Durham University

Durham University
University of Durham

Shield from the arms of Durham University
Latin: Universitas Dunelmensis
Motto Latin: Fundamenta eius super montibus sanctis
Motto in English "Her foundations are upon the holy hills" (from Psalm 87 [Vulgate, Psalm 86])
Established 1832
Type Public[dubious ]
Endowment £ 57.8M (Exclusive Of Colleges) (2010)[1]
Chancellor Bill Bryson
Vice-Chancellor Professor Chris Higgins
Students 15,529[2]
Undergraduates 11,278[2]
Postgraduates 4,521[2]
Location Durham and Stockton-on-Tees, England, UK
Colours      Palatinate Purple
Affiliations 1994 Group, ACU, Association of MBAs, EUA, EQUIS, AACSB, N8 Group, Universities UK, Matariki Network of Universities, Faith and Globalisation Network of Universities
Website www.dur.ac.uk
Durham University logo.png

The University of Durham, commonly known as Durham University,[3] is a university in Durham, England. It was founded by Act of Parliament in 1832 and granted a Royal Charter in 1837. It was one of the first universities to open in England for more than 600 years and has a claim towards being the third oldest university in England.[4][5]

Durham is a collegiate university, with its main functions divided between the academic departments of the University and 16 colleges. In general, the departments perform research and provide lectures to students, while the colleges are responsible for the domestic arrangements and welfare of undergraduate students, graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and some University staff.

The University is considered as very prestigious and is consistently one of the highest ranked universities in the UK.[6][7] The Sunday Times ranked Durham as the 3rd best university in the UK in 2011/2012.[8] The University was ranked 15th globally for employer reputation in the 2011 QS World University Rankings following an extensive survey of 17,000 organisations across the world.[9] "Long established as the leading alternative to Oxford and Cambridge", the University attracts "a largely middle and higher class student body" according to The Times Good University Guide.[10] Durham also has the second highest proportion of privately educated students in the country. The University was named Sunday Times University of the Year in 2005, having previously been shortlisted for the award in 2004.[11]

The Chancellor of the University is Bill Bryson, who will be succeeded by Sir Thomas Allen in January 2012.[12] The post-nominal letters of graduates have Dunelm (the Latin abbreviation for Durham) attached to indicate the University.



Historical full seal of the University


Durham Castle houses University College, making it the oldest inhabited university building in the world.[13][14]

The strong tradition of theological teaching in Durham gave rise to various attempts to form a university there, notably under King Henry VIII and Oliver Cromwell, who issued letters patent and nominated a proctor and fellows for the establishment of a college in 1657.[15] However, there was deep concern expressed by Oxford and Cambridge that the awarding of degree powers could hinder their position.[16] Indeed were it not for the "sheltered" position of Oxbridge, the university system in the UK would perhaps look very different today. Consequently, it was not until 1832 when Parliament, at the instigation of Archdeacon Charles Thorp and with the support of the Bishop of Durham, William van Mildert, passed "an Act to enable the Dean and Chapter of Durham to appropriate part of the property of their church to the establishment of a University in connection therewith" to fund a new university, that the University actually came into being. Accommodation was provided in the Archdeacon's Inn from 1833 to 1837 when an order of the Queen-in-Council was issued granting the use of Durham Castle (previously the Bishop's palace) as a college of the university.[16] The Act received Royal Assent and became law on 4 July 1832. The University's Royal Charter was granted on 1 June 1837 by William IV, with the first students graduating a week later.[16]

19th century

In 1846, Bishop Hatfield's Hall (later to become Hatfield College) was founded, providing for the opportunity for students to obtain affordable lodgings with fully catered communal eating. Those attending University College were expected to bring a servant with them to deal with cooking, cleaning and so on. Elsewhere, the University expanded from Durham into Newcastle in 1852 when the medical school there (established in 1834) became a college of the University.[16] This was joined in 1871 by the College of Physical Sciences (renamed the College of Science in 1884 and again renamed Armstrong College in 1904). St Cuthbert's Society was founded in 1888 to cater for non-resident students in Durham (although now mainly caters for resident students), while two teacher-training colleges – St Hild's for women, established in 1858, and The College of the Venerable Bede for men, established in 1839,[16] also existed in the city. These merged to form a mixed college (the College of St Hild and St Bede) in 1975. From 1896 these were associated with the University and graduates of St Hild's were the first female graduates from Durham in 1898.

In 1842, the Durham Union Society was set up as a forum for debates, the first of which took place in the reading rooms in Hatfield Hall. It also served as the students' union (hence the name) until Durham Colleges Students' Representative Council was founded in 1899, thus separating into two independent bodies, the DSU and DUS (it was later renamed Durham Students' Union in 1963).

For most of the 19th century, University of Durham degrees were subject to a religion test and could only be taken by members of the established church. This situation lasted until the Universities Tests Act 1871. However, "dissenters" were able to attend Durham and then receive degrees of the University of London, which were not subject to any religious test, on completing their course. Following the grant of a supplemental charter in 1895 allowing women to receive degrees of the University, the Women's Hostel (St Mary's College from 1919) was founded in 1899.

