One of the most significant days in a student's life is marked by the tossing of caps and the proud receipt of degrees. Graduation ceremonies are special, symbolizing the culmination of years of hard work and often serving as an 'official' welcome to adulthood. But what price would you put on such an occasion? This question has sparked a social media debate, prompted by management issues at recent events in the UAE that left some students feeling disgruntled and frustrated.

This was the case for some students at Canadian University Dubai, where ticketing and seating issues prevented several guests from entering the main venue on the big day. Layla (name changed on request) was one such graduate whose parents could not witness her moment of triumph. "Right before I had to head out from the green room area, my parents called to tell me that they weren't able to get in, despite having paid around Dh630 for two guest tickets, my attire, and a headshot that would be displayed on the screen," she said. Her mother, speaking to Khaleej Times, recounted their early arrival and the security's explanation about the stage capacity being full, which led to them missing their daughter's walk across the stage.

Ademi Maukeyava, another student from the university, also faced similar issues with her parents, who had flown in from Kazakhstan. However, the university responded swiftly to her concerns, reimbursing the ceremony fee and her parents' travel expenses, and organizing a boutique ceremony and gala dinner a month later for affected students. In a statement to Khaleej Times, Canadian University Dubai acknowledged the issue, attributing it to guests arriving without tickets and not following entry protocols, which compromised the security checks and led to un-ticketed guests gaining access.

The costs associated with graduation ceremonies can be substantial, with some universities in the UAE charging up to Dh3,000 per student. This typically includes entry to the ceremony, two guest tickets, and photographs. Higher-priced packages offer additional guest tickets, more elaborate photography, and celebration meals. Middlesex University student Titas Basu was shocked to learn she'd need to pay over Dh1,000 for her graduation ceremony, including her seat at the event. Some students, like 22-year-old Spanish expat Hannah (name changed on request), decide to skip the ceremony altogether, feeling it's not worth the expense for a quick event.

Despite the costs, many parents and students view graduation ceremonies as milestones too important to miss. Sreena Manoharan, mother of a Middlesex University graduate, acknowledged the steep pricing but felt the ceremony met expectations. Dhirendra Kampani, whose daughter graduated from the University of Sharjah, also accepted the costs, though he wished for more subsidies. For many students, the pressure of missing out on a long-standing tradition pushes them to attend despite the expenses.

Lana Amini, a recent graduate from the American University of Sharjah, sees the ceremony as a tradition akin to Christmas or Eid, emphasizing the importance of not missing out. Sabiha Ameen, another AUS graduate, highlights the sense of belonging and achievement that graduation ceremonies provide, marking the end of one era and the beginning of another.