UCL News


Hats off to final year medics who enjoy UCL’s first-ever virtual graduation

28 April 2020

Floppy ears, fascinators and a fluffy kitten were some of the more inventive mortarboards used by UCL Medical School students, who took part in the university’s first-ever virtual graduation ceremony.

UCL medics enjoy online graduation ceremony

Earlier this month, as part of the Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, more than 300 of UCL’s final year medics were fast-tracked through graduation, enabling them to become frontline NHS doctors.

More than 160 are volunteering in some capacity and 224 will be taking up formal NHS Foundation Interim Year 1 Doctor posts this week.

On Saturday, to comply with social distancing measures, the UCL Medical School held an online ceremony, inviting all 303 early graduated doctors to take part, with a further 700 invites available for family and friends.

With the usual mortarboard, robe and scroll absent, students were asked to be imaginative and ‘make a hat’, as part of the unusual but fun-filled ceremony.

Many students tuned in from their living rooms, kitchens and gardens; others were working on the NHS frontline and took some time out to attend in their scrubs.

Master of Ceremonies was Dr William Coppola, Sub-Dean UCL Medical School, who called forward groups of 20 students at a time to appear on the platform's gallery view, to ‘doff their cap’ or headwear of choice, and to wave to family and friends watching from a distance and to present them (virtually) with an MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery).

Speaking after UCL’s first virtual graduation, Professor Deborah Gill, Director of UCL Medical School, said: “The ceremony was a mix of formality and humour, slickness and chaos and evoked tears and laughter in equal measure.

“We are so proud of our newest UCL Doctors and look forward to celebrating with them and their families in person soon.”

Addressing the medical graduates down the line, Professor Mark Emberton, Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, said: “Normally, you would be planning your well-earned break in order to exploit the diminishing number of long summer vacations. 

“The time and the gap is there for a reason - to give yourselves some mental space to allow you a gentle transition from student to Doctor, as this usually takes a little time to get used to. Instead, you are being asked to make that transition without barely taking a breath.

“The whole nation sits in awe (you probably heard them banging saucepans at 8pm the night before last) of the medical students of the year of 2020 who are going straight into service in order to deal with the unmet need.  A lot has been said about the burden of what is been asked of you. It is a lot – but you could not be better prepared."

In a pre-recorded video to students, UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur, said: “It’s an unusual year, in that we are in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and you have graduated early. That’s been done in part so that you can join the NHS and contribute to the fight against the virus.

“I am incredibly proud of you all for being prepared to do that: some will be on the frontline, the rest of you will be supporting the NHS in many other ways. All of which are incredibly important to the national effort in combating this virus.”

In a pre-recorded video, Ozzy Eboreime, the recent President of RUMS (UCL Medical School’s student association), said: “I do not know what the future looks like in the coming weeks, months or years, but I know that if we as a year, continue in the same fashion that we have done for the last six years - we can be successful.

“I know that in 10, 20, 50 years’ time, when we are having our reunions, there will be loads of stories of some of the amazing things we have done and accomplished and I cannot wait. This might not be the graduation that we envisaged but it’s still a graduation we deserve – congratulations Class of 2020.”

Graduate Sophie Bracke, who is currently volunteering at the Royal Free, London, employed her grey kitten Mistie to form part of her mortarboard, said: “Although a virtual graduation is not what I had imagined several months ago, it was a lovely and inventive gesture from the medical school, and a great reminder that although the end of medical school has turned out differently than planned, I still got the outcome I have always dreamed of - to become a doctor!”

Rebecca Mackenzie, who is due join the Geriatric Ward at UCLH as a Doctor in August, said: “In true UCLMS-family style, our online graduation was a remarkable conclusion to what has been an extraordinary six years. The effort made by staff and faculty during these unprecedented times was deeply touching, and their encouraging words emphasised our readiness for the next step - pandemic or otherwise! Everyone got into the festive spirit and donned their best home-made hat or alternative!”

Megan Hollands, who is working at the Royal Free as a Doctor, said: “I celebrated by sitting outside my flat with some prosecco, wearing a bin bag. Although I can't wait to be able to celebrate with my friends for real, it was actually a really lovely thing for the medical school to do, and I'm so glad my parents could watch!” 

And Eleanor Wilson, who is also a Doctor at the Royal Free, said: “It was a special occasion celebrating a remote graduation with friends, family and faculty. The virtual ceremony worked well with an awesome array of homemade head pieces and moments to cheer for friends. It will certainly be a time that we will never forget and it calls for a reunion celebration in the future.”

As is tradition, the graduation also celebrated the UCL Medical School annual prize winners.

Winner of the Archibald Ferguson, William Henry Rean, Atchison and Jenner Hoskin Prize for Clinical and Professional Practice.

  • Rebecca Mackenzie

For overall performance in the final MBBS examinations

  • 1st prize, Calum Jack
  • 2nd prize Raeesa Patel
  • 3rd prize, Haarith Bin Bachir Ndiaye
  • 4th prize, Annabel Brunner
  • 5th prize, Ravindu Nanayakkara De Silva


Media contact

Henry Killworth

Tel: + 44 (0) 7881 833274

E: h.killworth [at] ucl.ac.uk