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Durham University

University and City: Growing together

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Bouncing back from Covid-19

(27 May 2021)

Vice Chancellor, Stuart Corbridge, highlights cultural activities and events our University will bring to our local communities this summer. He also emphasises the importance our research has on our local economy.

I hope this finds you well as we all adjust to Step 3 of the Government’s Roadmap out of Lockdown, which is restoring to us many of the freedoms we have had to forsake over the past 15 months.

For universities in England, Step 3 meant we could resume in-person teaching across all subjects from Monday 17 May. At Durham University, our undergraduate teaching for the 2020/21 academic year had mainly concluded by that point and we’d already decided that our summer exams (which run until Friday 4 June) would take place online. So, in that sense, not a lot changed on 17 May.

But this is not to say that our students haven’t returned to the City for other reasons as well. We currently have around 14,000 students in the City and we’ll be offering a range of managed in-person and online activities to them – all to be carried out in Covid-secure ways, in accordance with Government guidance, and with the health, safety and wellbeing of the whole community as our top priority.

Sadly we’re not able to hold in-person graduation ceremonies this June-July but you will see a ‘Tent on the Racecourse’ during June, hosting music, theatre, poetry performances and other events put on by student groups. All of these events – save for a handful of awards ceremonies - are open to all to enjoy, so I’d encourage you to see what might suit you.

Cultural activity is just one example of what universities bring to their local communities. We also want to be at the heart of our region bouncing back from Covid-19 economically and socially (including in the cultural sphere).

New research published this week by the sector group Universities UK suggests that over the next five years universities in the North East will be: involved in research projects with partners worth almost £1 billion; help 725 new businesses and charities to be formed; and train over 10,000 nurses, almost 4,000 medics and 8,000 teachers.

One fantastic example of this is the Northern Accelerator partnership, which brings together academics and business leaders, with funding and support, to form sustainable new enterprises.

This evolving infrastructure in turn helps us create more and better jobs in our region, supporting successful local spin-out companies such as Sphera, which is developing low carbon and carbon negative aggregates for concrete from plastic waste, and Gliff.ai, which is developing world-class artificial intelligence for the medical, environmental and industrial sectors. Check out #DevelopedInDurham on social media for more details.

Our academic research, too, has huge benefits. If you’ve been watching the news this week you may well have seen the sniffer dogs who we’ve been helping train to detect Covid-19. A study published this week shows Asher and his canine friends can do so with up to 94 per cent accuracy.

We’ve been part of the North East landscape for nearly 200 years and our commitment to our shared future success is stronger than ever. As the Universities UK slogan says, we are #GettingResults.