On the couch with your degree

The new approach makes the graduation ceremony more lively and informal.
Photo Guy Ackermans

Over 400 master’s students are to receive their degrees in Omnia this week and next week. The ceremony will be far less formal and more interactive than the ceremonies that were held in the Aula before the pandemic. The sessions are evens somewhat similar to a talk show. Without losing sight of the necessary decorum, says Nikolien van Gelderen (Events).

The move from the Aula to Omnia and the covid pandemic are the reasons the ceremony has been updated. ‘The covid pandemic meant that we had to move the entire ceremony online very quickly’, says Ine Wiebenga (Student Administration). ‘The students were addressed by their supervisor in small groups of twelve, and the supervisor was also permitted to ask the students a question.’


That interactive approach was a huge success. Previously, there were two staff members to confer the degrees. ‘The students generally did not know the said person. The masters of ceremony would read a text provided by the supervisors. Now, they knew each other, making the ceremony a lot more personal.’ In between the conferments, videos were shown depicting student life in Wageningen.

The covid lockdowns meant that we had to move the entire ceremony online very quickly

Ine Wiebenga, Student Administration

The online conferments were labour-intensive. ‘We managed for one-and-a-half years’, says Van Gelderen. ‘It was rather stressful to get everyone, students and supervisors, to log in at the same time. The connections were sometimes less than perfect. It was an organisational challenge, but there was no other option.’

Living room

The liveliness of the online ceremony has been translated into a living room set-up in Omnia. There is a chair and two couches. The students take the stage in groups of six to sign their degrees and are then seated on the couch. The master of ceremonies reads the laudation out loud, and then has the opportunity to ask the student questions about their studies, plans for the future or student life. Unlike during the pandemic, the degree is not conferred by the supervisor.

Students who can’t make it in person can join online

Nikolien van Gelderen, team leader Events

On a large screen, information on the student, their studies or a picture provided by the student is shown. Van Gelderen: ‘Students who can’t make it in person can join online. In between the different groups, we show videos about studying in Wageningen or about the programmes. We even have a video of random people on the Campus congratulating the new graduates in their own languages.’


But it remains an academic ceremony, Van Gelderen underscores. The beadle, the piano music and the graduation committee with its chair in a robe, the solemn undersigning and the conferral of the Wageningen pin. All of it can be seen through the live streams.

The new approach was extensively rehearsed and launched in January. Last week and today is the second time it has been extensively applied during five days, with four sessions of twenty students each per day.

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