Graduation: Celebrating the Class of 2023

On Thursday 20th July Politics and International Relations graduates gathered in Westgate Hall for a finalists celebration, a chance to meet with freinds and lecturers before the more formal convocation ceremony in Canterbury Cathedral where our cohhort received their degrees side by side with iconic Russian activists Pussy Riot. 

Adding to the joy of this year’s ceremony was the conferral of Honourary Doctor of Letters upon members of the Russian punk activist collective Pussy Riot, Maria (Masha) Alekihna, Diana Burkot, Olga Borisova and Taso Pletner.

Pussy Riot gained notoriety with a performance at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ and Saviour, which is one of the centres of power of the Russian Orthodox Church. Wearing their signature, sleeveless dresses, neon tights, and balaclava ski masks, they jumped onto the sacred alter, took out electric guitars and started to perform “Punk Prayer”. The song was a mix of punk music and traditional orthodox chant about the close relationship between Putin and the Orthodox Church. It criticized the Church’s conservative anti-female and anti-LGBT stances addressing the Mother of God directly telling her to “oust Putin” and “become a feminist”. The performance was shut down in a matter of minutes, but it made a huge impact on Russian politics and the world. Three of the women were arrested right then and there, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alykhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich and were denied bail and held in custody until their trial in late July. Their trial became a symbol of Putin’s authoritarian tendencies and the censorship of political ideas in Russia.

September 2022, the Gulbenkian Arts Centre invited Pussy Riot for a one-week residency on campus performing their show Riot Days and giving ius a masterclass in activism chaired by Dr Nadine Ansorg.

It is profound and poetic to see them being (?) honoured in the first of England’s Cathedrals, the ‘Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion’, seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, UNESCO World Heritage Site, and an inspiring moment for our graduates, on the brink of entering into the world with the potential to create change.’ Ansorg told us. In her speech to graduates at Westgate Hall, the Head of School called on each and every one of us to take responsibility in the light of authoritarian tendencies and democratic backlash.

She then proceeded to announce this year’s prizewinners.

Colin Seymour-Ure Prize for the highest dissertation mark – Ivy Shields and Isobel Stevens

David Nunnerly Prize for Student Experience Outstanding contribution to School life – Theophile Bernard

Maurice Vile Prize Best Stage 3 performance – Meg Payne

Special achievement prize Outstanding performance in adversity – Behije Hebibasi

Stage 1 and 2 Prizes were awarded also:

Bryan Keith-Lucas Prize – Best result in Stage 2 PolIR programme – Charlie Adrien

Sarah Hyde Memorial Prize Highest achieving 2nd year student going to Japan the following year – Nikita (Wen Wei) Chan

David McLellan Prize Best performance in Stage I Pol/IR modules – Thomas Oxley

Congratulations to the class of 2023! We are so proud of your resilience and all you have achieved during your time at Kent.

We want to keep in touch with you!  You won’t be surprised to know that following your journeys is a source of enormous satisfaction for us. So, do keep us personally posted!

Make sure you sign up for our alumni network!