20th century

St Chad's College, one of the two independent colleges

The Newcastle division of the University, which comprised both Armstrong College (named after Lord Armstong) and Durham University College of Medicine, quickly grew to outnumber the Durham colleges, despite the addition of two Anglican foundations: St Chad's College (1904) and St John's College (1909). A parliamentary bill proposed in 1907 would have fixed the seat of the University in Durham for only ten years, allowing the Senate to choose to move to Newcastle after this. This was blocked by a local MP, with the support of graduates of the Durham colleges, until the bill was modified to establish a federal university with its seat fixed in Durham. This reform also removed the University from the authority of the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral, who had nominally been in charge of the University since its foundation. Thirty years after this, the Royal Commission of 1937 recommended changes in the constitution of the federal University, resulting in the merger of the two Newcastle colleges to form King's College. The Vice-Chancellorship alternated between the Warden of the Durham Colleges and the Rector of King's. (The legacy of this lives on, in that the titular head of the University is still called "The Vice-Chancellor and Warden.")

After World War II, the Durham division expanded rapidly. St Aidan's Society (St Aidan's College from 1965) was founded in 1947 to cater for non-resident women and the decision was made to expand onto Elvet Hill, vastly expanding the existing pure science provision in Durham, and adding applied science and engineering.

In 1947, the foundation stones for the new St Mary's College building on Elvet Hill were laid by the Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II). The new building opened in 1952, and is said to be the last government funded university building to have been built in stone.[citation needed] In the same year, tensions surfaced again over the Durham-Newcastle divide, with a proposal to change the name of the University to the 'University of Durham and Newcastle'. This motion was defeated in Convocation (the assembly of members of the University) by 135 votes to 129. Eleven years later, with the Universities of Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne Act 1963, King's College became the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, leaving Durham University based solely in its home city.

By this time, the Elvet Hill site was well established, with the first of the new colleges, Grey College (named after the second Earl Grey, who was the Prime Minister when the University was founded) being founded in 1959. Expansion up Elvet Hill continued, with Van Mildert College and the Durham Business School (1965), Trevelyan College (1966) and Collingwood College (1972) all being added to the University, along with a botanic garden (1970).

These were not the only developments in the University, however. The Graduate Society, catering for postgraduate students, was founded in 1965 (renamed Ustinov College in 2003) and the Roman Catholic seminary of Ushaw College, which had been in Durham since 1808, was licensed as a hall of residence in 1968. By 1990, the last male-only college became mixed, leaving St Mary's as the last single-sex college.

Queen's Campus, Stockton

Ebsworth Building, Queen's Campus

In 1992, a joint venture between the University and the University of Teesside saw the Joint University College on Teesside of the Universities of Durham and Teesside (JUCOT) established at Thornaby-on-Tees in the borough of Stockton-on-Tees and the ceremonial county of North Yorkshire, 30 miles (48 km) to the south of Durham. This was initially intended to grant joint degrees validated by both institutions (BAs and BScs). However, Teesside, which had only become a university in 1992, had difficulties in taking on its responsibilities for the college and Durham took full control of the new college in 1994.

A programme of integration with Durham began, however the college was renamed University College, Stockton (UCS) in 1992 – a college of the University of Durham. Further integration led to the campus being renamed the University of Durham, Stockton Campus (UDSC) in 1998, removing teaching responsibilities from the College. In 2001, two new colleges, John Snow and George Stephenson (after the physician and the engineer) were established at Stockton, replacing UCS, and the new medical school (which operates in association with the University of Newcastle upon Tyne) took in its first students – the first medics to join Durham since 1963. In 2002, her golden jubilee year, the Queen granted the title "Queen's Campus" to the Stockton site.

As of 2005 Queen's Campus, Stockton accounts for around 18% of the total university student population.[17] This is likely to increase in coming years thanks to future expansion plans. In 2007 the campus cafeteria, "The Waterside Room", was renovated and now serves as the campus student bar. In addition to this facility both colleges at the campus benefit from their own college bars, managed centrally however and not by their JCR.

Recent developments

School of Government and International Affairs

In 2005, the University unveiled a re-branded logotype and introduced the trading name of Durham University. However, the official name of the institution remains the University of Durham and the official coat of arms is unchanged.

In the last half of the 20th century, the number of students at the university has grown considerably, and continues to grow with the addition of Queen's Campus, Stockton. The more recent rises are in line with government policy of increasing access to higher education. In 1989 the University started its fund-raising and alumni office, with a virtual community for alumni[18] and several large gifts made to the University, including for the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies, the Department of Physics and the Wolfson Research Institute. In 2006 Josephine Butler College, opened at the Howlands Farm site on Elvet Hill. This was the first new college to open in Durham itself since the 1970s, at the creation of Collingwood. The University's Strategic Plan through to 2010 is at the University's web site.[19] In 2005, St Mary's College had its first mixed undergraduate intake. In October 2006, Josephine Butler College, a long-standing development, opened its doors to students as Durham's newest college; the only purpose-built self catering college for students within Durham.

