Celebrating Graduation at the University of Nottingham

May 16th, 2022

More than 5,500 students celebrated with family and friends as in-person graduation ceremonies made a welcome return to Nottingham.

After two years where ceremonies could not be held due to restrictions for the Covid-19 pandemic, the university held its first in-person ceremonies since 2019 with an extraordinary celebration of achievements.

The East Midlands Conference Centre welcomed the classes of 2020 and 2021 back for 22 ceremonies that took place between Saturday 7 and Friday 13 May.

Tuesday saw a historic first for the university, as Associate Professor Gabrielle Neher took up the enigmatic role of Esquire Bedell – the traditionally male mace holder at graduation ceremonies.

The Esquire Bedell forms part of the academic procession for graduations and is easily recognised as the officer who carries the university’s mace to the stage and back.

Although not the first female Esquire Bedell in the country (that honour falls to Dr Nicola Hardy of the University of Cambridge) Gaby became the first woman to hold the role in the university’s 141-year history, and was honoured to have taken part.

She said: “I feel enormously privileged to have been selected to become the first female holder of this role at Nottingham. Representation matters, and placing women in key ceremonial roles that are highly visible at graduation reflects our community at the university better.

UoN after all built its first Hall, Florence Boot Hall, to accommodate female scholars, so has a long history of making education accessible to all.”

History was again made the following day as Jaqueline Andrews, of the Business School, became the university’s first female Marshal.

The Marshal carries a baton and leads the platform party in the procession. When the graduands approach the stage to receive the awards, the Marshal leads them to the stage and then checks graduands’ names before the name reader calls them out.

Jackie, who is Skills and Development Officer, said: “Graduation is the culmination of everything we do for the students and is a really happy time so it is great to be involved.

“I had no idea I would be the first woman to undertake the role in the university until it was pointed out to me, it is great these roles are open to everyone.”

Registrar at the university Dr Paul Greatrix said: “After such a long time apart, it was absolutely brilliant to see the whole university community come together to celebrate what is a hugely joyous occasion.

“It’s been great to see a mixture of new and old faces at the ceremonies, and as well as welcoming and congratulating our two new female role-holders, I’d like to recognise the long-standing contribution of John Horton our extremely experienced Head Marshal, who has been a linchpin in these ceremonies over a number of years.

“We were also honoured to be re-joined by our former Esquire Bedell, John Whittle, who interrupted his retirement to lend his support.

“The entire university really pulled together to help make this year’s graduation ceremonies extra special, which is exactly what people needed after a difficult and trying two years.”

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