The Stockton campus of Durham University is not in Durham. It is in Stockton on Tees which is 25 miles south of Durham, just downwind from Middlesbrough. So forget 'quaint olde worlde' architecture and romantic vistas, this bit of Durham Uni is in the industrial area of the North East and is housed on a Business Park. Here you will find the bits of Durham Uni they only recently invented like the School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health and some chunks of other STEM courses.
The University tries to talk-up Stockton, making out that there is actually no difference between being there and being in Durham. And that Stockton's so-called 'waterfront' location makes it equally desirable. If you want to read what the Uni says about Stockton, the main marketing twaddle ishere.
In reality, 25 miles makes it not exactly 'around the corner' and more like a seperate University.
In the first year you will either choose to live in John Snow or George Stephenson college. Not getting accommodation in halls for your first year is very rare and normally down to forms etc not being returned on time. Basically if you get all of your accommodation applications in by the deadlines, you are pretty much guaranteed a place in your chosen college.
There are on-site 'staff' at both colleges. These include maintenance staff (during the day), Resident Tutors (usually post-grads) who are available for support for students and Senior Residents (these are current students, who have been at the uni at least a year and there is one for each block) who live in halls and are available for help and support 24/7. The Accommodation Officer for the college will also be around a lot, but their time is sometimes split between halls and campus (more for Snow than Stephenson).
In recent years halls have become more over-subscribed and the university has extended their accommodation to include 'university managed accommodation'. This is in a purpose-built block of student apartments called Mezzino.
Stephenson is a complex consisting of 7 attached blocks each consisting of 6 self catering flats. It also has a laundry, computer room and ‘working room’. It is about three minutes walk away from labs, lectures and college dining in the Holliday building and 1 minute walk away from the Ebsworth building (library, IT facilities, lectures and labs) It is arranged in a roughly triangular shape with car parking and 'Stevo Central' in the middle. Stevo Central has a bar, pool and table tennis table, Xbox, TVs, a projector screen for watching matches, a computer room, study room and loads more. There's always something going on at Central in the evenings.
Post and parcels can be collected from the porter's and college office which are built into the blocks. There's also a laundry with massive washers and dryers.
The flats are arranged into 6/7 ensuite rooms sharing one kitchen with 2 cookers, 2 fridges, 2 sinks, 1 big freezer, microwave, lots of cupboards, big kitchen table, 6 chairs and big kitchen cupboard housing Henry the hoover, ironing board etc. There is usually one ironing board to each flat.
Bedrooms contain an ensuite with shower, toilet and sink. There will be a bed frame, mattress, desk with lots of drawers, wardrobe, shelves, bin, bedside cabinet and a notice board.
John Snow College
John Snow college is about 10mins walk away from campus, but closer to the local shop and town centre. The accommodation blocks are arranged in a kind of figure 8, with car parking and 'outdoor space' in the middle. There is a laundry room, a common room which has the college bar, 'The Igloo', and a computer suite and a 'TV room' with various facilities. Also there is a 'Reception', where maintenance issues, etc can be raised.
The flats consist of 6 en-suite bedrooms and a shared kitchen. The kitchens usually have 2 cookers, 1 sink, large fridge and freezer, table and chairs, microwave. Normally there is an ironing board and kettle included too. Also the kitchens tend to be a little short of cupboard space, but there is often space that can be utilised for extra storage.
The bedrooms are much the same in each college with standard furniture: bed, wardrobe, desk with drawers, side cabinet with drawers and wall-mounted shelves. The layout varies slightly from room to room, but all rooms are essentially the same size. The only exceptions are the end of corridor rooms (-03 or -10 rooms I think) which have MUCH bigger bathrooms than the others.
Packages for Snow are delivered to halls and you will get a little yellow slip under your door when you have a package to collect (from reception), but normal mail is delivered to campus and has to be collected from the mail boxes in the Snow common room in the Holliday building (upper 'A' corridor).
Mezzino is about 5 minutes further from campus than John Snow (which you pass on the way) and it is a large purpose-built appartment block. The flats range in size but the 'First Year flats' are usually 6 bedroom flats. There are several differences between living in halls and living in Mezzino. Firstly the college presence is less obvious (but the colleges are trying to improve this), and your main points of contact regarding accommodation issues will be Mezzino staff rather than college staff. Also the residents are not all first years, there are a number of second and third year students too as well as masters and postgrad students.
However, being a bigger complex, Mezzino does have some benefits. These include: double beds, nicer en-suites, lounge areas (with flatscreen TVs) in all kitchens and dishwashers. Also there is an onsite bar 'Ollies', which is pretty decent and sells food and drink at reasonable prices.
