Welcome to the Durham University forum's new FAQ - here as a summary of answers to the most repeated questions we encounter; what are formals like? Which college should I apply to? Is the weather particularly bad in Durham?
Most of the questions are geared towards undergraduate applications due to most of the questions coming from younger students, and the writer having very little knowledge of postgraduate issues!
If your question's not been answered here please have a look at the 'Ask A Current Student' thread if it's a short query, or start a new thread if you're after more of a discussion and points of view.
The university itself answers quite a few FAQs here, and you can always ask the Student Recruitment and Admissions Office at [email protected] if you have any really unusual issues. Statistical information about student numbers and suchlike can be found here.
A lot of information on courses (such as results of the National Student Survey) can be found here from DirectGov; although beware that some of the information is misleading - some sections misinterpret info from the Durham website, while others provide unsourced information.
An important note on sources of information for Freshers
This (the Durham Student Union) is the only official Facebook Page for information about Freshers Week and activities. This is the only official Page for Durham University itself, although other departments such as Greenspace and the Library have their own. Once you have your Durham CIS login details, you'll be able to access the Durham University Facebook network, and view all the groups genuinely created by students.
- Durham University 2013 Applicants is a genuine Group set up for discussion between people applying to Durham.
- Durham University Firmers! is a genuine Group set up (by Skilled) for discussion between people firming Durham. (appears to have been removed/been made private)
- Durham University Firmers 2013 is a genuine Group for discussion between people firming Durham.
- Durham University: Queen's Campus Students & Firmers is a genuine group for Queens Campus firmers.
- Durham University Postgraduates 2013-2014 is a genuine Group for postgrad applicants.
- John Snow College Freshers 2013 (Official Group) is an official Group for John Snow College freshers.
- Stephenson College Freshers 2013 is an official Page for Stephenson College freshers.
- Collingwood Freshers 2014/15 is an official Group for Collingwood College freshers.
- Grey College Freshers 2013/14 is an official Group for Grey College freshers.
- Hatfield College Freshers 2013/14 is an official Group for Hatfield College freshers (note: "We can't accept anyone on to the group until College send us the first list of confirmed names a few days after A level results day - sorry and we'll make sure this is as quick as it can be!"). In the meantime, Hatfield College Freshers 2013 is a genuine Group for Hatfield College freshers.
- Josephine Butler College Freshers 2013 is an official Group for Jo Butler College freshers.
- St Aidan’s Freshers' 2013 (Official) is an official Group for Aidan's College freshers. (also this one is a genuine group)
- St Chad's College Freshers 2013 is an official Group for Chad's College freshers.
- St Cuthbert's Society Freshers 2013/14 is an official Page for Cuth's freshers.
- Hild Bede Freshers 2013 is an official Group for Hild Bede freshers.
- Page and Group.
- St. Mary's College Durham - Freshers 2013 is an official Group for St Mary's College freshers.
- Trevelyan College JCR is the official Page for Trevelyan College JCR, and will be used for Freshers information. (also I found "Trevelyan Freshers 2013", but no information on it)
- Castle Freshers 2013 (University College, Durham) is a genuine Group for University College freshers.
- Van Mildert Freshers 2013 Official is an official Page for Van Mildert College freshers (and as a bonus, this Page is for International Freshers).
- Durham University Freshers 2013-2014 is a fake Page set up to post information on unknown topics to people intending to be in Durham in October.
- Durham University Freshers 2013-2014 is a fake Group set up by the same people as did the above Page. I'm currently looking at "Best Information for Best Media" as a likely culprit for setting up these 'fake' Pages.
- Durham University Freshers Week 2013 - 2014 is a genuine Page set up by 'Glenn' of freshers.co.uk, which seems like a real attempt to help networking and information, but is completely lacking specific information for Durham, and explicitly markets. Claims to want to engage in dialogue with the University or DSU, and make it more official.
- Durham University Freshers 2013-2014 is a fake Group set up by this account and seeded with fake profiles.
- Durham University Freshers 2013-2014 is a fake Page (albeit rather nice looking) set up by "Durham Uni-Freshers".
- Durham University Freshers 2013-2014 is a fake Page that's the only one to actually pretend to be official, presumably set up be "Laura and Sam".
- Durham University Freshers 2013/2014 is a fake Group set up by "Uni Freshers"
"Official" means that the page is set up and run by a member of an organisation affiliated with Durham University. The only online information you should trust is from these sources [which is why this FAQ is speckled with links - don't trust anything I or anyone else tell you that doesn't link to a source]. "Genuine" means that it's run by people who genuinely want to help people network and the like - information will usually be honest, but not necessarily accurate, and marketers often easily infiltrate. "Fake" means that it's been set up by individuals not affiliated with Durham in any way, shape, or form, usually for pure marketing purposes.
In a similar vein, this article by The Tab Durham (though not famed for its quality of journalism) gives an interesting story about why you shouldn't be too trusting of pages like these.
Which College Should I Apply To?
First off, the University website has plenty of information about the system and provides a quick overview of some of the differences between colleges, as well as a short online quiz to give you an idea of where you might want to look at. You can also order a prospectus from the university, which is guaranteed to contain up-to-date, relevant information for your application.
Each College has its own official webpage, easily found here, as well as websites for their undergraduate common rooms - usually known as the JCR (Junior Common Room), a representative body run by students. After a law change, in 2011 several JCRs became independent charitable organisations, while others have reorganised under the umbrella of Durham University.
There are 16 colleges that make up the University of Durham, sorted into three broad categories: Bailey, Hill, and Stockton. All colleges except Hild Bede, Butler, Mildert, and the Stockton colleges have a chance for undergraduates to share a room in their first term. All except Butler and Cuths, and Stockton colleges are fully-catered for all their accommodation options.
Bailey colleges are the older colleges in the old part of Durham, surprisingly on the bailey, near the Castle. They are right in town and close to Elvet Riverside, where the language dept. is based. Most, however, have a considerable portion of their undergraduate accommodation in more remote locations, which will generally be newer, with no shared rooms.
The Bailey Colleges are as follows:
St Chad’s College (JCR website) – Founded 1904, smallest college with ~470 members, has regular gowned formals. One of the most popular for applicants - their FAQ states you're unlikely to be pooled there, since they're so many peoples' first choice.
St Cuthbert’s Society (JCR website) – Founded 1888, ~1200 members. Not technically a college, has a bar with a beer garden that opens at lunchtime, which is very popular. First year students are housed either on the Bailey, or 10 minutes walk away in Parson's Field. Does not have gowned formals.
University College (JCR website) – Founded 1832, ~830 members. Housed in Durham Castle (and often referred to as 'Castle'). Gowned formals twice weekly, famed June Ball. Most popular choice for applicants, heavily oversubscribed since not even Oxbridge have an actual castle.
Nearby, but not actually on the Bailey, is the College of St Hild and St Bede (SRC website) – Founded 1838 and 1858, merged in 1975, the largest college with ~1,225 members. 16 acres of grounds next to the river. Lots of facilities including a cinema and basketball and tennis courts. Has black tie formals, but no gowns. No shared rooms.
