GRADUATES have told of their "outrage" at York St John University's decision to cancel their graduation ceremony.

A number of graduates have contacted The Press saying they have received an email from York St John explaining that their graduation ceremony has been cancelled.

A statement from the university said the decision to cancel its graduation ceremonies has been "one of the most difficult we have ever made."

It hopes that one day it will be able to provide an alternative celebration in place of these cancelled ceremonies, the statement added.

One graduate, Katie Hill, said the ceremonies were originally supposed to be held next month and then they were postponed to February next year. But on Thursday she was informed that the ceremonies had been cancelled.

Katie commented: "This morning (Thursday) myself and every 2020 YSJ graduate received an email delivering the news that York St John have chosen to cancel our graduation, this is despite the reassurance that it would only be postponed and we would be able to have the opportunity to celebrate with our friends, family, lecturers and course mates.

"As I’m sure you can understand this has been a very traumatic year and we all have worked for 3+ years, paid thousands of pounds under the expectation that as every year before us had we would be able to graduate.

"Our year has already had to work under the stress of a pandemic and have had their final months of study ripped away. This decision shows blatant disregard to our wishes and is an outrage to the students who keep YSJ running."

Phoebe King is also a 2020 graduate of the university. She said: "We are all outraged and saddened by this, we have worked hard for three (or more) years.

"Whilst we are all aware that the current situation with Covid-19 is unprecedented, 2020 graduates have already been robbed of the chance to have any form of normal end to our studies, and the fact the university has chosen to cancel rather than postpone the celebrations is yet another blow. Many of us feel we were not consulted in this decision either.

"We ask that the university instead postpone the ceremony until next year, or when Covid-19 is no longer a pressing issue."

Another graduate, who did not want to be named, said: "We have a petition to make our university give us the graduation we deserve."

The university sent this statement to The Press: "The decision to cancel our graduation ceremonies has been one of the most difficult we have ever made. Since the moment we knew that Covid restrictions would impact on our original November dates, we searched for solutions that would enable us to adapt our ceremonies in line with government guidelines to keep everyone safe.

"We worked with staff at York Minster to understand the implications of reducing capacity to maintain physical distancing in our much-loved graduation venue. We knew that having fewer, or no guests would be hugely disappointing for students and their families. We surveyed students in June to make sure that our decisions were informed by those whose views mattered the most. At that time, we hoped that postponement would be possible and 82 per cent of respondents told us that they’d attend a ceremony in February 2021.

"Allowing for two guests per graduating student we expect between 4,698 and 5,268 people during the graduation period.

"We spent months planning for an increased number of smaller ceremonies, spread out over several days that would allow us to accommodate this number of people. We wanted to do everything possible to keep York Minster as the venue for graduation ceremonies because we understand how much this experience means to our students.

"However, in light of increasing Covid restrictions and uncertainty it has become clear that it would not be possible, or even legal, to hold multiple ceremonies indoors for several hundred people. We were always aware that ongoing restrictions could have an impact on graduation ceremonies. Our contingency plans included alternative indoor venues, including our own chapel on campus and the possibility of further postponement. However, the challenges of hosting socially distant ceremonies means that we are unable to determine additional or alternative ceremony dates beyond February. "We felt it was important to inform students at the earliest opportunity of the need to cancel the ceremonies planned for February. We are continuing to work with York Minster to seek future opportunities if the situation around the pandemic improves, but given the current uncertainty, we did not want to create any further expectations or timelines we’d be unable to meet.

"We are asking our graduates, in light of the above information, whether they would now like us to provide an online graduation ceremony. If this option is not preferred, we will of course consider a future event where we can celebrate their achievements with family and friends, even though we are unable to say when this may be or what form it may take.

"We are incredibly saddened not to be able to offer our Class of 2020 a timely opportunity to celebrate their achievements. We share the feelings of disappointment that our students are expressing, and we know they deserve recognition for completing their studies during a pandemic. We sincerely hope that one day we will be able to provide an alternative celebration in place of these cancelled graduation ceremonies. We are very sorry that we cannot give an indication of when this might be."