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Durham University

Department of Mathematical Sciences

Teaching & Learning Policies

Registration procedures

  • First year students will receive instructions on online enrolment and module selection before the start of Michaelmas term. The Teaching Administrators will approve module choices during Fresher’s week.
  • Registration for continuing students takes place near the end of Easter term, once results have been published and induction sessions for progressing students have taken place. Student Registry will email students with instructions on how to select their chosen modules online and we recommend that students see their academic advisors for guidance. The Teaching Administrators will approve module choices once term has ended.
  • Some modules from other departments may be deemed unsuitable by the Board of Studies for students on degree programmes offered by the department and registrations for such modules will not be approved.
  • Changes of modules are allowed in the first three weeks of Michaelmas term; later changes will be allowed only in exceptional cases. Students wishing to make a change should complete a change of module request form available from the Maths Office.

Teaching methods

The main teaching method for most of the modules offered by the department is lectures. In some modules, this is supported by tutorials, problems classes, or computer classes. Lecturers also set formative and summative homework problems. Students are introduced to most of the basic concepts and techniques in mathematics in lectures; their knowledge and understanding are reinforced in tutorials, homework problems and/or problems classes through attempting problems embodying the concepts.

Trying problems independently is an important part of learning mathematics; simply attending lectures and looking at worked solutions will not enable you to achieve the learning outcomes. Students are also expected to spend time in independent study, reading over lectures notes, consulting textbooks and working through exercises in addition to those set by the lecturer.

The project modules in the final year involve independent study supported by small-group supervisions with a member of staff. Students produce a poster, an oral presentation, and individual project reports. Project work applies the concepts mathematically or computationally and develops a deep understanding of a narrower topic.

Material taught in lectures is supported through the use of recommended texts and electronic resources provided both through DUO and on the department's web pages. DUO is a virtual learning environment which is a collection of on-line resources including links to web pages, lecture notes and exercise sheets/solutions, communication tools like email and assessment features such as formative quizzes. All on-line course materials offered by your lecturers can be accessed through DUO. Lecturers may also make use of the Announcements area in DUO to pass on important information to you so it is useful to check it regularly.

Programme and module evaluation

The programmes and modules offered by the department are regularly reviewed to ensure that they provide an appropriate learning experience and are supported by resources enabling students to meet their objectives. Student feedback is an important part of this review process.

Students can make suggestions for improvements to modules or programmes at any time via the student representatives. If there are problems with a module, they should first be discussed with the lecturer concerned. Student feedback and issues concerning the future development of the department's teaching are discussed at the meetings of the Staff-Student Consultative Committees. The student representatives will seek input from students on issues to be discussed at these meetings.

Student input is also obtained via termly questionnaires in all modules offered by the department. These questionnaires are considered by the lecturers concerned, the head of department, and the Monitoring Committee, which reports to the Board of Studies.

Monitoring of student progress and attendance

The University requires you to fulfil your academic obligations. This includes being in residence in Durham or Stockton during term time, and completing registration procedures. More importantly, you must also attend classes and submit work required on the dates and times when it is due. It is your responsibility to make sure that you know which classes are compulsory and when and where work has to be handed in.

Students are required:

  • to attend tutorials/ problems classes/ computer practical classes
  • to sit collections exams
  • to submit summative or formative assessed work on time to a satisfactory standard.
  • for Project modules, to attend meetings arranged with the supervisor, submit your poster and draft and final written reports on time, and give a presentation as scheduled.

You are expected and encouraged to attend lectures.

Assessed work which is graded D or E is counted as being of an unsatisfactory standard. Attendance and submission of work is monitored through a database. It is your responsibility to ensure that your attendance is recorded by signing the relevant attendance sheets. Students who are not keeping up with their commitments will be contacted by their Course Director to help get them back on track.

Persistent default will result in a formal written warning from the appropriate course director. If you continue to fail to meet your obligations, you will be asked to meet with the course director to discuss your situation.

Academic progress notices

If you still need further help to get back on track with your work, the formal Academic Progress Procedure will be invoked.

You will be referred to the Head of the relevant Faculty or his/her Deputy who will issue an Academic Progress Notice (APN) letter, setting targets for you to ensure that you attend classes, catch up on any work you have missed and do your next assignments on time.

If it becomes clear that you have particular problems the Head of the relevant Faculty or his/her Deputy will recommend sources of help, but if you fail to fulfil your academic commitments without good reason, and you don't get back into good study habits by meeting the targets set for you, you may be required to leave the University.


Students may seek concessions for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common types of concessions are:

  • Registration: Changes to modules after the first three weeks of Michaelmas term, and changes of degree programme, require a concession. Although it is possible to change degree programmes, you should bear in mind that there is no automatic right to do so, and we need to take into account factors such as academic merit and availability of places on particular programmes. If you do wish to change degree programme, you must be able to satisfy any prerequisites for the subject concerned. If you feel that you are on the wrong degree programme, it is best to seek advice at the earliest opportunity.
  • Sporting commitments: Students selected to represent the University, or take part in major regional, national or international events, may request a concession to postpone the keeping of academic engagements or the presentation of written work. Note that students can only be excused from academic commitments on account of sporting commitments if they have sought and obtained a concession.
  • Student progress: Students having difficulty with their academic programme or with personal situations affecting their studies can seek concessions to obtain grace periods, to temporarily suspend their studies, etc.
  • Examinations and Assessment: Students may seek concessions to obtain additional time or to sit examinations in a special room for medical reasons.

