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Durham University

University and City: Growing together

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'We are with you and for you'

(21 May 2020)

Prof Stuart Corbridge

Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge sets out our commitment to the North East's recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The first steps to recovery (possibly)...

The Prime Minister’s Bank Holiday Weekend speech to the nation signalled the (possible) end of the crisis phase of the Covid-19 pandemic and the (again, only possible) first steps on what will undoubtedly be a long road to recovery.

The whole country has suffered greatly through coronavirus, and we must be realistic that more pain is yet to come. Many have lost loved ones, many have lost their jobs and public services and families with children have been placed under strain. Additionally, we have all been separated from friends and relatives and had to surrender many plans we had made for this period and the summer.

The North East is at risk of being hit harder than most. The peak of the crisis here was reached a little later than in London and the South East, some reports suggest a lower-than-average adherence to lockdown measures and our economy may take longer to recover.

But we also have much going for us that will help us: our strong manufacturing base, the wonderful heritage and environment we have to offer to domestic tourists, our long track record as great innovators, the perseverance and grit of our collective character and, perhaps most of all, the caring and supportive spirit of our communities.

Tangible and strong commitment

At Durham University, we have been a part of the North East landscape for over 180 years and our commitment to our region’s recovery will be tangible and strong.

We want to help drive the economic recovery by attracting the best researchers and students and enabling enterprise and innovation. We want to reignite our investments in infrastructure. We want to inspire creativity by leading and supporting in culture and the arts: theatre, music, art, sport and more. We want to contribute to developing a more caring society, including through volunteering and leadership development. And we want to model all of this by encouraging positive citizenship among our student body, as well as our staff and as an institution.

Defeating Covid-19 together

Last month I wrote about how we are contributing to the effort to defeat Covid-19: locally, nationally and internationally. That effort has only grown in the past month.

We are supporting our health services by donating and loaning equipment, manufacturing face masks and visors and modelling future demand. We are at the forefront of work which aims to train ‘sniffer dogs’ to detect Covid-19. We are supporting the economy by offering free advice and project support to local businesses.

We are supporting continued learning by making our museums, collections and attractions accessible online and supporting students to tutor school pupils remotely. Our staff and students are raising tens of thousands of pounds for great charities. And we are helping plan for the future, including through gathering experiences of lockdown to help inform future service provision.

Reawakening the University

At the same time, we are working extremely hard to plan the safe and sustainable reawakening of the University itself: research, teaching, our Colleges and everything else that makes Durham’s University one of the top 100 anywhere in the world.

We are also working hard on how to adapt to the financial environment that Covid-19 has created for UK universities. The next financial year will be a challenging one for the University, but we will come through it by tightening our belt and by finding new sources of income. 

There will be more to say about these matters as planning progresses and decisions are reached. But please be assured, our guiding principle will remain the health and wellbeing of our community and the communities of which we are proud to be part.

For now, please know: we are with you and for you.

I wish everyone good health. Please stay safe and stay in touch.

This article was first published in the Durham Advertiser.