Durham students have been hit with news of widespread cancellations to lectures, seminars and field trips next week, as a precaution against the spread of the Covid-19 virus (coronavirus).
However, the majority of contact hours will be made available digitally.
The University has also informed students in Italy that it will arrange to organise their return to their place of permanent residence, and postponed all study and work placements outside the UK, particularly affecting those about to embark on the second part of their year abroad.
At the time of writing, there are 460 cases of Coronavirus nationally, with seven in the North-East.
The first confirmed case in County Durham was diagnosed on Tuesday afternoon in Darlington, a town of around 100,000 people roughly 20 miles south of Durham.
The government is expected to announce today that it was moving into the ‘delay’ phase of its Coronavirus response procedure. The spread of Covid-19 was also declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Students were informed of the decision to cease all classroom teaching via an executive communication on Thursday 12th March. The library will remain open.
The University told students: “If you wish to leave Durham following your last class this week, you can do so.”
“Please be assured that those of you looking forward to graduating this summer will be able to complete your degrees.”
Individuals departments are expected to contact students shortly to provide more information on teaching and learning methods.
Previously, the University has stated: “We are in regular contact with colleagues at Public Health England and other UK universities and we will contact our students and colleagues by email and update the guidance on this webpage as the situation develops.”
In addition to these decisions, the University has cancelled all trips outside of the UK, and advised that all large-scale conferences and events be cancelled, particularly where there could be a high number of international participants.
This news will add another week of cancelled contact hours to the end of 14 days of industrial action by over 200 members of the UCU, as part of a national dispute surrounding pensions, BME and gender equality, and ‘casualisation’.
Image: Les Hull via Wikimedia Commons