List of social activities at Durham University

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This is a list of social activities at Durham University, including details of clubs, societies and other common leisure activities associated with Durham University.

Approximately 130 student clubs and organizations run on Durham's campus.[1]



  • College Varsity, a sporting competition between college teams from Durham University and the University of York held alternately at York and Durham in the Lent term since 2014.[2]
  • Doxbridge Tournament, an unofficial sporting competition held annually since 1999 at the start of the Easter holiday between college teams from Durham University, the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and (since 2011) the University of York.[3][4]
  • Durham University Athletic Union, a student-run organisation responsible for sport at Durham University. In 2006, the Athletic Union was rebranded "Team Durham" to signify a more modern approach to sport at Durham. In contrast to most British universities, it is a separate organisation with the status of a students' union, rather than a part of Durham Students' Union, the primary student representative body at Durham University.
  • Palatinate, Durham's equivalent of the University Sporting Blue. Famous recipients of a Full Palatinate include cricketer Nasser Hussain, triple jumper Jonathan Edwards and rugby player Phil de Glanville.[5]
  • There are many college sports teams which allow for participation in sport at a less intense level than the university sports teams. There are leagues or tournaments between colleges in most major sports, with many colleges having multiple teams covering a wide range of ability levels. This is a contributing factor to the high participation in sport at the university.



College boat clubs[edit]

Blade Club
Collingwood College Boat Club Collingwood College Boat Club
Grey College Boat Club Grey College Boat Club
Hatfield College Boat Club Hatfield College Boat Club
Hild Bede Boat Club Hild Bede Boat Club
Josephine Butler College Boat Club Josephine Butler College Boat Club
St Aidan's College Boat Club St Aidan's College Boat Club
St Chad's College Boat Club St Chad's College Boat Club
St Cuthbert's Society Boat Club St Cuthbert's Society Boat Club
St John's College Boat Club St John's College Boat Club
St Mary's College Boat Club St Mary's College Boat Club
Trevelyan College Boat Club Trevelyan College Boat Club
University College Boat Club University College Boat Club
Ustinov Boat Club Ustinov Boat Club
Van Mildert Boat Club Van Mildert Boat Club
Stephenson College Boat Club George Stephenson College Boat Club
John Snow Boat Club John Snow College Boat Club

Student Unions[edit]

Durham has a central students's Union as well as junior common rooms (or equivalent) in each college.

Durham Union Society[edit]

The Durham Union Society is a debating society founded in 1842 by the students of the Durham University. Commonly referred to as "The Durham Union", it is the university's largest society with over 3,000 members in residence and an estimated further 30,000 amassed members. Until 1899, when the Durham Students' Union's ancestor (DSU) was founded, the society acted as the university students' union.[citation needed]


The Union was founded in 1842.[12][13] The purpose of the Union was, and remains, a counterbalance to the collegiate system, allowing students from the University's different colleges to meet both to debate and socialise more informally. The first debates were held in the reading rooms of Hatfield Hall and University College. In 1872 the Society moved to what is now the Palace Green library, where the University's first purpose-built debating chamber was established.[12] The Union Society acted, at this time, as the central social unit for the students of Durham University. The Durham Students' Union's ancestor was developed in 1899 to take on this role, though the Durham Union has retained its social side.

To this end, the society bought the old site of St Aidan's College at 24 North Bailey to create a social club (naming it the 'North Bailey Club' or, more informally '24').[12] This contains a bar which is open to all Durham Union members; a snooker room; a reading room that the Durham Union uses for functions, such as post debate entertaining, and an en-suite guest room that can be hired out by members. Student members also have the opportunity to rent large bedrooms as student accommodation.[14] 24 North Bailey is also the setting for the vast majority of the Union regular social events.

By 1977, debates were so well attended that the original debating chamber was no longer adequately large enough. It moved across Palace Green to the Pemberton Building, which sits in the shadow of Durham Cathedral.[12] The Union Society has been housed there ever since. The building and debating chamber are also used by the university for lectures and examinations.

The Union today[edit]

The Union Society's offices on Palace Green are shown in the centre of the image. To the right is the Department of Theology and Durham Cathedral

The Durham Union still maintains its offices and debating chamber on the Palace Green World Heritage Site, as well as 24 North Bailey. It hosts weekly debates featuring prominent external speakers, as well as inviting address speakers and holding social events.

The Union also excels at competitive debating, having won the European Universities Debating Championship in 2005, and more recently having teams reaching the final of the European Championship, Oxford IV, Cambridge IV and John Smith Memorial Mace and the quarter-final of the World Universities Debating Championship. It also hosts the prestigious Durham Intervarsity competition, the Durham Open and Durham Schools; the world's largest residential school's debating competition.

