Editorial #869: In spite of January blues


Happy New Year and welcome back to Durham. Four weeks at home procrastinating early term deadlines have flown by, although maybe not for your parents who may have seemed particularly eager to drop you off at the station. 

Durham is very much the same gray, sodden, cold city it was when you left (although big Tesco’s pesto supply has dwindled significantly upon our return), and so if you are followed here by essays you didn’t write over Christmas, you are plunged into what is a certain case of January blues. 

However, despite the miserable semantics, students return to Durham to positive news in a few areas that may be attempted antidotal responses to the January blues, and make the return to University that bit easier to deal with. So if you have chosen to read this issue of Palatinate in some form of productive procrastination, then you might feel a little more positive about the term ahead afterwards.

For non-finalists, the much needed extension to the Durham Grant criteria should hopefully provide some settled nerves for next year’s finances, with anyone who doesn’t currently receive the minimum student loan eligible for financial aid from the University next year. 

Last term we reported on yet another consistent rise in private housing costs across the city, with more than half of private accommodation setting back students more than £180 per week and with an inflationary rise in college accommodation, the fees Durham students face just to be here will only repel lower income students from a University in a proudly working-class area with a rich industrial heritage.

Despite the miserable semantics, students return to Durham to positive news

So the inflationary rise to the grant is welcomed and the extension to the number of recipients is generous but both are necessary as it eases the pressure on students from middle to low income households to pick up a strenuous number of hours in part time work. I know first hand – as someone who has worked since week one of my first year – how working alongside my studies has been detrimental at times to my degree or left me sacrificing aspects of the social life that makes Durham so popular. Many students at this University don’t have to experience this and more financial aid should ease that pressure on more.

We also have a long-awaited new addition to North Road. Durham Bus Station, after initially supposed to be complete by Summer 2023, has finally opened up its doors to the public. The majority of undergraduates won’t know this, but North Road hasn’t always been a long stretch of inconveniently placed bus stop queues that you have to weave through if you are in a rush and now it doesn’t have to be. The opening of the ‘modern transport hub’ is a hugely positive news story as we go into the new year.

If you’ve not made it to the back page yet, you may not have seen the huge news to come from Durham Women FC over the Christmas period. This Sunday, they welcome Manchester City in the FA Cup to Maiden Castle in front of BBC cameras. 

Despite a significant ticket price hike, the match sold out in 24 hours as Maiden Castle prepares itself for its biggest attendance ever in what is probably the club’s highest profile game yet.

Year upon year, the excitement around women’s football grows in England and this football club – very much still in its infancy – consistently embodies that spirit. In the hotbed of footballing talent that the North East is, Durham as a club, city and region can proudly place itself in the heart of it. 

And finally a positive for the third and fourth years who have yet to see a smooth start to Epiphany term.

Last January, Palatinate reported that students would see disruption in the form of 14 days of strikes across Epiphany term, 28% of teaching days that term.

Many of those same students who were to face disrupted teaching, were also unable to attend lessons in the first week of term after rail strikes prevented them from returning to Durham. This time last year, over half of the students polled by Palatinate, said that their journey back to Durham had been affected by the action.

And the year before that, additional Covid-19 measures imposed by the University, meant that the first week of term would see most classes moved to an online capacity.

November’s announcement that the UCU did not reach the required voter turnout to impose a new mandate means that this Epiphany term, students can return to Durham safe in the knowledge that their education will not be caught in the middle of industrial dispute. Maybe finally, for some students’ last Epiphany Term, a somewhat seamless one will ensue. 

Illustration: Connie Harston

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