• Durham University FAQs

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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.

This FAQ was last updated in August 2018, in three majorly outdated areas - I believe that the biggest culprits of old info have been rectified, but please be aware I may have missed some things and you should always check the current university website to cross-reference any important info from this FAQ. Apart from that, most less important info, such as in the nightlife section, I left untouched, so it's still a bit out of date but not criminally wrong.


An important note on sources of information for Freshers

Please be careful about the sources of information you use when looking at Durham. If there are pages on the official website, this should be correct information. Be careful about joining facebook groups or anything like that. Even if it might look official, it may not be. 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.

Which College Should I Apply To?

The Durham University colleges are separate student communities that include their own accommodation, facilities, representation structures, societies, pastoral support etc. Unlike Oxbridge colleges, they are not used for teaching; thus, your degree & education is not affected by college choice. However, much like Oxbridge, each college has a unique flavour, history and community that transcends the relatively small differences between accommodation blocks/halls in the vast majority of UK universities.

The University website has plenty of information about the system and provides a quick overview of some of the differences between colleges, 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.

In addition, Google and Wikipedia are your friends!

There are 16 colleges (soon to be 17, and by 2027 between 20 and 22) that make up the University of Durham, sorted into two broad categories: Bailey and Hill. All colleges except Hild Bede, Butler, Mildert, Mary's, Snow and Stephenson have a chance for undergraduates to share a room in their first year. All except Butler, Snow and Stephenson are fully-catered for all their accommodation options - St Cuth's has two accommodation options, one fully- and one self-catered. You can see the college locations here.

As of the 2018/19 academic year, John Snow and Stephenson colleges have been relocated to the Durham City area, along with the courses formerly taught at the Stockton Campus. Stockton has been re-purposed into the location for the International Study Centre. Currently, Stephenson and John Snow share the Howlands site with Butler, but Snow will be relocating in 2020.

Thanks to Sooz for this link to useful photos of most of the colleges (although images have become a bit dated): http://collegiateway.org/colleges/

The following member numbers were taken from the 2017/18 academic year.


The Bailey Colleges are the older colleges in the old part of Durham, surprisingly enough on the Bailey, near the Castle. They are right in the middle of town and close to Elvet Riverside, where the language department 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:

Hatfield College (JCR website) – Founded 1846, ~1340 members, lots of traditions including regular gowned formal meals. Probably the most formal, along with Castle. Has an unfortunate (but some would say deserved) reputation as being more-full-than-average of snobby, entitled "rahs." This is likely a bit of an exaggeration, but something to take into account.

St Chad’s College (JCR website) – Founded 1904, one of the smallest colleges with ~550 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. Has a lovely indoor quad.

St Cuthbert’s Society (JCR website) – Founded 1888, ~1300 members. A college by any other name, 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.

St John’s College (JCR website)– Founded 1909, ~690 members. One of the smallest colleges in Durham. Has links with the Church. Traditional, with gowned formal dinners.

University College (JCR website) – Founded 1832, ~1160 members. Housed in Durham Castle (and often referred to as 'Castle'), as well as adjacent accommodation blocks. Gowned formals twice weekly, famed June Ball. Most popular choice for applicants, heavily oversubscribed since not even Oxbridge have an actual castle.

College of St Hild and St Bede (SRC website) – Founded 1838 and 1858, merged in 1975, one of the largest colleges with ~1310 members. Located nearby, but not actually on, the Bailey. 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 Hill Colleges are, amazingly, based up on a hill that goes out of Durham, South of the Bailey, and are about a 20 minute walk from the city centre. They are more modern than the Bailey colleges and are close to the Science Site and the Bill Bryson library.

The Hill Colleges are as follows:

Collingwood College (JCR website) – Founded 1972, ~1470 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.

Grey College (JCR website) – Founded 1959, ~1170 members. Very close to the science site. May have to change rooms between terms. Has netball courts. Has gowned formals. Has a pizza bar.

Josephine Butler College (JCR website)- Currently the newest college, founded 2006, ~1180 members. Only college with 100% single, en-suite and self-catered accommodation. Has infrequent gowned formals. Large bar with a cafe, JB's. Howlands farm facilities considered to be among the nicest.

St Aidan’s College (JCR website) – Founded 1947, ~1160 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. The long-ish, steep-ish walk to the college allegedly results in a nice "Aidan's bum."

St Mary’s College (JCR website) – Founded 1899, oldest of all the Hill colleges, ~1070 members. Last college to become co-ed (October 2005) after previously being an all-female college. First years change rooms every term. Smallest bar. Regular gowned formals. Nice blossom trees on the grounds.

Trevelyan College (JCR website) – Founded 1966, one of the smallest Hill colleges with ~840 members. Famed for its 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.

Van Mildert College (JCR website) – Founded 1965, ~1530 members. Has a lake (or "Swamp," depending on how much you dislike Van Mildert) with ducks. Modern accommodation, no shared rooms. Formals, but no gowns. Bit of a party/sporty reputation.

Stephenson College (JCR website) - Founded 2001, ~1000 members. Shares the Howlands site & facilities with Butler. It relocated to where Ustinov used to be based in summer 2018.

John Snow College (JCR website) - Founded 2001, ~840 members. Will be based on the Howlands site with Butler and Stephenson until 2020, when it will move to the Mount Oswald development to share it with the 17th college.

Ustinov College (GCR website) - Founded 1965, ~1380 members. Now lives in Sheraton Park, and is a postgrad only college.


Queen's Campus, Stockton has been transformed into a hub for international students. All standard academic programmes offered by Durham University now take place in Durham City.

