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Durham University

Colleges & wider student experience

Statement of responsibilities of University Membership

The University’s Academic Community

Durham University is a distinctive academic community, encapsulating ancient traditions and modern values. We are committed to maintaining the high standards of academic excellence, critical thinking, creativity and intellectual freedom that are essential to learning, education, research and scholarship for the development and communication of knowledge. All members of the University are part of this academic and collegiate community, and have expectations of, and responsibilities to, that community and to each other.

The staff and students who constitute the University’s academic community work together within available resources to realise the full potential of both individuals and the University as a whole. This partnership has its roots in the shared commitment of all members of the University community to the achievement of excellence in all of the University’s activities, and that commitment to providing a rounded educational experience for students that equips them with the academic and the personal skills to succeed in life. It is also based on a shared commitment to value and engage with the search for, and creation and development of, knowledge and understanding, both for their own sake and for the wider benefits these bring to individuals, the University and to wider society.

Mutual respect between all its members is central to the University’s academic community, allied to a strong commitment to supporting and promoting diversity and equality within that community. This respect is fostered through the relationships established between staff and students in both academic departments and the University’s colleges, which together create a distinctive community that benefits both staff and students.

The University’s community is by its very nature outward looking. Its members respect their obligations to the local, national and international communities in which they are located and with which they engage. Staff and students seek, through academic departments, colleges, Durham Students’ Union and professional support services, to work with these communities to their mutual benefit. The University community is committed, through its academic provision and extra-curricular activities such as arts, music, sport and volunteering, to making a positive contribution to the wider environments and communities in which it is located.

Students and staff have distinctive but complementary roles within the University community (whether in academic departments, colleges or professional support services) leading to the different responsibilities as set out in this Statement, but they work together to their mutual benefit. The obligations of individual staff vary in accordance with their role(s) within the University, but all contribute to the collective delivery of the staff responsibilities outlined in this Statement. Additionally, alongside their responsibilities in respect of education, academic staff are engaged in research and administration, and these activities enrich the educational provision that they offer. The academic obligations of students are complemented by the extensive range of development opportunities that the University offers outside its programmes of study through Durham Students Union and colleges.

The relationship between staff and students that is at the heart of the University’s community is not one that ends when a student graduates. Through appropriate staff in academic departments, colleges and professional support services the University engages on a reciprocal basis with its alumni, an ongoing and valued relationship that enriches the University community and supports the University in its engagement with local, national and international communities.

Responsibilities of Community Membership Student Engagement

Staff: Fully involve students, through their representatives in a meaningful manner, in decision-making processes relating to the student experience at all levels, from academic departments and colleges through to Senate, and engage with and respond to the issues raised by students.

Support students taking on representative roles through the provision of training opportunities, working with DSU to do this.

Involve students in monitoring and reviewing of academic programmes and provision in colleges and professional support services.

Ensure that where student views have been sought, students receive timely and meaningful feedback on the action taken in response.

Students: Engage with the range of opportunities provided for student representation, either through serving as a student representative or by raising any issues through their representatives in DSU, colleges and departments.
When asked for their feedback by the University, reflect on the issues being raised with an understanding of consequence and impact of that feedback, and engage constructively with the consultative process contributing to teh enhancement of the University's educational provision, services and government.

Learning, Teaching and Assessment

Staff: Offer academic programmes that draw on the University’s research environment, and which give students the opportunity to engage with research (as understood in their academic discipline(s)) and thereby develop their critical and analytical abilities.

Ensure that the learning, teaching and supervision methods of all academic programmes are effective in supporting students in meeting the expectations of their programme, and developing the capacity of students as independent learners.

Use methods of assessment that are valid, reliable, equitable and transparent. These methods will assess student achievement in relation to published criteria, and will support students in their learning as well as assessing their achievements.

Provide students with helpful and constructive feedback on their academic progress and development (with written feedback being made available according to timescales agreed and published at departmental level), to support students in developing their academic capabilities.

Are appropriately qualified for their duties and build on these qualifications to develop and enhance their learning, teaching and supervisory practice.

