Skip to main content

A student sitting under a tree

Read our latest news bulletin

See in Microsoft Sway

Please note that this Bulletin covers the months of October, November and December.
  1. Covid-19
  2. Upcoming Deadlines
  3. Important Staffing Update
  4. New Programme Registrations, Campus Cards and Library Access
  5. Winter Congregation
  6. Common Awards Celebration Event
  7. Board of Examiners
  8. Conversion of Marks
  9. Invoices and Census
  10. Classification of Undergraduate Certificates and Diplomas
  11. Webinars
  12. Staff Development: Core Skill
  13. Annual Self Evaluation – update
  14. Concessions Guidance - clarification


1. Covid-19

The Common Awards Team continue to work from home. TEIs are reminded to implement the Academic Safety Net policy at their upcoming Boards of Examiners, where required. Detailed guidance on the policy can be found here. Please contact the Team if you have any questions.       

2. Upcoming Deadlines

TEIs are reminded that marks (and additional information required to implement the Academic Safety Net policy) considered by the TEI Board of Examiners must be submitted within 48 hours of the meeting taking place. Further information is available in the section titled 'Overarching Board of Examiners'.  

  • 28th October - Common Awards Management Board
  • 29th October - Deadline: TEIs to submit Board of Examiners Membership Lists
  • Late October - TEIs asked to circulate invitation letters to students eligible to attend the Durham University Congregation ceremony in January 2022
  • 1st November - Deadline: TEIs to submit Module Registration Data for quality assurance checks
  • 1st November - Deadline: TEIs to submit Module Registration Data for quality assurance checks
  • 26th November - Deadline: TEIs to submit Annual Self-Evaluation (ASE) Documentation
  • 1st December - Deadline: TEIs to submit changes of registration (to be captured in the Census)
  • 1st December - Census Date
  • 3rd December - Introductory Day to Core Skills
  • 6th  December - DU Overarching Board of Examiners (Winter)
  • Early December - TEIs asked to circulate information on the Common Awards Management Board (CAMB) Student Representative nomination/election process
  • 6th January - Winter Congregation for 2022 graduates and rearranged Congregation for 2021 graduates

3. Important Staffing Update

Over the next few months the Common Awards Team will be operating at a significantly reduced capacity.

  • Dr Frances Clemson will be on Maternity Leave from 8th November. Arrangements for Dr Clemson’s cover are currently being made by the Department of Theology and Religion.
  • Alyson Bird (Senior Quality Manager) will be on Maternity Leave from 10th November. Rhianne Jones (Assistant Quality Manager) will be providing cover as the Senior Quality Manager for Alyson. We expect to able to advertise a fixed-term cover for Rhianne’s post (Assistant Quality Manager) next week.
  • Adam Walker will be leaving the Common Awards Team on 27th October to take up a new post outside of the University. Adam was appointed as a Common Awards Administrator but has recently been providing maternity cover for Emma Harrington (Assistant Quality Manger). The University is currently advertising for a new permanent Common Awards Administrator and a 6 month fixed-term (maternity cover) Assistant Quality Manager post until Emma returns in April 2022.
  • The University is also advertising for additional short-term administrative staffing support until appointments are made to the vacant posts.
  • As a result of these staffing changes, the Common Awards administrative team is temporarily reduced from 5 staff members to 2 (Rhianne Jones and Deborah Thompson) and the Common Awards academic team is reduced from 3 staff members to 2 (Prof Mike Higton and Dr Eve Parker).

In light of this reduced capacity, we will be prioritising the following processes in the run up the winter break:

  • Winter Board of Examiners;
  • APL and Module Registration quality assurance checks;
  • Concessions requests (and changes of registrations);
  • Census processes; and
  • Registration for graduation.

ASE/ULO discussions will be scheduled in the New Year. TEIs with Frances as their ULO have been contacted about alternative ULO arrangements.

In light of this, we politely request that you use the Common Awards website as much as possible to find an answer to any queries that you may have. The Team regularly receive ~50 emails a day, and while we always endeavour to provide a timely response, this will be more challenging with reduced staffing capacity. We therefore ask that you carefully consider any urgent requests and flag this as such when you contact us so that we are able to prioritise effectively.

Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding.


