Durham announces ‘blended’ learning in January following government plan for staggered arrivals

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A blended model of online and face-to-face teaching will accompany mass testing in Durham next term, the University announced this morning. Following government guidance on a staggered return of students after the Christmas break, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Claire O’Malley told students in an email that mass testing will be available for all students and staff from Monday 4th January, with Epiphany term starting on Monday 11th.

The news comes after the government announced new plans to combat the spread of Covid-19 amongst students returning to university after Christmas. The advice notes that students will be expected to be able to return for the second term, but to avoid everyone travelling back at the same time, the start of teaching will be staggered over five weeks.

This is intended to minimise the impact on university courses which rely more on in-person teaching and access to facilities. In line with this policy, from 4th January, students who study science subjects, medical or health subjects or performing arts will be advised to return. 

According to the government announcement, all other students will then be asked to return between 25th January and 7th February. Within this time, priority will be given to second and third years, international students and taught postgraduate students. The government advises students to return only when their face-to-face teaching begins.

Durham is “working to finalise plans for the beginning of Term 2” and promised to “provide a detailed update early next week”. Self-isolating students will still be able to opt for wholly online learning until the end of their isolation period next term. 

Durham University is currently leading efforts to allow students to return home safely between 3rd and 9th December for the Christmas holidays, using the Lateral Flow Test (LFT) to control the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, Durham Students’ Union has announced plans to allow societies to restart face-to-face activities next term, to be introduced gradually. 

Cases have dropped dramatically at Durham since the start of term, with 1st December marking the first day of no new reported cases in this academic year.

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