Our physics students graduated, in Guildford Cathedral, on Wednesday afternoon, and I was one of the physics academics in the academic procession (= academics that file in two-by-two up the aisle after the Chancellor and other dignitaries). It was great to see our students graduating. We took them in as fresh-faced teenagers three or four years ago, and now there they were in suits/posh-frocks, and gowns, getting their degrees. For the graduates, it is a reward for the all the report writing, tedious exam revision, and for academics it does make all the tedious exam marking seem worthwhile. So good all round.
After the ceremony, there is a reception. As an academic who has been to loads to these, it takes a bit of effort to really appreciate that this is a once-in-a-lifetime event for the graduates, and their parents. You can tend to take it for granted, but shouldn’t.
This year I had a bit of a light-bulb moment, when I realised that a couple of the parents were a bit intimidated by us academics in our full elaborate academic gowns. This shows a terrible lack of awareness on my part. Particularly if you did not go to university yourself, when a guy rocks up to congratulate your child dressed in a suit, bright orangey-red gown with green trimming and a mortarboard, you can easily be a bit out of your comfort zone. In my defence, we academics don’t take the gowns seriously. Every year, when we wait to process, we pass the time making fun of each others gowns. This year I commiserated with one colleague who is stuck with York’s rather drab grey gown, and lamented the absence of a colleague who rocks Heriot-Watt’s rather striking magenta gown. Next year I should work a bit harder to be more normal, despite the non-normal attire.