4. New Programme Registrations, Campus Cards and Library Access

TEIs have now received Banner IDs for new students registered in October 2022. TEIs will shortly receive registration letters for these students. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the SCONUL Scheme (which allows students to visit participating Higher Education libraries across the country) is still suspended. The Durham University Bill Bryson Library is, however, open for all Common Awards students.  

Unfortunately, it is also not possible to create Common Awards Campus Cards this year. Students are, however, still able to request Totum cards via their TEI. If you are contacted by a student requesting a Totum card, please contact the Team where we will be able to generate a link for the student to then request this directly with Totum. Common Awards students will still be able to access the Bill Bryson Library without a campus card.  

This information will be communicated to students in their registration letters. 

5. Winter Congregation

The 2022 Congregation Ceremony and deferred 2021 Congregation Ceremony for Common Awards students are scheduled for 6th January 2022. This date has been confirmed and we expect the ceremonies to go ahead as scheduled. However, please be aware that the University continues to closely monitor the Covid-19 pandemic and that the situation may change at short notice. We will ensure to contact TEIs if the situation does change.  

TEIs will be shortly contacted with a list of students eligible to attend the ceremony (those who have successfully completed the BA, MA, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate). We would ask that you please confirm the accuracy of this list and then circulate invitations to the Graduation Ceremony to your eligible students. TEIs will be provided with template letters to be able to populate student information and circulate to their students. This will include students who we expect to be awarded one of these programmes at the Winter Overarching Board of Examiners. We need to contact students in advance of them receiving confirmation of their award so that they have time to register their attendance. TEIs will also be sent ‘attendance information’ to share with students.   

There are two graduation ceremonies for Common Awards students (as detailed below). Please ensure that you contact students with the correct information pertaining to the ceremony they will be attending. TEIs will need to send the registration information to students who are eligible for Winter 2022 graduation (current students), and also to those who have already graduated and would have been eligible in Winter 2021.  

Students will be asked, via the invitation letter you will circulate, to complete a registration form with the University to confirm their attendance at the ceremony. Students will also be asked to confirm their non-attendance so that their award can be conferred in absentia. Students will also have the option to defer their ceremony attendance. Due to social distancing measures, all students attending ceremonies at the University will be allocated a maximum of 2 guest tickets.  

Students will also be invited to a Common Awards Celebration Event to take place at St John’s College, Durham. See below for more information.  

For your information, any students who have already registered to attend a Graduation Ceremony with the University (e.g. January 2020) but deferred this to a later ceremony (for instance, with the intention of attending a ceremony in July 2020) will be contacted separately by the Ceremonies Team at the University to be invited to the ceremony in January 2022. You will not be required to contact students who have deferred their attendance.  


Students eligible for the 2022 graduation will be invited to attend the graduation ceremony at 10am on 6th January 2022, at Durham Cathedral.   

Students eligible for the deferred 2021 graduation will be invited to attend a graduation ceremony at 12pm on 6th January 2022, at Durham Cathedral.  

Registration for Common Awards students will open on 1st November and close on 10th December.  

TEI Staff  

Members of staff in TEIs are also welcome to attend the Common Awards graduation ceremonies. The registration link will be circulated shortly.  

Academic Procession  

Members of staff in TEIs who hold an undergraduate degree are eligible to participate in the academic procession for the Common Awards students. If you are interested in this, please let the Common Awards Team know as soon as possible.  

6. Common Awards Celebration Event

St John’s College, which incorporates Cranmer Hall, has very kindly offered to host a Celebration Event following the graduation ceremonies at Durham Cathedral. St John’s College, Durham University, is a 5-minute walk from the Cathedral where the ceremonies will be held.  

The event will allow students to meet with representatives from the Common Awards Team and the National Ministry Team, whilst also celebrating the graduating students from all TEIs. 

There will be drinks and canapés for students and staff. Students and staff can register their attendance via the registration process.  

7. Board of Examiners

Parchments and transcripts for students not eligible for Congregation (Graduation) following the 2nd September Overarching Board of Examiners have been produced and will be circulated to TEIs in the next few weeks. We will contact you to let you know when these have been circulated. Please contact the Team urgently if you need to advise us of an alternative address to send these to. Those eligible for Congregation (Graduation) will receive their award documentation ~8 weeks after the ceremony.   