In July 2009, the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced a strategic partnership with Durham University, following Yale University and National University of Singapore, to create a global network of twelve leading research universities for delivering his Faith and Globalization Initiative in association with Tony Blair Faith Foundation.[20]

In May 2010, Durham joined the Matariki Network of Universities (MNU) together with Dartmouth College (USA), Queen’s University (Canada), University of Otago (New Zealand), University of Tübingen (Germany), University of Western Australia (Australia) and Uppsala University (Sweden).[21]

In 2011, the University of Durham's ethical reputation was called into question by the revelation that a donation of £125,000 had been accepted from British American Tobacco despite the involvement of members of the university's department of anthropology, School of Applied Social Sciences and medical school in the tobacco control field. Criticised as being of dubious financial necessity and showing insensitivity to the surrounding population (Durham being in the North East, one of England's worst-afflicted regions as regards smoking-related ill health),[22] the controversy led to direct appeals to the then Chancellor Bill Bryson - to whose scheme for educating female Afghan students the donation had been made. The tobacco industry donation was not repaid.


Durham University owns a 227.8 hectare (ha) estate[23] which includes part of a UNESCO world heritage site,[24] one ancient monument,[23] five grade-one listed buildings[23] and 68 grade two-listed buildings[23] along with 44.9 ha of woodland.[23] The estate is divided across two separate locations: Durham City and Queen's Campus, Stockton. The two locations are connected via a free bus service that runs frequently throughout the week. One of the major public attractions in Durham City is the 7.3 ha Botanic Gardens, established in 1970, with over 78,000 visitors (2007/08).[25][26]

Durham City

Durham City is the main location of the university and contains 14 of the 16 colleges along with most of the academic departments. The Durham City estate is spread across several different sites. The Science site contains the vast majority of departments and large lecture theatres such as Appleby, Scarborough, James Duff, Heywood and more recently the Calman Learning Centre, along with the Main University library. Mountjoy contains the Psychology and Biological & Biomedical schools, along with various research centres. The Old and New Elvet areas contains a number of departments in Humanities and Social Sciences including Philosophy, and Sociology. It is also the current site of the University's administration in Old Shire Hall, which will be housed in the new £48m Student Services building on Stockton Road from 2012.

Queen's Campus

Queen's Campus was established in 1992 and is located in the town of Thornaby-on-Tees some 30 miles away from Durham City.[27] The Campus is home to around 2,000 full-time students, two residential colleges (John Snow and Stephenson Colleges) and the Wolfson Research Institute.[28] There are currently a limited number of subjects studied at Queen's Campus. Current subjects are: Medicine (shared with Newcastle University), Biomedical Sciences, degrees in Accounting, Business and Finance, Applied Psychology, Primary education and Human Sciences.[29] The University has recently purchased a 4-acre (16,000 m2) site on the North bank of Stockton and has plans to develop the academic structure at Queens and the possibility of a new college.[30] A bus line connects Queen's Campus to Durham City and a one-way journey usually takes 45 minutes.


The Main Library building on the Science Site
Palace Green Library
University Libraries

The Durham University Library system holds over 1.5 million printed items.[31] The library was founded in January 1833 at Palace Green by a 160-volume donation by the then Bishop of Durham, William Van Mildert.[31] The library operates four branches: Main library, Education Library, Queen's Campus Library and the Palace Green Library which holds the special and heritage collections. The Bishop Cosin's Library (contains over 5,000 medieval titles[32]) and the Sudan Archive ("the pre-eminent archive on the Sudan outside Khartoum"[32]) of the central library were granted Designation Status in 2005 by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.[32]

In addition to the central library system, each College maintains its own library and reading rooms such as the Bettenson, Brewis, Williams and Fenton Libraries of St Chad's College, which contain over 38,000 volumes.[33] Many departments also maintain a library in addition to the subject collections in the central and college libraries.


Built in the 1960s the University's Oriental Museum grew predominantly from the acquisitions of the University's former School of Oriental Studies[34] Initially housed across the University and used as a teaching collection, the size of the collection lead to the building of the current museum to house the material.[34] The collection to date contains over 30,000 objects from Asian art to antiquities, covering the Orient and Levant to the Far East and the Indian Sub-continent, with over a 1/3 of the collection relating to China.[34][35] The national importance of the Chinese and Egyptian collections can been seen in the Designated Status from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council achieved in 2008.[35][36][37]

The Old Fulling Mill is the University's Museum of Archaeology. The museum was opened in 1833 being the second University museum in England to allow admittance to the general public.[38] The museum focuses on the heritage of the North East of England with collections spanning the prehistoric, to Ancient Greek and Roman to the Anglo Saxon periods, although the key collection is that of the Medieval & Post Medieval period.[39]


Academic year

The academic year is divided into 3 terms: Michaelmas term lasts ten weeks from October to December; Epiphany term lasts nine weeks from January to March and Easter term lasts nine weeks from April to June. Within Michaelmas term, the academic week begins on a Thursday with lectures starting on the first Thursday of October and ending on a Wednesday. All other terms begin their academic week on a Monday. Internally the weeks are classed as "Durham Weeks" with the first week of Michaelmas starting at week 1.

Students at the University are also expected to "Keep Term",[40] whereby students must fulfil their academic requirements at the University. As such Heads of Departments must be satisfied that each student has attended all necessary tutorials, seminars and practical work throughout the term and vacation period.


