Will students in the south be able to attend graduation ceremonies this year?

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Christine Alsford

Tens of thousands of students have had to forego traditional graduation ceremonies during the pandemic.

Yet as lockdown eases and mass events for sport and music are already returning, very few universities are trying to lay on face to face events this summer.

It has led to disappointment and frustration among undergraduates who have already lost almost an entire year of face to face teaching. . 

However some universities in the south are pledging to help students graduate in traditional fashion.

It marks the culmination of three years of hard work, a moment of public recognition, and a rite of passage. 

But ever since the pandemic began, the closest tens of thousands of undergraduates have come to graduation ceremony is a virtual event held online. 

Now a few like the University of Portsmouth are taking a leap of faith and preparing to hold a whole series of traditional face to face events this summer.

Prof Graham Galbraith, Vice Chancellor, said: "We're planning for it to be socially distanced so we will have to run almost four graduation ceremonies a day for a period of three weeks so it's an immense undertaking. 

"But I think it's right that we put in the effort for the students to give them that celebration at the end of their experience that they deserve."

Clip: Prof Graham Galbraith, Vice Chancellor

The University of Winchester is planning to carry out a whole series of evening ceremonies at the city's cathedral in July.

However some students at other universities feel let down that their graduations won't be held face to face.

Third year student Georgia Shakeshaft says she feels let down by the University of Sussex who don't plan to organise anything until 2022.

Georgia said: "I do understand that graduation can't take place as it normally would but I think the absence of anything - no Zoom award ceremony even with our schools - small course celebrations - I just wish there was something in place of that."

The University of Sussex says restrictions and uncertainty meant they had no choice but to cancel and they didn't want to 'water down' celebrations.

Prof Coate, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, said: "Sussex's grad ceremonies are amazing; renowned throughout the sector. "So it would have been difficult to replicate in any way to get the right spirit. What we've decided to do is hold something very special next year."

Universities maintaining safety is their highest priority, but some believe they also won't risk organising expensive events if they can't get insurance should they need to cancel.

They are not the only ones worrying about the bottom line. 

Marston Robing at Andover saw its hire and sales business disappear overnight when the pandemic hit.

Credit: ITV News Meridian

Managing Director John Martin said: "We have about 25,000 and they have hung here unused since January of last year."

Now things are looking up and the company has been packing up and heading 200 miles north for their first in-person graduation event in 18 months.

John said: "There's a lot more looking to September and into the Autumn and even quite a number looking at early next year, early 2022."

The wait on graduation ceremonies means those on shorter university courses will end up waiting longer to celebrate their achievements than they did actually studying for them.