vice chancellorship

Durham University

Durham University is a university in Durham, England. It was founded as the University of Durham (which remains its official and legal name) by Act of Parliament in 1832 and granted a Royal Charter in 1837. It was one of the first new universities to open in England for more than 600 years, and claims to be England's third oldest after Oxford and Cambridge (although other higher education institutions also make this claim – see third oldest university in England debate). It stands in Durham, on the River Wear, and in Stockton-on-Tees.

Durham is a collegiate university, with its main functions divided between the central departments of the University and 16 colleges. In general, the departments perform research and provide centralised lectures to students, while the colleges are responsible for the domestic arrangements and welfare of undergraduate students, graduate students, post-doctoral researches and some University staff. Colleges decide which students they are to admit, and appoint their own fellows (senior members). In Durham, "the university" often refers to the University as opposed to the colleges.

The Chancellor of the University is Bill Bryson, appointed by the University's Convocation on 4 April 2005. The University was named Sunday Times University of the Year in 2005, having previously been shortlisted for the award in 2004.

The post-nominal letters of graduates have "Dunelm" attached to indicate the university.



The strong tradition of theological teaching in Durham gave rise to various attempts to form a university there, notably under King Henry VIII and Oliver Cromwell, who issued letters patent and nominated a proctor and fellows for the establishment of a college in 1657. However, there was deep concern expressed by Oxford and Cambridge that the awarding of degree powers could hinder their position. However it was not until 1832 when Parliament, at the instigation of Archdeacon Charles Thorp and with the support of the Bishop of Durham, William van Mildert, passed

to fund a new university, that the University actually came into being. Accommodation was provided in the Archdeacon's Inn from 1833 to 1837 when an order of the Queen-in-Council was issued granting the use of Durham Castle (previously the Bishop's palace) as a college of the university. The Act received Royal Assent and became law on 4 July 1832. The University's Royal Charter was granted on 1 June 1837 by William IV, with the first students graduating a week later.

19th century

In 1846, Bishop Hatfield's Hall (later to become Hatfield College) was founded, providing for the first time in any British university the opportunity for students to obtain affordable lodgings with fully-catered communal eating. Those attending University College were expected to bring a servant with them to deal with cooking, cleaning and so on. Elsewhere, the University expanded from Durham into Newcastle in 1852 when the medical school there (established in 1834) became a college of the University. This was joined in 1871 by the College of Physical Sciences (renamed the College of Science in 1884 and again renamed Armstrong College in 1904). St Cuthbert's Society was founded in 1888 to cater for non-resident students in Durham (although now mainly caters for resident students), while two teacher-training colleges — St Hild's for women, established in 1858, and The College of the Venerable Bede for men, established in 1839, also existed in the city. These merged to form a mixed college (the College of St Hild and St Bede) in 1975. From 1896 these were associated with the University and graduates of St Hild were the first female graduates from Durham in 1898.

In 1842 the Durham Union Society was set up as a forum for debates, the first of which took place in the reading rooms in Hatfield Hall. It also served as the students' union (hence the name) until Durham Colleges Students' Representative Council was founded in 1899 (it was later renamed Durham Students' Union in 1963).

For most of the 19th century, University of Durham degrees were subject to a religion test and could only be taken by members of the established church. This situation lasted until the University Test Act of 1871. However, "dissenters" were able to attend Durham and then receive degrees of the University of London, which were not subject to any religious test, on completing their course.

Following the grant of a supplemental charter in 1895 allowing women to receive degrees of the University, the Women's Hostel (St Mary's College from 1919) was founded in 1899.

20th century

The Newcastle division of the University, in particular Armstrong College, quickly grew to outnumber the Durham colleges, despite the addition of two Anglican foundations: St Chad's College (1904) and St John's College (1909). A parliamentary bill proposed in 1907 would have fixed the seat of the University in Durham for only ten years, allowing the Senate to choose to move to Newcastle after this. This was blocked by a local MP, with the support of graduates of the Durham colleges, until the bill was modified to establish a federal university with its seat fixed in Durham. This reform also removed the University from the authority of the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral, who had nominally been in charge of the University since its foundation. Thirty years after this, the Royal Commission of 1937 recommended changes in the constitution of the federal University, resulting in the merger of the two Newcastle colleges to form King's College. The Vice-Chancellorship alternated between the Warden of the Durham Colleges and the Principal of King's. (The legacy of this lives on, in that the titular head of the University is still called "The Vice-Chancellor and Warden.")

After the Second World War, the Durham division expanded rapidly. St Aidan's Society (St Aidan's College from 1965) was founded in 1947 to cater for non-resident women and the decision was made to expand onto Elvet Hill, vastly expanding the existing pure science provision in Durham, and adding applied science and engineering.

