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Celebrations turn virtual for Sussex’s Class of 2020

With Graduation postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the University of Sussex has launched an innovative digital campaign to help the Class of 2020 celebrate their achievements from home.

In the week commencing 20 July, around 4,170 students of almost 100 different nationalities were due to attend a graduation ceremony at the Brighton Centre. But after a ban on mass gatherings due to Covid-19, these have now been postponed until 2021.

Rather than live-streaming ceremonies, the University hopes to maintain a sense of celebration for graduating students through Sussex Grad at Home and they will be sharing a range of digital content across five days including augmented reality filters and bespoke video messages.

This will include speeches from the Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell, and the Chancellor, comedian and actor Sanjeev Bhaskar OBE, along with special recorded messages from notable Sussex alumni including Sarah Pascoe, Albie Sachs, Dr Claudia Hammond, Hilary Benn MP, Elizabeth Churchill, Festus Mogae and Dean Atta, among many others.

Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell said: “The Class of 2020 have overcome challenges and achieved incredible things during their time at Sussex.

“Graduating during a pandemic is yet another challenge for them to navigate. And while they will all be invited to attend a ceremony at a later date, it’s still important to mark their achievements now, and help them to celebrate wherever they may be.”

To help students inject the Sussex spirit into their home celebrations, graduates have been sent DIY Graduation Kits, including seagulls and a cut-out figure of the Chancellor, and are being encouraged to share their celebrations online using #SussexGradAtHome.

The University have also created bespoke Instagram filters where students can don a virtual mortarboard and picture themselves at Brighton Pier, the infamous Sussex sign or by the Graduation stage itself.

Among those students celebrating remotely this year are: 

  • Student of English Eleshea Williams, who has spent her third year volunteering for the Black Curriculum and has appeared in national press to advocate for the teaching of Black British History in UK schools 
  • Digital media guru Cynthia Royer, a first generation student who initially failed A-Levels but now graduates in Accounting and Finance with a place on a graduate scheme in a top-10 accountancy firm 
  • First generation student Amy Knight, who has become a strong advocate for mental wellbeing provision after juggling caring responsibilities with the discovery of her own anxiety during her time at Sussex. She has since become the only trainee teacher in the country to attend the APPG for teaching to discuss teacher wellbeing, and was a judge for the BBC’s 500 Words Writing Competition
  • BSc International Business student Mathilde, who graduates with a first despite becoming ill with pneumonia in the third week of her final year and spending a week in hospital and a further two months recovering at home 
  • American Studies student Amelia Freeman, who spent a year in Chicago and came face-to-face with US politics and gun culture, living just one mile away from a tragic hospital shooting

  • Housemates Bridget, Ellie, Florence and Sian who all graduated this summer with first class honours
  • Rachel Dickerson, whose dad passed away suddenly while she was completing her A-Levels, but now graduates with a first class degree in mathematics. She has also been awarded the £10,000 MacQuitty Prize 2020 – a prize bestowed by Sussex alumnas Dr Jonathan MacQuitty and awarded to the highest achieving student in the sciences at Sussex.


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By: Stephanie Allen
Last updated: Monday, 20 July 2020

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