Graduation – Too Big for the Turner Sims


Graduation is an important time for all students, in essence it is everything that they have been spending the last 3 years working for and I believe that it should reflect this, and the fact that graduating University really is a huge life milestone.

Little unimpressive...?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure graduation is nice, how can it not be? Yet I sit here and feel that it lacks gravitas. We are often reminded that here at Southampton we are at a world class university and certainly one of the highest ranking in the United Kingdom. So I bring myself to ask why it is that we graduate in the Turner Sims gallery. I’m not having a go, really I’m not. Some graduates say that they really like graduating on campus and that it somehow just feels right to graduate in the place where they studied with the people who they studied with. And here we have the first real problem – the Turner Sims is only big enough to graduate one subject at a time and if you study Geology that is fine and it’s nice. My housemate for instance studies Geology and he’s looking forward to graduating with his class; most of his friends are geologists and his girlfriend is a geologist – in essence his University experience is lived through Geology. The same can be seen for many sciences, they are often specialised; which is helpful; and there are a lot of contact house, helping people to really get to know the people on their course, these are the people who they form the closest bonds with. Fair enough.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Humanities students, or indeed the Social Sciences. My year has something along the lines of 300 students and with only 4 hours of contact time a week, it’s safe to say that though I recognise a fair majority of them I don’t know most of them. At all. I have many a history friend, it’d be fairly sad if I didn’t, and yet history students don’t make up the majority of my friends. I live with no other historians, my girlfriend is not a historian, my society friends are often not historians. My University experience is lived outside of my subject. The same can be seen with English students, with Applied  Social Science students and many more. I’d say that due to the very little contact time that Humanities have, and their [no offence]pretty crap societies (there aren’t really many ‘History Socials’) a higher proportion of our friends end out to not study what we study and therefore why is it that we graduate only with people who we will happen to have the same degree title as. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a much bigger graduation ceremony whereby I’m graduating with many more of my friends.

A more fitting place to graduate?

The issue here is space. As I said, the Turner Sims can only hold so many people (not very many people) and therefore to have a larger ceremony we’d need somewhere else to graduate. Could this be done under Gazebos on the grounds of the University? Maybe. Personally I would rather graduate somewhere big however; my two personal preferences are either the Guildhall, which is where Solent students graduate, or Winchester Cathedral. The reasons for Guildhall are fairly obvious; it’s big, it’s nearby and it is an old and quite impressive building. However, my top preference would actually be Winchester Cathedral. This is another massive space which could hold much larger ceremonies, is of breathtaking beauty with its differing architectural styles, is local (10 miles or so from the University and technically in Southampton) and also would make those studying at WSA feel more a part of the University of Southampton.

This isn’t just me, many people I’ve spoken to feel the same way – that graduating in the Turner Sims with a few other students isn’t fitting to the status of our University and also doesn’t really reflect the amount of work put in to getting our degree. On top of this, we want to graduate with more friends, more people who really completed our University experience. I’m not expecting any change to be made, but perhaps this is food for thought. Are you happy graduating in the Turner Sims or would you rather graduate elsewhere? Please comment below or even write an article about your opinion if it differs from this one!

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Discussion15 Comments

  1. avatar

    I disagree. Although winchester cathedral and the guildhall may be impressive to look at, they don’t mean anything to me and don’t hold a special significance. The turner sims may not be as grand but I would much rather this and actually graduate on campus, a place that has meant so much to me and that has been a large part of my life throughout my degree. Photos afterwards on campus will also mean a lot more than in front of a building that I don’t know much about or care about!

  2. avatar

    It isn’t just space that’s an issue, it’s time as well! Getting through 300 students takes forever as it is, adding more to that number would make the service even more lengthy and, let’s face it, boring.
    Most of Humanities are graduating on the same day, just in different ceremonies across the day. Sure, students have friends from different faculties, but it’s unfeasible to expect the Uni to either a) let people graduate with their friends on the day of the choice no matter what their subject (ridiculous) or b) have the whole of the year group graduate together (again ridiculous).
    It’s not as if graduation is just thrown together- I think it’s obviously well thought out and pleases as many people as possible.

