Caped kids and proud parents

July 21, 1995

John McLeod, 22, graduated on July 13 in English and philosophy from York University.

"It is a complete joke. There seems to be a monopoly on the gowns which means they are outrageously expensive - Pounds 25 for hiring mine. My parents are paying for it otherwise I would not be able to afford it. In fact, I am only going because my parents want me to. I wouldn't dream of it otherwise. I'll be clenching my teeth through the whole thing. I'm not going to the lunch afterwards - I didn't even tell my parents about that. The idea of their meeting my friends is horrendous.

"There are individual photos and ones where the parents stand by their child, grinning moronically. The price of photos starts at Pounds 30 and then goes up depending on how much fancy stuff you have on it. You could buy a camera for that price and take your own. "It is lobotomised positivity. You turn your brain off, smile and say it's really great when in fact everyone is in poverty and about to go on the dole."

Jane Lemon, 25, finished at Oxford University in 1991. Formally graduated this year with a degree in human sciences.

"I left university four years ago and my parents have been giving me a hard time ever since to book the graduation ceremony. The Oxford ceremony is designed for parents and not graduates. It's quite long and pompous with lots of people bowing to each other and dons reciting in Latin. It's what parents who haven't been to Oxford think it's all about. They love all the pomp and circumstance. I felt a bit of a prat."

Donald Southern, 75, graduated on June 17 from the Open University with a BSc.

"It took me nine years to complete my degree so I felt relieved to be getting it all over with officially. I took it on to keep my mind active when I retired. I went to the ceremony in Wembley because some of my children insisted on it, and it was fun in the end. There was a real sense of occasion - there was a parade and a fanfare - and it was interesting to see the vice chancellor and other university representatives.

"These things always tend to go on a bit. But I was impressed with the way the university catered for its students and there was tea and sticky buns in the conference centre afterwards."

Simon Southern, Donald's son, 38, graduated in 1991 with a BSc in Computer Science from De Montfort University.

"I did not go to Dad's ceremony and I chose not to go to my own either. I got my degree certificate by post. At best the whole thing is a charade and at worst, it's positively kinky. I feel the ceremony is a throwback to an era when only the privileged went to university.

"Everyone should have the chance to go, and getting a degree shouldn't be made into such a big deal. There is nothing really to celebrate. It seems to me to be a chance for universities to pat themselves on the back - it's all part of the marketing process."

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