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Durham University

University and City: Growing together

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'A great credit to our wonderful staff'

(30 July 2020)

Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge

Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge reflects on the results of the National Student Survey (NSS), which were announced last week.

It is no secret that it has been a tough year for universities, as it has for all of us.

The Covid-19 pandemic has required us here at Durham University to innovate in how we teach and assess our students, how we do research, and how we do what we call our wider student experience – including life in our Colleges.

So, we were especially proud of our National Student Survey (NSS) results, announced last week.

Dedication and hard work

The NSS is an independent annual survey that evaluates how satisfied final-year students are with the quality of their experience at university.

Students rate their satisfaction in eight areas: teaching; assessment and feedback; academic support; organisation and management; learning resources; personal development; students’ union; and overall satisfaction.

Durham students’ Overall Satisfaction rate was 87.3% - up 2.3% on 2019, top among the North-East universities and also top of the Russell Group of 24 leading UK universities.

This is testament to the dedication and hard work of our staff.

Of course, we want do better still. But, three years into our ten-year Strategy to deliver world-class research, teaching and student experience, we have much to be proud of – and much to offer our City and region.

Investing in the future

Last September we opened our new Teaching and Learning Centre, which provides both a first-class educational environment for our students and fantastic facilities for conferences and visiting groups.

By combining teaching, social and study space, it also means our students have to travel across Durham less: easing congestion around Church Street and Elvet, which we know can become busy at peak times.

On this note, we’re also investing £6.5m in improving movement around our campus. If you’ve been out and about in Durham recently you may have noticed the new footpaths and cycle paths around South Road that are part of our Infrastructure Improvements project.

These will benefit us all as we open two new College facilities at Mount Oswald this September and then a new home for our growing Mathematical Sciences and Computer Science departments in December.

Creating opportunity

It’s by growing across in-demand subjects such as these that we will secure our own financial sustainability and continue to produce the highly skilled and able graduates our economy needs for the future.

We have a strong base to build on here. In the recent QS World University Rankings, where we were placed 86th, a survey of over 52,000 of the world’s leading employers scored us 51st of over 1,000 universities worldwide for the quality of our graduates.

In the spring of this year we completed a £32m upgrade to our Sports and Wellbeing Park, which will mean much greater opportunities for community clubs and groups to access world-class sports and exercise facilities.

And much investment, also, is going into attracting the best and brightest students with the merit and potential to succeed to study at Durham, regardless of their economic circumstances or background.

For example, our new Durham Inspired – North East Scholarships: significant financial support for students from low-income backgrounds here in the North-East. Perhaps you know someone who could benefit from such support?

Taking on global challenges

Meanwhile, our researchers are tackling some of the world’s major challenges. Last week, Durham engineers announced the creation of the first manufactured non-cuttable material: Proteus. Elsewhere, our bioscientists are working with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the charity Medical Detection Dogs to find out if specially-trained bio-detection dogs can sniff out Covid-19 in humans.

Celebrating our community

And I remain very proud of the fact that Durham has one of the most active student volunteering communities of any UK university, with over 2,000 students volunteering for good causes and charities for a total of over 40,000 hours a year.

An undoubted highlight of the past year came in June, when our Student Volunteering and Outreach was honoured with The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award given for community volunteering in the UK.

To have all this recognised in the NSS is very pleasing and, as I said earlier, a great credit to our wonderful staff. For more information on what we can offer, please visit durham.ac.uk/study.

I hope you have a very pleasant summer period. Stay well and stay 

This article first appeared in the Durham Advertiser.