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Endings — The master’s thesis reception on the Italian degree programme might inspire other programmes to mark the students' final exam, writes a former student and researcher.
There is a debate going on now about the ending of the master’s degree programmes at the University of Copenhagen. The debate was started by medical student Younes Subhis. In his featured comment ‘Pathetic that the University of Copenhagen is dropping its physical master’s diplomas’ he calls for more celebration of University of Copenhagen graduates.
Younes Subhi claims that the university does not have a graduation ceremony, that the alumni network is much weaker than the universities that UCPH wants to compare itself with, and that it is hard to find graduation and student traditions at the university.
The celebration of finished graduates is important. But it is also important to clarify that there are, actually, different graduation ceremonies at the university. This is something that a graduate from Law also points out in the online debate on Facebook. I am a master’s graduate (and later a PhD) from the Italian programme (Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies). Graduates were celebrated when I finished my master’s in 2008, and they have been celebrated since then.
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Twice a year, the Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies hosts a master’s thesis reception for all the department’s courses. This is where the thesis submission is celebrated with family, friends, lecturers and supervisors. The head of department holds a speech, after which the various master’s thesis titles are read out aloud by the different course heads. Then the future graduates are applauded and toasted.
In the Italian programme, the year’s graduates are also celebrated at an annual celebration organised by the Italian students. This celebration is for students, lecturers, new graduates and members of the Italian master’s association.
The new graduates are a permanent feature of the annual commemoration. Their theses are presented individually by the supervisor, they get a small gift from the study programme, and we drink to them, and congratulate them on their master’s degree. The chairman of the Italian Master’s Association is also present and presents the graduates with a one-year free membership to the association, which, among other things, organises career events, wine tastings and lectures.
There can be a big difference in how you like to celebrate and be celebrated, and what Younes Subhi is looking for is possibly a larger and more formal joint celebration of all the graduates from the University of Copenhagen. This, he is quite right to point out, does not exist.
As a Danish associate professor abroad, I have experienced the major graduation ceremony (promoce) at Charles University in Prague. It is a large ceremony that takes place in the historic Karolinum building in the middle of Prague’s old town. Here, 8-10 associate professors from the university turn up with black robes and a black hat and walk in procession behind the rector and dean into the university’s ceremonial hall, accompanied by music from the university’s organ.
The graduates, all dressed up, stand in rows in the middle of the room. They are presented by name by the dean, and bow to the rector. After this, the candidates one-by-one, pledge their allegiance with the words »spondeo ac polliceor« and place two fingers on the university’s sceptre.
The students are subsequently presented with a very beautiful diploma on handcrafted paper with the university seal, and they are congratulated. The main hall is full of family and friends who have come to celebrate the candidates.
This kind of celebration was exciting to experience. I personally prefer a smaller and more informal event, but the most important thing is that the candidates are celebrated, because it is a big occasion to complete several years of studies. It should be celebrated with more than just a master’s diploma in your e-Boks.
Translated by Mike Young