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A COVID-secure graduation ceremony has been held at Oxford University for its final year medical students who will join the NHS next month.

Oxford in-person graduation ceremony for medical-students joining the NHS frontline

Although in-person degree ceremonies were not planned to resume until September 2021, the event took place at the Sheldonian Theatre on Saturday 10 July. The one-off COVID-secure graduation celebration took place as an exception, and was held for departing medical students who needed their degrees conferred before they could start work in the NHS.

Graduates and Sheldonian staff followed strict government and University guidance including social distancing and face coverings in order to protect themselves, the wider University and the local community. All 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. Although guests were not able to attend, friends and family were able to watch the proceedings live online.
Despite significant alterations, the ceremony was still a very special time for the students and their families.

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.’