Dismay for UEA students as gown rules deny scenic graduation selfies

The mortar boards fly at UEA graduation ceremony in 2016. 

The mortar boards fly at UEA graduation ceremony in 2016. - Credit: Denise Bradley

For any university student, donning the obligatory gown and mortarboard for graduation is a rite of passage.

And in the age of social media, no rite of passage will be complete without that perfect scenic selfie.

However, students graduating from the University of East Anglia say that restrictions on gown hire have denied the opportunity to make the most of the university's picturesque campus.

For the first time since 2019, 11,000 students and their families are being invited onto the campus for graduation ceremonies, which for the past two years have been postponed due to Covid restrictions.

The ceremonies are due to take place in a sectioned-off part of the UEA Sportspark, which has been renamed the 'festival area' for the occasion.

Literature, drama and creative writing students pose for photographs with the UEA sign before their

Literature, drama and creative writing students pose for photographs with the UEA sign before their UEA graduation ceremony. From left, Rachael Putland, Callum Browne, Angie Peña-Arenas, Coralie Bastiaens, and Rebecca Porritt. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

But graduands have spoken of their dismay after it emerged that hired gowns and mortarboards would not be allowed to be taken outside of the cordoned-off area at any stage.

The university says the policy has been brought in to make sure gowns can be professionally cleaned in between ceremonies.

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But the policy has been met with disappointment from students who had hoped to be able to wear them around campus and take photographs in some of its more picturesque spots - such as the Broad, by the ziggurats or at the Sainsbury's Centre for Visual Arts.

A 22-year-old PGCE student said: "I'm the first person in my family to graduate university and just wanted to be able to go down to the lake on campus and get some nice family photos.

"Photos in the sports hall just don't have the same appeal and if I had known about the gown rule I would have greatly considered not going."

Another student said the rule had not been communicated previously, adding: "Given that all attendees have to pay a minimum of £47 for gown hire, many of us are appalled at the lack of transparency and information that we have been given."

But a spokesman for the UEA said: "We are sorry for any misunderstanding regarding the opportunity to take gowns and mortar boards outside of the festival area.

"We understand there may be some disappointment but we hope that graduation will still be an exciting and special occasion for all our students, their families and guests and we are looking forward to celebrating with them over the next two weeks."