Durham operates a collegiate structure similar to that of the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, in that all the colleges at Durham are "listed bodies"[41] under the Education Reform Act, 1988, "recognised by the UK authorities as being able to offer courses leading to a degree of a recognised body" (the "recognised body" being, in this case, the federal University). Though most of the Durham colleges are governed and owned directly by the University itself, the status of the Durham colleges is similar to those and the constituent institutions of the University of Wales, setting Durham colleges apart from those at the universities of Kent, Lancaster, and York. However, unlike at Oxford, Cambridge, Wales, and London, there is no formal teaching at most Durham colleges (although St John's, St Chad's and Ushaw College have their own academic and research staff and offer college-based programmes in conjunction with the University). The colleges dominate the residential, social, sporting, and pastoral functions within the university, and there is heavy student involvement in their operation.

Formal dinners (known as "formals") are held at nearly every college; gowns, the exact design of which varies depending on the college, are worn to these events at most colleges (the notable exceptions in Durham City are Van Mildert and Collingwood). There is a great deal of intercollegiate rivalry, particularly in rowing and other sporting activities. There is also rivalry between the older colleges of the Bailey and the newer colleges of the Hill.



Archdeacon Charles Thorp, founder and first Warden of Durham
Bill Bryson, the current Chancellor of the University

The University holds the powers to award degrees under the Royal Charter of 1837, extended to include the power to award degrees to women under the Supplementary Charter of 1895. However, the rules governing how the University is constituted are to be found in the Statutes put in place by the Universities of Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne Act, 1963, and subsequently amended by the Privy Council. The Statutes provide that: "The University shall be governed by a Visitor, Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Convocation, Council, Senate, and Boards of Studies."

The Visitor for the University of Durham is the Bishop of Durham. The Visitor is the final arbiter of any dispute within the University, except in those areas where legislation has removed this to the law courts or other ombudsmen, or in matters internal to the two non-maintained colleges (St Chad's College and St John's College), each of which has its own Visitor. Student complaints and appeals were heard by the Visitor until the Higher Education Act 2004 came into force.[42] All student complaints are now heard by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.

The Chancellor of the University is Bill Bryson, who will be succeeded by Sir Thomas Allen in January 2012. The current Vice-Chancellor is Chris Higgins. The office of Chancellor, which is held for five years and renewable, is mainly ceremonial, while the Vice-Chancellor is de facto the principal academic and administrative officer.

Convocation is the assembly of members of the University. It consists of the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, and Pro-Vice-Chancellors, all graduates, the teaching staff (lecturers, senior lecturers, readers, and professors), and the heads of colleges and licensed halls of residence. It must meet once each year in order to hear the Vice-Chancellor's Address and to debate any business relating to the University. Further meetings can be called if representation is made by a minimum of 50 members. Its powers are limited to appointing the Chancellor (and even then, only on the nomination of Council and Senate) and the making of representations to the University on any business debated.

Council is the executive body of the University. In addition to representatives from the University it includes 12 lay members (not being teachers or salaried staff in the University or any of its colleges), the Dean of Durham and the President of Durham Students' Union. Its powers include establishing and maintaining colleges, and recognising non-maintained colleges and licensed halls of residence. Senate is the supreme governing body of the University in academic matters. It nominates the Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellors to Council, and recommends the establishment of Faculties and Boards of Studies. It is Senate that grants degrees, and has the authority to revoke them. It also regulates the use of academic dress of the University.

Schools and faculties

The teaching departments of the University are divided into three faculties: Science, Arts and Humanities, and Social Sciences and Health. Each faculty is headed by a Pro-Vice-Chancellor and one or more Deputies. These, along with the heads of the departments in the faculty and the Vice-Chancellor, make up the Faculty Board for that faculty. Each department also has a Board of Studies consisting of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of their faculty, the teaching staff of the department, and student representatives. See also Natural Sciences, one of the largest degree programmes.

Faculty of Social Science & Health

  • Department of Anthropology
  • School of Applied Social Sciences
  • Department of Archaeology
  • Durham Business School
    (Including the Economic, Finance and Business Departments)
  • School of Education
  • Department of Geography
  • School of Government and International Affairs
    (Including the Politics department and the Institute for Middle East and Islamic Studies)
  • School of Medicine and Health
  • Durham Law School

Faculty of Arts and Humanities

  • Department of Classics & Ancient History
  • Department of English
  • Department of History
  • School of Modern Languages and Cultures
    (Includes Arabic, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish Departments)
  • Department of Music
  • Department of Philosophy
  • Department of Theology and Religion
  • English Language Centre

Faculty of Science

Academic Profile


The average UCAS point score for each student was 490.8 points (2009/10)[43][44][45] which places Durham University 5th in the country in terms of entrants' points.[citation needed] Durham's student body consists of 11,409 undergraduates and 4,098 graduate and students (2007/08).[46] Durham's demographic consists of 85.7% arriving from a middle and higher classes background which is the 5th highest result in the UK.[47] 47.27% of the undergraduate student body for 2007/2008 arrived from either a grammar school or independent school[48] 12.24% of full time students are of ethnic minorities[49] and 51.32% are female.[50] For the undergraduate class of 2008, the colleges with the most students from independent schools (in descending order) were Hatfield, Hilde Bede and Chad's College.[51] For the undergraduate class of 2007, Durham received 29,712 applications,[52] of which 36.8% were from Independent schools[53] and 9.2% from ethnic minorities,[54] overall 32% of applicants were successful in receiving an offer of admissions.[52] Durham requires students applying for degrees in Law to sit the LNAT admission test[55] and the UKCAT for the MBBS in Medicine.[56] Durham also runs the Durham Gifted and Talented Summer School at Van Mildert College in the University[57] and takes part in the Duke University TIP Summer Studies Programme as part of its widening access policy.[58]

