Drive-through degrees at Ajman University’s Covid-safe graduation ceremony

Hundreds of students make the most of milestone

It was a graduation ceremony to remember at Ajman University this week.

About 500 students queued with loved ones in a cavalcade of cars to receive their certificates from Monday to Wednesday, following measures brought in to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Dr Karim Segher, the university’s chancellor, said the initial plan was to provide a traditional graduation service but recent events had forced a rethink.

“We had originally planned to hold an in-person [event] but the numbers [of Covid-19 infections] increased due to the Omicron variant,” he said.

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It was an experience I will never ever forget
Khamis Ali Abdullah

“We wanted to come up with a solution that did not put the community at risk and also did not disappoint the parents and students, who rightly want to celebrate a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“An online graduation ceremony just would not capture the moment in the same way, so we opted to go for a drive-through.”

The university holds graduations in summer and winter and has held drive-in graduations before.

“I am very proud of the university for coming up with this idea, which allows us to graduate and still stay safe,” said Imane Zerguine, who obtained a master’s degree in clinical pharmacy.

“I really applaud how they were able to accommodate the graduation and keep us safe at the same time.”

The Algerian, 27, said students were used to the disruption caused by the pandemic and most have learnt to work around it. That was not always the case, she said.

“Before the pandemic everyone was studying as normal and then, out of nowhere, everything was suddenly locked down,” Ms Zerguine said.

“It was a shock at first, but it’s been amazing how smoothly studying remotely has been adopted by everyone.”

Imane Zerguine graduated with a master's degree in clinical pharmacy. Photo: Imane Zerguine

Like the rest of the graduates, Ms Zerguine said she had to show she had green status on the Covid passport app Al Hosn, as well as proof of a negative PCR test in the past 48 hours, before being admitted to the ceremony.

After receiving her degree, she celebrated with classmates in the most modern of manners – on a Microsoft Teams call.

Students waited patiently in their cars until they were called, then are driven to the front of the stage by a family member or friend. There, they leave the vehicle and walk on stage, collect their certificate and drive off again.

Also graduating was Tanzanian Khamis Ali Abdullah, 22, who obtained a degree in accounting.

“It was an experience I will never ever forget. It was very special because it was just me and my father in the car,” Mr Abdullah said.

He said his relatives watched the ceremony through a live-stream.

Mr Abdullah said he had often thought of his graduation but never presumed he would be in a car when it happened.

“It was quite challenging at first getting used to remote learning but I got the hang of it thanks to support from the university and my family,” he said.

“I was used to learning face-to-face but I was finding myself enjoying working remotely and getting better at it all the time.”

After graduating, Mr Abdullah celebrated by going out to dinner with his father and the rest of his family.

Updated: January 20, 2022, 3:52 AM