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Durham University

Learning and Teaching Handbook

Student Support in Colleges: Core Provision


1. Every College has a Head who has overall responsibility for all College matters and who is responsible for leading the College as a scholarly community. All Heads of the maintained Colleges are responsible to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Warden, who is an ex officio member of University Executive Committee.

All Colleges are responsible for:

• providing a central hub in each College (the College Student Support Office) which delivers advice and support for all students relating to matters which have a direct impact on a student’s personal wellbeing and on their academic studies;

• liaising with Departments and Specialist Support Services, and signposting or referring students to Departments and Specialist Support Services, as appropriate;

• overseeing the delivery of support to students;

• working with the elected bodies of common rooms to add value to the student experience;

• facilitating and encouraging holistic academic and personal development;

• creating and sustaining an academic and social environment in which all students can flourish both academically and personally.

Pre Arrival

2. Once allocated to a College, the College is the primary interface between the applicant and the University. Colleges are involved in supporting applicants prior to arrival (e.g. dealing with queries, delivering open days and facilitating college visits); Colleges are also key players in implementing admissions, advising entrants on university life and building relationships which ease transitions into higher education. In the case of postgraduate students, academic relationships may be instigated in the first instance with Departments, and the College’s role is to facilitate entry through the provision of clear information about postgraduate life.

On and after Arrival

3. On arrival, Colleges host inductions (as co-ordinated via the Induction Week Implementation Group), support registration and all associated processes and support students’ orientation to the College, the local area and the University.

4. Core provision for all students seeks to ensure they have parity of access to the full range of support and opportunities, academic and social, within the College and University.

5. Each College Student Support Office may be accessed via generic email addresses and telephone numbers, and staff can be accessed in person, during office hours, ensuring that the College Student Support Office is accessible by all students and University staff. The College Student Support Office is a largely responsive unit whose particular staffing arrangements are the local responsibility of the Head of College who will ensure that the College Student Support Office is staffed by appropriate numbers of qualified and trained staff.

6. Core provision supports students in the face of any difficulties, challenges or obstacles as they arise and as they impact on the student’s ability to perform to their potential.

7. Specific elements of Core Provision are both proactive and reactive. Close liaison is always maintained on a generic and specific level with core University professional services (for example the Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre, the Computing and Information Service, Disability Support, the Student Immigration Office, the Scholarships and Student Funding Office, and Counselling), and with external providers such as health services. Where students are in need of particular support which is outside the competence of Colleges, the College Student Support Office will signpost as appropriate to specialists (both internal and external). Colleges proactively make the support arrangements well known to all students and thereafter respond constructively to those students who present themselves as in need of College support.

8. The proactive elements of Core Provision include:

a. promoting the various forms of student support, both delivered by the College and by Specialist Support within and without the University;

b. ensuring that all students know how to access support (within and without the University) on health issues, physical and mental, personal matters, financial issues, academic issues etc;

c. enabling students to understand the College and University Regulations insofar as they affect the student (as constrained by the boundaries of a personal support remit and always in close liaison with the academic Department(s) and the Academic Office);

d. ensuring that students understand the College and University processes and procedures so that students will alert Colleges and Departments, at the appropriate time and by the recognised means, of any circumstances which might impair the student’s engagement with their academic studies;

e. ensuring College delivery of the University’s Equality and Diversity policy;

f. providing an environment and culture which supports all students through the promotion of activities that raise the social, cultural and scholarly engagement of all members of the College;

g. supporting, actively, the elected representative bodies of the collegiate common rooms (JCR, GCR, SRC, MCR and SCR);

h. supporting, actively, college societies, teams and groups.

The reactive elements of Core Provision include:

a. discussing with students any circumstances which may be affecting their progress and performance and advising appropriately so that the student’s Department(s) and Boards of Examiner(s) are informed and alerted (e.g. Self-Certification procedures, Serious Adverse Circumstances procedures);

b. assisting students to access support from within and without the University appropriate to their personal circumstances as and when necessary (e.g. the necessity, or otherwise, of the provision of third-party evidence such as medical letters etc.);

c. providing specific individualised support as necessary (for example, for students with Recommended Reasonable Adjustment reports);

d. advising on, coordinating and preparing concession requests in accordance with current procedures;

e. liaising with Departments to assist students to understand the progression rules;

f. offering appropriate advice and support regarding Academic Appeals and issues of dissatisfaction;

g. liaising with Departments to ensure that all students for whom concern is noted through an Academic Progress Notice (or as necessary at a stage prior to a formal Academic Progress Notice) are contacted and supported, as necessary;

h. advising appropriately re financial hardship procedures, providing support, preparing initial assessments and making recommendations for payment in line with guidance from the Student Immigration and Financial Support Office;

i. providing, on request, character references as appropriate;

j. offering appropriate advice and support regarding issues of academic discipline (e.g. Plagiarism Panels);

k. offering appropriate advice and support regarding other College and University disciplinary processes;

l. implementing College disciplinary processes;

m. recording emergency contact details and sharing them as appropriate (subject to Data Protection constraints)

n. ensuring the effectiveness of the out of office hours duty rota of College Officers to be called in emergencies;

o. liaising with emergency services and other specialist providers as circumstances dictate;

p. operationalising University guidance, and advising, on communicable diseases;

q. managing the support and wellbeing of students and staff, individually and as groups, in incidents such as disasters, death and other crises.

9. In all contacts with students Colleges will treat information with corporate confidentiality in accordance with the Data Protection Act and will share it within the University as necessary and on a need to know basis.