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‘Peter Mathieson is a joke’: Edinburgh students react to graduation ceremonies with no degrees

‘Marks for work shouldn’t be a privilege only a select few receive’


Graduation ceremonies began for Edinburgh University this week, despite the fact that amid the UCU marking boycott up to one third of the cohort will graduate without a classified degree. 

The President and Vice-Chancellor Peter Mathieson admitted he “regrets” these missing degrees, but as the week of ceremonies continue, students have been vocal about their displeasure, some even having planned protests.

These are due to take place on the 11th of July and call for Peter Mathieson to “meet the demands of the UCU […] or resign”.

The Edinburgh Tab spoke to students regarding the uncertainty and their feelings surrounding graduation. Many wished to remain anonymous, due to their distrust in the university and anticipation ahead of receiving results.

One student, who studied international business, tells us that despite their work being marked and the fact that they “should feel really excited and proud” of a first class honours degree they are left “feeling so sorry for the countless other people […] who aren’t receiving classifications.

“Receiving the marks for work shouldn’t be a privilege or something only a select few receive. I feel only anger towards the university for not paying their staff fairly or giving the pension contribution that they were offered in the past.

“Peter Mathieson remains a joke in my eyes as he emails us to express his ‘apology’ for the situation but accepts a pay rise. He’s an embarrassment to further education and he’s ruining the amazing global reputation that the university worked for centuries to build.”

Another final year, who took linguistics and English language says: “the emails have been super patronising […]. It doesn’t make sense. I’d boycott the entire thing if I didn’t need to graduate.”

El Perkins, graduating this week, and who studied ecological and environmental sciences, tells us:

“The pride I feel for what I’ve achieved over the past four years is marred by the institution I am graduating from. I feel a certain amount of guilt for celebrating my success because of my friends who have unclassified or deferred decision degrees and the staff who have continuously been let down by their place of work.

“The pride I feel for what I’ve achieved over the past four years is marred by the institution I am graduating from. I feel a certain amount of guilt for celebrating my success because of my friends who have unclassified or deferred decision degrees and the staff who have continuously been let down by their place of work.

However, although the sense of irritation is shared by many students, not all can agree on how best to express it.

The Edinburgh Tab heard from those who opposed the planned protests – remaining anonymous, one student says that while they “can attest to the substantial disruption that has been faced by this cohort of graduates […] and can sympathise with the rationale of those intending to protest […] the decision to target graduation ceremonies seems inappropriate and unfair.

“Graduation is a day meant to celebrate students for their perseverance in studying and to recognise the time and effort that has gone into their university years.

“Students should still be able to have (and enjoy) a day to recognise how hard they’ve worked.

“The added unrest of protests takes away from the overall experience of the graduation and in essence tarnishes the memories of many graduates and their families for years to come.

“This is an issue of not only seeking justice from the university but also of maintaining respect for the rest of this cohort of students, who in reality will be more directly affected by such protests.”

In a statement to the Tab Edinburgh, a university spokesperson said :

“Graduation day marks the culmination of years of hard work, in difficult circumstances for this particular cohort. We are acutely aware that delays associated with the boycott are a major source of anxiety for our students, and we are deeply sorry about the continued uncertainty they face over their futures.

Our full statement on the marking and assessment boycott can be found here.”