A ticket to Hogwarts

Felt like an extra in a scene from Hogwarts on Saturday. Looking up from my top tier seat I could see naked cherubs swirling around the painted ceiling of Christopher Wren’s Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford. Looking down, the scene was a sea of  heads, fur trimmed gowns, mortar boards and silver maces. As the vice chancellor droned the Latin that admitted my daughter to her degree, I craned to photograph her amid a throng of new graduates, leaning over the balcony at a precarious angle that had the nearest usher, dressed all in black, sucking her teeth.
Later, at a fabulous three course lunch in a marquee in the grounds of her college, after a champagne reception in the quadrangle, I thought about how much had changed since I graduated, from the same college, more than two decades ago. The degree ceremony was the same, the pomp, the solemnity, the Latin, the fur trimmed robes. But, 25 years ago, we went for lunch to a restaurant in town. Of course we got squiffy, but not on university provided booze.
Graduation has become big business in the last decade. Universities charge their students – for the lunches (£35 a head last Saturday), for the robes (hired for the day), for the photos and the rooms. It’s the start of a pursuit of young graduates which will see the begging bowl held out throughout their lives by their colleges and which has netted some Oxford colleges millions of pounds in donations.
Of course some things don’t change. I loved my time at university and so did my daughter. It helped make me an independent and reasonably confident person, and the five years I spent there probably quadrupled my lifetime earning power. But I was struck by the remark of another guest at the lunch on Saturday – “Where,” he asked, “are the black and Asian faces? There are none in this marquee.” In fact there were, but amid the ranks of those serving the food rather than eating it. Having come from cosmopolitan London, where my other child is at university, the white middle class-ness of the college was noticeable.
So all in all, a day of mixed emotions – but the overwhelming one was nothing to do with Latin, or pomp, or fab food and fine wine. It was simply pride that my daughter had got her degree and made lots of friends and was happy and sociable and independent at the end of her four years. And for that I am truly thankful.
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3 Responses to A ticket to Hogwarts

  1. glosswitch says:

    I graduated from Oxford (Queen’s) in 1999, then for my PhD from Cambridge in 2007, when I was 8 months pregnant (which might sound impressive until you look at the dates. I took nearly a decade to get the doctorate, including one failed viva … Best not go into all that, though!).
    Graduating from Oxford was nice – we had lunch in college and my family were incredibly proud. Graduating from Cambridge was, by contrast, a nightmare. I ended up sitting next to the praelector for lunch and he didn’t exchange a word with me, but made jokes with other students (ones who’d stayed on in “our place”) about admitting women, maternity leave and the lack of women’s toilets. It was bizarre, like some ridiculous stereotype, and doesn’t represent my time at either place. It did however reassure me that my feelings that sometimes I “wasn’t good enough” and “didn’t belong” weren’t entirely a product of my imagination. Which, in itself, provided a bit of a confidence boost about finally leaving the place!
    It’s lovely to read how proud you are of your daughter. My sons are only four and two and I’m proud of them already but obviously I’m gonna get hothousing! (not really – I think…)

    • Sian Griffiths says:

      Thanks for your comment. It’s funny but I’d forgotten how out of place I felt at Oxford when I first went up, even though I was in a college which was 50/50 men and women with lots of state school kids. It’s only now two decades on that I can see how all those difficult social experiences shaped me and gave me confidence but there were certainly days at the beginning when all I wanted to do was run home to my Welsh village!

  2. shrishti says:

    actually m from india and m in 12th but i have the capability to catch magic as soon as possible so i want admission in hogwarts ………………….

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