Virtual graduation ceremonies

21 October 2020 | From Kgethi

Dear colleagues and students

While the country has moved to lockdown alert Level 1 and many restrictions have been eased, we still need to adopt a very cautious approach to any situations that could increase the risk of spreading the virus.

As a university, we have to take a circumspect and responsible approach to ensure that health risks are mitigated. We have taken the very difficult decision to host the December 2020 graduation ceremonies online. This is a decision we did not take lightly. Not only do we need to think of the health and safety of our community, but we also face a particularly unpredictable situation over which we have limited control where plans may need to change at short notice as the environment changes. We know that our students come from across South Africa and beyond our borders and do not want them and their loved ones to make plans and incur costs to attend graduation and then have to cancel due to a change in the situation in South Africa or internationally.

Graduations are celebratory occasions where families come together to rejoice in the success of their loved ones. They are occasions we all look forward to and want to be part of. However, these are large groups of people, far in excess of what is permissible under alert Level 1 regulations: a limit of 250 persons for an indoor event, and a limit of 500 persons for an outdoor event.

Graduation is a very important milestone after years of hard work that were put in to get to this point. Some of our graduating students may even be the first to graduate in their family. We share fully the sadness of our students not being able to walk the stage to the joyful cheers of family and friends. But at this point, during this global pandemic and the unpredictable nature thereof and to ensure the safety of everyone, it will be too risky and thus not feasible to host an in-person event.

This does not mean that our students cannot celebrate with those closest to them wherever they may be. I encourage students to celebrate in their own way safely at home and to share these moments with us.

To the affected students, we will share details of the virtual events shortly so that you and your loved ones can find a way to be part of this special moment. The details will relate to arrangements for:

  • the virtual event in respect of the ceremonies that were planned for March 2020 but had to be suspended following the national lockdown, and for which qualifications were awarded in absentia
  • the virtual ceremony in respect of the December 2020 graduating cohort.

Thank you for your understanding and for the precautions we are all taking at this time to limit the spread of the virus. As a university we must never forget the human toll the virus is taking on the UCT community and our society. We need to find a way to acknowledge those we have lost, to honour their lives and what they mean to us, and to help teach future generations about this chapter in our history. But future generations should also learn how this tragedy brought out the best in us: the bonds of solidarity that we forged, the compassion we displayed, the humanity we extended to all and the sacrifices that we have all made.


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

Read previous communications:

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Please view the republishing articles page for more information.