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Durham University

Covid-19 Response

Position statements

This page provides our latest position on various matters relating to Covid-19 planning.

Statement from the Vice-Chancellor on University Operations

Throughout the past seven months, we have been proactively managing the effects of the pandemic on our University activities, informed by guidance from the UK government and professional bodies, and working closely with national and local partners. We are committed to a blended approach to our teaching and learning and wider student experience activities and our priority is, as always, the health, safety and wellbeing of our staff, students and community.

The delivery of face-to-face teaching for our students is a key matter that the University Executive keeps under review. At present our view is that we should continue with our current plans for face-to-face teaching, as well as with student-facing activities undertaken by our professional services staff.

In re-affirming this policy, we took considered account of discussion at Senate (the University's governing body in all academic matters) last week, as well as advice received from public health experts at Durham County Council. Our current arrangements to address individual circumstances will remain in place, which includes an entirely online offer, which has been taken up by around 2,000 students this term.

We understand that this is a time of anxiety for our staff and student members, as it is across the UK and around the world. At the same time, we have taken all reasonable steps to provide for Covid-19-safety on campus, working helpfully with the recognised campus Trade Unions and the Students’ Union, and by taking on board many of their suggestions.

We remain committed to reviewing our policy on face-to-face teaching and all our other activities on a very regular basis, as new evidence presents itself and as we listen to our community. We will continue to communicate frequently with our staff, students and our wider community.

Cases on campus

We have a number of Covid-19 cases within our student community.

The University and our Colleges remain open. We are working closely with Durham County Council and Public Health England and those affected are following NHS advice and self-isolating. They are receiving our full support.

We continue to urge our entire community to follow local and national restrictions and play close attention to guidelines on campus, including practising good hand sanitisation, maintaining 2m social distancing where possible and wearing face coverings inside University buildings.

We are publishing our coronavirus case numbers online here.

Student Welfare

Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience) said:

“The health, safety and wellbeing our students, staff and the wider community is always our first priority

“We remain extremely mindful of the impact that Covid-19 restrictions, which are necessary to limit the spread of the virus, have on our University community, and we are committed to supporting those affected through it.

“All students living in Colleges and who are in self-isolation will receive ongoing welfare support including support with essential services and supplies, and continued access to their education online. Students in catered Colleges will also receive access to hot, healthy and regular meals, while those in self-catered accommodation have the option of being provided with food boxes to supplement their existing food supplies.

“We are also expanding our support to students who live out of College accommodation and who are self-isolating.

“Students have access to a range of pastoral support through their colleges and central services such as our counselling team, by accessing Covid-secure face-to-face or online services. Our advisers are also trained to signpost to telephone or digital services including those used by the NHS.

“Our University chaplaincy, where a wide range of faiths are represented, continues to offer spiritual support and guidance to students. Our multi-faith spaces, including some chapels and the Muslim prayer room at Grey College, are also continuing to operate, in line with Covid-19 restrictions and social distancing measures.

“In addition, a laptop loan scheme is available to those who might not have access to the necessary equipment to ensure all of our students are able to access to their online learning and teaching and wider student experience activities.

“Our students and staff receive regular updates from both the University and their College where they are urged to follow Government and University regulations and guidelines to reduce the transmission and impact of Covid-19, as well as information on where they can access a wide range of support services, including testing.”

Students' return home at the end of term

We're addressing this very important issue proactively by establishing a pan-University staff and student working group.

This group will work very closely with academic departments, colleges and our students to develop a plan to ensure a safe and healthy return home for students and their families. It will also develop plans for students who choose to stay or who will need to stay on campus for whatever reason continue to feel fully supported by the University, with their health, safety and wellbeing as our first priority.

We will be communicating with our wider staff and student body, and our local community, about our plans for the end of term in due course.

Covid-19 disciplinary procedures

The vast majority of our students have responded to the local and national Covid-19 restrictions as responsible citizens and we are proud of them for doing so. However, where behaviour falls below the standard we would expect, we will take swift and decisive action.

In the first instance of a suspected Covid-19 breach, we will seek to speak with those involved to explain the risks of their behaviour, encourage them to observe Covid-19 legislation and guidance and remind them of their commitment to themselves, their peers and the wider community made under our Student Pledge.

If serious and intentional breaches are identified and this ‘engage, explain and encourage’ approach has not resolved the situation, we will apply our formal disciplinary process, using a graded ‘yellow, amber, red’ response system.

For a first, low level breach of regulations, a yellow warning will be issued by the student’s College. For a second or more serious breach, an amber warning will be issued – a formal warning will be added to the student’s record and this may be accompanied by further sanctions including a fine of up to £500 or community service of up to 75 hours.

For a further breach or where serious aggravating factors are identified, a red warning will follow, with sanctions including permanent exclusion from the University.