The second category of Durham City colleges is the ‘Hill Colleges’. They are based up on a hill that goes out of Durham (to the South) and are about a 20 minute walk from the town centre. They are more modern than the Bailey colleges and are close to the Science Site and the library. The hill colleges are as follows:
The Hill Colleges are as follows:
Collingwood College (JCR website) – Founded 1972, ~1100 members. Has a large bar, a shop and a pizza bar. Sporty reputation. Backs on to botanic gardens. Has 2/3 regular formals plus a 'megaformal' each term, doesn’t wear gowns.
Josephine Butler College (JCR website)- Newest college, founded 2006, ~875 members. Only college that can guarantee self-catering facilities and en-suite rooms for first years. No shared rooms. Has infrequent gowned formals. Large bar with pizza.
St Aidan’s College (JCR website) – Founded 1947, ~955 members. Right at the top of the Hill, with very modern facilities. Only college where people in shared rooms will stay there for the entire year. Reputation for being the party college. Has informal dinner events twice a term.
St Mary’s College (JCR website) – Founded 1899, oldest of all the hill colleges, ~830 members. Last college to become co-ed (October 2005) after previously being an all-female college. First years change rooms every term. Close to science site and library. Smallest bar. Regular gowned formals.
Trevelyan College (JCR website) – Founded 1966, smallest of hill colleges with ~700 members. Famed for it’s strange hexagonal architecture. Large, airy bar. Lots of nice daffodils in spring, gowned formals every other week. Will usually have to share a room in first year, but Trevs students move rooms every term. Currently halfway through renovating the undergraduate accommodation.
The remaining two are the sole colleges based at Queen's Campus in Stockton: John Snow (JCR website) and George Stephenson (JCR website), primarily for students on certain anthropology, business, applied psychology and medicine courses.
Each has a membership of around 1000 students. All rooms are ensuite and the Stockton Campus is very attractive and modern with lots of facilities. Lectures are generally <5 minute walk away from both, though Stevenson is closer. The DSU is very supportive there due to the small community, and the sporting community is very strong.
The Stockton colleges are also the only two to be part-catered; two days a week (covered in accommodation charges), with fully equipped kitchens in halls for the rest of the week. Snow has gowned formals, while Stevenson does not. Stevenson, however, has its own bar, while Snow uses the majority of a shared one.
Thanks to Sooz for this link (although images have become a bit dated):
Lots of useful photos of most of the colleges.
Will I Get Into My Chosen College? Can I Change My Preference? What's AES?
Please note there have been several changes introduced to the applications procedure in the 2013/14 academic year. These are outlined in detail in a report by the Durham student Magazine Palatinate Online.
The Durham University website lists the procedure that your application goes through at Durham.
The Application Proceedure
- Your application is recieved by the department
- The department decide whether to make you an offer, and send this decision to UCAS
- Your forms will then be recieved by your first choice of college
- The college will consider the applications they get for your subject, and give offers up to each subject quota, trying to generate a diverse community of people.
- If your college does not have space for you, your forms will be send into Durham's pooling system, which is currently under review - I'll update this as soon as I hear more.
- If you've been accepted by the department, you are guaranteed a place in a Durham college.
A list of application preferences for the 2009/10 admissions cycle (as an example) can be found here. I've drawn up a quick table in Google Docs to demonstrate the actual popularity of the colleges, which I'll try to paste in here.. Even more statistics about applications over the years can be found here.
Note on Collegiate Admissions
- "If a department would like to offer you a place, internally your application is passed to your preferred college after the offer decision has been sent to UCAS. If you have not nominated a college in your UCAS application, we will select this on your behalf. We aim to ensure we have a good mix of students in each college from across all subject areas that are based at that campus. This might mean that we are unable to allocate you a place in the college you nominated in your UCAS application. If this happens, we guarantee to find you a college place at a different college.
- Our first college allocations will be released on 22nd January 2013 and communicated directly to applicants by letter or email. Therefore, this is the earliest date on which you will receive your college allocation. From this date onwards, we will be releasing college allocations at regular intervals."
The gist is; colleges do not operate on a 'first come first served' policy, as they try to send offers that result in a balanced community (50/50 gender divide, they have a subject quota to meet, want to get people with different skills and interests, etc), and don't worry about hearing from your college for at least another two and a half months.
The only information I believe is lacking on the website is information about how an alternative college is allocated for those who have been rejected by their chosen college, or have made an open application. This used to work on a pooling system, but is now currently under review, and a decision has not been finalised for this admissions cycle.
College Admissions for Insurance Offers
- "As advised in your offer letter, your place in any specific college is not guaranteed. Once you become firm with Durham, you will be allocated a college. Where possible, this will be the college that made you your offer but we are unable to guarantee this. You will, however, be guaranteed accommodation in college-managed accommodation."
Can I Change My College Preference?
- "Applicants may request a change in college preference up to the point that an offer from the academic department is sent to UCAS. However, once the academic department's decision on an application has been processed to UCAS our policy is not to accept requests for a change to an applicant's college preference except where an applicant has a disability or health issue that cannot reasonably be met by the college to which they are allocated."
Using a Substitute Personal Statement
- "Just an update for future reference if anyone else asks, I emailed Durham this morning to clarify, and 4000 characters is the ONLY limit they have! There's no line limit or word count, just a character count :)"
What was the Application Enquiry Service (AES?)
- "The Applicant Enquiries Service is now closed.
- The Applicant Enquiries Service provided applicants with a system where they could track the progress of their application. However, the introduction of UCAS Track, the system we use to officially communicate decisions to applicants, has meant it has proved simpler for applicants to monitor the status of their application there.
- To monitor your application via UCAS Track, please visit http://ucas.com/students/track/"
Is The Social Life In Durham Really Bad?
- "In short its not London but no we dont all sit at home playing scrabble all night"
- ~ Quagers
If you look around the internet in general, and TSR, you'll find a number of people warning applicants about the lack of partying in Durham, and most of the information about clubs to be horribly out of date.
Basically, there are a surprisingly large number of places to have fun in Durham - and colleges and societies are always making sure there are events on every night, so there's no-one to blame but yourself if you're complaining of boredom.
I hope to make this an up-to-date [Summer of 2012] and comprehensive list of what there is to do in Durham - you'll always be surprised at the amount of stuff going on! So now, in no particular order (you may be able to tell which my favourite club is)...:
So if you've not got lectures on, it's a weekend, or you've got a guest to entertain:
- Durham's many many societies and colleges are always putting on a huge variety of events
- The Gala Theatre (Facebook) - Durham's only cinema (£4.50 for students on a Monday) and one of its two proper theatres, the other being...
- The Assembly Rooms, the home of Durham Student Theatre (Facebook), which seems to constantly have something on in the evenings, whether it's a comedy routine, a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, or a full-blown drama.
- There's a huge number of cafés and suchlike scattered around the city centre, some of the best ones hidden away down alleys, some in view of the Cathedral and Castle.
