A milestone event in life, graduation marks the end of years of sacrifice and hard work.
Often students will be found posing next to iconic decorations in graduation gowns as friends and family proudly watch on, celebrating the outstanding achievement.
Names will be called for people to complete the nerve-wracking walk on stage to receive their diploma – silently hoping they don’t trip and fall.
But this year, graduates have been taking part in ceremonies like no other, as celebrations have been forced to move online.
Loved ones haven’t been crammed into a hall to wait in anticipation as guest speakers share their inspirational life advice and tutors watch on in pride.
And virtual celebrations have instead showcased the achievements of the RGU winter class of 2020.
In his speech to graduates, principal of Robert Gordon University, professor Steve Olivier saluted their efforts.
He said: “I, our staff, your family and friends, salute you.
“Your hard work and determination has seen you through this year to the point where you can proudly say you’ve graduated from the Scottish university of the year.
“You’ve gained knowledge while you’ve studied at RGU but you’ll have gained so much more than that.
“Knowledge changes constantly but I hope what will never change is your relentless pursuit of it.
“We’ve taught you the skills to question what you learn, to seek answers and, when you find them, to move on to the next question.
“This questioning is more than a practice. It should be an attitude.”
Group photos and emotional goodbyes to course mates afterwards will need to be in the form of a Zoom call as technology offers an alternative to in-person celebrations.
Throughout the pandemic, students were challenged in ways no one could have anticipated but persevered with exams and coursework to push through and make it to graduation.
Their achievements during such unprecedented times have not gone unnoticed by university staff who congratulated the class.
As they move into the world of work and full time employment, graduates have been equipped with their resilience and skills learnt at the Scottish university of the year.
With the job market being difficult to navigate at the best of times for new graduates, an added pressure of a global pandemic will leave many stressed about job prospects but some can take comfort in RGU’s “outstanding reputation for employability of its graduates”.
Prof Olivier shared his parting advice to the class of 2020 and urged them to reach out to the people in their lives who helped make the achievement possible – potentially by making use of social networking services such as Tik Tok.
“Above all, if I can leave you with one message it would be to develop, nurture and use what I call the curiosity imperative,” he said.
“Ask questions, answer them and improve on whatever you are doing.
“You’ve worked hard and you deserve your success.
“I would however like you to spare a thought as you graduate to those who have helped you along the way – you know who they are.
“But why not go a step further than just sparing them a thought.
“I’d urge you just to take a little time to text them, send them a WhatsApp, an email, Snapchat them – or even get creative and send them a Tik Tok video – to express your gratitude.
“However you wish to do it, lets spread a little courtesy and kindness in what has, in truth, been an extraordinary and unprecedented year.
“Once again congratulations and all the very, very best for the future.”
As 2020 winter graduates move on to the next stage of their lives, the university’s students will continue to undertake studies in the shadow of Covid-19 – though the arrival of vaccinations offers hope of light at the end of the tunnel.
RGU is currently delivering its teaching though a combination of safe on campus teaching and digital learning.
Students, as the graduates have done, will benefit from award-winning teaching, and an institution that rates increasingly highly for student satisfaction, graduate employability and industry engagement.
Those areas were all recognised as it was named RGU Scottish University of the Year in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021.