More than 3,700 students graduated from University of Limerick this week, the largest cohort from the University to do so in absentia since the global outbreak of COVID-19.
3,775 students, including 77 PhDs and 15 masters by research, from programmes covering all four faculties as well as interfaculty courses were graduated in absentia after a joint decision to postpone the live event was made in line with public health guidelines.
Congratulating the students, Associate Vice President Student Engagement Professor Patrick Ryan said that graduating during a global pandemic represented “a magnificent day for you and everyone who supports you, and my wish is that you are immensely proud of your achievement.
“To graduate in 2020 against the backdrop of a global pandemic that has shaken the foundations of predictability in our society brings an added sense of achievement to what is already a wonderful success story – your story, first as a student, more recently a graduand, and from today, a graduate.
“Graduation is a testament to talent, skill, perseverance, determination and will. It represents sacrifices and achievements – regularly small, occasionally big – that culminate in your work being validated by the most stringent of academic processes as being worthy of a degree award. To graduate at any time is significant and calls for celebration.
“Your degree is of high value in how it represents much, but not all, of who you are as a person. Here at UL, we protect that value proudly and fiercely by ensuring that our governance of your academic journey reaches the highest international education standards. We stand firm against any dilution of those standards to ensure that you can use your degree confidently and proudly, knowing that it is an unquestionable statement of ability, academic integrity and educational attainment.”
Joining a global community of more than 103,000 alumni of University of Limerick, Professor Ryan said that this week’s graduates were now amongst a community of “people who contribute to and make a difference to the lives of individuals, communities and nations on a daily basis.
“More than ever, we need that sense of community to be sustained and enhanced to help us address societal and global issues. The shared experience of being a graduate of UL can give rise to future experiences where you get to enhance your life and the lives of others.
“Educational achievement lasts a lifetime and offers a robust platform for enhancing the world and the times we live in. I wish for you the very best of good fortune in your lives in the knowledge that when life does become uncertain, you will always be able to find comfort and sustenance from the achievement of your graduation.
Concluding the message, Professor Ryan said that graduates should “feel tall and proud of yourself, your work and your new lifelong identity as a graduate. Relish the memory of the best of times and acknowledge your resilience in the challenges. Tomorrow, do that all over again.”
Professor Kerstin Mey, the newly appointed interim President at UL and current VP Academic Affairs Student and Engagement previously, told graduands earlier this month that UL’s Academic Planning Group (APG) in conjunction with UL Student Life and UL Postgraduate Students’ Union had explored a number of options with a view to holding physical conferring ceremonies by providing increased social distancing capacity.
“However, the fundamental difficulty with all options considered is that they do not conform to current public health guidelines in relation to social distancing and reducing individual contact numbers in order to keep the rate of infection as low as possible and minimise the risks of transmission. Our priority at all times must be safety of staff, students and the wider community”, Professor Mey said.
“The Mid-West region has worked together as a community to suppress the spread of Covid-19. However, as we have seen in other countries and in parts of this country, infection clusters can re-emerge very quickly – and the postponement of Phase 4 of the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Business and Society is an indication of the care that must be taken.”
Professor Mey said in her correspondence to students that “it is hoped that we would be able to hold a physical conferring ceremony for our 2020 graduates in 2021 – when it is safe to do so.
Earlier this year, 130 new doctors graduated from their final year of study at University of Limerick School of Medicine, becoming UL’s first ever cohort of students to be conferred remotely in absentia due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The full class of 132 Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery (BMBS) 2020 graduates received their results in April, which were forwarded to the Irish Medical Council for registration, so that they could begin work immediately in the fight against COVID-19.
Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer at time, said in a specially recorded video message to the students that the environment in which they moved in to, in healthcare, “is going to be hugely challenged by the coronavirus epidemic - a challenge that I know you will rise to.”