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Edinburgh students protest over ’empty degrees’ at graduation ceremonies

Students held banners and refused to be ‘tapped’ as part of graduating

Edinburgh students have protested at their graduation ceremony over being handed “empty degrees”.

One student at yesterday afternoon’s graduation for the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences walked across a stage holding a banner reading: “For us, housing crisis and empty degrees. For you, a £43k pay increase!”

Earlier this term it was reported that Edinburgh’s Vice Chancellor, Sir Peter Mathieson, received a pay rise of £43,000 and now earns an annual salary of £406,000.

Up to 2,000 Edinburgh students this year will graduate without marks, he has previously said, due to the UCU marking and assessment boycott – as university staff around the country in an ongoing campaign for better pay and pensions, among other things.

Students The Tab Edinburgh has spoken to have said they are “unbelievably angry at the university” for the its handling of the issue, saying the “no decision degrees” it’s dished out are “beyond ridiculous”.

Hebe, who graduated from Edinburgh in linguistics last year and was at yesterday’s ceremony as it was her boyfriend’s graduation, told The Tab Edinburgh the student’s banner was followed by the crowd cheering and applauding “for probably a whole minute”.

One Edinburgh lecturer tweeted an image of the student holding the banner, saying they were “crying” about “what an honour [it is] to know these students”.

Hebe said the majority of linguistics students “refused to be ‘tapped’ as part of their graduation, and a LOT of students wore sashes” and held them up.

“It was epic”, she said. “Very proud of my fellow PPLS alumni for supporting the UCU striking staff.”

Hebe said along with students, “some staff were also wearing the UCU strike sashes”.

The lecturer described a “sea” of pink sashes, and also shared an image of a student handing a pink UCU sash to Vice Chancellor Peter Mathieson as they crossed the stage.

Edinburgh graduation ceremonies began earlier this week. At the first ceremony of the year, the university’s Vice Principal and Professor Colm Harmon acknowledged the frustration and anger felt by students, saying he regrets the university’s inability to resolve the boycott issue before graduation.

“We know that some of you or your friends have not yet received the full credit for your efforts, and we still feel uncertain about any final degree outcome or its timing. I’m sorry we couldn’t resolve the issues in time for all of you for today’s graduation,” he said.

About the protests University of Edinburgh spokesperson told The Tab Edinburgh: “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. We understand the strength of feeling on these issues of national dispute and we support the right of our students to demonstrate lawfully and peacefully.”

You can find the uni’s full statement on the marking and assessment boycott here.

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