Durham University

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Durham University
Durham shield.png
Arms of the University of Durham
Latin: Universitas Dunelmensīs
Motto Latin: Fundamenta eius super montibus sanctis
Motto in English
"Her foundations are upon the holy hills"
Established 1832
Type Public
Endowment £67.4m (exclusive of Colleges) (as at 31 July 2014)[1]
Chancellor Sir Thomas Allen
Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge
Students 17,190 (2013/14)[2]
Undergraduates 12,540 (2013/14)[2]
Postgraduates 4,655 (2013/14)[2]
Location Durham and Stockton-on-Tees, England, UK
Colours      Palatinate Purple
Athletics Team Durham
Affiliations Russell Group
Wallace Group
Association of MBAs
N8 Group
Universities UK
Matariki Network of Universities
Virgo Consortium
University of the Arctic
Website www.dur.ac.uk
Durham University logo.svg

Durham University (legally the University of Durham)[3] is a collegiate research university in Durham, North East England. It was founded by an Act of Parliament in 1832 and granted a Royal Charter in 1837. It was one of the first universities to commence tuition in England for more than 600 years and claims to be the third oldest university in England,[4] and consequently the seventh oldest in the UK, although this is disputed.[5]

Durham has an estate which includes 63 listed buildings, ranging from the 11th-century Castle to a 1930s Art Deco Chapel. The university also owns and manages the Durham World Heritage Site in partnership with Durham Cathedral. The university's ownership of the World Heritage Site includes Durham Castle (which is a residence for students who are members of University College), Palace Green, and the surrounding buildings including the historic Cosin's Library.[6]

The chancellor of the university is Sir Thomas Allen, who succeeded Bill Bryson in January 2012.[7] As a collegiate university, its main functions are 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 a member of the Russell Group of leading UK universities[8] after previously being a member of the 1994 Group. Durham is also affiliated with several university groups including the N8 Research Partnership and the Matariki Network of Universities.

The university is currently ranked 5th to 6th by recent national league tables of the British universities (see below). In terms of average UCAS points of entrants, Durham ranked 5th in 2014.[9] "Long established as the leading alternative to Oxford and Cambridge", the university attracts "a largely middle class student body" according to The Times's Good University Guide.[10] In 2014, Durham had the fifth highest proportion of privately educated students at 36.6%.[11] In 2013, Durham was judged to have the best quality of student life in the country in the inaugural Lloyds Bank rankings and has never (in 2015) been out of the top three, coming in third in 2014 and second in 2015.[12][13][14][15] The university was named Sunday Times University of the Year for 2005, having previously been shortlisted for 2004 award,[16] and the Times and Sunday Times Sports University of the Year for 2015.[17]

Current and emeritus academics include 14 Fellows of the Royal Society, 17 Fellows of the British Academy, 14 Fellows of the Academy of Social Sciences, 5 Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2 Fellows of the Royal Society of Arts and 2 Fellows of the Academy of Medical Sciences.[18] Durham graduates have long used the Latin post-nominal letters Dunelm after their degree, from Dunelmensis (of, belonging to, or from Durham).[19]



Durham Castle houses University College, making it the oldest inhabited university building in the world[20][21]

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.[22] However, there was deep concern expressed by Oxford and Cambridge that the awarding of degree powers could hinder their position.[23] 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 Cathedral to appropriate part of the property of their church to the establishment of a University in connection therewith" that the university came into being. The act received Royal Assent from King William IV on 4 July 1832. The university was incorporated by Royal Charter granted by William IV on 1 June 1837 as the "Warden, Masters and Scholars of the University of Durham", with the first students graduating a week later.[23] Accommodation was provided in the Archdeacon's Inn (now Cosin's Hall) from 1833 to 1837. On the accession of Queen Victoria an order of the Queen-in-Council was issued granting the use of Durham Castle (previously a palace of the Bishop of Durham) to the university.[23]

19th century[edit]

An examination taking place in Cosin's Library, 1842

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.[23] 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,[23] 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.

