While a few Peking University students braved the drizzling rain to attend a graduation ceremony on campus on Thursday, most of the class of 2020 watched the festivities online.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many university graduates have spent their final days of school away from campus, embracing the remote graduation season with livestreamed celebrations.
“Because of the change in the pandemic, many students who planned to return to school were not able to come back,” says Hao Ping, president of Peking University. “At this moment, you are attending the graduation ceremony with your parents and family through online videos, but our hearts are closely connected. This graduation ceremony will be remembered by all of us for the rest of our lives.”
Starting from June 11, Beijing tightened control as a series of new COVID-19 cases emerged, linked to a wholesale market. From June 11 to Wednesday, the capital reported 329 confirmed locally transmitted cases. University students had to cancel plans to return for in-person graduation festivities.
Peking University’s graduation ceremony on Thursday saw about 2,700 teachers, staff and students participating in the on-campus celebrations. Spread over nine venues on the vast campus, participants sat in chairs that had been spaced out to maintain the necessary physical distance. More than 12,200 students are scheduled to graduate this year, the university says.
In the commencement speech, Hao says following the outbreak, the university had sent 454 medical workers to Hubei province, which was previously worst-hit by the epidemic, and set up several scientific research teams to provide support in the fight against the virus.
More than 3,500 teachers had been engaged in more than 6,400 online courses for students during the past few months, he says.
Zhong Nanshan, who graduated from the university in 1960, delivered a virtual speech and gave much-needed words of encouragement to the graduates. “Study is a life-time endeavor, and I have not given up studying at my age,” says the renowned respiratory expert, now in his 80s.
“Be strict with yourself. I hope you will all be driven by ambition, enthusiasm and passion, and I wish you great success,” he tells the graduates.
Peking University says it will arrange a degree-awarding ceremony for the class of 2020 during the graduation season next year. This year’s graduates can also choose any year to return for a degree-awarding ceremony.
“I am truly touched by the special ceremony this year,” says Li Zhengyu, a postgraduate student of demographic studies. “The pandemic has made me feel that the good days never come easy. Young people like me need to go where the country needs us the most.”
On June 30, Renmin University of China in Beijing held its graduation ceremony. The university says it set up 4,105 courses online to keep schooling going for students during the pandemic. School staff helped graduates with submitting dissertations and carrying out job interviews online.
This year, 8.74 million students in China are expected to graduate from colleges and universities. A survey conducted by China Youth Daily found that 88.6 percent of new Chinese college graduates celebrated their graduation in digital form amid the COVID-19 pandemic, making graduation videos, watching graduation ceremonies, and buying academicals online.
Some schools have asked the parents of graduates who took part in the virtual graduation ceremony at home to turn the tassels on their caps, signifying that they’ve graduated. Alumni have rolled out creative and engaging plans to help students celebrate the milestone.
At the School of European Studies of Beijing International Studies University, alumni of the Russian language department organized a two-hour online concert in WeChat groups for the class of 2020.
They printed inspiring words on canvas bags and mailed them to the school as gifts for fresh graduates, says concert organizer Li Zhijie, who graduated from the same department in 2006.