BREAKING: humanities and law students to be taught online in first two weeks of Epiphany

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Durham University has today announced that it intends to deliver teaching online for all humanities, law, sociology and politics undergraduates during the first two weeks of Epiphany Term. These students will be encouraged not to return to Durham until 25th January if possible.

In plans seen by Palatinate and released in a university-wide email today, it is confirmed that the University will break students into two groups, A and B. Group A will feature students in the Faculty of Science and Departments of Sports Science, Anthropology and Archaeology, Education, and Music, as well as postgraduate taught students in the Business School. Group B will comprise undergraduates studying humanities, law, sociology (excluding placements), and those in the School of Government and International Affairs.

Students in Group A will receive ‘blended learning’, a mixture of online and in-person classes similar to that during Michaelmas Term, from Monday 11th January when Epiphany Term begins. Group B will be taught online for the first two weeks of term until Friday 22nd January, and then return to the blended model on Monday 25th. 

MBA programmes will continue ‘as stated in timetables’, and students who have arranged to study online throughout Epiphany will still be able to do so, regardless of their subject. Combined honours students will be taught each module based on whether it is in a Group A or B subject.

Those in Group B living in college accommodation will not have to pay residence charges for Week 1 and 2 of Epiphany Term, if their room is unoccupied.

Students in Group B are “not expected to return to Durham until face-to-face teaching commences” in week three.

Students self-isolating at the start of next term will be given the option of entirely online learning for the period of isolation. Physical library and central student services will resume on 4th January. 

Professor Corbridge’s email also announced a more intense Lateral Flow Test (LFT) programme next term. Students will be asked to take a test on their first, fourth and seventh days back in Durham; those who choose not to must self-isolate for those seven days instead. 

Those returning to Durham from a Tier 3 area are further advised to “use a community testing programme before travelling”, and those coming from outside the UK or travel corridor must “follow normal quarantine processes” dictated by the government.

The plan comes in accordance with a government announcement last week, which declared that university students would return to campus in a staggered fashion in January. ‘Hands-on’ courses like science or performing arts are permitted to return from 4th to 8th January 2021, while students on other courses would be allowed back between 25th January and 7th February. This means that Durham’s plan would let students back as early as possible, based on their course.

Universities Minister Michelle Donolan said of the policy that “The health and wellbeing of students, staff and local communities is always our primary concern and this plan will enable a safer return for all students.

“But we must do this in a way which minimises the risk of transmission. I know students have had to make sacrifices this year and have faced a number of challenges, but this staggered return will help to protect students, staff and communities.”

In the email announcing the plans, Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge said: “As a University we are a committed to doing all we can to provide you with a safe, enjoyable and effective student experience in circumstances that none of us would choose – and which we must hope will soon draw to a close as mass vaccination campaigns begin here in the United Kingdom and around the world. 

Until that time, please do continue to follow government guidance, over the winter break and upon your return to Durham in January.”

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