During the expansion phase the University also became the first English university to established relationship with overseas institutions.[24] Firstly in 1875 with Codrington College, Barbados and secondly in early 1876 with Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone.[25] Under the arrangements the two colleges became affiliated colleges of the university with their students being permitted to matriculate with Durham degrees.[25][26] The landmark event was not meet with universal applause with the London Times stating "it would not be much longer before the University of Durham was affiliated to the Zoo".[27] After nearly a century of affiliation and with the prevailing winds of decolonization Fourah Bay became independent of the university in 1968 to form part of the University of Sierra Leone, while Codringon College retains its affiliation with the university.[28][28]

The first debating society in Durham was founded in 1835. This may have closed by 1839. In 1842, the Durham University Union was established and later revived in 1872-3, when it took up the name of the Durham Union Society and moved to Palace Green.[29][30] The Durham Colleges Students Representative Council (SRC) was founded c. 1900 after the model of the College of Medicine SRC (in Newcastle). The Durham University SRC was formed in 1907 with representatives from the Durham Colleges, the College of Medicine, and Armstrong College (also in Newcastle). In 1963, after the creation of Newcastle University, the Durham Colleges SRC became the Durham University SRC, and was renamed as the Durham Students' Union in 1970.[31]

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.[32] 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.[33]

20th century[edit]

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

The Newcastle division of the university, which comprised both Armstrong College (named after Lord Armstrong) and Durham University College of Medicine, quickly grew to outnumber the Durham colleges, despite the addition of two independent 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 been the governors of the university since its foundation.[34] 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 in the Newcastle Division to form King's College. The Vice-Chancellorship alternated between the Warden of the Durham Division and the Rector of the Newcastle Division.[35] (The legacy of this lives on, in that the de facto head of the university is still called "The Vice-Chancellor and Warden".).[36]

After World War II, the Durham division expanded rapidly. St Aidan's Society (St Aidan's College from 1961) 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 (1960) and engineering (1965).[37][38]

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).[39] The new building opened in 1952. 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.[40] 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.[41]

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).[42][43]

The lawn at St Mary's College, one of the first Elvet Hill colleges

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 (now closed) Roman Catholic seminary of Ushaw College, which had been in Durham since 1808, was licensed as a hall of residence in 1968. In 1988, the last male-only college (Hatfield) became mixed,followed by Trevelyan in 1992, leaving St Mary's as the last single-sex college.[44]

Queen's Campus, Stockton[edit]

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.[clarification needed]

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.[45]

By 2005, Queen's Campus, Stockton, accounted for around 18% of the total university student population.[46] 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.

2005 to present[edit]

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.[3]

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[47] 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 2005, St Mary's College had its first mixed undergraduate intake.[48][49] 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. This was the first new college to open in Durham itself since the 1970s, at the creation of Collingwood.[50]

The university's Department of Theology is partly housed in buildings on Dun Cow Lane

In July 2009, Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, announced a strategic partnership with Durham University, following Yale University and the 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.[51]

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).[52]

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),[53] 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 which includes part of a UNESCO world heritage site,[54] one ancient monument, five grade-one listed buildings and 68 grade two-listed buildings along with 44.9 ha of woodland.[55] 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).[56][57]

Durham City[edit]

The former home of the university's administration, Old Shire Hall

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 Bill Bryson library.[58] Mountjoy contains the Psychology and Biological & Biomedical schools, along with various research centres. The Old and New Elvet areas contain a number of departments in Humanities and Social Sciences including Philosophy, and Sociology. Old Elvet was previously the site of the university's administration in Old Shire Hall, which has been housed in the Palatine Centre on Stockton Road since September 2012.[59]

Queen's Campus[edit]

Queen's Campus was established in 1992 and is located in the town of Thornaby-on-Tees some 30 miles away from Durham City.[60] The Campus is home to around 2,000 full-time students, two residential colleges (John Snow and Stephenson Colleges) and the Wolfson Research Institute.[61] Currently a number of subjects can be studied at Queen's Campus: Medicine (shared with Newcastle University), Pharmacy, Accounting, Business and Finance, Applied Psychology and Primary education.[62] In 2007 the university 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.[63] A bus line connects Queen's Campus to Durham City and a one-way journey usually takes 45 minutes.[60]

In November 2015 it was announced that the University would not be renewing its option on development of the Northshore site and would be holding a "wide and robust consultation process” on the future of the Queen's Campus.[64]