Since 1992 the university has also run a widening access programme, originally called the Centre for Lifelong Learning. The centre is now called the Foundation Centre homepage which delivers courses at both Durham City and Queens campus, Stockton on Tees. The centre provides access to Durham degrees for mature students who show academic promise but do not hold the traditional entry requirements and international students who require an extra year of study to bring them up to the standard expected. The Centre runs a range of courses which cover specific academic disciplines and key skills, in the year 2010–11 195 students were enrolled onto the programme.

Rankings and Reputation

Cosin's Hall, home to the Institute of Advanced Study
(2011/12, world)
(2011/12, world)
(2011/12, world)
Complete/The Independent[62]
(2012, national)
The Guardian[63]
(2012, national)
The Sunday Times[64]
(2012, national)
The Times[65]
(2012, national)

According to the latest league tables of British universities[66][67][68][69] many courses of Durham University are among the best in the country with Education Studies, Engineering and History in particular being number 1 in the UK:[70][71]

  • Durham is in the Top 3 Universities (including History, Education Studies and Engineering) for Archaeology, Anthropology, Chemistry, Economics, French, Geography, Iberian Languages, Italian, Performing Arts, Philosophy, Physics & Astronomy, Sports Science, Subjects Applied to Medicine, Theology & Religious Studies;
  • Durham is in the Top 5 Universities (including former mentioned subjects) for Biological Sciences, English, Geology, German, Classics & Ancient History, Law, Mathematics, Middle Eastern & African Studies, Politics, Russian & East European Languages, Social Work, Sociology;
  • Durham is in the Top 10 Universities (including former mentioned subjects) for Accounting & Finance, Asian Studies, Business Studies, Human & Social Geography, Linguistics, Medicine, Music, Psychology.

World rankings of universities have placed Durham as follows:

  • The Times Higher Education World University Rankings place Durham 83 in the world in 2011.
  • The QS World University Rankings place Durham 95 in the world in 2011.
  • The Global University Ranking places Durham 70–71 in the world in 2009.
  • The Academic Ranking of World Universities places Durham 201–300th in the world in 2011.

In April 2009 Durham Business School joined a group of academic institutions worldwide who are accredited by the three major bodies – AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS.[72] In 2011, the MBA programme was ranked 55th in the world by both the Financial Times[73] and the Economist[74] along with the MA in Management programme being ranked 56th in the world by FT European Masters Ranking[75] and the Executive MBA being ranked 83rd in the world by the 2008 Financial Times EMBA Ranking.[76]

Durham was ranked 11th overall in the Sunday Times University Guide's cumulative table over ten years of study (1997–2007),[77] along with being a member of the 'Sutton 13' of top ranked Universities in the UK.[78]

Durham is also one of the few to have won University Challenge more than once. Teams from Durham won University Challenge in both 1977 and 2000.[79]


Astrophysics simulation (Millennium Run) from Durham's Physics Department

The University is part of the 1994 Group, Virgo Consortium and the N8 Group of Universities. Durham was ranked eighteenth for quality of research out of 124 of the institutions which took part in the UK Funding Councils' 2001 Research Assessment Exercise in the Guardian's unofficial ranking.[80] Nearly 87% of the University's academic staff are located in departments with top research ratings of 5 or 5*, with Durham's research averaging a 5 rating – "international excellence in more than half of the research activity submitted and attainable levels of national excellence in the remainder". In terms of individual academic departments, the Department of Geography is considered one of the best in the United Kingdom and a world leader in many research areas, gaining a 5* rating.[81][82] Other subjects that gained a 5* rating in the RAE were Applied Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, English, History, and Law.[83]

The latest national Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) sponsored by the UK government, The Times, Guardian and The Independent rank Durham as joint-thirteenth by grade point average and twelfth by quality index across the thirty units of assessment it submitted.[84][85] The RAE results also rank Durham as the UK's top university with Archaeology, Geography, Theology & Divinity being ranked as first.[86] Over 60.9% of research was given a 4* (world leading) or 3* (internationally excellent) grading and 91.6% falling within the 4*, 3* and 2* (international quality) bands.[84] Additionally, Durham ranks 1st amongst the members of the 1994 group as the most research intensive University (when taking into account both the quality and volume of research activity at 4* and 3* grades).[87]

Furthermore, Durham's Physics Department's research into Space Science and Astrophysics was rated as number one in Europe and fourth in the world by Thomson Reuters from its Essential Science Indicators (1998–2008).[88][89] Alongside the Times Higher Education Supplement's citation rankings placed Durham as the number 1 university in the UK for its impact of scientific research in 2005.[90]