- In better weather, the River Wear offers entertainment, whether renting a rowboat, or on a barbeque disco cruise (or more commonly, just sightseeing) on the Prince Bishop.
- Klute (Facebook) - next to Elvet Bridge. A classic with students, Klute once sold itself as "officially the worst nightclub in Europe" (FHM’s ‘Worst Nightclubs in Europe’ review in 1996), playing cheese and finishing with 'That's Amore' every night, but has recently gone under new management trying to move away from the old image and unchanging playlist (copying the Boathouse drinks list). Small (absolutely tiny dancefloor), with a primarily student fanbase. Has monthly extravagant nights. Promises that the infamous 'Quaddie Voddie' will remain available, despite not being listed.
- Studio - next to Durham Live, a fairly average run-of-the-mill place, has been popular with a large variety of students for years.
- Loveshack (Facebook) - in the Walkergate Complex (North of the market, near the Gala Theatre just off Claypath), one of the more successful clubs, has a VW camper van inside. Wouldn't be surprised to find Austin Powers there. Unexpectedly plays modern chart music rather than 70s music.
- Fishtank (Myspace)- out of the way, avoiding the mainstream. Just off North Road.
- Market Vaults - underneath the markets in the centre of town, hosts Durham's only gay night every other Thursday.
- Full Collapse (Facebook) - Durham's longest-running alternative music event every other Friday at Hild Bede, organised by students for students.
- NEWCASTLE - if you ever feel like you need to get out of Durham for a bit, and see a bit more variety, then Newcastle is only a short, cheap train ride away with a large number of clubs in easy reach of the train station. Make sure you've checked how to get home before you set off - trains don't run all night!
- Jimmy Allen's - at one end of Elvet Bridge, has a small dancefloor, famous for cheap dodgy triples.
- Boathouse (Facebook) - Opposite Jimmy A's, down by the river. Strong cocktails list.
- Fabio's - located about the popular Italian restaurant 'La Spaghettata'. Strong cocktails list, and popular with both locals and students.
- Varsity - on North Bailey, serves food as well. Good to organise socials with. Have a loyalty card scheme.
- Ebony - nice champagne and cocktail bar.
- Establishment [previously (Facebook) - more laid-back cocktail bar near Elvet Riverside, also serves food
- Osbournes (Facebook) - another fairly new bar, live music every Thursday
- Whiskey River - down between Boat house and the bottom entrance to Jimmy A's. As a cocktail bar, falls somewhere in between Fabios and Ebony; bit classier than Fabios but cheaper than Ebony. Is a café during the day.
- The Riverside Bar - Durham Student Union's café by day, bar by night. Very recently refurbished and reopened. Weekly nights including jazz, quizzes, and open mic nights. Currently closed at weekends.
- And every single Durham college has its own bar - with notably huge variety - University's in a castle, Trevs' hexagonal one, Mary's broom cupboard. Cuths' pub and beer garden... Generally considerably cheaper than normal pubs and bars - <£2 for a pint, ~50p for soft drinks.
As you might guess from the above lists, while clubbing isn't such a huge activity in Durham as it is at other Universities, bar crawls are a large part of student culture, with a number of different activities and traditions familiarly enjoyed.
Live Music Venues
- Head of Steam (formerly 'Reform Place') - hidden away opposite Durham Live, a pub with frequent live music acts. Boasts the largest beer selection in Durham, with over 100 drinks.
- Fishtank - described above.
- The Angel Inn (Facebook) - 30 year reputation as an alternative/rock pub, located just up the hill from North Road
- University Venues - many colleges host their own music events, such at Trevelyan's 'Unplugged'. The DSU has been known to run 'Jazz Café' evenings. Keep a look out for things happening!
There are so many pubs in Durham that I think I'll just insert a map. Special mention goes to The New Inn (a favourite for burgers after long days on the Science Site), The Duke of Wellington (for second years living in Neville's Cross), and The Fighting Cocks (no-one knows what it's actually like, as it has a cemented reputation as being a dangerous local pub)
Note on old club names
Just to avoid confusion over any long-outdated articles you might find on the internet.
- Durham Live Lounge, formerly Academy, formerly Walkabout, formerly a cinema - large venue on North Road continually being bought out.
- Loft, formerly Eazy Street cabaret club, formerly Loft, formerly DH1, formerly Rixies - small club, for a while used as an extension of Studio. Referred to as 'Rixies' many years past its renaming. May or may not be in business.
- Establishment, formerly Popolo - fairly new bar by Elvet Riverside and the DSU
What's All This About Gowns? What's Matriculation?
The Undergraduate Gown
Wikipedia explains the gowns system in a way slightly more complicated than most people will need to know. The vast majority of that is unimportant until you graduate.
Most colleges will require their undergraduates to purchase a basic black gown during Freshers Week (either new or second-hand from old students). This will generally be worn only during Matriculation and formal dinners. The gown is plain black, hangs on the shoulders, and comes at least down to the knees, with voluminous sleeves.
Don't worry about getting one during the holidays; it'll all be sorted out when you get to Durham.
Matriculation is the term used to describe students' formal entry into the University and is described in the University's Regulations as "the act of placing a student's name upon the matricula or roll of members of the University", taking place on the first Wednesday after arriving. Essentially, you're not a 'real' Durham University student until you've gone through the ceremony.
It's held in the cathedral (completely secular; it's the only venue large enough to fit the students in), and you'll be guided through everything by your college reps. Basically you're walked up to the cathedral, sit through half an hour of talks and representatives signing a book, then you're able to leave again. Most colleges will be gowned, but some, such as Collingwood, just wear smart black and white clothes.
Dress Code For Matriculation
- Wear something smart in black and white' is pretty much the only rule to go by.
- Guys generally wear suits (the cut, style, price, or whatever doesn't matter). It doesn't matter whether the suit is a dark blue or what, as long as it will look pretty much black at a distance, or in a photo. Ties can be coloured, but sensible - the sort you'd wear to an interview.
- Girls will generally wear a white top, with black skirt. Black trousers are fine too.
- Having said this, many people will just dress smartly - black and white is merely a guide here and is not a necessity. People can wear things in pretty much any colour they choose as long as the style is appropriate.
- Aidan's, Cuthbert's, Collingwood, and Van Mildert do not wear gowns to matriculation. All other colleges do.
What Are Formals Like?
- "Whether fully-catered, part-catered or self-catered, all colleges have special dinner events throughout the year called 'Formals' where the college comes together for an evening of wining and dining. At these celebrations, some colleges practice long-established traditions, like wearing gowns to dine in and even saying grace in Latin. Other colleges are less formal and do not wear gowns. At both gowned and non-gowned colleges, Formals are either black-tie events or else have a fancy-dress theme!
Formals tend to differ from college to college. At some colleges, formals are held once a week or more often. Other colleges have them spaced out a little more, with one a fortnight. Collingwood, for example, tends to have termly Mega-Formals, and Aidan's has termly fancy dress 'formals'.
