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Durham University

Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing

News Archive

University Council, Congratulations, Project Sri Lanka, Congregation, Financial Forecasts and Postgraduate Recruitment, Green Travel, Foundation Programme, Durham Residents Meeting, Long Service Awards, Durham City Arts, Blair Foundation, Sporting Success

(8 December 2008)

University Council

The University Council met on Tuesday Nov 25th. A summary of key issues discussed will follow as VC bulletin #38A


Mathew Guest (Theology and Religions) on award of £334k from the Religion and Society initiative of AHRC.

Lutz Sauerteig (School of Medicine and Health) who has been elected Chair of the Society for the Social History of Medicine.

Anthropology MSc students who gave the first of several 'Anthropology in Development' Days at Macmillan Academy in Stockton last week. This is as a result of Emma Gilberthorpe's Higher Education Academy award for "Enhancing the Student Learning Experience Awards: developing postgraduate opportunities in development". See

Stefan Przyborski and the Durham University spinout company Reinnervate, on award of Business Start-up of the Year at the CELS Business for Life Awards. Stefan was also awarded a competitive Royal Society/BBSRC Fellowship to focus on Enterprise and commercialisation of his research in stem cells and associated technology. Nick Holliman (Computer Science) who will be the first in Europe to install the new RealD single projector stereo polarisation switch technology, a unique technology that allows a single projector to show stereoscopic images, and is the commercial version of the technology now used in 3D cinema.

Project Sri Lanka

Student engagement in Project Sri Lanka has increased significantly since the first cohort of 15 undergraduates traveled to the island in 2006. In 2009 there will be 5 student groups in various locations in Sri Lanka, engaging in a range of academic and community development activities. These include the fourth cohort of 15 undergraduates from across the University to build a new school, a group of 8 undergraduates studying sport, 8 students on the Master of Social Work Programme, 8 MBA students and a group of 8 other post-graduates from various Departments.

Online Registration for Congregation

A new on-line process to enable staff and students to register online for congregation and the conferment of awards has been established. Attendance at the winter ceremonies is already expected to be higher than last year. Staff are strongly encouraged to take part on the academic procession and support their graduating students. Further information and booking is available at:

Financial Forecasts and Postgraduate Recruitment

Despite increasing challenges to the University's finances, at Q1 the University appears on target to meet its planned surplus. Postgraduate recruitment was overall on target, although some Departments over performed (in particular Law and Business) while others underperformed. We have therefore been able to release some contingencies to provide enhanced postgraduate support for those Departments/Faculties which have met or exceeded their financial and recruitment targets - £50K to Arts and Humanities; £100K to Social Sciences and Health (primarily Law), and £240K to Durham Business School.

PhD Scholarships. In addition to the Durham Doctoral Fellowships, £175K has been released to the Faculty PVCs for scholarships to aid the recruitment of PhD students for next year. VAT changes. The recent reduction in the standard rate of VAT posed a challenge for our Finance staff who managed to get the necessary changes tested and implemented ready for business on 1st December, ensuring that the University remains VAT compliant. We are currently looking at expenditure which might be able to be brought forward to take advantage of the VAT 'holiday'.

Breakfast meetings

I was one of five VC's (which included Cambridge, King's and Edinburgh) to have breakfast with the Prime Minister and John Denham to discuss the role of Universities in helping the country through economic downturn. The good news is that Universities are recognized as a critical sector which in general are performing well, and are therefore not top of a list for Government cuts.

I was also invited to the Spanish embassy to meet the VC of the IE business school in Madrid (one of the world top 20) which is looking to expand its offerings in other disciplines in a 'new' campus in a medieval monastery. They see Durham as an obvious model and partner and we will be pursuing potential collaborations.

Green Travel

As part of enhancing green travel I opened new cycle shelters at Queen’s, built in partnership with Stockton Council. The staff travel survey is now complete and ESAG is developing a green travel plan (including ways of mitigating current parking problems) for consultation next term and with the aim of implementation for next academic year.

e-Christmas card

To try and encourage fewer paper cards this Christmas ESAG has created an e-Christmas card for use by all staff and students which can be found at: – showing the beautiful city we live and work in and the University’s commitment to sustainability.