The next Overarching Board of Examiners is due to be held on 6th December 2021. Please note that this is a change from the original date communicated.  

Please note that the Team will be working to extremely tight timescales for this Board. Eight TEIs are holding their Board in the week beginning 1st November, and we are expecting a much larger number of students at this Board than usual owing to Covid-related extensions. We will also have reduced staffing capacity during this time. This means the team will have only ~3 weeks to process these Exam Boards.  We therefore wish to remind TEIs that it is absolutely paramount that TEIs submit completing student modules marks 48 hours after they have been considered at their TEI Board of Examiners. Please do send these earlier if you are to do so.   

TEIs are asked to ensure that all appropriate checks on the data are undertaken before sharing the data with the Common Awards Team to reduce the number of queries. It is also important that a staff member with full knowledge of the students’ records is available at the TEI in the weeks following the board, to resolve any queries.  

TEI’s are reminded that Boards of Examiners must ensure that the following is submitted to Durham in line with the deadlines in published guidance and the Common Awards Calendar:     

  • confirmed module marks for completing students registered on Common Awards programmes (see our guidance on submitting module marks) within 48 hours;      
  • Moodle marksheets for students recommended to the Overarching Board of Examiners within 48 hours;   
  • any ‘Group Mitigation Flags’ in line with the Academic Safety Net Policy 2020/21 within 48 hours;    
  • minutes of TEI Boards of Examiners within 2 weeks of the date of the meeting;      
  • outcomes of the scrutiny of SACs applications (see our guidance on SACs on the website for more information);      
  • approved APL credits (if not already submitted);      
  • assessment irregularity reports (if not already submitted).    

Further information on the documents TEIs must submit following their Board of Examiners is available here.    

8. Conversion of Marks

Ahead of the Board of Examiners, we would like to remind TEIs of the principles surrounding the conversion of marks.   

Some assignments, like language tests, might produce quantitative scores. Those scores are not the marks for that assignment. In principle, they will always need to go through some process of conversion – where conversion involves making qualitative judgments about what is meant by different levels of achievement in a quantitatively scored test, and then translating those qualitative judgments into numerical marks in the normal way.    

Further information on Converting Test Scores into Marks is available on our website.   

9. Invoices and Census

As per the academic calendar, the Common Awards Census will be taken on December 1st.  

TEIs are asked to confirm all registration details by December 1st (i.e. please ensure any programme registration changes are submitted by this date).   

At this point, the Common Awards Team takes a snapshot of TEIs’ student records data in Banner; this is used to calculate TEI validation fees. TEIs are reminded that they will be charged for any students who withdraw after the census date.  

As per the Standard Validation Contract, the TEIs were previously informed of the intention to increase the validation and per capita student fees in line with inflation. Details will be circulated to TEIs shortly.  

10. Classification of Undergraduate Certificates and Diplomas  

Following extensive discussions at the TEI Forum regarding whether or not a proposal should be put forward to the University to seek approval for Undergraduate Certificate and Diploma awards to be classified, it has been agreed that a final consultation will take place with TEIs in the New Year. The Common Awards Team will provide anonymous details of the views already presented in discussions for review by TEIs. We then ask that all TEIs indicate their preference on whether or not you would like these awards to be classified. The outcome of the consultation will be discussed at the TEI Forum in April 2022 at which point we hope to arrive at a consensus.  The consultation will be launched in January and TEIs will be contacted with details on how to engage in due course.  

11. Webinars

The September webinar in the Common Awards Webinar series took place on 24th September on the theme: 'Being Black, Queer and Christian’. What are the experiences of black, gay, men in the Church of England today? How can we speak of God’s grace in the midst of LGBTQ+ oppression and marginalisation? What does Queer theology have to say about the Incarnation of Christ? What is the role of the Church today in the lives of black and queer bodies? These are just some of the questions that are explored in this webinar, where the journalist, Rosie Dawson, was joined by the Revd Jarel Robinson-Brown to discuss his latest book, Black, Gay, British, Christian, Queer: Church and the Famine of Grace. 

