By Clara Gaspar
A forum discussing Durham University’s expansion plans resulted in heated dialogue from members of Durham’s local community on Thursday.
250 residents, business leaders, staff and students and others attended ‘University and City: Growing together’, a community engagement event held in Durham City.
The community event was chaired in order to listen to residents’ views on Durham’s estate masterplan, which aims for an increase in student numbers of around 5,600 by 2027, including students moving to Durham City from Stockton.
The evening saw speeches from Durham’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart Corbridge, Ian Thompson, Corporate Director of Regeneration and Local Services at Durham County Council and Assistant Chief Constable Dave Orford of Durham Constabulary.
This was followed by round-table discussions which then fed back to University staff.
Vice-Chancellor Corbridge highlighted the need for transparency about the University’s expansion plans with members of the local community. He told attendees, “We are a highly ambitious university in a highly ambitious city.”
However, many residents expressed their frustration with the plans.
‘It is safe to say that we are angry’ said one resident, “We are angry about expansion. We are angry about this word ambition and the greed.”
He told the Vice-Chancellor, “You have outsourced accommodation to the city and the city has died because of people buying the houses and turning them into HMOs (Housing in Multiple Occupation). There’s a shortage of young people. We don’t see children in the city. Durham city is a classic failure of town planning.”
One resident expressed fears that the “City is bending to the University agenda”.
Another attendee told the University panel: “If you want to make Durham City into Durham Campus then we’ll bugger off.”
Corbridge highlighted the masterplan’s aim to make Durham University a pioneer in computer sciences and mathematics, striving for developments in visualisation and big data.
The plan also aims to introduce 300 new academics to the University.
However, one resident questioned this need for growth: “Does the University have to be bigger to be better?”
After a heated feedback session, Professor Corbridge told attendees that the University would take their concerns into serious consideration:
“We need a bit of time to digest everything that’s come out today. We want a bit of time to think about what we have been able to discuss as a community at this event.”
Photograph: Durham University via Twitter