University has “nothing to add” on college centralisation plans after VC announces retirement

Colleges are a central part of student life at Durham University

Durham University has said that it has “nothing to add” to its statement made on plans to centralise college service provision since the Vice-Chancellor announced his retirement.

Professor Chris Higgins declared that he will relinquish all executive responsibilities from 30 September 2014, explaining that he always intended to retire at his sixtieth birthday.

He has been involved in a controversial plan to centralise the provision of services provided by colleges, which the JCR Presidents’ Committee described as “a significant threat to the collegiate system”.

The plans, outlined in a document called Briefing 6, will involve the transfer of responsibilities currently held by college staff into the control of new employees in senior management. After this, a review phase will take place, intended to “identify and implement new ways of working and improving flexibility, efficiency and effectiveness”.

The Bubble contacted the University to ask whether the retirement of Professor Higgins will affect the implementation of Briefing 6, but a spokesperson said that they had “nothing add to add” to their most recent statement, which is included below.

Statement by Professor Chris Higgins, Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham Colleges

“Durham’s Colleges are a critical and distinctive part of the distinctive and rounded education and welfare support Durham University provides its students.

“Our Colleges are flourishing as communities of students studying different disciplines, support staff, and academic staff and have probably never been stronger.

“There is categorically no review of our College system, and the University’s strategy is committed to the growth and enhancement of our Colleges. I myself benefitted from six years as a student of Grey College and understand personally why our Colleges and what they provide are so special to our students and alumni.

“There has been a three-month consultation with staff and students to ask how we can best enhance underpinning support to our students and staff, including services provided in our Colleges.

“Student representatives of the Colleges emphasised key outcomes that they wanted to see in the Colleges such as ‘protect the distinctiveness of the Colleges as individual scholarly communities’, ‘delivery of value for money services’, ‘maintaining the individual character of each College community’, ‘staff continuing to be assigned to individual Colleges as their main place of work’, and ‘freeing Heads of Colleges to concentrate on developing their own scholarly communities’.

“There is currently a consultation with a very small number of University staff in this area whose roles may be affected, including a handful of staff based in the Colleges. No decisions have yet been taken yet.

“Durham’s Colleges are going from strength to strength and will continue to do so in the unrivalled provision of welfare, facilities and other support they provide for students.”

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