An update from Kate McIntosh, Sam Johnson-Audini and David Evans
As you may be aware, the University Executive has recently released a document detailing their vision of a future Durham education. We understand that this is a difficult proposal being made at a challenging time, the likes of which many of us have not experienced before. The University is asking for the appropriate bodies to consider this proposal over the coming weeks, and it’s important to note that no decision has been made yet. The University Executive is of course able to make proposals like this, and sometimes radical proposals do need to be made to get institutions through exceptional times.
However, there is a key thing missing from that document. And that thing is students. Consultation with the Students’ Union has not occurred – and we had not seen these proposals before they were made public. This is a discussion about your education, your future, taking place without your views being included in the conversation. You have worked hard to be here, and yet you are not getting a say in what could be one of the most important decisions about your education at Durham. The University says it has consulted with trade unions and staff, which is necessary when the changes they are proposing will affect the day-to-day working life of their staff, and so that the rights of those staff members can be safeguarded, but the student voice has been excluded.
From your induction week to the day you graduate, we exist to talk to the University about what matters to you in your education. We’re the only student rights organisation at Durham who does this. That is why Durham SU created the student consultation framework, which was adopted by the University in 2018. This states that changes to your life at Durham, whether they are changes that will affect your welfare, changes to colleges, changes to extracurricular activities, or changes to your studies need to be communicated to and consulted on by the appropriate student representatives.
The University Executive has not respected students’ right, and their own policy, to discuss this proposal with you, our members. This is the biggest educational change at Durham in a generation and student rights have been forgotten. Again.
We need more information, frankly, about what this proposal includes, what it doesn’t, and what the next steps are. We can’t make an informed policy decision from media articles (however excellent Palatinate is). Whilst we understand these proposals are not suggesting every course at Durham moves online and our collegiate culture be abandoned, they do have worrying implications for the educational experience at Durham. We’ve urgently requested clarification and a meeting with the Deputy-Vice-Chancellor and Provost where we’ll make our concerns known. We’d then hope, early next week, to share our initial thoughts on the proposal and ask you to give us your thoughts on the implications for you and your education.