Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) announced changes to graduations via an email addressed to all students on the 26th of September.
With the return of in-person graduation ceremonies, many students have been looking forward to the big day of walking across the stage and receiving their degree. Traditionally, students are called in order of marks – those who received first-class honours, second-class honours, first division, and so on.
However, College Board recently approved the decision for students in any class group to be called on based on alphabetical order rather than by degree classification.
The email explaining the new protocol, sent to the entire college community, read: “Commencement ceremonies are all about the huge achievement of receiving a degree from Trinity and we really hope that this will mean that no student will feel isolated or singled out on the basis that they received a particular class of degree.”
I hope all graduating students can feel relieved to know they will graduate together
Signed by Registrar Professor Neville Cox and Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President Gabi Fullam, this decision celebrates a wider sense of achievement rather than comparing numbers on paper.
“I felt that there was a risk of students feeling embarrassed or possibly devalued”, Cox said in an interview with The University Times.
“But mostly from my perspective, the ceremony and the special moment where a candidate graduates is a celebration of all that they have been through and achieved (both academically and as people) in the course of their study, and that the ceremony was impoverished if the individual journey of each graduand to their degree was not celebrated.”
He was also keen to emphasise that this change does not devalue the academic mark itself. It is about highlighting the journey that every student has gone through in their time at college and recognising that their degree classification will mean something different to every student.
The ceremony and the special moment where a candidate graduates is a celebration of all that they have been through and achieved
“The fact that a student received a particular classification of degree is, of course, important in all sorts of ways, nor does this move suggest that Trinity is in any way reducing its commitment to and celebration of academic excellence. It is simply saying that in that precious moment of graduation, degree classification does not need to be called out because there is so much more that is being celebrated, namely the remarkable achievement of the graduate in obtaining their degree”, he said.
Speaking on what this means for students, Fullam said: “I think this decision means that students can comfortably attend their graduation ceremonies without feeling anxious. This preserves the privacy of all students, and means that we can celebrate together.”
She echoed Cox’s sentiments that achieving a degree in any form is an achievement to be celebrated. “Achieving a university degree is a massive accomplishment, and students face a variety of systemic barriers in progressing through higher education. Working students, students with caring obligations, students with disabilities, or students facing oppression know this.”
“I hope all graduating students can feel relieved to know they will graduate together … I’m proud of this motion, I think students deserve their privacy, and to not feel excluded, or be subject to anxiety around a day that should be a celebration.”