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Bells rang out in Liverpool as the city celebrated its first day of university graduations since the Covid-19 pandemic

Other universities in Liverpool took the decision to cancel their summer graduations, with ceremonies moving online instead.

But Liverpool Hope University has been able to stage a series of traditional, face-to-face events, with hundreds of students donning their caps and gowns before heading to the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Yesterday (Tuesday 28 Sept) marked the first of three days of graduation ceremonies which cover both the class of 2020 and the class of 2021.

Mature student Wayne Freeman, 58, studied Design at Hope, and is now a Ceramics specialist at the Granby Workshop manufacturing hub.

Wayne, a father of two from Toxteth, revealed:

“My class of 2020 has been waiting a year for this day. It’s been such a long, draining time through the Covid-19 pandemic.

“And we were always thinking, ‘Are we really going to be able to graduate this year?’ As the event got nearer and nearer, we were all still thinking, ‘Is it really going to happen?’ So to be here today is really special. Everyone here is buzzing. And the sun’s come out, too!”

Jessica Hughes, a 22-year-old from south Liverpool, completed a Fine Art degree at Hope before going on to study for a PGCE, training to become an art teacher. She’s already landed her first role at Myddelton College, Denbigh, North Wales, and says:

“I’m so grateful to be here today, 100 per cent. We honestly didn’t expect this to happen, seeing as it’s a year after we all graduated in 2020.

“But Hope is one of those universities which listens to its students and wants us to get the full university experience, from beginning to end.”

Joe O’Rourke, 25, was graduating with a Master’s in Youth and Community Development. Joe, from Wavertree, south Liverpool, had previously completed an undergraduate degree in Special Educational Needs and Early Childhood at Hope and is now on a fast-track scheme to become a social worker. He said:

“The Master’s has given me a great grounding, preparing me for the world of work.

“And it’s nice to be able to graduate here at the Cathedral. I’m not such a fan of big events or a lot of fuss, but it’s really nice for my family to be here with me.”
The ceremony itself saw Hope Chancellor Professor Monica Grady – a leading British space scientist – addressing the audience. She told guests: “It is just wonderful to be here. We have had a dreadful time – a dreadful time personally, as a community, as a country, as a world.

“We look to the future with hope. We look to the new graduates with hope that they will go out and take with them the skills and friendships they’ve developed here.”

Professor Gerald Pillay, Vice-Chancellor and Rector at Hope, also spoke to Cathedral guests, saying:

“Two years of graduands will receive their degrees over eight ceremonies this week. And we wondered until very recently whether this ceremony would be possible.

“And so we are very thankful that we can be here together today, and not to do our graduations virtually.”

Professor Pillay added:

“It didn’t take an atom bomb, or earthquake or hurricane to stop us, it took an invisible virus. And all universities everywhere had to find new ways to teach and do their best to ensure students could get to this point of graduating with a degree of quality.

“It has not been easy for staff. It has not been easy for students. There have been many challenges and many difficulties. So congratulations on making it through these months.

“These challenges test how strong we really are. It is in adversity that we discover some of our best ideas. Difficult times can make us better. It is times like these to think new thoughts, try new ways of doing things, and new ways of caring.

“Whatever we have learned, that led to us earning this degree, will stand us in good stead in ways that we cannot imagine now and in jobs we don’t yet know we’ll end up doing.”

A brand new academic year of students will arrive at Hope in the coming days, with ‘Welcome Week’ due to begin Monday October 4th.

Hope has reiterated its commitment to face-to-face teaching ‘wherever possible’, while the wearing of masks will be required in all buildings on campus for the foreseeable future. Hope will also run a pop-up Covid-19 vaccination clinic on campus.