Many will have 'regular formals' (e.g. Trevelyan's 'Joint Formals'), interspersed by special formal-style events such as Balls or formals for specific groups within the college (e.g. Freshers formal, MCR formal, charity formal).
The average format is that everyone will be seated in the dining hall, then a three-course meal served, almost always enjoyed with large amounts of alcohol bought from the college bar.
Drinking rules and games also very between colleges. Most colleges allow drinking games and formals tend to be a relaxed, enjoyable affair, although some operate on a 'we're not allowed to let you do that, but we won't look too hard' policy. Guests from other colleges/outside the uni are welcome, but usually have to be signed up and paid for in advance, and and usually with limitations on how many can be invited.
Dress Code for Formals
- Dress at formal events is, surprisingly, formal. What this means depends on the college and the event.
- Usually, a suit or smart tie/jacket will suffice for men (think what you'd wear to an interview), while the ladies can get away with wearing a top/skirt combination. Cocktail dresses are fine; anything fancier like a ball gown is a bit over the top.
- At the larger events such as balls, black tie tends to be the mandatory dress code. This means black bow tie and a tux for the men, and the fanciest dresses for the ladies.
- Formals are not a black-and-white event like matriculation - any colour's fine, although obviously men wearing bright colours is unusual, and usually not regarded as 'formal'.
- Of course, since we're students these dress codes tend to be rather relaxed (dependent on the college and the individuals running it, of course). If you forget to wear a tie to some formals, then (hopefully) nobody really minds. Denim, however, is definitely a no-no.
- Some colleges will demand wearing of a gown in order to enter.
- Many colleges have existing rules about national formal wear (e.g. kilts, Bermudan shorts - you'll have to check with your college.
- Colleges will likely have existing precedent with regard to gender-based clothing - I think usually women can get away with wearing suits, while it's rather more difficult for men to appear formal in dresses, since it usually looks comical rather than anything else.
What Sports/Clubs/Societies Can I Join?
- "Don't let your degree get in the way of your education."
- ~ Bill Bryson, former Chancellor of Durham University
That line sums of much of Durham's attitude towards extra-curricular activities. Oft-quoted, is the figure that around 90% of Durham students are involved with sport in some manner or another, compared to a average 76% participation rate for higher education students in the UK, and a 22% average for the UK as a whole. The university recognises this with branding exercises and supportive organisations such as the oft-quoted 'Durham Difference', and the umbrella organisation 'Experience Durham' that brings together sports, volunteering, and music and the arts.
If we then include associations, societies, committees, and other groups affiliate with the DSU, and officer and committee positions in colleges, it's safe to say that very few students in Durham do nothing besides studying (and maybe drinking as well).
- "DSU boasts over 200 societies covering a range of activity, including student development, charitable endeavors, specialist sport and activities, hobbies and past times, and academic societies."
A full list of supported societies can be found here, although due to issues with the website, for many of them you'll have to find more detail by searching in Google or Facebook - the vast majority have a website or Facebook Page/Group, even if there aren't any listed contact details.
A 'Freshers Fair' is held over two days in Dunelm House during Induction Week, where all registered societies will have a chance to advertise and sign up members at a stall - go and have a look around, and find something that'll catch your eye! And if you miss the opportunity then, there'll be a 'Refreshers Fair' after the Christmas holidays for people to get another chance.
In addition, each college JCR will have a number of societies itself - ranging from small groups of friends (e.g. Trevelyan's TAMPACS who watch unusual films every week) to societies that put on events advertised to the entire university (e.g. Hild Bede's Film Society who organise screenings of big films).
The vast majority of student volunteering in Durham is organised through Student Community in Action (SCA - a registered charity based in Dunelm House who work with Experience Durham), though there are a few smaller groups through either colleges or the DSU.
For those interested in the charities side of things, Durham University Charities Kommittee (DUCK - our version of RAG, run by the DSU) exists to support and facilitate students and staff in fundraising hundreds of thousands of pounds each year (since the 1960s) to benefit local, national and international charities. Named the 'Best Fundraising Team' at the Institute of Fundraising's National Awards 2011-12, DUCK puts on a staggering number of events every year, with college DUCK committees hosting activities for their own JCRs.
And for those into broader 'ethical and environmental' issues, there are a large number of related DSU societies such as the Conservation Society (volunteering), Amnesty International (campaigning), Green Woodworking (practical work), International Development Society (an assortment of all the above!).
- "Many groups are always looking for new students to get involved in their activities which range from performing, directing and producing for each terms spectacular variety of theatrical and musical productions. Across Durham and Queen's Campus there are over 30 different theatre companies and over 40 musical groups, not to mention the endless opportunities that are on offer within the colleges themselves.'
This number includes bands, choirs, musical and light opera groups, acting, improvisational, and more. Most are either DSU or college societies - so again, there'll be so many opportunities to run into and explore the different things on offer! Or, if you're insecure in your own musical abilities, like me, just go along to enjoy and support their performances throughout the year.
Durham Student Theatre are responsible for helping with and co-ordinating a lot of what goes on around Durham in this area
Sport within the university is overseen by Team Durham, an official sub-brand of the University of Durham, and a collaboration between the Department of Sport and the Student Executive. It represents our sportsmen and women up to a national level, and provides support right down to the smallest college teams.
There are so many opportunities to get involved; with a special Sports Fair alongside the regular Freshers Fair, and college teams advertising at their individual Freshers Fairs in the first week. Virtually any sport you can imagine has a team - from the old favourites like football and rugby, to more eccentric ones like Ultimate Frisbee, and Underwater Hockey (okay, that one's technically a DSU society), to traditional sports like rowing that most people won't have had a chance to try out before.
They all welcome people of any skill level, and you can always go along to try out something new - in general, college sport operates at a lower level, and tends to be less competitive (although the inter-college matches can get very firey!) and more focussed towards the social side of things, so it's a great place to try new things.
Transport To And Around Durham (or 'Can I Bring My Car?')
Getting to Durham
- Trains: Mainline connections from Durham to London King’s Cross and handy trains to Newcastle (every ten minutes, journey time ~13 minutes, price ~£3 with a 16-25 Railcard). Stockton is near Darlington train station, on the London-Edinburgh line.
- Coaches: National Express and Blue Line services to many destinations: London (~£30), Newcastle (~£3) and so on.
- Car: 5 mins off the A1, but the city operates a £2 congestion charge in the centre and around town, walking is easy enough (and the riverside paths are blissful). Parking is VERY limited around the city (need a permit for university car parks, special permission to take a car to college), but there's a good 'Park and Ride' service operating. Stockton connects to the A1 via the A66. Make sure you check for travel alerts before setting off, since it can be a VERY long journey for some people, and you'll want to avoid anything that lengthens that.
- Air: Newcastle and Teesside Airports are close to both campuses – flights to London, Northern Ireland and Europe. You can get a bus from Durham Tees Valley airport that takes you straight to Darlington Train Station for about £2, and then on the train Darlington - Durham is only 14 minutes (same as Newcastle - Durham), so it's not far far far far easier to travel to Newcastle. If anything, it may even be sslllllliiiiiiiightly quicker through DTV, as DTV to Darlington is only 15 minutes on bus compared to 20 minutes for Metro airport - central. As well as that, with Newcastle being the bigger airport, you can expect bigger delays, longer queues etc etc.
