Overall, I think we do it pretty well in Cambridge. First of all, we do it in late June/early July. The kids take their exams, we mark them, they graduate, and if they are lucky their parents load their stuff up in the car and take them away.
All this within the space of a month. It is hard work (for us as much as for them), but so much better than what happens at many, if not most, other universities in the country, where the students come back in the autumn to graduate. That would seem weird to me...by then you are on with the rest of your life, the last thing you want to do is get up in fancy dress to pick up a degree certificate. But maybe I am not one to judge, as in 1977 I couldnt face any of this hullaballoo and told my parents that noone graduated at the senate house any more..and made my own way home.
Overall the university graduation ceremonies take three days, over a Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and colleges go in chronological order of foundation. This means that Newnham, as a late Victorian foundation, has the best position of all: Saturday morning, followed by a buffet garden party (and these days the sale of college memorabilia.. and I am sure that there must be some Gift Aid forms flying around somewhere!).. and alcohol permitting they can hit the road by mid afternoon.
Depite my youthful dislike of the whole process, I now rather enjoy it -- especially when, as this year, the kids have done well (a first and 4 very nice 2.1s... and they gave me a great bottle of Calvados as a parting gift, having observed me quaffing the stuff in Paris). And I enjoy meeting the Mums and Dads. So far as I can, I make it a rule not to meet them before (somehow it gets in the way of my relationship with the student), but after their offspring have finished, it is great to do -- and occasionally, though not this year, a real surprise!
All in all, an effective (and affective) rite de passage. But this year, even more so for me, because on the very same day as graduation we had a Study Day for next year's first years. It is ten years ago now that we started inviting the upcoming classicists up to Cambridge for a day at the start of summer, to check out their language knowledge, and to give tailored advice about how they good maost effectively work over the few months before they arrive in Cambridge .. from museum visits to getting a lot of reading done. It really helps them hit the ground running. The truth is that after the A level course, even the brightest need quite a lot of advice about how to get down to reading a book of Latin on their own....
This Study Day hasn't coincided with Graduation before, but this year it did... and I coudn't help saying to them, 'In three years that will be you". And I couldnt help thinking that, for me, the time would have passed in the blink of an eyelid; and doesnt time speed up when you get older.