Durham Students’ Union has criticised Durham University’s decision to offer prospective Durham students a one-off cash payment of £5,000 in return for deferring their degrees for a year, calling it “too little too late”.
Incoming 2021/22 first-year undergraduates in Classics, English Studies, History, Music, Biosciences, Psychology, Management and Geography, as well as Joint Honours degrees incorporating these subjects will have until midnight on Friday 3rd September to decide if they want to defer their degrees by a year.
In a statement, Undergraduate Academic Officer Charlie Procter and Postgraduate Academic Officer Declan Merrington said the University’s attempt to reduce the number of incoming freshers for the 2021-22 academic year is “short-sighted” and a “poor decision”.
They said: “We know that universities like Durham have over recruited because of government policy decisions that were outside their control. However, how they have responded is a matter of choice.
“Scrambling to offer a deferral grant of £5k weeks before students arrive on campus is a poor decision made by the University Executive. This is money that will come from current student fees to spend on mitigating the extent of overcrowding. It also puts extra stress on offer-holders who, expecting to start term in just a few weeks, suddenly have a big decision to make.”
The University has already seen unprecedented numbers of deferrals arriving this year, with the entry of 485 undergraduate students who deferred to 2021-22, compared to 280 undergraduates for 2020-21. Deferrals for 2020-21 were also a 60% increase from the year before.
Last year, potential students were offered deferral bursaries of up to £1,500, though these were in the form of discounts to college accommodation rather than cash payments.
Durham SU highlighted concerns with overcrowding at Durham University, calling for “an ongoing response to the capacity problems that address Durham’s appetite for growth”.
“We’re dismayed that there hasn’t been a similar recognition from the Executive about the urgent steps needed to mitigate the impact of overcrowding on current Durham students. Students deserve an outstanding education, and if that’s at risk then we need answers and a response from the University.”
SU sabbatical officers will meet with the Vice-Provost Education and other Executive members of the University “as soon as possible” to express students’ concerns with overcrowding.
A spokesperson for the University told Palatinate: “We are offering this scheme because of the unprecedented success of students in this year’s A-levels and other Level 3 qualifications, and to help ensure the best possible academic and wider student experience for all students through targeted action to manage the sizes of some of our new entry cohorts in Departments and in our Colleges.
“Whether students chose to begin their studies with us this year or next, they can look forward to a world-class academic and wider student experience.”
Image: Amana Moore