The original university library is now known as the Palace Green Library

The Durham University Library system holds, over 1.5 million printed items.[65] The library was founded in January 1833 at Palace Green by a 160-volume donation by the then Bishop of Durham, William Van Mildert.[65] The library operates four branches: Bill Bryson Library (the 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 medieval manuscripts and over 5,000 printed books, many early,[66] and the Sudan Archive ("the pre-eminent archive on the Sudan outside Khartoum"[66]) of the central library were granted Designation Status in 2005 by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.[66] In 2012 the university was part of a partnership with the British Library and Durham Cathedral to purchase Europe's oldest intact book, the St Cuthbert Gospel, for the nation for £9 million. It is planned to be on display in the Palace Green Library for a period from July 2013.[67]

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.[68] Many departments also maintain a library in addition to the subject collections in the central and college libraries. Readers are also entitled to use the theology library housed by Durham Cathedral in its cloister.


The university manages a number of museums. Built in the 1960s, the university's Oriental Museum grew predominantly from the acquisitions of the university's former School of Oriental Studies[69] Initially housed across the university and used as a teaching collection, the size of the collection led to the building of the current museum to house the material.[69] 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.[69][70] 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.[70][71][72]

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.[73] 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.[74]

Organisation and administration[edit]

Academic year[edit]

The academic year at Durham is divided into three terms: Michaelmas term, which lasts 10 weeks from October to December; Epiphany term, which lasts nine weeks from January to March; and Easter term, which lasts nine weeks from April to June. All terms start on a Monday. The weeks of term are called "Teaching Weeks", numbered from 1 (start of Michaelmas) to 28 (end of Easter), although this period is used for teaching and exams. Additionally, there is an "Induction Week" (informally known as "Freshers' Week" or Week 0) for first year students prior to the stay off Michaelmas term, starting on the first Monday in October.[75]

Students at the university are also expected to "Keep Term", 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.[76]


The Victor Watts Library, Grey College

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 (and the Wesley Study Centre) are "listed bodies" in the The Education (Listed Bodies) (England) Order 2013 made under the Education Reform Act, 1988.[77] This means they are "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, Durham University).[78] Though most of the Durham colleges are governed and owned directly by the university itself (the exceptions being St John's and St Chad's), the legal status of the Durham colleges is similar to Oxbridge colleges, setting them apart from those at the universities of Kent, Lancaster, and York.[79] However, unlike at Oxford and Cambridge, there is no formal teaching at Durham colleges (with the exception of Cranmer Hall theological college within St John's), although colleges are active in research.[80][81][82] 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 every college; gowns are worn to these events at just over half of the colleges. Gowns are not worn for formals at Collingwood, St Aidan's, St Cuthbert's, Hild Bede, Van Mildert, Stephenson or Ustinov.[83][84] There is a great deal of intercollegiate rivalry, particularly in rowing and other sporting activities. There is also rivalry between the older "Bailey" colleges and the newer "Hill" colleges.[85][86]

The colleges are:


Archdeacon Charles Thorp, founder and first Warden of Durham

The University is governed by 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." (Statue 4). [87]

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.[88] All student complaints are now heard by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.

The chancellor of the university is Sir Thomas Allen, who succeeded Bill Bryson in January 2012.[7] The previous Vice-Chancellor, Chris Higgins, retired in September 2014.[89] In September 2015, he was succeeded by Stuart Corbridge.[90] 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.

The university's graduation ceremonies take place in Durham Cathedral with receptions on Palace Green

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 (Statue 30).[87]

Council is the executive body of the university. In addition to representatives from the university it includes up to 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 (Statute 10). Its powers include establishing and maintaining colleges, and recognising non-maintained colleges and licensed halls of residence (Statutes 12 & 13). Senate is the supreme governing body of the universifty 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 (Statutes 19 & 20).[87]

Schools and faculties[edit]

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 (Statute 29).[87]

The largest degree programmes offered by the university, by number of entrants from the 2013-14 admissions cycle, were Business, Accounting and Finance (395), Natural Sciences (221), Modern Languages and Cultures (216), and Geography (216).[91]