The social highlight of the year is the annual Ball held in Michaelmas term. The programme for the evening varies, but usually consists of a champagne reception, dinner, music, and after dinner dancing. The Union also holds members only socials, with recent events including a 'Halloween Social', 'American Election Social', 'Chinese New Year Social' and 'Valentines Social'.[15]

Lord Adonis has cited his and Anna Soubry's 105-82 victory at a Durham Union Brexit debate as evidence that students are turning against Britain's decision to leave the European Union.[16] Upon winning a debate at the Durham Union, Spectator columnist James Delingpole wrote that "For a real Oxbridge education, you now have to go to Durham"[17]

NUS incident[edit]

In 2010, the Union was forced to cancel a debate on multiculturalism on safety grounds, after the National Union of Students' Black Students Officer Bellavia Ribeiro-Addy and LGBT Officer Daf Adley sent a letter to the Union, Durham University and Durham Students Union. The letter opposed the invitation of then BNP MEP Andrew Brons, and warned of a “colossal demonstration” if the debate went ahead. It went on to say “If any students are hurt in and around this event, responsibility will lie with you.”[18]

The cancellation of the debate by Union President Anna Birley on safety grounds was met with fierce backlash. NUS President Wes Streeting was prompted to personally appear before the Durham Union to apologise for the actions of the officers concerned, though outrage among Durham students was sufficient that a significant number protested outside the debating chamber at the time.[19] An anti-censorship protest group on Facebook quickly amassed over 2,500 members.[20] An official petition was lodged with Durham Students' Union to call for a referendum on disaffiliation from NUS.[21] On 12 March 2010, the referendum concluded with a majority of voting students choosing to disaffiliate. In 2011 the Durham Students' Union held a further referendum, whereby students taking part in the referendum voted to reaffiliate with the NUS.[22]

Chinese Embassy incident[edit]

In 2017, the Chinese Embassy attempted to block the invitation of supermodel and activist Anastasia Lin from speaking in a debate. An official at the embassy warned the Union that the debate, which also featured former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, could damage relations between the UK and China.[23][24] Union President Tom Harwood insisted that "Everyone has been very polite," and the debate went ahead as planned.[25][26]

Tommy Robinson incident[edit]

In 2015, the Union cancelled a speech from Tommy Robinson, reportedly after pressure from the University.[27]

Reciprocal relations[edit]

The Union's members enjoy reciprocal relations with, and use of facilities at, the Oxford Union, Cambridge Union, The Hist & The Phil, both of Trinity College Dublin.[28]

Notable members[edit]

Academic societies[edit]

  • Durham University Economics Society
  • Durham University Law Society
  • Durham University Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) Society
  • Durham University Medical Society
  • Durham University Women in STEM
  • Durham University ELSA
  • Durham University Chemical Society[34]

Drama societies[edit]

Durham Student Theatre[edit]

Durham Student Theatre (DST, formerly Durham University Student Theatre, DUST) is a student-run organisation responsible for theatre at Durham University. In contrast to most British universities it is a separate organisation within the status of a students' union, rather than a part of Durham Students' Union, the primary student representative body at Durham University.

DST acts as an umbrella organisation for the many theatre companies affiliated to it, bur also acts as a union for 800 members: students who love the performing arts. Being not only one of the active theatre societies in the UK, with around 60 shows performed in venues across Durham each year, DST is also one of the few with their own student-run theatre, The Assembly Rooms Theatre, Durham. Shows are performed all over Durham, from the iconic Durham Cathedral to the Indoor Market. Durham theatre companies regularly head up to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, as well as locations across the UK. DST also celebrates and encourages new pieces of writing at its own yearly Durham Drama Festival, a week-long drama festival attracting talent and original writing from Durham University and national UK universities.

It also includes:

  • DULOG, Durham University Light Opera Group, Durham's largest musical theatre society which has been active for more than a hundred years. Typically each year the society produces five full length musicals, one of which is at the professional Gala Theatre in Durham and another at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Durham Revue[edit]

The Durham Revue is an established sketch comedy group. Although comedy revues have been in existence at Durham University since the early 1950s, a society dedicated solely to producing sketch comedy wasn't established until 1973. In 1973, four students founded 'DUST' (Durham University Sensible Thespians), which initially produced comedy revue shows exclusively for Durham student audiences. However, in 1977, under the presidency of Arthur Bostrom, DUST took their first show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This inaugural Fringe show included John Inge (Bishop of Worcester) and Jennie Campbell (former BBC comedy producer). The group have continued to take a show to the Fringe every year, changing its name to the 'Durham Revue' in 1988.

