V-c raps staff who skip graduation

November 25, 2005

Academics have been given a sharp reprimand by their vice-chancellor for skiving off graduation ceremonies, writes Jessica Shepherd.

Michael Sterling has warned Birmingham University academics that their absence from degree ceremonies will be discussed with senior management and that he might "take matters further".

In an e-mail, he urges heads of departments to compile a list of staff who intend to skip next month's ceremonies, with reasons for their absence.

Professor Sterling writes: "Dear colleague, I regret that I need to write again about the very poor indicated attendance as evidenced by the numbers of staff confirming their intention to process at the December degree congregation ceremonies.

"This disappointing level of attendance is unacceptable and will create a very poor image of the university's commitment to its students.

"I am particularly concerned as we move into a period of greater turbulence in the student recruitment market.

"I should be grateful if you would urgently speak to those of your staff who are not attending and report to me the reasons."

Professor Sterling said that poor attendance at degree ceremonies was likely to be a problem at all universities.

"Certainly, it has been an issue at all the universities I have worked at and it is getting worse," he said.

Sue Blackwell, a member of the university's Association of University Teachers' branch, said attending degree ceremonies was a matter of goodwill rather than a contractual obligation.

She said: "It is quite common for vice-chancellors to encourage attendance numbers at degree ceremonies, but this is a thinly veiled threat to staff."

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