With university students across the nation once again settled into their term-time routines, the precautions put in place to protect these precious charges are now being tested. One of the most successful and highly acclaimed responses to COVID-19, is that of Durham University.
When asked about their 1000+ cases, Durham expressed its pride; “at long last we’ve beaten Oxford and Cambridge at something, and we are truly delighted to have finally surpassed the big 1k”. But how did they accomplish such a feat, you might wonder? Well, apparently there’s nothing that can’t be achieved with hard work, fool-proof planning and impeccable execution; “with the right mindset, you really can do anything” says Durham, ad nauseam.
Despite previously insisting on the value of in-person teaching, Durham has now assured students that online-study is just as effective. “Clearly Open-University had it right all along, it just took us a few decades to catch on” says a Durham University spokesperson. And, when asked about paying £9250 for what is essentially a glorified facetime, the students really didn’t seem too bothered. “I had been considering doing an Open University degree for some time, so you can imagine my delight when I found out that I could do one at Durham for three times the price… it’s an absolute bargain” claims one student. Many others even suggested that they’d happily pay more for the outstanding service they’re receiving. “The university really are just doing brilliantly” says one, “we’ve had clear communication about everything COVID-related, and everybody knows what’s going on”. Finalists completing their dissertations have seconded this, praising the university’s organisation, clear guidance and support while starting their dissertations.
Year abroad students have also expressed particular gratitude to the university after it jeopardised their year abroad plans. “Being left without funding, insurance, or any real answers was exciting – and really is what a year abroad is all about” enthused one student, another explaining how “fortunately, as we’re all students, money is not a problem for us so it wasn’t at all a stressful time”. A large proportion of students were offered a virtual year abroad in lieu of actually going abroad, to be completed from the comfort of their own homes. “We truly didn’t see the point in sending our students abroad, it’s just so much hassle” explained Durham, “so, after little deliberation, we thought: why not cut out the middleman? And thus, the virtual year abroad was born. We’re committed to delivering an effective year abroad and are confident that an online one will be just that.” However, at the end of September, the university reversed its initial stance on the year abroad travel policy, meaning that students could now go abroad with adequate insurance, funding and support. Many students have expressed disappointment at this, explaining how a “straight-forward year abroad just isn’t the same”, and that they’ll “truly miss that special oomph Durham gave it”.
The university’s similarly infallible handling of COVID-19 cases has left many students self-isolating within their spacious student houses. We asked if they minded this much, but apparently not. “We’ve been craving a bit of alone-time anyway; this is precisely the reason why we came to uni” says one student, another adding “perhaps I would have felt differently if we’d only just come out of the first lockdown, but fortunately I’ve had my fill of freedom for this year”. Freshers too have been quite contented with the start of the best years of their lives, unphased by steep college rent prices, and are already becoming loyal subjects to a university that treats its students so well.
So, what have we learned from Durham’s response? Good communication, decisions in the interests of students and fantastic learning alternatives will always be met with unwavering support. And for those criticising the uni’s response? Durham reminds us that “haters gonna hate” but that ultimately, the university cannot be held accountable. Durham have assiduously followed the advice from scientific advisors and epidemiologists, and besides, who could have known a second wave was about to hit? It’s not as if COVID is highly contagious. Therefore, the decision to encourage students to return to college residencies and poorly ventilated lecture theatres was clearly an informed one. The cynical suggestion that the several million pounds of tuition fees had a bearing on this decision is a churlish insult levelled at an institution that has always endeavoured to provide only the best for its students.
*all quotes have been fictionalised for satiric purposes.
Featured image: Shaun Dunmall on Flickr.