(This section last updated August 2018)

Application and College Selection

The Durham University website lists the procedure that your application goes through at Durham - in general here and specifically for college allocation here

When applying, you choose your subject and the college you would like to be allocated to (open applications with no college preference can be made, and you will be allocated any college). All applications are handled centrally, by the departments, not by colleges like in Oxbridge.

Not everyone gets their first preference; it depends on how over-/under-subscribed your college is for your specific subject. You can see 2016's preference-to-allocation ratios here. Once allocated a college, you may only request a change in cases where the allocated college cannot accommodate for specific needs, such as medical conditions or disabilities. However, before college allocation (around February each year) there is a chance you can change your preference on UCAS Track.

The Application Procedure


  • Your application is received by the department of the subject you applied for;
  • The department decides whether to make you an offer, and send this decision to UCAS;
  • If made a subject offer, you are guaranteed to be allocated to "a" college, though not necessarily your first preference;
  • Your forms will then be received 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 sent into Durham's pooling system;

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.
~ http://www.dur.ac.uk/undergraduate/apply/process/

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.

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."
~ http://www.dur.ac.uk/undergraduate/august/confirmation/

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."
~ http://www.dur.ac.uk/undergraduate/apply/process/

Using a Substitute Personal Statement

Information about this service available here. Essentially, if you have applied for a different subject at Durham than elsewhere, or feel (for any reason) you need to change your Personal Statement to tailor it to Durham specifically, you may submit a substitute statement through Durham's website. This substitute statement will be used in place of the one you entered in UCAS Apply.

"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 :)"
~ Energy_Purple

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/"
~ http://www.dur.ac.uk/aes/

(This section last updated August 2018)

Is The Social Life In Durham Really Bad?

"In short: it's not London, but no, we don't 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. In fact, Durham seems to have picked up a nasty nickname to this effect - Dullham.

There are actually 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. Given it's a city of ~100k people, it's pretty good for nightlife.

Daytime Activities

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 (£5 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.

Club Nights

  • 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!
~ http://www.dur.ac.uk/undergraduate/accommodation/life/catering/

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.

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!).

Music and the Arts

"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.'
~ https://www.dur.ac.uk/experiencedurham/arts/

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."
Congestion charges

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.

Pre-Application Open Days

The pre-application open days are normally held at the ends of June and September, when the majority of undergraduates have left college accommodation for the Summer. You will have the chance to experience tours of the faculties and colleges, and talks about subjects, accommodation and other major features of uni life.

Post-Offer Visit Days

When you receive an offer from the university, you will be able to book a Post-Offer Visit Day. This can either be a one-day visit in February or March, or a one-night stay in March. Keep in mind that if you want to stay at your allocated college for a night, you will have to wait until allocations occur, meaning you will more than likely miss the first opportunity for a day visit.

The residential POVDs 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.

I (plklupu) went on a residential POVD, and it was a fantastic experience - not only did it confirm my hunch that my chosen college, Butler, was as good and homely as I thought it was, but I met a great group of people there, and we've stayed in touch since. I firmed Durham as soon as I got home.


"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

From 2017, Queen's Campus has been used by the ISC and is no longer used for any main Durham teaching or colleges. The following information I have edited to be in the past tense, to preserve it - I can no longer vouch for its accuracy, as I have no clue how the ISC interacts with DU proper.
~plklupu, Aug 2018

Queen's Campus based in Stockton had a strangely contentious issue for years, primarily based on the fact that it was run by Durham University, but many believed that you didn't get the 'real Durham experience' due to not being in the historic city.

While Queens students still got the unique college experience, and were 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 were not fully integrated. Many city students only rarely encountered students from Queens, and involvement in the DSU's student societies was lower with Stockton students due to the extra time constraints, although there were still a great number who did.

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 transgender students) and a number of other student groups had 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 were 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 the Stockton 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 have been 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.

In addition;

"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!

The LGBTa involves itself in four main areas; welfare, representation, campaigns, and socials.

  • 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."

~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham#Climate

For a more in-depth description, try the Met Office.

What Do I Need To Know After Getting My Results?

Here's the university's webpage describing the process.

Confirming Your Place - AS12

Congratulations! You've been made unconditional firm on Results Day, after receiving your results. So, what now? You must complete the AS12 form on the university website, to officially take up your place. You only have a few days to do this, so don't tarry!

After that

You will more than likely receive emails from your college and the university about next steps.

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 official list of term dates to make sure you arrive on the right day.

Durham's academic year runs from the start of October to the end of June; split into Michaelmas (Autumn), Epiphany (Winter/Spring) and Easter (Spring/Summer) terms, with respective Christmas (4 weeks), Easter (5 weeks) and Summer 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.

Induction/Freshers' Week

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 onward, the start of term was moved to the Monday of the second week of October, with the first given up to 'Induction Week'. Activities are largely college-based, plus a couple of university events such as Matriculation, DSU events, and introductory talks by the departments.

(This section last updated August 2018)

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."
~ http://www.dur.ac.uk/cis/about/

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]
~ http://www.dur.ac.uk/cis/email/general/

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.
~ http://www.dur.ac.uk/cis/security/issues/

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.
~ History Department

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:
  • Cooker
  • Fridge
  • Freezer
  • Substantial cupboard space
  • Table and dining chairs
  • Microwave
  • Toaster
  • Kettle
  • 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*
~ http://www.dur.ac.uk/undergraduate/accommodation/life/catering/

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.
~ http://www.dur.ac.uk/faculty.handbook/faqs/

Specific information about the different study programmes (courses) can be found here, while a full list of modules in the university can be found here.

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

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