What’s the point of graduation season?

On Graduation

BBC website carries an interesting feature on differences between UK university graduations and US commencement.

In British universities, especially those with a very large student body, degree ceremonies can sometimes last longer than a week, as each school or faculty or department gets its own session, and as each graduate has the opportunity to shake the chancellor’s hand.

In the US, by contrast, commencement is one single, all-encompassing gathering, often held in a stadium or a gymnasium or a large open space, when all those present are deemed by the university or college president to have received their degrees.

So while graduating from university in Britain is in some ways a personal and individual matter, in the US it is more of a collective act and a shared experience. This may help explain why graduates of US universities – compared to their British counterparts – generally possess a much more powerful sense of what may properly be described as class consciousness.

It does seem odd to suggest that the slightly more personal touch – if having your name mispronounced and a seven second stumble across a stage can be described as such – should result in a weaker binding of the individual to the university. For, whilst everyone is graduating from the University of Nottingham, the stronger identification perhaps remains with course peers, School and even hall. Mind you, if we were to try to do everything in one event rather than over two weeks, we would need to hire the City Ground.

A previous post on a report of a Harvard graduation offers a contrasting view of the value of the collective experience.

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