My virtual graduation

It wasn’t how anyone expected to end their time at Birmingham, but the incredible and resilient Class of 2020 embraced their virtual graduation through ceremonies with friends, cardboard cut-outs of Old Joe and homemade gowns and mortarboards.

While nothing can replace the atmosphere on campus, the University hosted its first-ever virtual graduation celebrations this July to celebrate all that the Class of 2020 achieved. The opening ceremony on YouTube recreated some of the magic with traditional graduation music from the Birmingham Symphonic Brass Orchestra and the Vice-Chancellor addressing students virtually from the Great Hall.

Individual Schools held ceremonies on Zoom with video messages from academic staff and alumni from around the world. The celebrations also included a digital yearbook, a special poem written by two graduates and a virtual reciting of the Birmingham version of the Hippocratic Oath for medical students, some of whom finished their degrees early to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic on the NHS frontline.

Read on to see how people celebrated and their reflections from their time at Birmingham. Welcome to the alumni community, Class of 2020!

Kathryn Myers (BA Drama and English, 2020)

Girl sitting next to laptop with homemade graduation cap next to a window'After three years studying Drama and English at the University, I envisioned a lovely celebration in the summer sun with my close friends, family and loved ones. Little did I know that I would be viewing a graduation ceremony on my laptop from my living room. The personal and transferable skills I've developed throughout the years (resilience, communication, independence) have all come in handy in adapting to the changes.

'Although it was an unconventional graduation, we made the most of it. I crafted my own mortarboard hat out of cardboard and decorated the top with symbols and iconic images to remind me of my University journey (moving from Thailand to live and study in the UK); baked a celebratory chocolate cake; and spent the day sharing videos, messages and calls with my family online rather than in person. It wasn't exactly what I imagined the day would be like, but it'll still be a graduation to remember. I've got another shot at it with further study – a Masters in English Language, Culture and Communication at the University – and I'll be back for the celebration on campus.'

Girl with a champagne glass standing outside behind London skyline

Lloyds Scholar Shevina Shaw (BSc Psychology, 2020)

Shevina had a graduation party at home with family and friends. Reflecting on her time at University, she says: 'My proudest achievement during my time at University is being nominated as one of the Top 100 future leaders of African Caribbean descent by Future Leaders magazine from Powerful Media in conjunction with HSBC. This magazine showcases the top 100 students in the UK and is sent around to hundreds of employers, schools and sixth forms to inspire the next generation. This is an achievement for me because I had a challenging background and upbringing. I was able to push through all the obstacles and break boundaries to achieve all that I have today.'

Girl smiling wearing graduation cap with champagne in hand, banner behind her that says 2020 and three balloons next to herLloyds and A2B Scholar Abigail Bullock (LLB Law, 2020)

Abigail says: 'One of my proudest achievements at University is helping to secure ongoing support for future Access to Birmingham (A2B) scholarship recipients through roles such as A2B Ambassador, Student Fundraiser and Campaign Maker. It has been a privilege to meet alumni and have the opportunity to thank donors. Personally, the scholarships I received throughout my degree provided much more than valuable financial support. Experiencing first-hand the passion and generosity of the donor community increased my confidence and self-belief. This, together with the support of my family, inspired me to never give up.'

To celebrate the Class of 2020, the Alumni Office commissioned a poem written in collaboration between Bethany O’Brien (BA English, 2020) and James Bunting (BA English and Philosophy, 2011).

The University will also be providing the Class of 2020 with an on-campus celebration when government guidelines allow.