The first point of contact for all concessions requests is the department office, who can direct students to appropriate members of staff. The course directors can provide advice on the academic implications of concessions. It is important for students to keep both the department and their college informed of concession requests, particularly when pastoral or medical circumstances are involved.

The university's official policy on concessions is set out in section 2.4 of the Learning and Teaching handbook.There is a common form for concession requests and a separate form for sporting commitments. The procedure for examinations concessions is in section 6.2.8 of the Learning and Teaching handbook.

Recording of lectures

Students may request permission to record any teaching session delivered as part of their programme of study. Students should make requests in advance of the session, using the process set out in Volume 1 of the University’s Calendar. Students may only record teaching sessions where the teacher responsible for the session has given their consent (verbally or in writing, e.g. by email). Covert recording of lectures is not permitted and will be treated as a disciplinary offence.

If it is identified in the individual Recommendations for Reasonable Adjustment (RRA) report from DUSSD that it is a reasonable adjustment under the Disability Discrimination Act for a student to record teaching sessions, there will be no requirement for students to seek any additional permission as it is the University’s expectation that permission to make such a recording will not normally be refused, but lecturers should be informed in advance of the session, as a matter of courtesy and to prevent misunderstandings.

Where permission has been granted to one or more students to record a teaching session other than a lecture, the approval of the other students in the teaching session to this recording must be obtained. If recording such sessions has been included in an RRA and the approval of the other students is not given, the department/school will contact DUSSD to consider what alternative reasonable adjustments will need to be made.

Absence and illness

If you are ill for a few days but it is not serious enough to go to the doctor, the first thing to do is to tell your college and the department so your tutors are aware that you will be absent from classes. You are allowed to self-certify illness for up to 5 days using the appropriate form, but only twice in any one term. You should send the form back as quickly as possible after you recover.

Self certification form:

If you are more seriously ill or have a minor but recurrent problem, please go to the doctor. You should also inform your college and the department. If the doctor judges that your illness is serious enough to disrupt your studies they will be able to provide you with a medical certificate to explain your situation to the department. If your illness is very serious, you may need to seek a concession to suspend your studies, or to return and repeat a year.

If a member of your family is ill and you have to go home, it is important to inform your college if you need to take time out of residence, and to make the department aware of the issue. There is a procedure called a grace period which can be applied for which allows you to miss classes and submit work late for a limited period if appropriate.

Procedure for seeking a Grace Period:

If you have an illness which affected your performance in an assessed activity, please inform your course director, who will assess what actions the department can take to mitigate the effects on your performance. See the information on the Examinations and assessment page for more information.

A member of the Department is liaising with the Colleges regarding illness and absences related to illness. Feel free to contact her if you feel it might be beneficial for you to discuss matters within the department.

Liaison officer (Colleges - Dept of Mathematical Sciences):
Mrs F. Giblin (Maths Office,

If you miss tutorials or fail to hand in written work for reasons other than illness you should contact the Director of Support Teaching as soon as possible.

Withdrawing from your programme

We hope that you will enjoy your time in Mathematical Sciences, and that you complete your programme with success. However, if you intend to withdraw from your programme, please contact your advisor or course director as soon as possible.

If you withdraw from your programme, please note that under certain circumstances you will still need to pay part of your fees.

Appeals and complaints

While we try to ensure that our students all enjoy a happy and successful period of study in Mathematical Sciences, we do recognise that things can go wrong, and the University has clear procedures in place to try to resolve issues when necessary. There are two main processes for resolving issues: the academic appeals process, and the student complaints process. A summary of the initial stages of each process is available below. More detailed information on complaints and appeals, and links to all of the relevant forms and regulations, are available online:

What is an academic appeal? An academic appeal is a request for a formal review of an academic decision of the University. In practice most undergraduates appeal against a decision of a Board of Examiners or against an Academic Progress decision.

Is there an informal appeals process? Prior to initiating a formal appeal you might want to discuss your concerns informally with the Chair of the Board of Examiners (for assessment issues), or with the Chair of Education committee (for appeals against Academic Progress decisions).

How do I appeal formally? If you want to lodge a formal appeal you must act quickly. Your appeal must be received at the relevant office, currently within 21 days of the date of notification of the decision against which you are appealing. You must appeal using a Faculty Appeals Proforma and you should obtain a copy of General Regulation VII Academic Appeals, and the Code of Practice on Appeals and Complaints to help you complete the proforma.

What is a complaint? Basically a complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction that requires a response.

How do I make a complaint? The University’s complaints procedures are based on the belief that many problems are due to misunderstandings and that the majority of complaints can be resolved informally. So, if you have a problem, you should discuss the matter first with whoever is directly responsible for providing the service or support.

In Mathematical Sciences, that means you should discuss it with the relevant member of staff, or with your course director or the head of department.

If, on the other hand:

  • your complaint is about a college, you should discuss the problem with your tutor or a College Officer and if you remain dissatisfied, consult the Head of House;
  • your complaint is about an academic or support service, you should discuss the problem with the Head of the Service or his/her Deputy;
  • your complaint is about general publicity information provided by the University, you should discuss the problem with the Director of Communications;
  • your complaint concerns the relevant Head of House, Department or Service or the Director of Development and Communications, you should obtain a copy of the formal complaints procedure from the webpage listed above.

If you are unhappy about approaching the relevant person yourself, you can ask your advisor, supervisor or the DSU Advice Centre to approach that person on your behalf.

What should I do if I am still dissatisfied? If the person you approached did not sort out your problem you can pursue your complaint formally, using the formal complaints procedure available from the webpage listed above.