Durham University announces reopening plans for next academic year

The new guidelines include plans to lengthen teaching days and give 2 reusable masks to students and staff


Durham University has announced that they will be welcoming students back to the city in September, with new Covid-19 measures in place to maintain a safe environment while complying with the Government guidelines.

As detailed in an email circulated to students yesterday by the University Executive, the proposed reopening operational principles include plans to equip each member of the Durham University community with 2 reusable face-masks. This comes just after the Government’s decision to make face coverings mandatory in UK shops from 24th July. We’re all just wondering whether the face masks they’ll provide will be palatinate purple and logoed. Finally, some DU stash that you can wear to lectures without looking like an idiot. Bleed Palatinate? I think you mean Breathe Palatinate.

College residential and leisure facilities are to reopen in a phased manner and there will be procedures available for students to self-isolate if required. Food will be provided boxed to minimise risk of infection. In any case, these new measures are undoubtedly believed to threaten the opportunity for a “normal” Freshers’ experience.

Will Durham ever see gowned gatherings such as Matriculation again?

International travel back to the UK for international students has been classified as a self calculated-risk, with the university stating that “Disruption, cancellation, delays, rearrangement and/or curtailment due to Covid-19 will not be covered” by the new Covid-19 travel cover. This means that students ought to assess their local circumstances and travel plans before committing to return to Durham. As for those doing years abroad, whose plans are arguably the most up in the air as a result of Covid-19, they have been told to wait to receive further information from the International Office “in the coming days.”

 

Durham University’s pinned Tweet and similar Facebook post where information, guidance and links are frequently updated.

Staff have been given the go ahead to work remotely “for as long as it is practical and realistic to do so”, meaning that face-to-face activities will be limited. If face-to-face activities cannot happen, where they exceed the new “Covid-19 maximum occupancy and layout” of University and Faculty facilities, they will be held digitally. The few face-to-face activities in the new Covid-19 timetable are to be allocated in the now-exclusive facilities “on a priority basis”, with learning spaces assigned per “department priority rankings”, where learning groups have been ranked as high, medium or low priority.

Many students have been left angered by the limited module options available next academic year. It is unsurprising that with the new capacity of a fixed-seat lecture theatre considered to be approximately 15% of what it normally would be (under current guidelines to distance by 2m), many teaching activities have had to been wiped clean from the normal module slate.

Due to these limitations, the university have therefore decided to lengthen the teaching day on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, changing from 9-6 pm to 9-8 pm, in order to bridge the gap between online and face-to-face activities.

Thank GOD that they didn’t include Wednesdays and Fridays on that because those 7pm lectures would just be pres central – you’d have to go to lectures in Sports Social dress up.  We reckon pre-drinking in lectures will definitely become a thing now, as nothing gets in the way of a Wiff Waff Monday. This also raises questions regarding the compatibility of this new timetabling structure and College catering hours, with some students living in college expected to miss mealtimes due to the later end to the teaching day. The UE also clarified that staff will not be expected to work longer than their contracted 9-hour shifts, working from 9-6pm or 11-8pm.

Nothing can strip students of their party rights

Things won’t go back to the way we know them either. The University’s Management Guidance states that “No fundamental changes – for example from a Covid-19 timetable to a “normal” DU timetable – will happen within any single term” -Cheers to the old and gold university teaching days as we wish them goodbye. More details on the University’s Principal Guides talks about a new “Grab & Go” system: this sounds more like a sandwich vending machine than the provision for staff to collect belongings and teaching materials from their offices which it actually is.

Shared rooms will only be used in Colleges “where safe to do so”– does this mean that Colleges will have to withdraw offer-holders from their places if colleges cannot operate at full capacity? This is a particular worry for older Bailey colleges where shared rooms make up to 40% of accommodation.

Any details regarding new catering systems and Formal Dinners, a large part of many colleges’ student experiences, are yet to be released. St Chad’s College have recently circulated exclusive information about their coronavirus plan to organise “social bubbles” of up to 30 people next year, by combining 2 student households of up to 15 people with each other. It is not yet known whether St John’s College will make separate arrangements to other colleges: their similar independent status from the DSO (the University governance framework) allows them to act independently from University policy.

These new measures will create a drastically different induction week for incoming freshers than previous years.

Whilst Durham offer holders have already expressed concern about starting university amidst a pandemic, the UE promises appropriate safeguards to ensure the safety of staff and students, while continuing to undertake world-leading research and working to mitigate the constraints imposed by Covid-19.

Indeed, so far it seems, compared to many other university’s across the country, Durham University Executive have clearly devised a solid and in-depth plan to ensure the continuation of safe and quality academic learning for the next academic year.