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1st April 2022

Graduation fees triggers online petition after alleged broken promises

Out of pocket students anger at paying for gown and cap rental for their delayed graduation ceremonies
Graduation fees triggers online petition after alleged broken promises
Photo: Matt Eachus

Graduation is finally taking place after a 2 year hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic all over the UK. However, Manchester graduates feel the promise of waived fees for cap and gown rental has been broken.

As the end of March approaches, Manchester witnessed a belated graduation for 2020 and 2021 graduates. The university has been taken over by the event with signage present all over the Students Union and white tents erected near the Contact Theatre and Whitworth Hall.

The sun induced happy faces have not masked the resentment that some graduates are feeling towards the university after an undergraduate experience of broken promises and unheard voices.

Much like at Cardiff University, where 4,000 students have signed a petition calling for “the graduation they deserve”, and feel that the celebrations are not enough to make up for their experience over the previous 4/5 years.

One UoM graduate said that she was disappointed with how the event turned out. She said, “we didn’t get our degrees anyway, we just went up on stage, saluted the guy and then went off stage, so it wasn’t like anything special.”

The University had previously said that they would waive cap and gown fees. This was meant as a gesture of goodwill towards graduates, after their turbulent undergraduate experience, including strikes and lockdowns.

However, according to a graduate the University gone back on this. The student stated, “We had to pay £42, which I think is too much so I’m not happy about that, I don’t think a lot of people are.”

A change.org petition has started addressing this annoyance of the graduates. It is named: “University of Manchester, cover/reimburse graduation cap and gown fees as promised!”

The description of the petition reads: “although the cohort of 2018 did indeed have their fees for graduation rental covered, graduates from the recently arranged graduation cohorts of 2020 and 2021 are expected to pay for these costs out of pocket”, and asserts that the cohorts of 2020 and 21 have had just as much disruption, if not more so than the previous year.

It is not mentioned in the petition that the university promised the same to the most recent graduates. However, the same was reportedly verbally promised by “several senior faculty”.

Further disruption to graduation has appeared with the UCU strikes taking place. The UCU are striking over the four fights for the third time this academic year. However, these strikes coincided with a number of graduation slots.

Graduates who wear sashes or badges in support of their striking teaching staff have been told to remove them prior to entering their graduation ceremony halls. While the student we spoke to was not aware of this, she commented that: “I’m not surprised to be honest”.

A UoM spokesperson said;

‘As a consequence of the strike action in 2018, it was agreed between the University and the Students Union that any deducted strike pay would be used to waive the fee of graduation gown hire for graduation ceremonies in July and December 2018, along with also investing in student support and wellbeing services. In the strike action of both 2019 and 2020, it was mutually agreed that any deducted strike pay would be used for investment into disability and student support services, additional scholarship funding, and a series of sustainability initiatives.

In relation to the postponed ceremonies from Winter 2021, there has been a misunderstanding by some graduands around the costs of graduation gown hire. Our communication on 10 December where this was stated, was in relation to the University covering the costs of any robes that had been paid for already for those December ceremonies, by way of reimbursement due to the events not now taking place at that time. Additionally, by way of recognising the inconvenience and disappointment caused by the late postponement of the winter ceremonies, the University arranged for a £50 payment to those that had registered for these December ceremonies, as a thank you for their forbearance and understanding.

We are very happy that, after the disruption of the pandemic, around 12,000 people will be graduating during these ceremonies, supported by their friends and family.’

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