Student life

Dunelm House, home of the Durham Students' Union

Residential life

Silent Disco at Dunelm house

Durham students belong to a college for the duration of their time at the University. Most students live in their college for the first year of their undergraduate life, then choose to ‘live-out’ in their second year, and subsequently have the option of moving back into college for their final year, usually via a ballot system.[91] The Colleges provide a key role in the pastoral care and social centre of students with each running a college tutorial system,[91][92] along with JCRs providing events and societies for undergraduate members, MCRs being a centre for postgraduate students and the SCRs for the college officers, fellows and tutors. Each college has a unique identity and a variety of facilities for students ranging from computer rooms and libraries to tennis courts and gyms. Most colleges have their own sports teams and compete in the collegiate leagues such as Durham College Rowing and have their own theatre company and orchestra which operate parallel to the university level sports teams and organizations.[93]

Student organisations

Approximately 130 student clubs and organisations run on Durham's campuses,[94] including numerous student government, special interest, and service organisations.[94] Durham Students' Union (DSU) charters and provides most of the funding for these organisations, and represents students' interests when dealing with the administration.[95] DSU also operates events based in Dunelm house ranging from club nights such as Planet of Sound, Revolver (alternative & indie), Twisted (underground electronic) and the Jazz café. The DSU also runs a Comedy Café, Fresher's Ball, Silent Discos and Vintage fashion fair amongst others.[96]

Student media

Palatinate, Durham's independent student run fortnightly newspaper, has been continually published since 1948.[97] Notable former editors include George Alagiah,[97] Hunter Davies,[98] Piers Merchant, Sir Timothy Laurence,[99] Jeremy Vine[97] and Harold Evans.[97]

Purple Radio is Durham's only student radio station. It is run entirely by students and broadcasts live from the DSU 24 hours a day during term time. The station has existed since the 1980s and is a recognised DSU society.[100] Two daily news bulletins are broadcasted every weekday, as well as a Breakfast Show and an Evening Show.[101]

Student views and opinions are represented by Durham21, an independent student website, founded in 2001, which has won the NUS Website of the Year Award in five of the last six years and is also the current holder.[102]

Durham University has a literary magazine, The Grove, which comes out five times a year and a termly arts journal, the fun and beautiful journal which publishes poetry, stories, photography and artwork submitted by students. The Grove's sister publication, the online magazine The Bubble [4], was launched in 2010.

Mostly Harmless[5] is the student run satire newspaper. Other university publications include college run magazines such as Hatfield's The Hatfielder, Grey's Grey Matter or The Bog Sheet of St Chad's College.

A new online tabloid newspaper called DurhamOne was created in February 2011.

Civic engagement

Durham's Student Community Action (SCA) oversees 45 volunteer projects in Durham and the surrounding area.[103] Examples include mentoring GCSE and A Level students, a week long ‘Child Achievement Through Student Support’ programme that aims to help children on the ‘at risk’ register, to help with gardening and decorating for the elderly, and sports coaching.[104]

Durham University Charity Kommittee or DUCK is the university's equivalent of student's rag week.[105] Original set-up as a week event, DUCK has become a permanent feature in raising money for local or national charities with events taking place throughout the year. Activities take place with-in each college as well as centrally with events such as Back 2 School club nights, Raft Races, Firewalks and Rag Raids to the Jailbreak hitch hike, sky dives and the three and five peaks challenge.[106] DUCK also organises expeditions to the Himalayas,[107] Jordan[107] and Mount Kilimanjaro[107] to raise money as well being involved in the university-run ‘Project Sri Lanka’[108] and ‘Project Thailand’.[109] In July 2009, DUCK partnered with international NGO Coral Cay Conservation.

Team Durham Community Outreach is a sports community programme aimed at giving support and opportunities through the use of sport.[105] The programme runs projects such as Summer Camps for children from the Youth Engagement Service and fostered backgrounds along with providing coaching at local schools as well as participating in sports in action.[110]


University College Rowing Club racing at the Durham Regatta

Sport at Durham is a key aspect of student life with some 85% of students regularly taking part.[111] The 50 university level sport clubs are organised by Team Durham with many being predominantly based at the Graham Sports Centre at Maiden Castle which has 26 courts and pitches for sports ranging from rugby to lacrosse to netball, additional facilities include eleven boat houses and two astroturfs a fitness studio and weights room. The university also owns The Racecourse which has a further eight courts and pitches for cricket, rugby (union and league), squash and football.[112]

The University is recognised as a Centre of Cricketing Excellence (which is one of only six to play first-class matches)[111] by the England and Wales Cricket Board[113][114] and subsequently the Marylebone Cricket Club[115][116] along with rowing[111] and fencing[111] also being recognised as centres of excellence. Durham also host the House of Sport which includes an English Institute of Sport hub site[111] and being a British Olympic passport holder's site.[111] Durham was ranked joint 4th across all sports by the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) in 2007/8.[117] It is also the current BUSA rowing champion, which Durham has won for the past six years.[118]

Durham University is one of three universities to compete in the Doxbridge Tournament, a sporting competition between Durham University, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.[119] The Durham University Boat Club also competes in the Durham Regatta and the Northumbrian Water University Boat Race against Newcastle University, which it has only lost once in its 12 year history.