Academic profile[edit]


Cosin's Hall, home to the Institute of Advanced Study

The average UCAS point score for each student was 521 points in 2014, placing Durham University fifth in the country in terms of entrants' points.[9] Durham's student body consists of 12,954 undergraduates and 4,552 postgraduate students (2014/15).[92] In 2014/15, Durham had the fourth highest number of students from middle class backgrounds at 85.8%.[93] For the same year, 34.31% of the undergraduate full-time student population came from independent schools and 8.75% from grammar schools,[94] 19.35% of full-time students are of ethnic minorities[95] and 53.87% are female.[96] In 2014-15, 44.79% of full time undergraduate students lived in University (including St John's and St Chad's colleges) accommodation.[97]

For the undergraduate admissions cycle 2013-14, Durham received 26,030 applications,[98] of which 38.4% were from independent schools[99] and 13.8% (of UK applications) from ethnic minorities,[100] overall 64.2% of applicants were successful in receiving an offer of admissions.[101] Durham requires students applying for degrees in Law to sit the LNAT admission test[102] and the UKCAT for the MBBS in Medicine.[103]

Since 1992 the university has run a widening access programme, originally called the Centre for Lifelong Learning. The centre is now called the Foundation Centre, 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. From the 2013–14 admissions cycle, 153 students took up offers of places in the programme.[104][105] Durham also runs the Durham University Sutton Trust Summer School for gifted and talented school children[106] and the Durham International Summer School,[107] as part of its widening access policy.


The Dawson Building houses the departments of Archaeology and Anthropology

The university is part of the Russell Group, Virgo Consortium and the N8 Group of Universities. According to the latest Leiden Ranking 2014/2015 that measures the scientific performance of 500 major universities worldwide, Durham is ranked 90th in the world in terms of impact of its scientific research.[108] 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).[109]

Research institutes at the university include the Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World, the Durham Energy Institute, the Institute for Hazard and Risk Research, the Institute of Advanced Study, the International Boundaries Research Unit and the Institute for Computational Cosmology.

Following the national Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) by the UK government, The Times, Guardian and The Independent ranked Durham as joint-thirteenth by grade point average and twelfth by quality index across the thirty units of assessment it submitted.[110][111] The RAE results also rank Durham as the UK's top university with Archaeology, Geography, Theology & Divinity being ranked as first.[112] 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.[110] Additionally, Durham ranked 3rd amongst the members of the 1994 Group as one of the most research intensive Universities (when taking into account both the quality and volume of research activity at 4* and 3* grades).[113]

Centre for Iranian Studies[edit]

The Centre for Iranian Studies was founded in 1999 as a subsidiary research body of the Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Durham University.[114] In 2010 it was noted that the centre had commenced an official relationship with the Iranian government, using a "memorandum of understanding" to collaborate on exchange of faculty members and experts, joint research projects, activities and experiences, conferences, scientific meetings, educational workshops and joint book projects.[115]

Rankings and reputation[edit]

(2015, national)
(2015, world)
(2015/16, national)
(2015/16, world)
(2015/16, national)
(2015/16, world)
(2016, national)
The Guardian[122]
(2016, national)
Times/Sunday Times[123]
(2015, national)

According to the latest rankings of universities in the United Kingdom many courses of Durham University are among the best in the country. The 2016 Complete University Guide ranks Durham top in the UK for English, second for Archaeology, Chemistry, French, General Engineering, Geography & Environmental Science, German, History, Iberian Languages, Italian, Middle Eastern & African Studies, Russian & Eastern European Languages, and Theology & Religious Studies, third for Education, Law, Music, and Sociology, and in the top ten in a total of 30/31 subjects.[124] The Guardian University Guide 2016 ranks Durham third in History and Anthropology and in the top ten in a total of 20/26 subjects.[125] The Times/Sunday Times Good University Guide ranks Durham top in English, second in Archaeology, Italian, and Theology & Religion Studies, third in Chemistry, Classics & Ancient History, Education, Geography & Environmental Science, Iberian Languages, History, Middle Eastern & African Studies, Music, and Russian & Eastern European Languages, and in the top ten in a total of 28/32 subjects.[126]

World rankings of universities have placed Durham as follows:

