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Graduation Summer 2021

In an email today (Friday 26 February), Principal Sally Mapstone informed staff and students that Graduation ceremonies will be postponed.

Dear Colleagues and Students,

I am writing to confirm that our summer Graduation ceremonies this year must be postponed.

The publication this week of the Scottish Government’s routemap for exiting Covid lockdown makes it very clear that it will not be possible to stage large scale indoor public events like Graduation in Scotland in June.

Under continuing social distancing rules, which will remain in place in Scotland until at least the end of summer, the capacity of our Graduation venue would be reduced from 1000 to 100 people, quite apart from the travel restrictions and mandatory quarantine which would impact on so many graduands and their families.

We have considered every possible way to stage Graduations this summer in a manner which is as fair and as inclusive as possible to all of our Classes of 2021, and 2020, and which takes account of the demanding logistics of organising Graduation, which require months of advanced planning. We have consulted with and listened to our student leaders, and we have had to conclude that it simply cannot be done within the law.

I appreciate that this news is particularly hard on our graduating Class of 2021, and more so on our Class of 2020 whose ceremonies last year were cancelled during the first wave.

It will be all the harder for some to accept and understand when the media is reporting that music festivals will go ahead, and that the UK Government has predicted that restrictions will be over by 21 June.

The UK Government, however, does not make the law on Covid restrictions in Scotland. That is the responsibility of the Scottish Government, which has made it very clear this week that it will insist, prudently, on continued restrictions through this summer.

We have today written to both classes re-stating our promise to stage their Graduation ceremonies when public health conditions allow, and at a time when they can reunite and celebrate with classmates, friends, and tutors in St Andrews. We have provisionally set aside three weeks in June 2022 for these celebrations with the Class of 2022, 2020 and 2021.

That, I imagine, will be some party, even if it can never properly replace the rites of passage lost to the pandemic, and the disappointment that will be felt today.

We still hope to be able to proceed as planned with our Graduation ceremonies in December this year, but will keep this under review.

More broadly, senior colleagues and I continue to work through the implications of the exit routemap for our students and staff for the remainder of this semester, our activities over the summer, and for the coming of the new academic year in September.

It is evident that little will change in terms of current restrictions for the rest of this term. Universities will be restricted to very small numbers of students on campus at any one time, although we can expect to see shops and restaurants beginning to re-open in late Spring if we maintain progress in suppressing the virus.

We are continuing to lobby the Scottish Government on the importance of universities being able to prepare prudently and with confidence for a future in which vaccines will be our primary defence against Covid.

While it is impossible to predict exactly how the world will look by September, we might expect to see some of those mists starting to clear in the next few weeks, given the impressive pace of the vaccination roll out. We are told that all adults in Scotland will have been offered the vaccine by the end of July.

In St Andrews, we are ready to lobby for proactive solutions, such as student travel corridors, approved quarantine facilities, and comprehensive testing, should any or all of these be necessary by late Summer. I have already met with the Scottish Minister for Higher and Further Education this week to signal our readiness to engage with wider efforts to re-open the country, its economy, and world-leading higher education sector.

Finally, you will know that earlier this week we lost a good friend and colleague in Professor Ian Taylor, of the School of International Relations, who died at the age of 52 after a period of illness, un-related to Covid.

I know that news of Ian’s death has had a profound impact on many of you. It would be difficult to bear in the best of times.

Somehow, at this moment, when we are all separated from each other and the weight of what we have been through for the past year is heavy on all of us, the loss of Ian seems even harder to accept.

Shortly before he died, we were able to tell him that he was to be awarded a DLitt by the Senatus Academicus, the highest academic honour which our University is able to bestow.

The degree was conferred posthumously this week, and colleagues, students, alumni and friends can, if they wish, view the ceremony here.

On the 23rd of next month, on the anniversary of the beginning of the first lockdown, we will take part in the National Day of Remembrance. As part of that, we will mark a Marie Curie Moment of Reflection, we will light St Salvator’s Quad in yellow, and we will live stream a remembrance event and minute of silence from the University Chapel at noon.

It will be an opportunity to remember and give thanks for Ian’s life, for the lives of all those who are no longer with us, to reflect personally and collectively on the year behind us, and to hope that the worst of this may truly soon be over.

Sally Mapstone
Principal and Vice-Chancellor


Email from Principal Professor Sally Mapstone on Friday 26 February to all staff and students.

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