Online education proposals not endorsed by Senate

By and

Proposals to develop online education at Durham were not voted on by Senate yesterday after University bosses withdrew a number of resolutions. 

Senate, the University’s supreme governing body, met yesterday afternoon (22nd April) to discuss the ‘Unbound Education: Creating a Sustainable Future for Durham University’ document. They were due to vote on a resolution that would “develop, over time, a suite of high quality non-residential offers to complement [Durham’s] existing high quality residential educational programme”.

However, Palatinate understands that all of the resolutions were withdrawn after large portions of the Senate expressed their opposition to the proposals. 

The proposals will now be discussed by Council, before being taken back to Senate in amended form.

Following the Senate meeting, Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge said to Palatinate: “Today (Wednesday 22 April), the University’s Senate has considered a paper titled ‘Unbound Education: Creating a Sustainable Future for Durham University’.

“We welcome the feedback we have received on these proposals, both from Senate today and others in the past week. We will continue to listen to our staff and students and look forward next to hearing from the University Council.

“We welcome the feedback we have received on these proposals”

Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge

“The University continues to plan for a full residential teaching offer in October while also ensuring that teaching can go online if there is a lockdown later in the year. We look forward to working together as a community to secure the continuing success of the University as a whole.”

Prior to the Senate meeting, a letter signed by nearly 500 academics raised concerns about the proposals for online education. The letter said: “‘Unbound Education’ continues to conflate necessary measures that are currently being taken in order to prepare for online instruction in Academic Year 2020–2021 with plans for the development of new non-residential programmes.” 

Students also expressed their dissatisfaction via a petition that obtained more than 1000 signatures, while Students’ Union President said in a statement on Friday that “the University Executive has not respected students’ right, and their own policy”. 

Speaking to Palatinate in an interview on Monday, Professor Corbridge endeavoured to reassure students, staff and alumni that the University is “not walking away from the residential experience at Durham.”

He added: “The huge investments we’ve made, the Teaching and Learning Centre, Maiden Castle, we’ve got two colleges about to open including a new one, a Maths and Computer Science centre – you don’t make those investments if you’re going to walk away from your core offer.”

The University also scrapped plans for a 25% reduction in modules for 2020/21. Speaking to the BBC after the Senate meeting, Professor Corbridge said: “On the worst-case assumption that nobody is here [in the autumn], our original idea was to say it might be a bit ambitious to get all 100% of our modules ready by October. So we did initially say perhaps you would care to think about not putting on 25%. That was done to try and acknowledge the fact it is a difficult time for people and workload pressures. 

“I am happy to say that I think we misjudged our academics. It is very clear that most academics do not want to let go of their courses.”


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