In the 2016 Complete University Guide, 30 out of the 31 subjects offered by Durham rank within the top 10 nationally making Durham one of only three multi-faculty universities (along with Cambridge and Oxford) and five universities overall (including Imperial College London and the Royal Veterinary College) to have over 95% of their subjects in the top 10.[128] The Complete University Guide also ranked Durham as the third safest university in England and Wales for crime in 2015.[129]

Since April 2009 Durham University Business School has been one of a group of academic institutions worldwide which are accredited by the three major bodies – AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS.[130] In 2015, the MBA programme was ranked 68th in the world (9th nationally) by the Economist,[131] while the Global MBA, MSc in Finance and MSc Management programmes were ranked 79th, 35th and 57th respectively by the Financial Times.[132][133][134] The Durham Global MBA was also placed 11th in the world and 5th in the UK by the 2015 QS Distance Online MBA Rankings,[135] while the Executive MBA was ranked 49th in the world by the 2013 Economist EMBA Ranking.[136]

Durham was ranked joint 12th overall in the Sunday Times University Guide's cumulative table over 10 years of study (1997–2007),[137] along with being a member of the 'Sutton 13' of top ranked Universities in the UK.[138]

Durham is one of the few universities to have won University Challenge more than once (1977 and 2000).[139]

Durham University was placed in the top 25 universities globally for employer reputation in 2011 in a survey of 5,000 blue-chip companies around the world with regard to the quality of, and international demand for, its graduates.[140]

Student life[edit]

Residential life[edit]

The Great Hall at University College - communal dining is traditional at most Durham colleges

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.[141] The Colleges provide a key role in the pastoral care and social centre of students with each running a college tutorial system,[141][142] 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. These common rooms are run by an executive committee, usually headed by a President. Some colleges use other titles for the head of their JCR: Hatfield retains "Senior Man", having rejected a motion to move to "JCR President" in May 2014,[143] University College voted to allow "Senior Man", "Senior Woman" or "Senior Student" in June 2015,[144] the incumbent switching to using "Senior Student",[145] and St Chad's uses "Senior Man" or "Senior Woman".[146]

Each college has a unique identity and a variety of facilities for students ranging from computer rooms and libraries to tennis courts and gyms.[147] In 2015, Durham University were voted number 1 in the UK for best university WiFi, on a review platform StudentCrowd.[148] 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 organisations.[149]

Student organisations[edit]

The Durham Union Society is one of the university's largest student societies

Approximately 130 student clubs and organisations run on Durham's campuses,[150] including numerous student government, special interest, and service organisations.[150] Durham Students' Union (DSU) charters and provides most of the funding for these organisations. The DSU runs a Comedy Café, Fresher's Ball, Silent Discos and Vintage fashion fair.[151]

Civic engagement[edit]

Durham's Student Community Action (SCA) oversees 45 volunteer projects in Durham and the surrounding area.[152] Colleges often organise their own outreach and charitable activities.

Durham University Charity Kommittee (or DUCK) is the university's equivalent of student's rag week.[153] 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 within each college, as well as centrally over the university.[154] DUCK also organises expeditions to the Himalayas,[155] Jordan[155] and Mount Kilimanjaro[155] to raise money as well being involved in the university-run 'Project Sri Lanka'[156] and 'Project Thailand'.[157]

Dunelm House, home of the Durham Students' Union

Team Durham Community Outreach is a sports community programme aimed at giving support and opportunities through the use of sport.[153] 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.[158]

Student media[edit]

Palatinate, Durham's independent student run fortnightly newspaper, has been continually published since 1948.[159] Notable former editors include George Alagiah,[159] Hunter Davies,[160] Piers Merchant, Sir Timothy Laurence,[161] Jeremy Vine[159] and Harold Evans.[159]

Purple Radio is Durham's student radio station. It 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. Two daily news bulletins are broadcast every weekday, as well as a Breakfast Show and an Evening Show.[162]

The Bubble, founded in 2010, is an online magazine based at the university covering various subjects, including student and university news.[163]


University College Boat Club and Newcastle University racing at Durham Regatta

Sport at Durham is a key aspect of student life with some 85% of students regularly taking part.[164] 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.[165]

