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Universities postpone graduation ceremonies amid coronavirus fears

UK News | Published:

The University of London said it had expected up to 4,000 people from more than 100 countries.

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Some universities have postponed their graduation ceremonies over fears about the coronavirus outbreak.

Buckingham University and the University of London said they had taken a “difficult” decision to call off ceremonies this month to minimise the risks to students and their guests from Covid-19.

The University of London said it had expected up to 4,000 people from more than 100 countries – including international students with friends and family – to have attended its March 3 ceremony at the Barbican Centre.

It came as Goldsmiths University in south London said a visitor to one of the university’s halls of residences had tested positive for the virus.

In an email, the university said the person was “being looked after” and that the student they were staying with at the Chesterman House residence is “self-isolating as a precautionary measure”.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

The ceremony cancellations covered students’ distance and flexible learning programmes.

Pro vice-chancellor Chris Cobb said: “We have taken the difficult decision to postpone the event due to the ongoing coronavirus issue.

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“We truly regret the inconvenience caused but, after careful consideration, we felt it important to minimise the risk to our students and their guests.

“This event is different to many others due to the large numbers of attendees travelling from affected regions and the potential impact it may have on others attending and travelling back to regions which are currently unaffected.”

Buckingham University vice-chancellor Sir Anthony Seldon said postponing the March 21-22 ceremonies was a precautionary measure, and the aim is to hold the event on campus in Buckingham later in the year.

Anthony Seldon interview
Sir Anthony Seldon (PA)

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Sir Anthony said: “We have made the difficult decision to postpone our graduation ceremonies due to the precautionary warnings from the Government regarding the coronavirus (Covid-19).

“Any disappointment felt is entirely understandable but we truly believe this is the best decision for our students and their guests.

“Our hope is that by announcing this news as early as possible, those who need to invoke cancellation policies on travel or accommodation will still have time to do so.

“The event is being rescheduled for later in the year and we look forward to celebrating the achievements of our students soon.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday: “What we can say for sure is that, right now, we do not recommend the cancelling of mass events, and schools as well should not be closing unless there is both a positive case and the school has had the advice to close from Public Health England.”

The Department for Education said PHE has issued guidance to help schools and other academic institutions give advice to pupils, students, staff, parents or carers.

A spokesman for Universities UK said: “At present, the advice from government is to continue business as usual where appropriate.

“The sector is keeping the situation under constant review and individual universities will also be making their own assessments, working in conjunction with public health officials in their area, to make decisions about events and other activities.

“This is a constantly-evolving situation and universities are planning for a range of scenarios.

“The health of all students and staff is of the utmost importance to university leaders and Universities UK and Universities UK International will continue to share the appropriate guidance and support our members.”

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