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University says mortarboard ban is for large groups of students

Mortarboards from 'Graduatrion Attire Ltd' Credit: ITV News Anglia

The University of East Anglia which has been criticised by the Health and Safety Executive for stopping its students this year from throwing mortarboards into the air at their graduation ceremonies, says it is only for large groups of students.

The HSE had said the ban was 'over-the-top' and that the chance of being injured by the throwing of mortarboards was 'incredibly small'.

Now the UEA says that small individual groups can go away and photograph themselves throwing the traditional hats, but is 'discouraging' very large groups from carrying out the tradition.

"We're not banning anything, we have a large photograph of about 250 students in their gowns and the last few years we've had a few nasty accidents which has rather spoilt the day for some students and so it's an avoidable accident, so we are discouraging the throwing of hats in the big orchestrated photograph, but people can take their own photographs around the campus if they wish."

– Prof Neil Ward, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of East Anglia

Watch more reaction from the UEA's Neil Ward who is reacting to criticism from the HSE.

The Managing Director of 'Graduation Attire Ltd' in Bedford told ITV News Anglia that there have been people in the past hurt at graduation ceremonies.

Martin Lewis from 'Graduation Attire Ltd in Bedford Credit: ITV News Anglia

"There've been cases in the past where people have been hurt, especially bystanders, perhaps a child in a buggy if it falls on them. Based on that alone it should be stopped. The best solution is probably to improve the hat, you can't cut the corners off but you could make them softer."

– Martin Lewis, Graduation Attire Ltd

HSE: Decision to ban graduation mortarboard throwing tradition is 'over-the-top'

The UEA campus, Norwich Credit: ITV News Anglia

The Health and Safety Executive has criticised The University of East Anglia for banning the tradition of throwing mortarboards in the air at graduation ceremonies.

The UEA has said it's imposed the ban after a number of injuries and that they came to the decision to 'ensure no student's graduation day is ruined'.

But the HSE has hit back saying the banning of mortarboard throwing on health and safety grounds is one of their most popular myths and appears in their 'top 10 all-time worst health and safety excuses'.

The HSE went on to say that the chance of being injured by a flying mortarboard is 'incredibly small' and that it is 'over-the-top' to impose an outright ban.

"You’d think universities would study history and do a bit of research before repeating tired health and safety myths like this one....As far back as 2008, HSE made clear the law does not stop graduates having fun and celebrating their success in the time-honoured fashion.The chance of being injured by a flying mortar board is incredibly small and it’s over-the-top to impose an outright ban. We usually find the concern is actually about the hats being returned in good condition.”

– Geoff Cox, Health & Safety Executive public sector team
Students at the UEA today practising their graduation poses without mortarboards Credit: ITV News Anglia

Students graduating from The University of East Anglia this year will have images of the flying mortarboards added onto their graduation photographs afterwards.

"The decision to not have the traditional hat throwing photo opportunity for all students this year follows a number of injuries over recent years to graduates hurt by falling mortarboards. This is an unacceptable risk and we want to ensure no student's graduation day is ruined by the potential for avoidable injury."

– UEA Spokesperson

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