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  • Ethan Rogacion

International Students Screwed Over By “Advanced Graduation” Mismanagement

Words by Ethan Rogacion (he/him)

International students have been cold shouldered by VUW about their graduation ceremony this year, following miscommunication of the university’s decision to forgo advanced graduation from this year onward.

Prior to the policy's implementation this year, students who completed their degree requirements in Trimester 2 were able to apply for advanced graduation, allowing them to attend the December ceremony. Since then, VUW has scrapped this option, meaning that students completing their courses this trimester will not be able to attend a graduation ceremony until next May. 

The impacts of this are severely felt by international students studying at Te Herenga Waka. Most international students hold visas that expire early next year, meaning students are unable to attend May graduation ceremonies. The Victoria International Students’ Association (V-ISA) estimates that “hundreds” of international students may be affected by this change.

One graduating student Salient spoke to was told by the Graduation Office that “the [graduation] ceremony was optional”, and was just “a nice thing to have”, since “the most important thing is for you to get a degree.” 

“[This decision] affects my plans greatly,” the student said. “It's very disappointing and very frustrating to think about. Going home without having anything to wrap up your entire journey here, it’s very sad.”

Another student said, “It’s a very big hassle to have to go home after [Trimester 2] and try to come back for graduation next year in May, especially with the expensive costs.”

While the university claimed it took steps to communicate the decision to staff, emails seen by Salient show that this is not the case. In one exchange, a staff member expressed concerns about “serious miscommunication” regarding the procedural changes, stating that the new stance on graduation was a surprise to them.

“This change wasn't widely communicated to all students, and the relevant university web pages were only updated last year to remove reference to advanced graduation,” Jessica Ye, VUWSA President, told Salient.

She stated that international students in particular “wouldn't have been proactively contacted about this change and it makes sense that they would continue to rely on the assumption that advanced graduation was still available.”

“All students deserve the opportunity to celebrate their graduation at an official ceremony. Graduation is a critical achievement and moment for students,” she said. 

David Wang, president of V-ISA, says that he knows a graduating international student whose family had already bought tickets to Aotearoa, believing that advanced graduation for December was still being offered.

“V-ISA believes that this is an indication of lacking communication between the university and students on such matters,” he told Salient.

The university said that the decision to scrap advanced graduation came after feedback from students which “indicated that they found advanced graduation a confusing and complicated process”.

“Changes to the way qualifications are conferred [they can now be conferred at any time University Council meets] means that all students are now able to receive their qualification shortly after completing their studies,” the university said, “so the need for advanced graduation was significantly diminished.”

VUWSA were involved with the consultation process leading to this change. Jessica Ye told Salient that, in 2021, the VUWSA executive saw no issues with removing advanced graduation as an option. 

“On behalf of VUWSA, I apologise for the fact that we had not raised this issue back then nor sought wider consultation with student representative groups who bring invaluable lived experience to these issues,” she said.

V-ISA was also not consulted by the university, and only found out about the change after the decision was passed.

The university has stated that the International Student Experience team plans on holding a farewell celebration for graduating international students in November. 

Some students spoken to by Salient have not been made aware of any such event, with V-ISA calling for the university to “reconsider and review the possibility of restoring advance graduation” instead.


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