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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.

Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience) of Durham University, said: “The health, safety and wellbeing of our students, staff and the wider community is always our first priority.

"Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) is voluntary and available to all of our students and staff. We are not, and will not, requiring testing or vaccinations for our University community for purposes of teaching and learning or access to College accommodation (including College bars)

"Students do not need to provide proof of a negative LFT to access our Covid-secure library and study spaces, accommodation or teaching and learning activities.

"We continue to deliver a comprehensive set of structured, in person and online (optional) wider student experience activities during Easter Term.

"To enable students who are on campus to access in person activities in the safest possible way, we are operating a Test to Participate programme until at least Friday 2 July.

“To access the majority of in-person wider student experience activities, we ask students to test twice weekly throughout Easter Term and provide proof of a negative test result.

"We strongly encourage all members of our community to continue to follow Government guidance to help protect ourselves and each other during the Covid-19 pandemic."

Additional information

Professor Alan Houston, Vice-Provost (Education) at Durham University said:

“The health, safety and wellbeing of our students, staff and the wider community is always our first priority and we continue to support those affected by the pandemic.

"We recognise the impact of Covid-19 and the need for an Academic Safety Net to support students fairly while upholding the integrity of their degrees.

"Drawing on our experience last year, and working in collaboration with Durham Students’ Union, we have identified a range of measures to provide assurance that our students educational attainment will not be worsened as a result of the pandemic.

After careful consideration, our academic policies and procedures have been amended to recognise individual circumstances, including the mental and physical barriers to study, faced by many.

“We are incredibly appreciative to students and staff who have invested their time and effort in developing these measures.”

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Notes: The latest update for students is available at durham.ac.uk/coronavirus/students/latestnews

Key features of the Academic Safety Net include;

  • Removing the requirement for evidence when students request a seven-day extension for submitting summative coursework.

  • The flexibility for students to defer examinations to the 2020/21 resit period.

  • Academic factors e.g. lacking access to key resources, will be considered by Boards of Examiners marking dissertations, major projects and key assessments.

  • Boards of Examiners will scrutinise students' records for possible Covid-19 effects in the event of a major drop in year-on-year performance.

  • Students who narrowly miss out on a higher degree classification will be automatically considered for promotion under standard procedures for discretion. Boards of Examiners will also consider students who fall outside this zone of discretion if the Board believes that serious adverse circumstances justify the use of discretion.

  • All departments will review assessments to ensure that marks are not out of line with previous years.

Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor and Warden, Durham University said:

“We welcome the Government’s announcement of extra funding for students experiencing financial hardship during these difficult times. This additional support will help those who are struggling with accommodation and other living costs.

We continue to provide our students with wellbeing and mental health support as well as offering additional financial help, including waiving college accommodation charges for students who are not in residence during Epiphany Term.

The Covid-19 Recovery Fund

With thanks to Durham Alumni and the Office for Students for their generous support, the Covid-19 Recovery Fund is available to eligible groups. The application deadline is 28 February 2021, and groups who can apply are:

  • Care Leavers / Estranged Students
  • Students who are required to shield during the current lockdown
  • Keyworkers and the dependants of key workers
  • Financially disadvantaged students whose family finances have been significantly affected by the pandemic

Student Support Fund

The Student Support Fund is available to all students and is means-tested on personal income for students who have a shortfall between the money available to them and their essential expenditure according to the Assessment Procedure. Funding is available including but not limited to:

  • accommodation
  • insurance
  • utilities
  • food and household shopping
  • travel
  • clothing
  • laundry
  • childcare costs
  • disability costs
  • course costs.

Extension to the Covid-19 Employability Support Fund

In response to the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on standard Student Employability Fund (SEF) applications, we have introduced an extension pilot.

  • The SEF provides financial support to students from families with a household income, as assessed by Student Finance England (or equivalent) of below £42,875per annum
  • SEF supports students to develop the skills, attributes and experiences to help you to progress into your chosen destination
  • Funds are available for Work Experience, Graduate Employment, and Technical and Professional Skills Development Bursaries

Cases on campus

We are tracking and managing a rising number of confirmed Covid-19 cases within our student community. Our first priority is the health and safety of our students, staff and the wider community

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 encourage our university community to follow Government and University regulations and to inform us if they have Covid-19 symptoms, a positive test result or have been identified as a close contact. Reporting in this way helps us to work proactively with Durham County Council and Public Health England to manage cases on campus.

In partnership with Durham County Council and Public Health England, we are now requesting that all students take one PCR test each week, even if they have no symptoms, in addition to two Lateral Flow Device tests. This will help reduce transmission and identify any cases and contacts early.

We are also actively encouraging students to book their vaccinations as soon as they are eligible.

We are publishing our coronavirus case numbers online here.

Student Welfare

Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience) at Durham University 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 have always been committed to supporting those affected through it.

“All students living in Colleges and who are in self-isolation are receiving ongoing welfare support including support with essential services and supplies, and continued access to their education online. Students in catered Colleges 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 have also expanded 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.”

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.