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Durham University is one of England’s oldest universities. Its origins span back over a thousand years and coincide with the onset of medieval learning, culture and scholarship.
The University as we know it today was established by an Act of Parliament in 1832. It has over 15,000 students and nearly 4,000 staff, spread across three faculties: Arts and Humanities, Science, and Social Science and Health. It is ranked 83rd in the 2011 Times Higher Education World University league tables and is in the top ten universities in the UK.
Split across its two campuses in Durham and Stockton, Durham University has sixteen colleges. Students join one of the sixteen colleges and remain affiliated to their college throughout their time at Durham University. Colleges form the centre of social life and students live in college accommodation during their first year.
Durham University has an impressive past alumni list. Newsreader George Alagiah; BBC sports presenters Chris Hollins and Gabby Logan; Sunday Times Editor Sir Harold Evans; and former BBC One Controller Lorriane Heggessey are past students. Rugby players Will Carling and Will Greenwood, and England cricket captains Andrew Strauss and Nasser Hussain attended the University; as did the co-founder of Aardman Animations David Sproxton and Mo Mowlam, former Northern Ireland Secretary.
Durham University operates out of two campuses: a campus in Durham and Queen’s Campus in Stockton. The main campus is located a stone’s throw away from Durham’s city centre.
‘City’ might be a slightly misleading term to describe Durham; it has a small population, around 43,000 non-student residents, and is hardly a sprawling metropolis. As such, the University pretty much dominates city life.
“Quintessentially English” is the phrase that sums up Durham with its ancient Cathedral, Norman Castle and cobbled streets. It’s a historic city, the entire city centre is designated a conservation area, and Durham University is a large part of that history. In fact, Durham Castle is actually home to one of the colleges, University College, and over 100 University College students have accommodation in the castle.
What the city might lack, the main campus makes up for in facilities. 14 of the 16 colleges are located here and there are plenty of study, housing, leisure and recreation facilities. Durham University Library holds over 1.5 million books and journals, whilst each college and department maintains its own libraries.
The arts are popular with Durham students; the Durham Students Theatre (DST) is prolific in its output, with the University’s Assembly Rooms Theatre being the main venue. Campus food and drink venues include the Kingsgate Bar (a ‘Best Bar None’ winner); several University YUM cafes and each college has its own watering hole.
The Queen’s Campus, located 21 miles away from Durham in Stockton, also provides comprehensive facilities and resources for academic and extracurricular activities. The campus is ten minutes away by foot from the town centre and a short bus ride to Middlesbrough. John Snow and Stephenson colleges are located on the campus.
Stockton-on-Tees is a market town and not quite as pretty as Durham. Nevertheless, Stockton has seen several new developments over the last decade. There are some new modern shopping centres and new architecture, such as the Infinity Bridge. Its white water course on the River Tees is getting a £4.6m makeover and, after its renovation, the Globe Theatre in the centre of town is expected to be the largest indoor auditorium between Leeds and Newcastle.
Durham University’s accommodation facilities are provided at college level. Each college has several types of study bedrooms and these are either catered, part-catered or self-catered. St Cuthbert’s is the only college offering all three catering options, whilst the fully-catered colleges are Collingwood, Grey, Hatfield, St Chad’s, St Hild & St Bede, St John’s, St Mary’s, St Aidan’s, Trevelyan, University and Van Mildert.
Part-catering is offered in Stephenson and John Snow (both in Stockton) and Josephine Butler is a self-catered college.
Fully-catered colleges serve three meals a day, seven days a week during term; while part-catered colleges serve two evening meals per week during term.
Undergraduate students live in college accommodation in their first year; the majority move out to private accommodation in their second year, with the option to return to college accommodation in their final year.
Accommodation costs and tenancy periods for full-catering residences are around £154 a week, inclusive of all term-time meals. A self-catered standard room will set you back around £4,050 for a year, whilst ensuite self-catered accommodation costs around £4,500 a year.
EU and UK students enrolling for full-time undergraduate degrees in 2012-13 will be charged maximum tuition fees of £9,000 per year. This might seem like a lot, but remember the government will provide you with a loan to cover the cost of tuition and you’ll only start to repay the loan once you’ve left university and are earning over £21,000 a year.
College-based living is quite reasonable in both the campuses. However, private accommodation in the centre of Durham and the surrounding areas can be quite expensive. Durham is a small city, so demand for housing can be quite high. Otherwise, food, drink and entertainment are affordable on and off campus, provided you don’t over-indulge in your first year.
As part of the National Scholarship Programme, Durham University will be bolstering their Durham Grant Scheme in 2012/13. Students with family incomes below £25,000 will receive £3,000 per year, awarded either as a waiver of college living costs or in cash; while students with family incomes of £25,000 to £42,600 will receive £1,000 per year, again as money off college living expenses or in cash.
There are several university-wide and departmental scholarships and awards available for current Durham students, including the Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarships for Academic Achievements.
Plenty of entertainment, drinking and socialising mark Durham’s nightlife scene, on and off campus. Drink prices are quite affordable and there’s not much of a difference between town and campus rates.
The Durham Students’ Union’s main bar is Kingsgate, offering good value for money and several popular themed events, such as Uncle Keith's Retro Quiz, Planet of Sound and Super Wednesday. Conveniently, all colleges have their own bars, where you can let your hair down in the company of friends and like-minded fellow collegians.
Queen’s Campus also has its own popular haunts: the Waterside Bar and the Waterside Restaurant. Stephenson College and John Snow College have their own bars.
Durham isn’t exactly a nightlife mecca, but it does have a select few nightclubs, including Loveshack and, Durham institute and ultimate cheese fest, Klute (once given the dubious accolade of worst club in the UK). For a more varied night out, most Durham students head out to Newcastle.
Durham University has a respectable record of sporting achievements. It has rowing facilities that rival that of Oxford and Cambridge and there are plenty of sports teams across all levels to get involved with. Sixteen colleges with nearly 6,000 students actively engaged individual and team games make for very intense intercollegiate competitions.
Both campuses have first-class sports facilities and equipment. Durham Campus has the Graham Sports Centre and The Racecourse, whilst the Queen’s Campus has its own sports centre too.
Student participation in arts, cultural and other extracurricular activities is an established tradition at Durham University: the Durham Students’ Union (DSU), Durham Union Society (debating), and Durham University Athletics Union (DUAU) are heavily involved in facilitating clubs and societies for a variety of student interests.
Student media outlets include Palatinate and Palatinate TV, a fortnightly newspaper and online news channel; Purple Radio, an internet radio channel; and two magazine/news websites with varied content: Durham21 and The Bubble.
Durham University’s Freshers’ Week is a jam-packed schedule of formal and informal events, organised at university, college and academic department levels. The DSU hosts the Freshers’ Fair which is a great chance to find out about the various clubs and societies on offer.
The Careers Advisory Service provides a comprehensive range of services for current students and recent graduates. The full team consists of 24 staff working in seven sub-functions: Career Advice, Information, Employer Services, Student Employment Service, Employability and Skills Development, Operations and Queen’s Campus. The team is contactable by telephone, email and appointment.