The October webinar in the Common Awards webinar series took place on 13th October on the theme: ‘Creation and Climate Justice’. Dr Aruna Gnanadason provides an eco-feminist theological perspective that looks to the context of India and engages with narratives of those directly impacted by climate change. Dr Jione Havea contemplates the ways in which the Bible has influenced our relationship with creation, taking into consideration the impact of climate injustice in the Pacific, and the theologies of the Pasifika. The webinar is hosted by Prof Robert Song, Professor of Theological Ethics in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University, who has written extensively on Christian ethics and doctrine. 

You can find the recordings of these webinars, and all previous Common Awards webinars, here.  

The current webinar series has a focus on Diversity and Inclusion. They are aimed at Common Awards students and staff but open to others with an interest in the subject areas addressed. Each webinar features leading scholars and/or faith practitioners who offer diverse insights into a range of topics that directly relate to the core modules taken by Common Awards students. We would like to invite TEIs and students to share any suggestions they may have for future webinars. Please contact Dr Eve Parker directly.  


Students and staff working in a Church of England context might also be interested in an upcoming webinar series 'Power in the Church of England', organised by Prof Higton and Dr Clemson. The first webinar in the series is Thursday 11th November, 2.00–3.00 pm, with Liz Graveling, Frankie Ward, Julius Anozie and Mark Tanner speaking on '"Power Over" or "Power With" in the Church of England'. Free tickets are available at 

12. Staff Development: Core Skills

This programme provides participants with the opportunity to work through interactive online content in their own time, to discuss their learning with colleagues across the UK and with facilitators from Durham University’s Centre for Academic Development.  

Successful completion of the Account of Professional Practice confers Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (now known as AdvanceHE) and the post-nominal letters AFHEA.   

More information about the programme is available on our website.   

Registration for the programme is now open.   

Registration to attend the introductory session on 3rd December closes on Friday 26 November at 12 noon. Final registration for the programme closes on 14th January 2022. 

13. Annual Self Evaluation - update

Section B (Durham) form of the Annual Self Evaluation process has been updated. This has been updated to reflect discussions the Common Awards Team would like to have with TEIs in the ASE/ULO meetings regarding responses to the From Lament to Action report. Additional questions to the ‘EDI Section’ of the report have been added to facilitate these discussions. The form has also been updated to specifically request permission from TEIs to share any good practice identified in ASE submissions and for this to be published on the Common Awards website.  

There are no changes to the Section A (Ministry Team) form.  

The deadline for submitting ASE forms to the National Ministry Team is 26th November.  

14. Concessions Guidance - clarification

TEIs were contacted on 1st October with the new procedures for Concessions. Following feedback from TEIs, we are happy to provide clarification on the following:  

Extensions across academic years  

The guidance for seeking approval for an extension across academic years has not changed. However, we recognise that the existing guidance is ambiguous. The principle that TEIs should seek a concession in any circumstances where an extension means that the completion of a module or assessment spans two academic years remains. However, we intended to also emphasise that it is especially important if this impacts a student’s end date, as it would result in a Change of Registration. In doing so, we unintentionally gave the impression that this was the only circumstance that we require a concession request to be submitted. To confirm, any module or assessment extension that spans two academic years will require a concession request to be submitted to the University.  

Definition of ‘Academic Year’  

While the term ‘academic year’ might typically be understood as a programme commencing in September and concluding in August, we are aware that TEIs offer programmes with different start dates (e.g. January). The Common Awards Team infers the start of a student’s programme from their registration date, which is detailed on the concessions request form. There may be circumstances (e.g. when submitting a Frequency of Study concessions request) where it is helpful to clarify when your academic year starts and ends. Please feel free to add this detail to the concessions request.  

Please contact the Team if you have any further questions. 

15.  Common Awards Management Board

TEIs are advised that the next scheduled meeting of the CAMB is Thursday 28th October. This meeting of the Board will be a shorter, informal meeting as a result of the temporary staffing changes noted above. Only crucial formal business that cannot be postponed will be conducted, and this will take place over Microsoft Teams rather than via a meeting. As such, TEIs should not expect to receive formal minutes or reports to TEIs following the meeting. The normal pattern of Management Board activity will resume next term. 

16. Further Information

The full 2021/2022 academic calendar is available here.   

With thanks,   

Mike, Frances, Eve, Alyson, Emma, Rhianne, Deborah and Adam