- Hitching: Not bad from the A1. But not really
Getting Around in Durham City
- Car: Cars are rarely used by students in Durham due to scarcity of parking space. Students living in college will only be able to park a car if granted special permission (e.g. medical reasons), and students living out in private accommodation will generally only have space for one car per house.
- Bus: Good bus services that lazy students use to get up the hills in Durham. A service runs between Durham and Queen’s Campus, free for students.
- Taxis: Some of Britain’s cheapest taxis (min fare £1, Durham-Newcastle £30 usually, but I am eliably informed it can be haggled down to £20) make it a worthwhile share.
- The Nightbus: A special minibus run by the DSU to provide a safe and secure way to get home after a night out in Durham. £1 fee, especially useful for those living in Neville's Cross or Gilesgate.
- Bicycles: Lots of Durham students own bikes, despite the numerous hills in Durham. It makes for quicker getting about, especially when you're at a Hill college. The university is trying to encourage bike use; ensuring there are sufficient bike racks around lectures, for instance.
- Walking: The cheapest and easiest way to get around Durham, given that the majority of students have never had to walk more than half an hour to get anywhere they want. Seriously, Durham's a tiny place, and most of the colleges are either five minutes from town or from lectures.
Finding your way
Finding your way around Durham can be pretty awkward. Google Maps are often useful for plotting journey times and suchlike. Durham University host a Google Map listing most of the major locations around the place, and recommend this unoffcial app for finding your way to departments and so on.
Especially for exams, locating rooms can often be quite awkward - all rooms are labelled with the code X### where X is the department code, and ### is the room number - normally the first digit refers to the floor, while the second two refer to the location on the floor. E.g. Ph8 refers to the main lecture theatre in the Physics (Rochester) building, Ph28 would refer to another room on the ground floor, while Ph128 would be on the first floor.
In short, you can't bring a car with you unless you've thoroughly checked beforehand that there won't be a problem (otherwise there'll be *big* problems, especially if you're new to Durham), and you should only consider bring one either for medical reasons or for particular activities - such as being responsible for moving supplies for a society, or requiring it to get to national competitions.
- "Durham is a comparatively small city and the parking and garaging facilities which it offers are limited. The proportion of students to the total population is exceptionally high and the streets, for the most part, are exceptionally narrow. The University has neither the space nor the finance to enable it to make adequate provision for parking or garaging facilities for more than a very small proportion of students and staff. University policy is therefore to strongly discourage unnecessary usage of motor vehicles by students within the city.'
- 'The database and maps included in this site show streets that fall within the designated area referred to in the General Regulation: Residential Licencing of Motor Vehicles. If your property lies within the designated area, a Residential Licence will be required if you intend to keep at car in Durham. Details on the terms of the Regulation and procedures for applying for a Residential Licence can be obtained from your College."
Only operate in Durham town centre between 10am and 4pm. At all other times it's free to drive up the Bailey. They also don't operate on Sundays or bank holidays. The cost of the charge is £2. NB the congestion charge is only to get OUT of the city centre, so don't worry about paying it to get in.
What To Expect From Open Days
There are a number of ways you can visit Durham University before and after applying. The most important ones people will encounter are the two different sorts of Open Day - many say they were the main thing that encouraged them to apply to and firm Durham.
The pre-application open days are normally held at the end of June, after the majority of undergraduates have left college accommodation for the Summer - around the same time as graduation occurs.
I can't really find out any information about them at the moment (16/07/2012, trying to go to the pages results in error messages), so would appreciate anyone with recent memories writing something for me to stick in here, as I think they've changed since my day.
]Applicants who are in receipt of an offer from the University will be invited by their college to attend a post-application open day. Letters of invitation will include a link to the online open day guide and booking instructions.
The post-application open days generally occur on the first Monday/Tuesday and Tuesday/Wednesday of the Easter holidays. Applicants will be invited to stay a night in college to learn more about the university.
Typically, students will arrive in the afternoon of the first day, have a tour of college, some talks by the JCR or college staff, have dinner, then enjoy entertainment arranged by the student organisers. The next morning college will provide breakfast, then you'll be taken down to your department for a 'lecture' about the course, and possibly a tour of the department.
- "Campus Tours offer a brief introduction to the University, with current students showing where the major academic and college facilities are located. The tour begins with a brief presentation providing an overview of the University, and how to apply. This is delivered by a member of the Student Recruitment and Admissions team.
- Following this our student representatives will be pleased to answer any questions you have about university life. The tour lasts approximately two hours."
Yes, the tour guides will be real current students, so you'll get a genuine outlook on university life, and hopefully real bizarre anecdotes.
And here's the link to the tour FAQs page, which should hopefully explain anything else you need.
Queens Campus FAQs (e.g. integration, transport)
Queen's Campus based in Stockton has been a strangely contentious issue for years, primarily based on the fact that it's run by Durham University, but many believe that you don't get the 'real Durham experience' due to not being in the historic city.
While Queens students still get the unique college experience, and are able to join in anything the rest of Durham does due to the wonderful free bus between campuses, there's no doubt that the two areas are not fully integrated. Many city students only rarely encounter students from Queens, and involvement in the DSU's student societies is lower with Stockton students due to the extra time constraints, although there are still a great number who do.
It is worth noting, however, that organisations such as the Durham Student Union (DSU), Student Community in Action (SCA, the largest Durham volunteering organisation), the LGBTa (representative body supporting all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students) and a number of other student groups have specific Stockton outreach policies and Queen's Campus reps in order to increase involvement and integration between campuses.
In any case, most people would advise that you're still getting an amazing quality education (all the facilities and lecture theatres are pretty new, as opposed to Durham City where a number of them still await refurbishment, although the library on campus cannot compare to that on the Science Site) and university experience, and the slight disconnect between Queen's Campus and Durham City should by no means be a disincentive to study at such a high-class facility.
Travel between the two is mainly done through the free X1 bus service (with a campus card), which takes about 50 minutes between the centre of Stockton and the centre of Durham.
Do Durham Care About My GCSEs?
Historically, only the very popular History program has had any requirements concerning GCSEs. Since the introduction of the A* at A-level, not a single department has required applicants to have any number of particular grades at GCSE.
- What are the minimum GCSE requirements?
- Because we get so many applications with predictions of AAA or higher, we are sometimes forced to use the profile of GCSE marks to make decisions. If your application reaches that stage in the process, we may be looking for a substantial number of A*s with no very low marks.
- Should I bother applying if I have less than AAA at A-level or lack a substantial number of A*s at GCSE?
- Please do apply if you think you can make a strong case. We read all applications carefully and do not apply any mechanical rule to eliminate applications. We only go strictly on grades when the remaining applications have been read several times and we are unable to make any more distinctions. Quite a few applicants, some with lower marks, will have been made offers before reaching that point in the process, on the strength of the case made by the application as a whole.