Besides having bigger beds and nicer en-suites, the rooms are quite similar to those in halls with standard furniture, and fittings. The kitchens also have much the same contents, with the addition of soft seating, TV, coffee table and dishwasher. However ironing boards and kettles do not seem to be provided.
The Waterside Bar
The campus cafeteria during the day becomes the bar at night. The room is really stylish having benefited from a £350k renovation over Christmas 07. Drinks are cheap and the venue comfortable. This would become your regular.
I've already pretty much covered some of the facilities on campus in the Stephenson review bit. Other than that we have a purpose built Astroturf which hosts hockey, netball, football practise as well as other sports and the weekly five a side football tournament between the blocks in Stephenson.
There is a campus DSU shop which is open every weekday and sells stash (Durham Uni + college branded stuff - pencils…crosstitch kits (no I kid you not), ties, mugs, the very popular hoodies and T-shirts and lots more) toiletries, stationary, newspapers and magazines.
The Waterside café – open every weekday for breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything inbetween (very useful for a packet of Rolos/cuppa in lecture/lab breaks). College dining also takes place here – which I will detail later.
Queens campus has…
Mens football Womens Football Netball Basketball Badminton Table Tennis Rowing Swimming Running Hockey Streetdancing (sport???)
Its also a good area for cycling with tons of bike paths in the local area along the river to Middlesbrough and in the other direction towards Durham (if you are feeling really energetic!). You can also join any of the university teams/clubs (basically anything you can imagine…I have friends who do squash, lacrosse, equestrian, water polo, clay pigeon shooting, fencing etc and they don’t find that going up to Durham for practise/training is much of a problem.)
Ill elaborate on the rowing a bit. If you fancy it, you can start rowing from scratch at uni, no prior experience necessary. The campus is right next to the river Tees, which is a lovely deep, wide, straight river perfect for rowing and watersports. There is also dragon boat racing club, which to be honest I have no idea about other than they look very amusing when out on the water. There is also a whitewater rapids course about a ten minute walk away across the Tees Barrage where they do whitewater rafting and kayaking. I did whitewater rafting there with a few friends last week for fun and it was so funny albeit very cold.
For food shopping, you can either be extremely lazy and go to the local Bells convenience store (mini Sainsburys)...which is about a ten second walk away from Snow halls and a ten minute walk from Stephenson or go to ASDA or Morrisons (in Teeside retail park). There is also Iceland, LIDL, Netto etc in Stockton itself.
The retail park is about 15 minutes away from campus and has:- TGI Fridays, Hollywood Bowl, Showcase cinema, Frankie and Bennys, TKmaxx, KFC, Morrisons, McDonalds, Next, Staples...er…Toys R Us…and some more that I can’t remember! Stockton town centre (15 minute walk away from Stephenson and 10 from Snow) has most shops really…HMV, H&M, Woolworths, Debenhams, Argos, Wilkinsons…really no point in listing them all…basically theres everything that you need.
Starting from the left of the retail horseshoe and working clockwise, Teesside (retail) Park consists of:
JD Sports, Boots, Maplin, Brantano Footwear, Birthdays, Carphone Warehouse, WHSmith, Next, Outfit (one shop that houses Burton, Topman, Toipshop and Warehouse (If I do recall correctly), Homebase, Mothercare, Instore, Starbucks/Borders, Argos, Going Places, JJB Sports, a smallish electrical company, PC World, TK Maxx, and Currys. Outside the horseshoe is Morrisons on the left, and Toys R Us and McDonalds on the right. Behind Toys R Us is Pets At Home and the Morrisons petrol station. Opposite the horseshoe there is Comet and Staples, aswell as TGI Fridays, KFC, Frankie and Benny's and Springs Leisure Club.
Right next to this (over a short bridge which goes over the Old River Tees*) is the leisure side of the park, which houses, in order, Burger King, Hollywood Bowl, Pizza Hut, Showcase Cinemas, Kansas Bar and Grill, a casino I've forgotten the name of, and Gala Bingo.
- in the olden days the river was too bendy for all the ships to sail down efficiently, so they cut a massive bend out of it and diverted it. The bit they cut off is now just a trickle.
College Catering and Eating out
All live in members of Snow or Stephenson get two college meals per week as part of their accommodation costs. These are held in the Waterside room and are of varying quality…it is nice to have an evening meal cooked for you on the two occasions and sit down and eat with lots of friends, but as I said the food can be a bit hit and miss. The puddings are nearly always nice though!
