SINGAPORE - Some 26,000 students from the five polytechnics and 6,500 students from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) will graduate this year without the milestone ceremonies.
In a joint statement on Monday (April 6), the polytechnics and ITE said: "We have put in place the necessary precautions to ensure the well-being of our students and staff, and will continue to align these measures with the national posture.
"This is why in line with the Government's heightened safe distancing measures, the polytechnics and ITE have now made the difficult decision to cancel this year's graduation ceremonies, originally scheduled to take place in May and July 2020."
The institutions will be making arrangements for diplomas, certificates and transcripts to be delivered to graduating students instead.
"Graduation ceremonies are milestone events, and it is with a heavy heart that we have now had to make a decision that will understandably disappoint our graduands, their families and lecturers," the statement said.
"Given the challenging situation we are in, we trust that everyone concerned will understand that we decided this in the best interests of our students, their families and the community."
In a message to Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) students, which was also posted on the school's website, NYP principal and chief executive officer Jeanne Liew said: "I know that this is the time to celebrate your success with your family, friends and loved ones. But it would not be right to bring together so many of us when the new social distancing measures are in force.
"We need to stop the spread of the Covid-19 infection and halt the formation of any new clusters."
Graduating polytechnic and ITE students told The Straits Times they were disappointed by the news.
Said Ms Marianne Charmaine Ng, 19, who is graduating this year from Singapore Polytechnic with a diploma in creative writing for TV and new media: "It would have been a way to say goodbye to the tedious journey over the last three years and to say hello to the next chapter. I think it is saddening that we missed out on something that everyone had."
She said her lecturers are planning for a virtual party on video conferencing platform Zoom instead.
"Hanging out with familiar faces would be the perfect source of stress relief during this period of social distancing and pandemic as well," added Ms Ng.
Mr Axl Chua, 21, who is graduating from ITE this year with a Higher Nitec in security system integration, said he had expected the ceremonies to be cancelled but described it as "bittersweet" that he would not be graduating at a physical ceremony with his friends.
Disappointment aside, students also understood that the cancellation was necessary for public safety.
NYP student Aswin Kummaran Tamilarasu said he and fellow students had been mentally prepared for graduation ceremonies to be called off due to the coronavirus situation and tightening precautionary measures.
Said the 20-year-old, who is graduating this year with a diploma in aeronautical and aerospace technology: "I was a bit disappointed but safety is something that cannot be compromised."
While universities' graduation ceremonies take place later in the year, at least one university is already making alternative arrangements.
In a circular to students on Sunday (April 5), Singapore Management University said: "The university has begun to make alternative arrangements to carry out Commencement 2020 differently this year. We plan to conduct the ceremony virtually, and in a way that will allow us to get as close as possible to the experience of being there while being safe at the same time."
Additional reporting by Saraswathy Kumaran