- ~ Classics and Ancient History Department
This writer got into the MPhys program with only 2 A*s at GCSE. So basically, you don't need them, but it helps. Durham are much more interested in your personal statement, and what you can offer to the university as a whole rather than how well you'll do at your subject, compared to other universities.
DSU? DUS? Wah! (or 'Durham Loves Its Acronyms')
Durham absolutely loves its acronyms, some more forced than others - examples I've encountered include
- TAMPACS - Trevelyan Alternative Movie Plus Animated Cartoon Society
- SCSWRFC - a Cuth's sports club
- DUSAGG - Durham University Scout and Guide Group
- DUAS and DUMAS - an unrelated pair of societies
- LGBTa - the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual Association
- DICCU - the inter-collegiate Christian union
Deserving special mention are 'DSU' and 'DUS', as Freshers are often confused by the terms.
- The DSU is the Durham Student Union; the representative body supporting every student enrolled at Durham University. With offices and spaces located in Dunelm House, it organises student societies (and funding of), is our link with the National Union of Students (NUS), and organises events such as the Freshers Ball. All students become members by default. Information about it will be issued in Freshers Packs during the Summer before arrival at the university.
- The DUS is the Durham Union Society; our large and proud debating organisation that students are usually invited to join for a fee in the Freshers Packs.
It's also worth mentioning here a brief rundown of terms associated with the DSU, and parts of it that you'll hear about.
- 'JCRs' (Junior Common Rooms) are the collegiate representative bodies for undergraduate students
- 'DSU reps' are students elected within each JCR to bring issues from their college to the DSU
- 'Student Groups' are clubs, societies and associations ratified by the Union
- 'The Assembly' (formerly 'Council') is the central decision-making group of the DSU, involving DSU reps and Student Group and JCR presidents, among others
- The 'Trustees' are the group of individuals who are ultimately legally responsible for the running of the Union, consisting of a number of current students and alumni.
- The three 'Zones' are policy groups that are sub-committees of the Assembly, each containing a number of smaller committees in itself
- The five 'Sabbs', 'Sabbatical Officers', or 'Sabbatical Trustees' are recently graduated students employed by the DSU for a year with responsibility for certain broad areas, and are the individuals most heavily involved with the day-to-day running of the DSU.
How LGBT-friendly is Durham?
In general, Durham is not known as a gay mecca; as a small Northern town with an old, traditional university, you wouldn't really expect it to be.
On the flip side, most people experience the university to be an incredibly tolerant place, with very very few reports of discrimination or abuse. The collegiate system encourages people to be accepting and inclusive, and the colleges and DSU have specific LGBT reps to bring forward any issues encountered, and promote awareness campaigns.
- "The DSU LGBT Association is a group that aims to provide socials, representation, campaigns and welfare services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at Durham University."
- ~ www.durhamlgbta.org.uk
If you identify as L, G, B, T, or absolutely anything else, I strongly encourage you to have a look at their new website with a wealth of information and advice - or even to get in contact and say hi early!
- First off, the LGBTa has a dedicated Welfare Officer; "The welfare team are here to help with any queries or concerns you may have. We will also signpost you to other organisations or services that can give you additional answers or help. Additionally the welfare team can also offer safe sex supplies during term time."
- Second, the association is one of your main points of call for representation in the university and to communicate with other organisations.
- The LGBTa also runs a number of campaigns throughout the year to raise awareness of issues faced by those identifying as LGB or T. "However there is still, and always will be, more campaigning left to do. There remains much ignorance within the population, shown by the exsistence of ‘conversion therapies’ that aim to change a person’s sexual orientation. Furthermore, there is still also limited awareness concerning trans issues and LBT women’s sexual health needs."
- And, of course "Whether you want to party all night long in Powerhouse or prefer to sit down and chat over coffee, the LGBTa has socials for everyone. Our regular Monday night socials at the Riverside Café in the DSU are very well attended and a great way to meet LGBT people. And if you’re in the party mood, there’s bound to be a group heading out to a club somewhere afterwards!"
- "Anyway, as a user, I can say that the weekly socials and (basically) once in two weeks SO are the main highlights with extra socials and events here and there. We're definitely not big around the place, but I do feel that it is really welcoming. Basically, don't expect London/Newcastle/other gay meccas, but it's not bare; come to socials, the more the merrier. Oh, you can talk about how we have people for just about everything to do with LGBT stuff, welfare, all the specific reps etc."
- ~ Kevin
Is The Weather Particularly Bad In Durham?
Students from the rest of Britain, will just enjoy the same dreary weather as the rest of the country. The difference is only really noticeable from specific locales - people from the far South note that it seems colder, students from Wales will notice how dry it is.
If you're an international student, have a read of the facts, and try not to believe rumours about British weather too much! It's hard to make generalisations, but overally it's cool, and not too wet.
One important (fun?) thing to note is that we definitely get better snow than they do further South - although it has an irritating habit of arriving as all the students leave for Christmas.
"Like the rest of the United Kingdom, Durham has a temperate climate. At 643.3 millimetres (25 in) the average annual rainfall is lower than the national average of 1,125 millimetres (44 in). Equally there are only around 121.3 days where more than 1 millimetre (0.04 in) of rain falls compared with a national average of 154.4 days. The area sees on average 1374.6 hours of sunshine per year, compared with a national average of 1125.0 hours. There is frost on 52 days compared with a national average of 55.6 days. Average daily maximum and minimum temperatures are 12.5 °C (54.5 °F) and 5.2 °C (41.4 °F) compared with a national averages of 12.1 °C (53.8 °F) and 5.1 °C (41.2 °F) respectively. The highest temperature recorded at Durham was 32.5 °C (90.5 °F) during August 1990."
For a more in-depth description, try the Met Office.
What Do I Need To Know After Getting My Results?
Confirming Your Place - AS12
- Hey everyone!
- I'm seeing a bit of confusion around the whole process, and I figured since I just went through it these past 2 weeks (I'm international, so I was able to get stuff started earlier), I'd give a rundown of exactly what you need to do/will happen.
- First, you need to send an email to [email protected]
- Here is exactly what I sent:
- "To whom it may concern,[/FONT]
- This email is to confirm that I intend to take up my offer at Durham in the coming term.
- Here is the required information:[/FONT]
- [My Name] - [My UCAS ID] - Combined Honours in Arts (QRV0) - University College
- Yours faithfully,
- [My Name]"
- Shortly after I received the following response from the same email address:
- Dear [My Name]
- Your AS12 reply has now been processed you will receive a username and password in early August.
- Best wishes
- Helen Marshall
- Then, the next week, I received two separate emails regarding the next few steps, and, more importantly, providing my Durham University Online (duo) username and password (the username was in one email, the password in the other, and I received them a few days apart). From here on out it should be pretty smooth sailing as those emails tell you what to do, and I imagine you will get an email/package from your college regarding residence and such.
- So, in summary:
- - You DO need to send an email to as12
- - I highly doubt the format of your email matters
- - Everything is going to be okay :)
- I hope this clears it up for anyone who was still confused/unsure of what to do.