Other than that…just a little bit about eating out in Stockton. There is this AMAZING Chinese restaurant called Peking Garden, where you go in, sit down and then order as much food as you want for about £8 per person. And then you just keep ordering it until you are full. The Stephenson male rowing team did once reportedly stay there for 5 hours after coming back from a competition. Theres also loads of nice student-budget friendly restaurants and bars. Also…there is this very odd ‘delicacy’ called a parmesan…which I won’t give too much away about…normally eaten when someone is extremely drunk, kinda the Stockton version of a kebab but worse…
Most people join the societies at the Freshers Fair in Freshers week, though its easy to join any of the below at a later date.
The most popular societies:
‘Coc-soc’ Mixology Society
£5 for membership, then £2 per meeting (or £3.50 a meeting for non-members) where we make 3 different cocktails across the night and is a great chance to sit about drinking and meet new people. It also gets bonus points for having an innuendo as a nickname.
Would fully recommend the cocktail society, as I’m a frequent attendee. In fact I think ive actually attended more Coc-Soc meetings than Accounting Lectures on my course!
Alternative Music Society
Which is for fans of ‘alternative’ bands and meets at the rocket. They also organise trips to see bands in the local area, and also run trips for larger bands, such as in term1 there was a trip to see Feeder in Doncaster.
For Medics only, organise balls for the Medic students etc
International Students Society
Organise balls mainly for international students but other students are free to join in as well. They also organise trips, like in term 1 a great trip to Edinburgh for the day.
Chocolate Tasting Society
Meets in the Stephenson Kabins.
The basic format seems to be that the organisers pick a topic for each meeting ‘debate’ and then members join in a discussion at the meeting. Topics seem to be medical and ethical ones.
Aimed mainly at Afro-Caribbean’s, but anyone an join. Though again I don’t know much about this society. Except that they have organised a couple of great nights at Moby Grape, such as the “pimps and ho’s night” mentioned further up.
What to do at night!
'Che bar' is the place to be. A cuban themed bar in the centre of stockton (within walking distance from both stevo and snow halls). Entry is £3 and well worth it. All drinks £1.50. Music played is a bit of everything.
Planet Of Sound: held in the DSU in Durham: I haven’t actually been to this night! But everyone says its great, and a lot from Queens Campus go. There is a service bus back at 2am from Durham, and its got so popular that this is now a double-decker bus. There are also plans in the pipeline for next year to run coaches to and from Stockton for this night…but it will have to wait and see if this comes to fruition. This night is a chance for the entire university to go to, and is also a great chance to meet up with friends who have gone to the Durham City campus.
Also Glam in Stockton, which is full of chavs!! But hilarious. Looks like a bingo hall inside, has drinks for a £ (including bottles of Newcastle Brown, for a £!!) and also triple your money if you buy glam money. Not great for a regular visit, but If you fancy getting wasted and sitting watching chav-girls trying to dance ‘sexily’ and also 40year old fake-tanned slappers trying to look young…it’s the place for you! So in summary, only good if in the mood and with a large group of friends.
There are also numerous clubs and pubs in Stockton and also Middlesbrough…the ones ive listed are merely the student nights that they run in conjunction with the university. So it is only the “tip of the iceberg”. There is something for everyone, from quiet pubs, to noisy bars.
There are also several “one off” nights and events on campus, such as the Stephenson JCR arranged a bar crawl in Newcastle and then another in Leeds.
There are also some other one off events, such as the “Afro-Caribbean society” arranged a very popular “pimps and ho’s” night.
Transport Links to other places
Train to Middlesbrough from Thornaby (5mins from halls) is £1.
X1 Bus to Durham runs every half hour. Last bus back at 11:30 Sat to Thur, 2am on Fri.
Direct train to Newcastle £6 (Return).
Accommodation 2nd & 3rd Years
During second and third year most people move into rented accommodation in either Stockton or Thornaby. Prices can be quite reasonable (from around £35 per week based on a few people sharing). Thornaby is a bit remote with only a few shops, most notably Sainsbury's on Westbury Street, but it can be fun living on the same street as lots of other students and car parking is free and plentiful. I haven't lived in Stockton myself so I don't know how it compares. I would warn that both Stockton and Thornaby have high numbers of chavs, so wandering around at night by yourself is not the wisest thing to do, though in groups students are usually fine.
If your accommodation budget is a bit higher (£80-90 per week), then the Mezzino waterside flats might be for you. These are a bit like living in halls away from halls, except the flats are more modernly furnished and include things like satellite TV. In addition to these accommodation options, some students choose to like slightly more further afield (some even as far away as Durham) and commute in for lectures. I lived in Middlesbrough for my final year - only a 5 minute train-ride away - and loved the friendly atmosphere and having so many things to do right on my doorstep.