York Minster not an option for graduation

The University of York is considered a secular institution, so cannot hold a ceremony at the Minster [Photo: Peter Iveson]

The University of York is considered a secular institution, so cannot hold a ceremony at the Minster [Photo: Peter Iveson]

The University of York has cited a diverse range of faiths among the student body as the main reason for graduation ceremonies to continue to be held in Central Hall, as opposed to York Minster.

Much attention has been brought to the issue by the fact that York St. John University students hold their graduation ceremonies in the Minster, something that many University of York students view as unfair.

However, Rosemary Goerisch, Assistant Registrar, stated that York St John “has a Christian foundation”, whereas the University of York has secular origins, and so a ceremony at the Minster would not be appropriate.

Nonetheless, with five per cent of York St John students being from an ethnic minority and five per cent coming from abroad, there have been suggestions that the amount of students from a non-Christian background is unlikely to be significantly different from the University of York.

Traditionally, the University graduation ceremonies have always been held in Central Hall, although many students have voiced their disappointment that the venue for graduation is not York Minster, a much more picturesque location for the special occasion. One first-year student from Goodricke said: “I was really disappointed when I saw people graduating from Central Hall. Considering we all live in York, it only seems right [that] we utilise their most beautiful building.”

Graduating in the Minster would also be an additional attraction to prospective students and their parents. For many international students who study at York, the beautiful, historic city was a considerable attraction for choosing the University of York over other universities in the UK. Amy Hey, PR and Communications Officer for York St John University, said: “Students feel honoured to receive their degree in such an atmospheric building. The university receives many comments from both students and their families expressing their enjoyment of ceremonies in the Minster.”

Tim Ngwena, YUSU President, stated that other YUSU officers had looked into campaigning for the Minster to be the venue for graduation at the start of his term in office. Ngwena agreed that “we have a diverse range of students. However, the biggest constraint is that international and home students alike have time commitments after finishing their degrees. This is difficult to fit in with the availability of the Minster.”

13 comments

  1. The biggest constraint isn’t the problem of Minster availability – they just don’t want us :P

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  2. As someone who graduated in Central Hall, graduating on campus is a much more fitting end to University, rather than in the city centre in a building that, albeit pretty, really has nothing to do with the Uni.

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  3. I completely agree with Chris.

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  4. It may be because I’m an archaeology student, and thus don’t use campus that much anyway, but I would prefer a Minster based graduation because:

    – its a pretty building, it may sound silly but if a majority of people and their families like it why not?

    – there would be more choice of after graduation catering in town then on campus.

    – its near my department (even if it isn’t near yours) and the departmental after graduation party.

    – when this was a YUSU motion a while back there was a large turn out in favour of graduating in the Minster over Central Hall.

    – by using a larger building we may be able to fit in all the students and their guests. I’ve just applied for graduation and was disappointed to learn that there is a possibility that my family may come to York to see me graduate just to sit in the Physics department and watch it on screen. Not particularly appealing to me…

    As for the point about secular versus religious background I will concede that historically York St John has been religious (its in the name) but that does not necessarily reflect modern day religious beliefs of York St John Students so why are we so different now?

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  5. We should fight for Hes Hall!

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  6. Durham, a secular University which has many similarities with York, has its matriculation, graduation and convocation ceremonies in Durham Cathedral. The ceremony is non-religious. I’ve never heard anyone complain that it is innapropriate for a diverse student body.

    Important day = wanting best building in the city.

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  7. I also believe York Minster should be the location for University of York graduations. Besides being picturesque, it is enormous, and how much better it would be to fit all the graduates and their guests into one building! And I agree, it works for Durham, so why not for York? It seems to me that since our university has become larger and more successful we should hold graduations in the Minster. And as an international student, I would be very disappointed if my family came all the way to England to watch me graduate on a screen! I was very shocked when I heard of that possibility! I think we would all be pleased and proud to say we graduate in York Minster. I hope YUSU campaigns for this – it should really be up to the students to decide where we’d like to host the most important day of our university experience.

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  8. Perhaps I should mention that I’m not Christian (in fact, I am Buddhist), and graduating in the Minster would not bother me one bit – in fact, I’d love it!

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  9. We should graduate in the Minster – why should we be the ones to miss out on a grand graduation when we are such a good university? It seems like such an anticlimax to the end of your degree.
    It has nothing to do with religion – many people go to churches for the architecture, and the ceremony itself is not religious so why should it matter? It’s not like non-christians don’t go into churches etc because they do not share the same religion. The argument against it is pathetic.

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  10. @Sally – rather than “hoping” YUSU campaigns for this, why don’t you propose a motion that this should become policy? YUSU = students, you know!

    Also, it’s actually up to York Minster to decide whether they would host our graduations, but we can lobby for the University to approach the Minster.

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  11. 13 Jul ’12 at 10:15 am

    Matt Ravenhall

    The idea that because the University of York has secular origins, rather than Christian ones is a poor argument against graduation in the Minster simply because it is a community building as much as it is a religious one.

    Considering that there are growing fears that university students are not properly integrating with their local communities, now seems to be the perfect time to take graduation into the heart of York.

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  12. I love the way old articles chase up the most-read list for some reason then get commented on without people checking the dates. Then they get snarky comments about people not checking the dates, but those comments exempt themselves from liability by admitting to being meta, but just come off as a bit pompous…

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  13. I am really looking forward to my daughter’s degree ceremony in York Minster, but the time constraint is an issue. YSJ’s ceremonies are not held until November because the Minster is in such demand for weddings during the summer months. This must make it difficult for overseas students, but it’s an auspicious day for all graduates & their families, and the setting is part of what makes it. Churches, the Minster included, want to be a part of the whole community, and participating in events such as this can only help in this. I shouldn’t say this, but it’s also an opportunity to go in without paying the entrance charge! I take particular exception to this as some of my own church’s silver is housed in the crypt & I have to pay to go & see it.

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