- EDIT: Also, on UCAS my college code was displaying as Z, and I got an email yesterday from my college, so that is nothing to worry about.
- ~ Lawless_Resolute
The University website should run you through everything you need to know: 
And here's a little FAQ from Collingwood JCR to help with a few things (although bear in mind some are college-specific).
This (the Durham Student Union's) is the only official Facebook Page for information about Freshers Week and activities. This is the only official Page for Durham University itself, although other departments such as Greenspace and the Library have their own. This, this, this, this, this, this, this and this are set up by other parties, and I'd advise against trusting any information posted on or by them.
Dates and Terms
Well to start with it's probably a good idea to bookmark [url=http://www.dur.ac.uk/dates/]the official list of term dates] to make sure you arrive on the right day. In 2012 Freshers need to arrive on the 30th of September (International Students arriving the Wednesday before), with Induction Week starting the day after, and lectures starting a week later.
Durham's academic year runs from the start of October to the end of June; split into Michaelmas (Autumn, 10 weeks), Epiphany (Spring, 9 weeks) and Easter (Summer, 9 weeks) terms, with respective Christmas (4 weeks), Easter (5 weeks), and Summer (14 weeks) holidays.
Teaching weeks for all term run Monday-Friday, with several different calenders (Durham login required for link) existing to keep track of them due to several departments teaching throughout the year, and thus requiring a 52-week timetable, rather than the 28 week one for the vast majority of undergraduates. Whichever you're most familiar with will generally depend on what your academic department uses. Important to note is that the first week of lectures in Michaelmas term is usually referred to as "Week 11".
What to take with me
Exactly what The Student Room is for; TSR provides an utterly comprehensive list of things you might want to take with you, although the vast majority of Freshers won't need any cooking equipment (aside from some basic cutlery, a bowl, plate, mug, etc - check your college's information about facilities!), and remember that you can buy some of the stuff when you get there, to cut down on luggage. In general, if you can't fit it in one car, you've probably packed too much (although I know a few who have...)
Your department will send you information during the Summer holiday before you arrive; make sure you've got hold of anything they specifically ask you to buy. Don't get too hung up about buying recommended books before you come, because they'll weigh down your suitcase, and there should be opportunities to get them cheaper at the start of term for many subjects. Similarly, don't worry about 'recommended introductory reading' or whatever that's listed under module descriptions, because you won't need most of it, and they should tell you what you do need to look up.
Until 2012, Michaelmas term started on the first Wednesday of October. 'Freshers Week' referred to the time period from the Sunday before term started, to the Sunday after. Freshers would have 3 days of talks and activities on to help settle into the move, with lectures starting on Wednesday, and student-run events continuing through the week.
From 2012 onwards, the start of term was moved to the Monday of the second week of October, with the first given up to 'Induction Week', for which no official information has been published [as of 16/07/2012]. Activities will likely be largely college-based, plus a couple of university events such as Matriculation, DSU events such as the annual 'Freshers Bop', and some kind of introductory talk by the department.
Tell Me About CIS/ITS, E-mail, And Logins
- "Computing and Information Services (formerly the Information Technology Service) is the department responsible for the provision and maintenance of the University's information technology services to support teaching, learning, research and administrative activities at Durham University. The department comprises of IT staff based out in departments and faculties across the University as well as in central locations based on the Science Site and Queen's Campus."
On arriving at Durham, each student will be issued with one campus card (which primarily acts to let you in to the library, borrow books, and acts as a form of ID for student discounts and so on). In addition, you will be given a CIS username and password (e.g. kjfz36) that allow you to access your Durham e-mail account, Durham University Online ('DUO', or 'Blackboard Learn' - the name of the technology used), and your personal drive space on the university's servers.
- "Your Durham email address
- "All students, and most staff, who come to the University have an email account on our system, but we are aware that you may also have an email account with another Internet Service Provider. Although it may be possible to access these accounts from our systems, it is very important that you read messages sent to your Durham account on a regular basis. Many colleges and departments, the Library, CIS and other sections of the University, communicate with students and staff via email lists. These lists are often generated automatically from lists of registered University computer users - we cannot add external email addresses to these lists.
- "Your Durham email address will be of the form: [email][email protected][/email] or [email][email protected][/email]
Basically, once you get to Durham it's important that you remember your login, and check your e-mail frequently - it's the most reliable way for the university, colleges, departments, societies, and JCRs to communicate with students, so expect your inbox to start filling up quickly. From Summer 2012, CIS has begn using a new Microsoft e-mail system, so your account could be either the 2010 or 2003 version of Outlook Web Access. Log in at this address.
The guide on how to set up Durham e-mail on your mobile phone is rather awkward to find, and can be found here.
In addition, CIS maintain the collegiate internet connections, wireless connections throughout most of the university, provide a networked PC service through colleges and departments, support students using their own computers, and maintain the networked printers around the university.
Note On Online Gaming
- "Due to the many strategic University IT initiatives which require our significant support, it became impossible to sustain that level of time commitment to the support of online games. The changes we had already made to enable gaming are still in place and we believe they allow the most popular games to be played by the majority of students. We apologise to the small number of students whose requests have not been satisfied.
Basically, quite a number of games are able to be played through the firewall. Others can be made accessible if you have tech-savvy friends who know how servers and ports work (websites such [url]http://www.firebind.com/tests/] can be useful once in to find out) - for instance, the university Games Society has made their Minecraft server accessible, though the majority of servers for that game will not be.
Will I Be Disadvantaged If I Apply To Oxford or Cambridge?
'Oxbridge' is a portmanteau of 'Oxford and Cambridge', the only two universities certainly older than Durham, with a similar level of prestige and types of traditions, including having a collegiate system (although working rather differently).
For many years there has been a strong myth that Durham is full of people who were rejected by Oxford or Cambridge (the 'Oxbridge reject' stereotype) and who feel slighted, believing they should have gone to one of those two universities, and only applied to Durham because it was similar. While there are certainly a large number (compared to other universities) of people who were rejected by Oxbridge, the vast, vast majority appreciate Durham for its own personality.
In addition, a contrary myth somehow perpetuates that Durham (with its unusually late offers) either discriminates against people who have applied to Oxbridge, or tries to snap them up when they are rejected.
- "Will I be disadvantaged if I apply to Oxbridge?:
- There is absolutely no truth in suggestions that we are biased against Oxbridge candidates. We do not know who of our applicants have applied to Oxbridge; and in practice very many of our students have also applied to Oxbridge. It is true that in some instances, candidates rejected by Durham are given offers by Oxbridge; this is not surprising since we have so many good applicants, and do not interview in the way that Oxbridge colleges do.
What's The Food Like?
To start with, I'll just quote the university website to explain what's going on. Most college websites will also have a page to say more about the catering there.
- Fully-catered colleges provide three meals a day, seven days a week throughout term-time. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are self-service and are hosted in your college dining hall. Eating together in your college dining hall is a great way to socialise and catch up with your friends. Special dietary requirements can usually be met by every college.
