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Durham University

University and City: Growing together

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Taking education beyond the lecture hall

(9 October 2019)

Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge

We see our educational mission as going beyond teaching our students. Our Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge talks about taking education beyond the lecture hall. 

October has arrived and for us here at Durham University that means another academic year is under way. Induction Week is over, lectures have started and the hard and, we hope, rewarding work begins.

As Colin Wilkes from Durham Markets Company warmly reflected in his Durham Advertiser column last week, our students bring a major boost to the local economy. They also add to Durham’s cultural scene – many of you will have enjoyed Lord of the Flies at the Gala Theatre last week; and they make a positive social contribution, too: many of our Geography students (and staff) spent last Friday tidying up Seaham beach.

Thriving in a challenging environment

With Brexit negotiations ongoing, big questions over higher education funding and huge investments being made in universities overseas, we and other UK universities are operating in an uncertain and very competitive environment.

But despite all that, I’m pleased to say that Durham University – Durham’s University – is thriving. Last week, we achieved our best ever ranking for Arts and Humanities in the prestigious Times Higher Education World University Rankings by Subject – 27th in the world.

Global success, local benefits

League tables are important for us in recruiting students, particularly internationally, but there are real local benefits to this, too.

For example, you may have read over the summer that we have acquired the archives of John George Lambton, the first Earl of Durham. ‘Radical Jack’, as he was known, lived a fascinating life in political and international diplomacy. Once we have assessed and catalogued the Lambton collection we’ll be making it available free of charge for both scholars and members of the public to study.

We’re also about to publish the findings of the Durham Commission on Creativity and Education. This is a project we’ve been working on with Arts Council England exploring ways in which creativity can play a larger part in the lives of young people.

We get involved in projects such as this because we see our educational mission as going beyond just our own research and teaching. We want to share our expertise, as well as our facilities, for the benefit of our local communities.

Introducing Durham Mathematics School

One exciting new way we are proposing to do this is by establishing Durham Mathematics School (DMS), a new flagship post-16 maths school which will raise attainment in maths-related subjects across the North East, Yorkshire and Cumbria.

The technology sector in our region is forecast to grow to be worth £2.5 billion by 2020 and it will offer bright futures to many of our young people. But they will need the right knowledge and skills, and opportunities to study mathematics at a higher level are currently unevenly distributed across the region.

Our hope is that DMS, which is a joint project with the Department for Education and Durham Sixth Form Centre (DSFC), will improve opportunities for all – offering specialist teaching for a select group of students but also running outreach programmes across the region and training for local maths teachers, too.

DMS will offer A-Level courses in Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Computer Science and/or Physics, and students will have the option of studying a fourth subject at DSFC.

We will feed in our world-leading research and mentoring from our students and DSFC will bring expertise in A-Level education and opportunities for broader student development.

The Department for Education has approved the initial business case and we are now working on important details such as the curriculum and where the School will be based. We hope to open in 2022 and will be posting updates at:

Lots of opportunities to get involved...

In the meantime, there are lots of opportunities to get involved over the next few weeks. The Durham Book Festival, which runs until this weekend, offers endless options. Or perhaps you’d enjoy the Diwali celebrations at our Oriental Museum on Saturday 26 October, or our Celebrate Science festival at Palace Green from 29-31 October. Keep an eye on our What’s On guide for all upcoming events and activities.

This article first appeared in the Durham Advertiser.