The Durham Revue produce a series of shows each year, performing at the college balls of Durham University, The Assembly Rooms and Gala Theatre (Durham), Cambridge Arts Theatre (Cambridge), Oxford Playhouse (Oxford) and touring across the UK.

Each year, the Durham Revue invite Cambridge University's Footlights and Oxford University's The Oxford Revue to join them at Durham City's Gala Theatre for a national student comedy showcase. The event has become a tradition at Durham University and a highlight of the social calendar. Both the Footlights and The Oxford Revue hold similar events at their respective universities, to which The Durham Revue is also invited.

The Durham Revue membership generally consists of six writers and performers. Membership is based upon audition and interview, and these take place just once a year during Michaelmas Term.

Past members have gone on to become award-winning writers, actors, producers, and comedians, including BBC's Jeremy Vine.[citation needed]

Miscellaneous societies[edit]

  • Purple Radio, the student radio station
  • Palatinate, Durham's independent student run fortnightly newspaper, has been continually published since 1948
  • Mostly Harmless, student satirical publication
  • The Grove, student literary publication
  • Durham Inter-Collegiate Christian Union, the university's most prominent student Christian organisation, founded in 1931

Leisure activities[edit]


  1. ^ "Durham Student's Union: Find a Society". DSU. Archived from the original on January 31, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-05.
  2. ^ Sears, Maddy (30 January 2014). "York College Varsity Announced". Palatinate. Retrieved 7 October 2015.
  3. ^ "Doxbridge". Sports Party. Retrieved 2015-10-07.
  4. ^ "Cambridge Companion To: Doxbridge". The Tab. 22 October 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  5. ^ Honorary Palatinate Awards
  6. ^ Hannah Graham (11 April 2016). "Meet Durhamstrang – the university quidditch team hoping to become European champs". Chronicle Live. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  7. ^ Durham College Rowing. "Novice Cup Regatta". Retrieved 2008-12-28.
  8. ^ HEADS OF HOUSE COMMITTEE. "Minutes AoB (d)(i)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-10-13. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
  9. ^ Durham College Rowing. "Senate Cup". Retrieved 2008-12-28.
  10. ^ Durham College Rowing. "Pennant Series". Retrieved 2008-12-28.
  11. ^ Durham College Rowing. "Admirals Regatta". Retrieved 2008-12-28.
  12. ^ a b c d History Archived 2014-01-10 at the Wayback Machine Durham Union Society, Accessed October 2006
  13. ^ The Times Monday, Mar 18, 1912; pg. 4; Issue 39849; col G
  14. ^ 24 NBC Archived 2014-01-10 at the Wayback Machine Durham Union Society, Accessed October 2006
  15. ^ "Durham Union Society – Members' Socials". Retrieved 2017-02-14.
  16. ^ Adonis, Andrew. "Lord Adonis Tweet". Twitter. Twitter.
  17. ^ Delingpole, James. "For a real Oxbridge education, you now have to go to Durham". The Spectator. The Spectator. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  18. ^ Tallentire, Mark. "Student union apologises over BNP claim". The Northern Echo. The Northern Echo. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  19. ^ "Student union apologises over BNP claim (From the Northern Echo)". 10 February 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  20. ^ "NUS mis-handling prompts backlash". Palatinate Newspaper. 22 February 2010. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  21. ^ "NUS mis-handling prompts backlash". 8 February 2010. Archived from the original on 18 April 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  22. ^ Johnson, Daniel (28 January 2011). "60% vote to reaffiliate with NUS". Palatinate Online. Archived from the original on 3 October 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
  23. ^ Swerling, Gabriella. "Student debate will harm relations, insists China". The Times. The Times of London. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  24. ^ Waterson, Jim. "The Chinese Embassy Told Durham University's Debating Society Not To Let This Former Miss World Contestant Speak At A Debate". Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed News. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  25. ^ Minting, Stuart. "Durham: Chinese embassy official calls for speaker to be barred from University debate". The Northern Echo. The Northern Echo. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  26. ^ "Durham Union Tweet". Twitter. The Durham Union. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  27. ^ Hopkins, Steve. "Tommy Robinson Speaking Events Cancelled At Edinburgh And Durham Universities After Pegida Speech". The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  28. ^ Why Get Involved Durham Union Society, Accessed October 2006
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ "Durham University Chemical Society". Retrieved 13 February 2016.

External links[edit]