    David Mendoza-Wolfson

    That’s a fair point – I’m not arguing that the sole reason to change it should be to graduate with friends etc but also that the space itself is pretty uninspiring


    Have you ever seen the Turner Sims decked out for an important ceremony? I have and it looks incredible a lot different to how we normally see it.
    Its not like we didn’t have Grad Ball to spend with our friends. I’ve always thought graduation was more about you personally and your family, not your friends.

  3. avatar

    I think that the Turner Sims is remarkably sub-par for graduation. I don’t think graduating on campus is necessary or preferred by the bulk of students. I can safely say I’ve been I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to Turner Sims and I won’t be losing sleep over not returning. Imperial students graduate at St Pauls, Edinburgh Students graduate at McEwan Hall and Solent students graduate at Guildhall. I don’t think Southampton will ever get the academic reputation it deserves while it continues to lack such grandeur.

  4. avatar

    I graduated in Turner Sims: I agree it doesn’t have the gravitas of the likes of Winchester Cathedral, but it was a nice enough ceremony. Graduating on campus is nice because you can have photos taken against the leafy green background (so long as it’s a nice day). The idea to have it at Winchester Cathedral is a nice one, but it’ll never happen. I can imagine the cost of booking out the cathedral would be astronomical.

  5. avatar
    Alexander Green

    While the point that Turner Sims is unimpressive, I feel its a ludicrous suggestion to put it in Winchester; a city that has its own University and a place that most Southampton University Students don’t even go to during their time here. Also, surely graduation should be about the actual degree you have studied for – and the place that you studied at – rather than just a big ceremony?

    David Mendoza-Wolfson

    Firstly, I don’t see why it should matter that Winchester has its own university. Indeed it presents even clearer why our graduation ceremony should be a grand occasion. Brighton has its own University and yet the good people at Sussex University graduate in the Dome, so why should we not have ours in an area, just 10 miles away, which houses one of the campuses of our University. Why don’t students visit Winchester that often? Because the transport links are currently poor. The Cathedral at Winchester is just one suggestion – what I’m saying is that the graduation ceremony should be more impressive – in surroundings that properly reflect both the work put in to our degree and also the pedigree of our University.
    Graduation is the culmination of your undergraduate life at University. It should sum up all the work that you’ve put in. So actually I do believe that it should be a big and impressive ceremony because I think that is what is deserved to the students.

  6. avatar

    I’m a languages student and because we go away for a year, our final year experience is pretty much made by other linguists, so I’m happy how the ceremonies are organised; but either way your suggestion of having bigger ceremonies is pretty crazy because they are already really long and pretty boring as it is. Surely you’d rather have more time outside chatting and taking photos with friends, family and lecturers rather than sitting in a hall for hours clapping for hundreds of random names.

    As for the venue choice, I agree that it’s pretty lame, but I am happy to be graduating on campus. I just wish there was a big, pretty cathedral on campus, that would be great. My dad works at a uni in my home town and his students graduate in the city’s cathedral which i think is amazing. He’s going to be severely underwhelmed at my ceremony having already experienced such heights of grandeur!

  7. avatar

    I agree that having it in Winchester would be pointless for me as I don’t have any connection to the place, I like that the process starts with an interview at Southampton university and that you should graduate on the same grounds that you have spent years learning. Not saying that the location can’t be chaged or adapted but it should at least be on Southampton campus.

  8. avatar

    I’m sorry but reading an article about wanting to be with your friends is upsetting to me as one finalist who has been moved as a joint honours student from graduation with fellow geographers to psychology’s ceremony… It’s bad enough not graduating with outside friends, but imagine not even graduating with your course mates…

    David Mendoza-Wolfson

    Hi Abbie, do you reckon you could write an article about this? I’d be really interested in reading more and think other people would too

  9. avatar

    How much is graduation actually about spending time with your friends anyway? The way I’ve seen it — and admittedly I have very little experience of it yet — is that you go into a big room, queue up for a bit and receive your degree in front of everyone. The rest of the day is usually spent with the family who come up to see you, so I wonder whether it’s necessary for this to be an issue.

    I think graduation has to take place on campus personally, and if the Turner Sims is the biggest and most appropriate place to do it then I am happy with it…

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