

“Thinking back to first year when I was awarded it,” she says, “I was just over the moon – it was an instant relief. It’s helped in all sorts of ways – buying things for uni that you don’t think of, like the Office 365 package, and being able to help my family out … just knowing that I wasn’t struggling for money all the time was such a blessing. Without it, I would still have tried to find a way to do my degree, but it would have been so much more difficult and stressful.”

Drew is planning to build up her probationary teaching experience through supply work, but is starting a new job working with young homeless people first, “to build my confidence and for a bit more life experience, before I go into the teaching world completely.

“I had both my mum and dad come and see me graduate on the day, which meant a lot. I was a bit nervous, but really excited just to have the photographs and be able to mark the day properly – soak it all in. I feel like one of the lucky ones.”

Photo: courtesy of Drew Tierney

Ding Ren close-up

Ding Ren (MBA 2021) graduated from our Adam Smith Business School and has started working as a strategic marketing specialist with the engineering company Howden.

“I was very grateful and excited to be able to take part in this graduation ceremony,” he says. “Despite the unprecedented impact of the pandemic, the University and the dedicated Glasgow MBA team made great efforts to provide us with a valuable and unforgettable experience that I celebrated with them, alongside my peers and other alumni from all over the world. I decided to study at UofG because it is a world-renowned university with admirable history and a great reputation, not to mention the beautiful campus, welcoming city and friendly people."

Photo: courtesy of Ding Ren

Lynn G close-up

Lynn Genevieve (MLitt 2021) looked forward to her graduation ceremony more than most, for an unusual reason. "I’d never been to the University before," she says, "so I was excited to be going to the physical place and seeing all the beautiful buildings. I was completely bowled over by the history of the University, just looking at it, let alone the graduation itself, so it was a big deal for me. And coming to Glasgow was an opportunity to meet people I’ve only seen online for the past year."

Studying from the remote Ardnamurchan peninsula in the west of Scotland, Lynn completed her MLitt in Creative Writing entirely via distance learning and is now studying for a Doctor of Fine Arts degree looking at prehistoric midwifery. After originally studying fashion design at college, then becoming a midwife, Lynn feels she is now on her third career. "I’ve always written," she says, "ever since I kept diaries as a teenager. I come from a background of loving books and stories. And I realised that with access to broadband, the lockdowns made no difference to me.

"Even though I was graduating in Creative Writing, I was really pleased to find this doorway in the East Quad on my graduation day – it made me feel at home!"

Photo: courtesy of Lynn Genevieve

Hyab Yohannes graduating

“I’ve seen lots of my friends and colleagues graduating virtually over the past two years,” says Hyab Yohannes (PhD 2021), “so I feel lucky that I graduated in person. My younger self would say, ‘There you are, in the middle of realising your dreams.’”

As well as gaining his doctorate, Hyab became a British citizen this year after coming here from Eritrea as a refugee. “Coming to Glasgow to study my PhD was both practical and personal – practical because I was awarded a scholarship from UNESCO to come here, and personal because I share ambitions with my supervisors, who have been the anchor of my PhD life in Glasgow. At a time when I didn’t have my parents close to me, my supervisors became my intellectual parents; I couldn’t have done my PhD without them.

“I hope to turn my research into a book, but for me, success has never been about lifting myself up or earning degrees,” says Hyab, “but about living a life that makes a lasting difference in other lives.”

Photo: courtesy of Hyab Yohannes