- At part-catered colleges, as well as the fun of cooking in your own kitchen, you can also enjoy regular meals in your college dining hall. At Queen's Campus, colleges provide two evening meals a week throughout term-time. At St Cuthbert's in Durham, you can opt for a meal package of 10 meals per week throughout term-time. Further information is available on individual college websites.
- At self-catered colleges you have the chance to experiment with your own home-cooking in the large, equipped kitchens you share with your fellow students. Kitchens are usually shared between 6 or 7 students and are a great social space where you can cook and eat together with your friends, giving you the flexibility and freedom to eat when and what you want.
- The cost of your college accommodation varies depending on whether you live in fully-catered, part-catered or self-catered accommodation.
- Once you move out, usually in 2nd year, if you really miss college catering you can still have the occasional meal back in college if you want to. Meals are reasonably priced and you can just 'pay as you go'.
- If you're fully-catered...
- Breakfast options include full-English, cereals, toast, fresh fruit
- Lunch options include sandwiches, salad, jacket potatoes, selection of hot meals (vegetarian options available)
- Dinner usually includes three courses, with a choice of hot dishes and puddings (vegetarian options available)
- If you have special dietary needs, please contact your college so we can meet your requirements.
- Fully catered colleges: Collingwood, Grey, Hatfield, St Aidan’s, St Chad’s, St Cuthbert’s*, St Hild & St Bede, St John’s, St Mary’s, Trevelyan, University, Van Mildert.
- If you're part or self-catered...
- Your shared kitchen will have the following:
- Substantial cupboard space
- Table and dining chairs
- Sink and washing up area
- Part-catered colleges: Stephenson (Queen’s), John Snow (Queen’s), St Cuthbert’s*
- Self-catered colleges: Josephine Butler, St Cuthbert’s*
As for the quality of catered colleges, I think most students will tell you that it's surprisingly good. A number of years ago there were some horror stories about the food, but since the university has reorganised and centralised the catering services, quality has improved greatly. The vast majority will always find something on the menu to fill them up - and if not, it pays to make friends with the kitchen staff early on! Trying to feed hundreds of people is a difficult job though, so of course every now and then you'll arrive to find out that they've run out of your favourite meal, or a batch has been under or overcooked. Or become bizarrely spicy. But they do a seriously good job!
For an example of what exactly you can get in college meals, Trevelyan College's JCR runs a Google Calendar menu (scroll back to a past term to see what we've actually been eating).
If you can't make college meals due to other commitments, you can sign up for a 'pack lunch' 24 hours in advance (sandwich of your choice, crisps, biscuit, fruit, etc), or if you'll be away for an extended duration, you can order (well in advance) a 'food box' consisting of a variety of things like packaged soup, bread, pasta, and small cereal boxes.
In addition to college meals, the university runs a series of food outlets around the town under the brand 'YUM', which can be incredibly useful for Livers Out who've forgotten to make themselves lunch.
How Does The Modular System Work In Durham? (or 'Do I Get To Study A Bit of French?')
In short, for most degrees; yes, as long as there aren't timetable clashes. But only in first year, probably.
Here's a selection from Durham's FAQs to explain better than I can.
- My Degree Programme is 'modular' - what does this mean?
- It means that the academic topics which make up your programme are divided into units called 'modules'. This enables us to make clear what is required for each part of the programme - what you will need to learn and to be able to do - and to ensure that the assessment covers all the key aspects.
- Can I choose whatever modules I want?
- No. Each degree programme has a set of regulations which set out the modules you are required to take. However, in most programmes you will have the opportunity to choose some optional modules. The fact that all modules are based on the same 20-credit 'weighting' (see below - What are 'credits'?) makes it easier to 'fit together' a selection of compulsory and optional modules. However your choice of optional modules is subject to the approval of your department to ensure that it is academically appropriate, and to timetable compatibility.
- How do modules equate to levels?
- Each module is set at a particular level depending on how demanding it is. In general you will take Level 1 modules during Level 1 of your programme (the first year of study for full-time students), Level 2 modules during Level 2 etc. However the University regulation allow you to take up to 40 credits from the level below (e.g. you could take 40 credits of Level 1 modules during your own Level 2). Whether you can actually do this in practice will depend on the regulations for your own degree programme.
- What are 'credits'?
- 'Credits' measure the 'size' of a module in terms of student workload. Undergraduate modules are based on a 'weighting' of 20 credits which equates to a typical 200 hours of study time (including lectures, classes and private study). Each module may be 20, 40 or 60 credits (or any other multiple of 20). It cannot be smaller than 20 credits (except for modules in the foundation year which may be 10 credits).
- This helps to ensure that the workload for all programmes is very similar: although some modules may have lectures and seminars while others may have practical classes and still others may require a lot of private study, each 20 credit module typically requires 200 hours of study time, whether the module is in history or physics or geography.
Is It Worth Living In College? (or 'Why Is Accommodation So Expensive?')
For the 2013/14 academic year, 'standard college lets' (fully catered during termtime, most common length of stay for students, non-ensuite) will cost £5,995 for undergraduate students (38 weeks), and £6,768 for postgraduates (50 weeks).
Charge includes all meals during term time, energy costs and IT connection, and accommodation over Christmas and Easter holidays - except for the closedown period over Christmas itself.
- Note that vacation period accommodation may vary in quality due to expectations of the original design - for instance finalists in Trevelyan College appear to by expected to use one pantry (single hotplate, microwave, kettle, toaster, with limited fridge, cupboard and shelf space) between ~20 people, assuming that all stay for the period they have payed for, since pantries in this college were only ever intended to be a supplement to a fully-catered meal package.
Durham University is aware that living on a student loan is difficult, and provide a range of financial support opportunities and pages to help understand the costs involved.
Particularly recently, there has been quite a large amount of debate on the value of college accommodation.
- "Our students get a college experience at student accommodation prices.
- Pricing includes a consideration of a combination of our costs, competitor prices and, in recent years, rising utility and food costs in particular too."
- ~ Graham Towl, Pro Vice Chancellor and Deputy Warden, to Palatinate, the student newspaper
In some cases, this will include having easy access to a large number of facilities such as laundry rooms, social areas, shop, gym, and the like - although in other colleges, this will be paid for separately (e.g. through JCR dues).
However, it is a widespread student belief that college accommodation is overpriced for what you get, and that considerable savings can be made by opting to live out.
In addition, it is believed by some that recent rises in the price of college accommodation (a hike of a few hundred recently to cover inflation and the like, after an increase to cover the move to compulsory 38-week lets) are responsible for landlords pushing up the prices of private accommodation, since students have little other choice.
The Durham Students' Union is currently commissioning external research to break down the costs of college accommodation, and verify the University's claims that it represents good value for money. The results could be... interesting, when they come out.
- "If we are charging students huge amounts to live in college, we need to be sure that they can actually afford it.
- The reason that the Students’ Union wanted to commission this research is to give the University as much information as they need to make informed decisions when determining student charges."
- ~ Archie Dallas, DSU President 2012/13, to Palatinate