Take advantage of the learning resources available to them in ways that are appropriate to individual programmes, to deliver and enhance these programmes of study.

Reflect regularly on academic programmes, to ensure that these maintain high academic standards and to identify where and how they can improve the quality of programmes. www.durham.ac.uk

Students: Take responsibility for their own learning, developing their capacity as independent learners.

Engage with the opportunities for learning provided by the University: preparing for and attending timetabled classes; fulfilling all the academic obligations of their programme; engaging in independent study as expected in their programme; and taking advantage of opportunities provided to engage academically outside the formal requirements of their programme.

Reflect critically on the feedback provided on their academic work, to develop the ability to learn from past experience and apply these lessons to future activities.

Respond to communications from their department or college.


Personal Development

Staff: Ensure that academic programmes provide students with a wide range of skills that will prepare graduates for further study and/or future employment.

Make available opportunities for students to reflect on, and record, the skills and abilities they have developed through their academic programmes and extra-curricular activities.

Work with students (for example through colleges, student common rooms and student societies) to provide students with extra-curricular activities that support personal development and which enrich the experience of students.

Students: Engage with the opportunities in their programmes, and through extra-curricular activities, to support and reflect on their personal development and to support preparation for work and/or further study.

Manage their time to ensure an appropriate balance between their commitments to their academic programme and their extra-curricular activities.


Student Support

Staff: Ensure that appropriate academic support and guidance is available to students within all academic departments, through a range of provision that includes the provision for all students of a named academic adviser/supervisory team to whom students are known personally.

Provide excellent student support to students through colleges and specialist student support services.

Provide students with clear and accurate information relating to their programme, extra-curricular activities and the University’s policies and procedures relating to educational provision, the student experience and (working with DSU where relevant and appropriate) student support.

Students: Engage fully with the academic support and guidance provided by their departments, attending scheduled meetings with their academic adviser/supervisory team.

Identify problems relating to their academic studies promptly to their academic adviser/supervisory team or another appropriate member of their academic department.

Seek help for pastoral problems in a timely way from their College Senior Tutor, or the relevant specialist student support services.


Further Information

The responsibilities detailed above underpin, and are amplified by, a wide range of University policies. These are summarised in the Undergraduate Student Welcome Guide, which is made available to all students every year. There are also a number of other information resources available that are based on and supplement the responsibilities laid out above:

The University’s values and mission are contained in its Strategy 2010-20. Its commitment to mutual respect between all members of its community are supported by its Diversity and Equality Policy, and its Policy on Respect at Study.

The support provided to students through by the Durham Students Union is set out on the Durham Students' Union website.

The University’s commitment to high quality learning, teaching and assessment, and its plans to improve this provision between now and 2015, are detailed in the University Education Strategy.

The University’s Principles of Student Engagement lay out its commitment to working with its students, and the detailed policies in Section 5 of the Learning and Teaching Handbook demonstrate how this commitment is implemented. The work of course representatives is explained on the Durham Students' Union website.

The key features that all taught programmes should demonstrate are laid out in the University’s Principles for the development of the taught curriculum. The key elements of its research degree provision are detailed in its Code of Practice on Research Degrees.

The way in which Durham assesses its academic programmes, and provides feedback to students, is founded on its Principles of Assessment, which inform the detailed assessment policies available in Section 6 of the Learning and Teaching Handbook.

The University’s approach to supporting students in developing their skills and enhancing their employability is available in the University’s Employability Statement. Extensive information on careers, employability and enterprise issues is available on the website of the Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre.

Durham’s commitment to high quality student support is embodied in the University’s Principles for Student Support, which underpin the detailed student support arrangements.

The General Regulations that apply to all students of the University are available in Volume I of the University Calendar. Regulations for specific types of programme, and individual programme regulations, are available in Volume II of the University Calendar.

The expectations for students living outside University accommodation and within the local communities in which the University is situated are set out in the Livers’ Out Code.

How the University handles situations where students feel that mistakes or errors have been made is detailed on its Appeals, Complaints and Discipline webpages.

The way that the University monitors and enhances the academic standards and quality of its provision is summarised in its Quality Management Framework.