Durham University Rugby Football Club 1st XV recorded an unbeaten season in 2010–2011 making them BUCS champions after a thrilling final at Twickenham against UWIC. The team secured the league title with memorable doubles over Loughborough and Leeds Metropolitan under the captaincy of Ron Malaney and coaching of new Head of Rugby at the University, Alex Reay. These unbelievable scenes have seen the 1st XV dubbed "The Invincibles". That same season The 1st VII won the BUCS 7s Championship, being the first team in BUCS history to complete the "Treble" being premier league winners (undefeated), cup champions and 7s champions. This has earned the side a second visit to Twickenham to compete in the Middlesex 7s on 9 July

Music and drama

The main theatre society (Durham Student Theatre; aka DST)[120] comprises over 850 active members. Each week of term the university's own theatre, The Assembly Rooms hosts a student production, but it is by no means the only venue where productions are held. College quads, the Castle Chapel and in the summer, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, are all other popular choices to put on shows. More than 25 individual theatre companies make up DST. Since 1975 the university has played host to the Durham Drama Festival,[121] an internationally renowned event which is predominately a celebration of new writing in Durham. Other University Theatre Groups, such as those from Newcastle or Sheffield, are also invited to take part in the event.

Music is also a high-ranking activity in Durham, particularly marked by the Durham University Chamber Choir and Orchestral Societies (including the Palatinate Orchestra[122]). The Durham Cathedral Choir offers seven scholarships to students of the University. Several of the colleges (University College, Hatfield, St Chad's, St John's and Hild-Bede) also offer organ and choral scholarships to prospective students.


See List of Durham University people
General Sir Richard Dannatt, Hatfield College, Economic History

Durham alumni are active through organizations and events such as the annual Reunions, Dinners and Balls. There are 67 Durham associations ranging from international to college and sports affiliated groups that cater for the more than 109,000 living alumni.[123] A number of Durham alumni have made significant contributions in the fields of government, law, science, academia, business, arts, journalism, and athletics, among others.

Sir Milton Margai, first prime minister of Sierra Leone graduated with a medical degree in 1926,[124] the 7th Queensland Premier John Douglas graduated with an Arts degree in 1850,[125] Henry Holland, 1st Viscount Knutsford, Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1887 to 1892, graduated with a Laws degree in 1847, Herbert Laming, Baron Laming, head of the Harold Shipman inquiry and the investigation of Britain's social services following the death of Baby P, graduated in Applied Social Studies in 1960,[126] along with Dame Caroline Swift,[127] the lead counsel to the Shipman inquiry, further Mo Mowlam (Sociology and Anthropology),[128] Edward Leigh (History),[129] and Crispin Blunt (Politics)[130] are among the most notable alumni with involvement in politics. Within the military graduates include General Sir Richard Dannatt (Economic History), the Chief of the General Staff, the professional head of the British Army,[131] Vice-Admiral Tim Laurence (Geography), Chief Executive of Defence Estates and husband to The Princess Royal,[132] and Rear-Admiral Amjad Hussain (Engineering, 1979) highest ranking officer from an ethnic minority in the British Armed Forces.[133]

In the research realm, Durham graduates include Prof John D. Barrow (Mathematics and physics, 1974), winner of the Templeton Prize,[134] Sir George Malcolm Brown (Chemistry & Geology, 1950), invited by NASA to work on the moon rock samples recovered from the Apollo 11 lunar mission,[135] Prof George Rochester (1926), co-discoverer of the kaon sub-atomic particle,[136] alongside Sir Harold Jeffreys (Mathematics, 1919), winner of the Royal Society's Copley Medal,[137] and Sir Kingsley Charles Dunham (Geology, 1930) former director of the British Geological Survey.[138] The current Vice-chancellors of Cardiff (David Grant, PhD, 1974),[139] Durham (Chris Higgins, PhD, 1979),[140] and Lancaster (Paul Wellings, MSc) are also graduates.[141]

Jonathan Edwards, Van Mildert College, Physics

Several alumni hold top positions in the Business world. Richard Adams (Sociology), founder of fair trade organisation Traidcraft,[142] Paul Hawkins (PhD in Artificial Intelligence), inventor of the Hawk-Eye ball-tracking system,[143] Dame Elisabeth Hoodless (Sociology), Executive Director of Community Service Volunteers,[144] Sir Nick Scheele (German, 1966), former President and Chief Operating Officer of Ford Motor Company,[145] David Sproxton (Geography, 1976), co-founder of Aardman Animations who produce Wallace & Gromit,[146] Tim Smit (Archaeology and Anthropology), co-founder of the Eden Project[147] and David Walton (Economics and Mathematics, 1984), member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee.[148]

Prominent journalists and media specialists include Sir Harold Evans (Politics and Economics), editor of The Sunday Times from 1967 to 1981, Nigel Farndale (Philosophy), Sunday Telegraph journalist, and George Alagiah (Politics), presenter of the BBC News at Six. Matthew Amroliwala (Law and Politics, 1984) is the BBC News channel presenter and BBC one weekend news host. Biddy Baxter (1955) former producer of Blue Peter. Arthur Bostrom (BA Hons) most famous for his role as Officer Crabtree in the long-running BBC sitcom 'Allo 'Allo!. Jamie Campbell (English Literature) is a film maker, and also joins Alastair Fothergill (Zoology, 1983),series producer of The Blue Planet, Planet Earth and the director of Earth. Shelagh Fogarty (Modern Languages, 1988) current host of the BBC Radio 5 Live breakfast show alongside Lorraine Heggessey (English Language & Literature) the first female Controller of BBC One. Chris Terrill (Anthropology and Geography) documentary maker, writer and adventurer famous for being the only civilian to pass the Royal Marines Commando tests to gain an honorary green beret. Further BBC hosts who have graduated from Durham include Chris Hollins, sports presenter on BBC Breakfast, Gabby Logan (Law, 1995), Kate Silverton (Psychology), Jeremy Vine (English), Tim Willcox (Spanish), Nina Hossain (English Language and Linguistics) and Apprentice Ben Clarke (MBA, 2011).

