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Durham University

University and City: Growing together

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Covid-19 update, plus opportunities ahead

(1 February 2021)

Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge

Our Vice-Chancellor, Stuart Corbridge, provides an update on our Covid-19 operations and points to some opportunities to get involved with 'Durham's University'.

I hope this finds you safe and well as we enter month two of Lockdown 3.0.

If you have been in and around Durham recently you will have seen many fewer students than usual. We’ve advised our students that, in line with Government guidance, they should remain at home unless they have exceptional circumstances. With a few exceptions, all our teaching is wholly online and will remain so until after Easter.

For those students who are in Durham – who were either already in Durham prior to lockdown or who have needed to return – we are reminding them of the national restrictions in place, encouraging them to get tested for Covid-19 regularly, and doing everything we can to support them, both in their study and in their general wellbeing.

Of course, none of us knows yet when the Government will ease the restrictions, or how fast they will do so. But we will continue to share our planning and receive feedback from our local community and representatives; and, as always, we will act with the health, safety and wellbeing of our staff, students and the communities of which we are part as our top priority.

Drama, a scholarship and the great outdoors

Covid-19 aside, I’d like to share a few items of good news we’ve celebrated recently and let you know about some opportunities to get involved with ‘Durham’s University’ even during lockdown.

This week is the 47th annual Durham Drama Festival, featuring nine new student-written plays. It’s all online this year and I would encourage you to take in as much as you can. Please go to for full details.

In a similar vein, we have recently announced a new theatre scholarship, funded by the Aardman Animations co-founder David Sproxton, himself once a student at Durham. Think Wallace and Gromit! This scholarship offers a 2021 entry student up to £16,000 over four years to enable them to work with Durham Student Theatre and explore their creative potential. The deadline for applications is Sunday 28th February. Click here for more details.

I’m also pleased to say that the grounds of the Botanic Garden are open again, Monday to Friday, 10am to 2.30pm. Plus, as a thank you for everyone’s ongoing support, entry is free until the end of March.

Going global, with local benefits

Last week, we were proud to be ranked 25th in the Times Higher Education league table of the world’s most international universities. This is a wonderful recognition of how attractive Durham is to the best students and researchers from across the world, how we collaborate with other great universities internationally, and our strong and strengthening global reputation. We know this diversity and ‘globality’ improves the student experience at Durham and we believe it sits well alongside our strong commitment to our City and region: economically, culturally and socially.

It would not be appropriate for me to end this month’s column without honouring the late, Professor Sir Arnold Wolfendale, who died shortly before Christmas. Arnold was a stalwart of Durham University and Durham City; a man whose brilliance, passion and charm touched many lives and who from 1991 to 1995 was this country’s Astronomer Royal. Our thoughts remain with his friends and loved ones.

I know Arnold would be proud that we continue his commitment to research excellence right across the University. Recently, colleagues have shown that the first humans to populate the Americas took domesticated dogs with them and what we perceive to be ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ music is driven by our cultural background; University academics have also helped develop a new programme to support people with dementia and work continues on our Covid-19 sniffer dogs programme.

Your extraordinary 2021...

For many, young or not so young, this is a time for reconsidering options. With this in mind, I’d like to share that we are currently welcoming applications to study with us from October. If you are interested, or know someone who might be, applicants can discover what it’s like to study at Durham, connect with current students and get advice on a personal statement at We especially want to build our student body from the North-East.

Stay well and stay safe.