In-person graduation ceremonies (and mortar boards!) return to the University

From Friday 8 to Thursday 14 of April, the Wills Memorial Building will be a sea of gowns and mortar boards as the first in-person graduations in over two years take place. Around 4,500 students will have their graduations conferred after ceremonies were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This year students will be wearing mortar boards, which have not been part of University of Bristol graduation dress since the 1960s.

Speaking about the occasion, Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor & President, said: “Graduation is the focal point of the University of Bristol calendar and a chance for students and staff to celebrate their considerable achievements. Many of those graduating left us during the pandemic, and I am truly thankful that we have this chance to see them again in person, and to congratulate them on their nous, tenacity and aptitude.

“Gaining a degree is challenging. It involves sacrifice and fortitude; intelligence and insight; and every one of the 4,500 new graduates deserve their hard-earned reward.”

The ceremonies will also see five distinguished guests (three of whom are alumni of the University) receive honorary awards in recognition of their outstanding achievements:

Gordan Richardson (BSc 1974) | Honorary degree

Mr Richardson contracted polio aged three, leaving him paralysed from the waist down. Nevertheless, he completed full-time education and received a degree in Economics and Accounting from the University in 1974. He took early retirement at 50 and for the past 20 years has focussed on helping disabled people. His first big project was co-founding the 60,000 sq ft Vassall Centre Trust (VCT), which is used by disability charities and run by disabled trustees, employees and volunteers. He now holds positions at several disability charities and advises business and councils on accessibility.

Sarah Fane OBE (MBChB 1989) | Honorary degree

Dr Fane has transformed the lives of thousands of Afghans and is receiving her honorary degree in the same ceremony in which her daughter is graduating. The medic has spent three decades in and around Afghanistan, where she has delivered babies in mountain villages, disguised herself as a man to get to patients in need and stayed with mujahideen (the Afghan fighters battling the Soviet Union). Her charity, Afghan Connection, has helped some 500,000 children. Her daughter, Antonia Fane, receives a degree in Liberal Arts and French.

Denis Burn (BSc 1975) | Honorary fellowship

Mr Burn is the former Chair of the Board of Trustees at the University of Bristol. He joined the Board (then the ‘Council’) in 2006 as the representative of the Merchant Venturers and in 2010 became the Chair. He has a BSc in Engineering from Bristol and is a past Master of the Merchant Venturers of Bristol. Mr Burn was also Trustee of the Bristol Old Vic and the founding Chair of the Merchants’ Academy in Bristol and South Bristol Youth, which supports young people from disadvantaged parts of Bristol.

Tony MacDonald | Honorary degree

Mr MacDonald is a lab technician who worked at the University of Bristol for almost half its existence. In Tony’s 50 years of service he helped countless academics make important breakthroughs, became a pensions trustee, the union branch chair and sat on the University’s governing board for a record number of years.

Sheila Rowbotham | Honorary degree

Professor Rowbotham is a historian and writer known for her campaigns for women’s rights. She was involved in organising the first national UK Women’s Liberation Movement conference held at Ruskin College, Oxford, and has been involved in many campaigns since. Her influential pamphlet Women’s Liberation and the New Politics of 1969 is widely considered to have been the first manifesto for the new movement in Britain. She has worked as a visiting professor for several universities and is a Visiting Fellow in the University of Bristol’s School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies.

1 thought on “In-person graduation ceremonies (and mortar boards!) return to the University

  1. I hope you don’t mean mortar boards for the girls. We had “soft cloth caps of the approved pattern” – in other words, a Tudorish sort of hat. Mine didn’t quite fit, but when they do they will stay on in any weather, and, in my opinion, are more flattering.
    Elizabeth Pullan (Oatley) B.A. 1965.

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