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2:38pm on Wednesday, 19th July, 2017:



Today was graduation day at the university, and for once I was able to be on campus. I didn't dress up and participate in the ceremony, but I watched it on the newly-installed large screen in square 2. The most entertaining moment was when the Head of School tried to pronounce the name Sian as if it were Chinese, three times in a row. That tells you how boring these things are...

I milled around a bit, saying goodbye to those of my former students who don't scarper when they saw me coming. Lecturers like to think that their students will remember them fondly, but most of them will barely give them a second thought in the years to come. We may look on them as individuals we've nurtured and hope to see do well, but most of them regard us as purely functional and we're no more likely to be worth a farewell handshake than would be, say, a bartender.

I know the faces of my students, and I know their names; what I know only infrequently is which name goes with which face. It's ironic that the last occasion on which I'll ever see most of them is the first one when I know who the majority are.

That's if I can recognise their faces, of course. The young men are the hardest, because as students they often look as if they sleep rough, but for the graduation ceremony they have a shave and a haircut and are transformed into completely different people. It's as if a combination of parential pressure and the need to attend job interviews gives them a whole new sense of caring about how they look. Don't worry, though, lads — it doesn't last. I always look scruffy, no matter how hard I try to look smart.

The degree was conferred by the Pro-Chancellor, because our actual chancellor, Shami Chakrabarti, had to resign when she joined the shadow cabinet. Our university constitution forbids having people with a party-political role from being the chancellor. Our new chancellor doesn't start until August, and is going to be John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons. After much discussion, it was decided that although he's a Conservative MP, as Speaker he's neutral so isn't party-political, so we can have him. He's a graduate of Essex University, so does actually like us.

There was no honorary graduate for the science faculty this year, because there are many graduation ceremonies now and they can't all have an honorary graduate. If they knew that, though, why ask us to nominate candidates?

In terms of undergraduate degrees, this year the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering awarded 44 firsts, 44 two-ones, 25 two-twos, no thirds, no passes. This may be because the people who might have got thirds and passes never made it to the final year.

That said, when I was an undergraduate there were only about 30 students doing programming at undergraduate level. Two-two was the average mark, and very often there would be no-one who graduated with a first. In my year, there was only one first (me); now, nearly two fifths of the cohort (who graduated) were classified as a first. This is what comes of having university degree standards determined by the Times university rankings league; either that, or we attract a much higher calibre of student (as I doubt it can be down to our superior teaching methods!).

When I got home after today's ceremony, I had to OK two resit examination papers to be sent to the Examination Office. Life goes on...

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Copyright © 2017 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).