University of Portsmouth's History Blog

Graduation 2018: Two days of celebrations!

Graduation is a special day for tutors and, of course, students and their families and friends. In this blog the History team at Portsmouth reflect on a day in which they celebrated the successes of their undergraduate and postgraduate students as they graduated after completing their degrees. 

All set for the ceremony in Portsmouth Guildhall

Graduation is always a day of mixed emotions. While it is exciting to see our students graduate, it is also sad to see another year group leave. We have worked closely with them over the course of their time here; guided them through the assignments they did; helped them become critical and reflective thinkers; and prepared them for whatever careers lay before them. While we are sorry to see them go, we are filled with pride as they cross the stage at the ceremony at Portsmouth Guildhall. It is truly a bittersweet moment.

L-R: Brad Beaven, Simon Smith, Rob James

For the first time this year, graduation was split over two days. On Saturday 14 July all of our postgraduate students took to the stage at Portsmouth Guildhall. These included students undertaking our distance learning MA Naval History degree, the MRes in Humanities and Social Sciences, and a PhD in History. Taking centre stage today were Drs Hilary Morris and Simon Smith, who were awarded doctorates for their respective theses. Hilary’s thesis, ‘Empire, Quantification, and Public Health: British Military and Naval Medicine, 1700-1830’, was supervised by Dr Karl Bell, Prof. Brad Beaven and Dr Rob James. Simon’s thesis, “‘We sail the ocean blue’: British Sailors. Imperialism, Identity, Pride and Patriotism c. 1870 to 1939“, was supervised by Brad Beaven and Rob James, and they were there to see them graduate, along with fellow PTUCers, Dr Mel Basset and Daniel Swan. Congratulations Dr Morris and Dr Smith!

On Tuesday 17 July it was the turn of our undergraduate students to celebrate their successes. In the early afternoon students who had been awarded the School Prizes – Francis van Berkel, Matthew Dentten, and Rory Herbert – were invited to attend a prize-giving ceremony with their guests in the Freda Swain suite in Portsmouth Guildhall. As well as being presented with their prizes, attendees were treated to a glass of wine (or two) and a buffet lunch (with lots of lovely cake!). Francis won the Robbie Gray Memorial Prize for Best Dissertation. Matthew was awarded the Stephens Prize for the Best Dissertation on Imperial and Maritime History in Early Modern Europe. Rory won the School Prize for the Student of the Year in History. Well done all of you!

Mathias Seiter with Francis van Berkel

James Thomas with Matthew Dentten

Katy Gibbons with Rory Herbert


Members of the History team waiting to make their way to the stage

Later in the afternoon all graduating students took to the stage in a packed (and very hot!) Guildhall to be congratulated on their achievements by the University Chancellor, Prof. Karen Blackett, and the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Prof. Matthew Weait, while the History team (along with colleagues from English, International Relations, Journalism, Politics, and Sociology) sat on the stage cheering them on. It’s always a daunting prospect for students to cross that stage, and we always feel for them as they make their way across it. It’s really only a short walk, but we are told that it feels much longer when you are doing it! The rapturous applause – cheers, whoops and whistles – from the students’ families and friends helps them on their way, though, and we can happily report that all students made it across the stage without falling over!

After the ceremony, students and their guests joined the History team for a champagne reception in Ravelin Park. By this point the anxiety of taking part in the graduation procession has passed, so our graduates and their families can chat with us in a more relaxed environment. It’s a final chance to congratulate them on their achievements, catch up on what they’ve been up to since the last teaching session, and find out what they plan to do in the future. Oh, and there’s always time for more photos, including taking part in the traditional group photograph (where hats are thrown in the air!).


Champagne reception in Ravelin Park: L-R: Emily Fryer, Rob James, Sam Tugwell (winner of the Josephine Butler Memorial Prize), and Francis van Berkel


Congratulations all! It’s been a pleasure working with you, and we wish you the very best for the future!

The History team


Graduates and tutors from the Schoold of Social, Historical and Literary Studies celebrating with the traditional ‘throwing of the hats’ in Ravelin Park

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