Noted writers include Edward Bradley author of The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green, Minette Walters (French, 1971), author of The Sculptress and The Scold's Bridle, Graham Hancock (Sociology, 1973) author of The Sign and the Seal, and Lorna Hill (born Lorna Leatham, English, 1926), children's writer, author of the Sadlers Wells series.

In the sports realm, former England rugby captains Will Carling (Psychology),[149] Phil de Glanville (Economics),[149] and vice-captain Will Greenwood (Economics, 1994),[149] alongside Olympic gold-medal triple jumper Jonathan Edwards (Physics, 1987),[150] the 1992 Olympic spare Wade Hall-Craggs (MBA),[151] and Beijing Olympics Bronze-medal winner Stephen Rowbotham (Business Economics),[152] former England cricket captain Nasser Hussain (Mathematics)[149] and the current Captain Andrew Strauss (Economics) are among the most famous.[153]

In Africa, Durham University has produced professionals such as Brenda Lindiwe Mabaso-Chipeio who is currently based in South Africa, but has extensive experience in the Swaziland academic fraternity. She currently specialises in South African Trade Tariffs and is Deputy Chief Commisioner of the International Trade Administration Commision (ITAC) of South Africa. Mabaso was one of the leading Masters in Business Administration (MBA) students at the University of Durham in year 1999.

See also

  • List of modern universities in Europe (1801–1945)


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Further reading

  • Booth, Ian G. (1979) The College of St. Hild and St. Bede, Durham. Durham: The College of St. Hild and St. Bede.
  • Boyd, Elizabeth B. (1999) St. Mary's College, University of Durham, 1899–1999: A Centenary Review. Durham: St. Mary's College.
  • Bradshaw, A. (1990) Van Mildert College: The First 25 Years, A Sketch.
  • Brickstock, Richard. (2007) Durham Castle: Fortress, Palace, College. Huddersfield: Jeremy Mills Publishing Ltd.
  • Bythell, Duncan. (1985) Durham Castle: University College, Durham. Norwich: Jarrold Colour Publications.
  • Craig, Amabel. (2009) FIDES NOSTRA VICTORIA: A Portrait of St John's College, Durham, Third Millennium Publishing
  • Fowler, Joseph Thomas (1904), Durham University: Earlier Foundations and Present Colleges, Kessinger Publishing
  • Heesom, Alan, (1982) The founding of the University of Durham, Durham Cathedral lecture 1982 (Durham, 1982)
  • Hird, Marilyn, ed. (1974) St. Mary's College, 1899–1974: An Account of the Women's Hostel 1899–1920 and Some Impressions of Later College Life. Durham: St. Mary's College Society.
  • Hird, Marilyn, ed. (1982) Doves & Dons: A History of St. Mary's College, Durham. An Account of the Women's Hostel 1899–1920 and Some Impressions of Later College Life. Durham: St. Mary's College.
  • Lawrence, Angel. (1958) St. Hild's College: 1858–1958. Darlington: William Dresser and Sons.
  • Jones, Edgar (1996), University College Durham: A Social History, Edgar Jones
  • Martin, Susan. (2006) Trevs: A Celebration of 40 Years. Durham: The Trevelyan Trust, Trevelyan College.
  • Moyes, W. A (1996), Hatfield 1846–1996: A history of Hatfield College in the University of Durham, Hatfield College Trust
  • Rodmell, Graham E. (1997) St Aidan's: From Home Students to Society to College. Durham: St. Aidan's College.
  • Tuck, Anthony. (1997) Collingwood College, University of Durham: A Jubilee History 1972–1997. Durham: Collingwood College.
  • Tudor, Henry. (1988) St Cuthbert's Society 1888–1988: The History of "a Modest but Exciting Institution in the University of Durham." Durham: St Cuthbert's Society.
  • The Surtees Society, (1853) The Durham University Calender with Almanack, Durham: W. E. Duncan and Sons
  • Watson, Nigel. (2004) From the Ashes: The Story of Grey College, Durham. London: James & James Ltd.
  • Watson, Nigel (2007), Durham Difference: The Story of Durham University, James & James
  • Webster, Donald E. (1973) Bede College: A Commentary. Newcastle upon Tyne: J. & P. Bealls Ltd.
  • Whiting, C.E., (1932) The University of Durham 1832–1932 (London, 1932)
  • Whitworth, Thomas Anthony. (1971) Yellow Sandstone and Mellow Brick: An Account of Hatfield College, Durham 1846–1971
  • Yates, T.E. (2001) A College Remembered (second edition). Spennymoor, County Durham: MacDonald Press Ltd.

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