Those graduation blues…

It’s been a relatively slow news week regarding social mobility – no offence to Wales at all, but the findings of the Estyn Report and the under performance of schools in Blaenau Gwent really fails to get the juices flowing. Although for more- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-14136356

So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to look at something a bit more personal – this something being university graduation. On Thursday, I experienced this joyous occasion, and I’d be lying if I said the tangible pride emanating from my family didn’t truly humble me. However, I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing from the whole procedure (perhaps the most apt word I could use).

I have probably sent some eyes rolling with that comment, but believe me when I say, I really don’t wish to be labelled a killjoy, there was nothing wrong with graduation. My university happens to be particularly stunning, the ceremony was very nice, there was even some trumpet playing Queen’s Calvary to create an extra sense of awe amongst the graduands and guests.

But, while this was all very nice, I have no doubt that a very similar ceremony is replicated not only at my university (3 or 4 times that day) but at institutions throughout the country. As a result, it felt rather formulaic. There was no personality to the day, no fun and no sense of realism offered to the changing significance of a BA/BSc degree.

This brings me to life as a young person, we are endlessly told how tough this world we live in is. The media has a conveyor belt of stories relating to graduates struggling to find work, we are informed that degrees mean less and less, you must do a Masters, and unpaid internships are now the norm for most graduates seeking to mould a career for themselves.

So, as I stood there in my archaic cap and gown (which by the way gown makers are yet to manage to adapt to female clothing) queuing up to receive my scroll, I couldn’t help but wonder why all the fanfare.

I hear shouts of tradition, tradition and fair enough tradition is often a wonderful thing, it shapes culture and is something that places real value on an event, but we don’t live in the past. A university degree used to be truly elite, something coveted by the higher social echelons of society, a ticket to success and with these ideas the ceremonies and customs surrounding these days were built.

Maybe this is what made me feel uncomfortable, after all graduation, while enjoyable, is an indulgent experience, steeped in the remnants of deep social class divisions that once defined entry to higher education. An excuse to dress up and exert your intellectual ‘superiority’ over the unenlightened.

Even placing my cynicism aside, it’s difficult to argue that a university degree means the same today. A degree is no longer a guarantor of future success. It doesn’t even guarantee employment. Therefore, can I be blamed for how I feel? In many ways, society has belittled the importance of a degree for me. Played down my achievement to the point where I was left feeling somewhat cold about the momentous nature of my own graduation.

Of course, you could justifiably argue that there is no damage done by a little fuss and tradition, but is it just peddling a lie? Perhaps, in these times it would be more apt if the graduation line had stops along the way. You receive your scroll, a brisk walk, a light applause and you join your fellow graduands in the queue for the dole.

Disregarding my thoughts, the nature of graduation is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. These are just the musings of someone who found themselves slightly bemused by the rigidity of the event. Maybe it’s just me but, a dose of realness would do the day no harm. Change isn’t always a bad thing.

Kenneth Way.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Those graduation blues…

  1. I always thought graduation as bitter sweet. It kept the tradition to close a chapter in life that not everyone will have succeed to close. The speeches and inspiration instilled a fire for sparking change. I left graduation feeling like I could do anything in the world. Many years later, still making it happen.

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