Hosting the first COVID-secure graduation ceremony for Oxford University at the Sheldonian Theatre

posted on Friday 16 July

Case studies, News

OUEV were thrilled to welcome students back to the Sheldonian Theatre for a very special graduation ceremony on July 10

Although in-person degree ceremonies were not planned to resume until September 2021, the one-off COVID-secure graduation celebration took place as an exception for departing medical students who needed their degrees conferred before they could start work in the NHS.

Graduation ceremonies are an important part of the student experience of Oxford, and the Sheldonian is traditionally filled to the brim with students, academics, friends, and family to listen to the Latin readings and see the students receive their degrees. We worked carefully with the Degrees team to create a ceremony that adhered to the strict government and University guidance but still gave the students and their families a day to remember.

All graduates and staff were asked to take a Lateral Flow test in the days ahead of the event and to refrain from attending at all if they experienced any Covid-19 symptoms ahead of the big day. The ceremony was led by Professor Chas Bountra, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Innovation) and Professor of Translational Medicine, with students spaced around the theatre. Although guests were not able to attend on this occasion, the whole ceremony was filmed and streamed so friends and family could watch the proceedings live and celebrate outside.

Dr Catherine Swales, Director of Clinical Studies, said:

These students have worked so hard throughout their degrees – but training during a pandemic, in an NHS under such significant pressure, was a very tall order indeed. Not only did they show enormous determination in carrying on with their studies, but also selflessness in volunteering to support the local hospitals, GP practices and communities at their time of greatest need. I am so proud of them all, and very grateful to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor, the Degrees Team and the Sheldonian staff for arranging a safe celebration, so we could say thank you and farewell.

Dervla Carroll, who was part of the graduating class of ’21, having completed a degree in Clinical Medicine at St Anne’s College, said:

After a year of always expecting the worst, it was such a joy to be able to graduate in person. We all recognise how lucky we were to be able to attend. Although physically distant, the ceremony brought with it a sense of closeness: a single cohort together for the first time since last March. Thank you to everyone who made a special effort to organise the event – it will be remembered for years to come.

We continue to keep in place our Six Step Commitment to Safe Events despite the easing of restrictions to ensure the safety of our customers and staff. If you would like to find out more about hosting an event at one of our venues, please