The university is recognised as a Centre of Cricketing Excellence (which is one of only six to play first-class matches)[164] by the England and Wales Cricket Board[166][167] and subsequently the Marylebone Cricket Club[168][169] along with rowing[164] and fencing[164] also being recognised as centres of excellence. Durham also hosts the House of Sport which includes an English Institute of Sport hub site and being a British Olympic passport holder's site.[164]

Durham was ranked joint 4th across all sports by the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) in 2008/9.[170] The university improved its ranking to 2nd in 2011/12, a status retained in the following years. It is also the current BUCS champion in rowing, which Durham has held for ten consecutive years.[171] Durham University Boat Club also competes in Durham Regatta and the Northumbrian Water University Boat Race against Newcastle University, which ran 1997 - 2010 and was revived in 2015.[172]

The Racecourse is one of the university's main sites for sporting facilities

Durham University is one of three universities to compete in the Durham - Oxbridge Tournament, a sporting competition between Durham University, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.[173] Durham colleges also compete with colleges from the University of York in the annual College Varsity tournament held since 2014.[174]

Palatinates are given to athletes who demonstrate a high standard (such as international representation) in their sport. It is similar to a blue awarded at other British universities. The award is named after the colour palatinate associated with the university.

Music and drama[edit]

The central body for theatre at the university is known as Durham Student Theatre (DST),[175] which comprises around 600 active student members.[176] The Assembly Rooms is the university-owned theatre, located on The Bailey, which hosts a number of student productions each term. Alongside this, student drama productions are held at Durham City's Gala Theatre, venues around Durham University and within the colleges, Durham Castle, Durham Cathedral, as well as in national and international venues and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Since 1975, the university has played host to the Durham Drama Festival that celebrates new theatrical and dramatic material written by Durham students.[177]

The Durham Revue is the university's sketch comedy group. Tracing its roots back to the early 1950s, and known under its current name since 1988, the group consists of six writer-performers (auditioned, interviewed and chosen each Michaelmas Term) and produces a series of shows each year. The group performs annually with Cambridge University's Footlights and Oxford University's The Oxford Revue, as well as at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.[178]

Music is particularly marked by the Durham University Chamber Choir and Orchestral Societies (including the Palatinate Orchestra[179]). The Durham Cathedral Choir offers choral scholarships to male students, and several of the colleges (University, Hatfield, Hild Bede, St John's, St Chad's, St Cuthbert's, Grey and St Mary's) also offer organ and/or choral scholarships, as does the Catholic Chaplaincy.[180]

Durham is also home to the oldest Gamelan slendro set in the UK with an active community group and an artist in residence. The instruments are currently housed in the Grade II listed Durham University Observatory.[181] Recently a set tuned to peloghas been added meaning that Durham now has a complete Gamelan orchestra. In recent years, the Durham Gamelan Society has performed at several major public events such as the Gong Festivals 2011 & 2012 [182] and at the Gamelan Lokananta all night wayang kulit in celebration of York University's Gamelan Sekar Petak 30th anniversary in April 2012 [183] as well as many smaller performances for the International Students' Festival and college events.


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.[184] A number of Durham alumni have made significant contributions in the fields of government, law, science, academia, business, arts, journalism, and athletics, among others.

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury (St John's, 1992), Sir Milton Margai, first prime minister of Sierra Leone (MD, 1926),[185] the 7th Queensland Premier John Douglas (BA, 1850),[186] Henry Holland, 1st Viscount Knutsford, Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1887 to 1892 (Law, 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, (Applied Social Studies, 1960),[187] along with Dame Caroline Swift,[188] the lead counsel to the Shipman inquiry, further Mo Mowlam (Sociology and Anthropology),[189] Edward Leigh (History),[190] and Crispin Blunt (Politics)[191] are among the alumni who are politicians. Durham graduate Libby Lane was the first woman to be consecrated bishop in the Church of England.[192] Deputy Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Constabulary and Chief operating Officer of the College Of Policing Robert Beckley QPM (Law BA Hons) who was also the student union president.