Foundation programme awards

I was proud to award prizes to students on the Foundation Course at Queen’s Campus. This programme is now known throughout the sector and is aiming to expand into Durham, with over 70% of its students from atypical backgrounds progressing to a Durham degree in any of 27 programmes and achieving, on average, the same final outcome as students who enter the courses through standard routes.


Convocation was held in London this year preceding the annual DUSADA (alumnus) dinner. The RAC club provided a fine venue (facilitated by one of our alumni) and Bill Bryson presided over 100 alumni attended with Lord Henley (also an alumnus) as the after dinner speaker. At Convocation I summarized recent successes of the University, but also some of the challenges ahead. At the dinner a cheque for £10K was presented to the University by DUSADA towards IAS activities.

Durham Residents Meetings

I participated in two events with local residents to ensure closer working partnerships between University, Students, City and Council as the new County Council takes on its responsibilities. I and the Treasurer now have regular meetings with the Chief Executive of the new Council, George Garlick (a former University Council member). One meeting was to consult on the Gateway building, together with the architects. The other was the forum for ‘Balanced and Sustainable Communities’ convened by our MP Roberta Blackman-Woods.

Senior Students

I hosted a lunch last Sunday for the College JCR and MCR committee members, as an informal means of thanking them for their work for the university and ascertaining student views on issues. We are very fortunate in the mature and hard-working students who give up much time to these leadership roles.

Long Service Awards

In one of my favourite events of the year, held in the Castle Senate suite, I presented awards to thank around a dozen staff who have served the University for 25 years. Two thoughts struck me. First, the staff came from all parts of the University including College secretaries, research administrators, Principals and Professors. Second, I had already come across the majority of individuals to be recognised, showing that these are staff who have not only been loyal to the University but are still contributing very significantly to the institution.

Durham City Arts

Seth Kunin invited the Durham City Arts Board and associates to the Calman learning Centre. DCA is Council organization which organises many cultural events, and it is the University’s strategy to build a strong partnership so we can all work together in developing cultural projects such as public art in Durham.

Blair Foundation

Representatives of the Tony Blair foundation visited the IAS and Theology last week to begin discussions which could lead to the possibility of Durham University being the first UK University to partner with the Foundation and Yale University on an international and interdisciplinary Masters course Faith and Globalisation.

Senate Awareness

To enable all staff to be aware of issues under discussion, the Senate agenda and other documents will be put on the web the day following the circulation of each agenda

Sporting Success

In the GB national fencing competition the three Durham student participants only lost to other Durham students. Louise Creechan (Van Mildert) lost in the last 16 to Angela Bilardi (Hild Bede) who was then beaten in the semi-final by Kira Roberts (University College) but won bronze medal. Kira then defeated the GB number one who had just returned from the Olympics and took the gold medal. Kira is holder of one of the new VC’s Scholarships for Sport, Music and the Performing Arts.

Team Durham won two British University titles - gold in the British Universities Fives Doubles Championships - our second pair won bronze. Kira Roberts (University College) won the British University Fencing Sabre Championship.

Sandra Hyslop (Collingwood) won individual two GB silvers for canoeing in the KI women's Classic and the women's sprint. Sandra is also a VC Sport scholar and junior world champion

Three Durham rowers, Jo Fitzsimons (Collingwood), Sophie Vellacott (Cuths), and Kieran Emery (Modern apprentice) have been selected for the Youth Olympics in Australia.

Durham students make up half of the British University Rugby Fives team this year - Hal Mohammad (Post Grad), Alex Griffiths (Josephine Butler) and Inigo Ackland (St Cuths). One player from each of Oxford, Imperial and Edinburgh make up the team.

Energy Initiative

Please continue to save energy and the environment. The hotline (tel: x46000) can be used for any energy saving ideas you may have, or contact your Departmental/College Energy Champion or the University Environment Coordinator

What's On

The University web site now details many forthcoming cultural and other attractions in the University and City. Please see for details of forthcoming events or to submit an event for the listing.