Field trips that were meant to take place during the Easter holiday have been cancelled by the Geography Department, due to UCU strike action between the 21st and 25th March.
Second and third-year students are affected by the cancellations, which include social research field trips to Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester. Staff at Durham previously went on strike for three days in December 2021 and ten days in Epiphany term 2022 in protest at proposed pensions cuts and long-standing Higher Education workplace issues including pay inequalities and unmanageable workloads.
Second-year Social Research students received an email from the acting Head of the Geography department, Professor Alex Densmore, explaining that, “we cannot ensure that we will have adequate staffing to safeguard your health and well-being and to safely undertake the planned activities.”
The decision was taken following urgent discussions with the teaching staff, the Head of the Geography Department, the Director of Education, the Department Health & Safety Coordinator, the Learning and Teaching Manager, the Executive Dean of the Social Sciences and Health Faculty, and the Vice-Provost for Education.
Second-year students have expressed that the cancellations mean that they will have no field trip experience before starting their dissertations.
One second-year student told Palatinate, “It’s so upsetting and frustrating to have the field trip cancelled so last minute. We were all really looking forward to our first Durham field trip since last year’s was also cancelled.”
Another frustrated student explained that they had “even started to arrange interviews” for the project they were due to carry out during the trip.
Durham University responded to the latest round of UCU strikes saying “Our key objective is, as far as possible, to ensure our students are able to achieve their learning outcomes and maintain their access to learning.”
Densmore assured students that “the teaching team will ensure that assessment is adjusted accordingly” in line with the University’s strike mitigation policy. Students will not be examined on material affected by the strike and assessment marking rubrics will be modified.
In addition to this, students will have the opportunity to fill out a Serious Adverse Circumstances form if they feel that the individual impact of the cancellations has affected them in ways not covered by the mitigation policy.
Measures will also be put in place to limit the financial impact of the decision. Densmore said, “If the cancellation of your trip results in unavoidable additional costs to you, then the Department will reimburse reasonable claims on the presentation of evidence, such as receipts for revised travel plans.”
Densmore concluded the message to students, “I hope that you will all appreciate that this is an exceptional situation, and that we have to prioritise student and staff safety and well-being above all else.”
Image: Thomas Tomlinson