Within the military graduates include General Sir Richard Dannatt, Baron Dannatt (Economic History), the Chief of the General Staff, the professional head of the British Army,[193] Vice-Admiral Sir Tim Laurence (Geography), Chief Executive of Defence Estates and husband to The Princess Royal,[194] and Rear-Admiral Amjad Hussain (Engineering, 1979) highest-ranking officer from an ethnic minority in the British Armed Forces.[195]

Tim Smit founder of the Eden Project

In academia, Durham graduates include John D. Barrow (Mathematics and Physics, 1974), winner of the Templeton Prize,[196] Sir George Malcolm Brown (Chemistry & Geology, 1950), invited by NASA to work on the moon rock samples recovered from the Apollo 11 lunar mission,[197] George Rochester (1926), co-discoverer of the kaon sub-atomic particle,[198] alongside Sir Harold Jeffreys (Mathematics, 1919), winner of the Royal Society's Copley Medal,[199] Sir Kingsley Charles Dunham (Geology 1930) former director of the British Geological Survey and E. J. Field, early discoverer of what were to become prions and significant contributor to MS research,.[200] The current Vice-chancellors of Cardiff (David Grant),[201] Durham (Chris Higgins),[202] and Lancaster (Paul Wellings), are also graduates.[203] The Reverend Dr Malcolm Guite (PhD 1993), an author, poet (Sounding the Seasons, The Singing Bowl), and singer-songwriter, is currently a Bye-Fellow and Chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge.[204]

Several alumni hold top positions in the business world. Richard Adams (Sociology), founder of fair trade organisation Traidcraft,[205] Paul Hawkins (PhD in Artificial Intelligence), inventor of the Hawk-Eye ball-tracking system,[206] Dame Elisabeth Hoodless (Sociology), Executive Director of Community Service Volunteers,[207] Sir Nick Scheele (German, 1966), former President and Chief Operating Officer of Ford Motor Company,[208] entrepreneur Brenda Lindiwe Mabaso-Chipeio, David Sproxton (Geography, 1976), co-founder of Aardman Animations who produce Wallace & Gromit,[209] Tim Smit (Archaeology and Anthropology), co-founder of the Eden Project and David Walton (Economics and Mathematics, 1984), member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee,[210] and Apprentice Ben Clarke (MBA, 2011).

Sir Harold Evans, editor of the Reuters news agency

Prominent journalists and media specialists include: George Entwistle, former Director-General of the BBC; Sir Harold Evans (Politics and Economics), editor of The Sunday Times from 1967 to 1981; Nigel Farndale (Philosophy), Sunday Telegraph journalist; George Alagiah (Politics), presenter of the BBC News at Six; Matthew Amroliwala (Law and Politics, 1984), BBC News channel presenter; Biddy Baxter (1955), former producer of Blue Peter; Arthur Bostrom (BA Hons), Officer Crabtree in 'Allo 'Allo!; Jamie Campbell (English Literature), filmmaker; Benton Cade (East Asian Studies), filmmaker; Alastair Fothergill (Zoology, 1983), series producer of The Blue Planet, Planet Earth and the director of Earth; Shelagh Fogarty (Modern Languages, 1988), host of the BBC Radio 5 Live breakfast show; 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. Other 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).

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, Tim FitzHigham, comedian and author, James Kirkup, travel writer, poet and playwright, Patrick Tilley, science fiction author, and Lorna Hill (born Lorna Leatham, English, 1926), children's writer, author of the Sadlers Wells series. Actor Andrew Buchan (Modern Languages)also studied at Durham.

In the sports realm, former England rugby captains Will Carling (Psychology),[211] Phil de Glanville (Economics),[211] and vice-captain Will Greenwood (Economics, 1994),[211] alongside Olympic gold-medal triple jumper Jonathan Edwards (Physics, 1987),[212] Beijing Olympics Bronze-medal winner Stephen Rowbotham (Business Economics),[213] London 2012 Gold-medallist Sophie Hosking (Chemistry and Physics),[214] former England cricket captains Nasser Hussain (Geochemistry)[211] and Andrew Strauss (Economics) are among the most famous.[215]

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Further reading[edit]

  • 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 Calendar 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.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°46′23″N 1°34′26″W / 54.773°N 1.574°W / 54.773; -1.574