Cambridge students graduate at alternative location due to Gaza protest camp

Cambridge University students departed from tradition by having their graduations at an alternative venue due to a pro-Palestinian protest camp outside the building that has been used for ceremonies since the 18th century.

Activists pitched tents outside Senate House earlier this week and the university said on Thursday that it had taken the “very difficult decision” to use an alternative location for Friday’s graduations.

The Cambridge for Palestine group said on social media its “goal from the Senate House yard occupation has been accomplished”.

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Graduating students take photos outside Senate House at Cambridge University (Joe Giddens/PA)

It said the university had “agreed to negotiate and met a number of our preconditions”, and by mid-Friday morning all tents, flags and banners had been removed from the Senate House lawn.

On Friday, lines of students in gowns processed from their individual colleges to Downing College, the alternative venue where graduation ceremonies took place.

Graduates were allowed to take photographs of each other in their robes outside Senate House afterwards, with security officers manning the gates to the yard.

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A graduating student walks past the Gaza protest encampment at Cambridge University (Joe Giddens/ PA)

A protest encampment remains outside King’s College and Cambridge for Palestine has been posting schedules of activities online each day, including a vigil, prayers and “memorial origami”.

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A Cambridge University spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday: “We regret that due to the ongoing presence of protesters on Senate House lawn, we have taken the very difficult decision to make alternative arrangements for the degree congregations this weekend.

“All students who want to graduate this weekend will still be able to attend their degree congregation at an alternative location that is fitting of the occasion.

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Security officers allowed new graduates into the yard at Senate House for photographs after the protesters left (Joe Giddens/ PA)

“We are confident that ceremonies will be a memorable and enjoyable experience for students and their guests.”

More graduation ceremonies are scheduled for Saturday.