In 1947 the foundation stones for the new St Mary's College building on Elvet Hill were laid by Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II). The new building opened in 1952, and is said to be the last government funded university building to have been built in stone. In the same year, tensions surfaced again over the Durham-Newcastle divide, with a proposal to change the name of the University to the University of Durham and Newcastle. This motion was defeated in Convocation (the assembly of members of the University) by 135 votes to 129. Eleven years later, with the Universities of Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne Act, King's College became the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, leaving Durham based solely in its home city.

By this time, the Elvet Hill site was well established, with the first of the new colleges, Grey College (named after the second Earl Grey, who was the Prime Minister when the University was founded) being founded in 1959. Expansion up Elvet Hill continued, with Van Mildert College and the Durham Business School (1965), Trevelyan College (1966) and Collingwood College (1972) all being added to the University, along with a botanic garden (1970).

These were not the only developments in the University, however. The Graduate Society, catering for postgraduate students, was founded in 1965 (renamed Ustinov College in 2003) and the Roman Catholic seminary of Ushaw College, which had been in Durham since 1808, was licensed as a hall of residence in 1968. By 1990 the last male-only college became mixed, leaving St Mary's as the last single-sex college. In 2005, St. Mary's College had its first mixed undergraduate intake. In October 2006, Josephine Butler College, a long-standing development, opened its doors to students as Durham's newest college; the only purpose-built self catering college for students within Durham.

Queen's Campus, Stockton

In 1992 a joint venture between the University and the University of Teesside saw the Joint University College on Teesside of the Universities of Durham and Teesside (JUCOT) established at Stockton-on-Tees, to the south of Durham.

This was initially intended to grant joint degrees validated by both institutions (BAs and BScs). However, Teesside, which had only become a university in 1992, had difficulties in taking on its responsibilities for the college and Durham took full control of the new college in 1994.

A programme of integration with Durham began, leading to the college becoming University College, Stockton (UCS) in 1996 — a college of the University of Durham and the only college with teaching responsibilities.

Further integration lead to the campus being renamed the University of Durham, Stockton Campus (UDSC) in 1998, removing teaching responsibilities from the College. In 2001, two new colleges, John Snow and George Stephenson (after the physician and the engineer) were established at Stockton, replacing UCS, and the new medical school (which operates in association with the University of Newcastle upon Tyne) took in its first students — the first medics to join Durham since 1963. In 2002, her golden jubilee year, the Queen granted the title "Queen's Campus" to the Stockton site.

As of 2005 Queen's Campus, Stockton accounts for around 18% of the total university student population. This is likely to increase in coming years thanks to future expansion plans.

A curious fact about Queen's Campus, Stockton, is that it is located on the south bank of the River Tees within Thornaby-on-Tees. For centuries the Tees formed the historical division between the historic counties of Yorkshire and Durham, with Thornaby-On-Tees being one of the most northern towns in Yorkshire. With the creation of the county borough of Teesside in 1968 areas both north and south of the river were removed from their administrative counties. Teesside itself was engulfed into the County of Cleveland in 1974. Yet another local government change in 1996 saw the breakup of the county of Cleveland into the current four unitary authorities of Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Redcar and Cleveland & Stockton-On-Tees. With this latest reorganisation Thornaby-On-Tees became part of the borough of Stockton-On-Tees, however the town of Stockton-On-Tees itself is located on the north ("County Durham") side of the river. The upshot of all this is that a significant proportion of Durham University is actually located within the ceremonial county of North Yorkshire, rather than County Durham. Adding to the confusion, plans exist to expand the campus onto the north bank of the River Tees, splitting the campus between the two ceremonial counties.

Academic year

The academic year is divided into 3 terms. Michaelmas Term lasts ten weeks from October to December; Epiphany Term lasting nine weeks from January to March; and Easter Term lasting nine weeks from April to July. Within Michaelmas term, the academic week begins on a Thursday with lectures starting on the first Thursday of October and ending on a Wednesday. All other terms begin their academic week on a Monday. Internally the weeks are classed as "Durham Weeks" with the first week of Michaelmas starting at week 10.

Students at the University are also expected to "Keep Term", whereby students must fulfil their academic requirements at the University. As such Heads of Departments must be satisfied that each student has attended all necessary tutorials, seminars and practical work throughout the term and vacation period.


Durham University is situated on two main campuses:

  • Durham City Campus: The main campus of the university and contains 14 of the 16 colleges along with most of the academic departments. The Durham City campus is itself divided into several different sites:
    • Science site: Contains the vast majority of departments and large lecture theatres such as Appleby, Scarborough, James Duff, Heywood and more recently the Calman Learning Centre, along with the Main University library.
    • Mountjoy Site: Contains the Psychology and Biological & Biomedical schools, along with various research centres.
    • Old Elvet: Contains a number of departments in Humanities and Social Sciences including Philosophy, Anthropology and Sociology. It is also the current site of the University's administration in Old Shire Hall, although it is planned to move to Mountjoy.
    • The Bailey: Home to mostly Humanities and Social Sciences such as Law and Theology along with the Bailey colleges.
  • Queen's Campus, Stockton: There are currently a limited number of subjects studied at Queen's Campus. Current subjects are: Medicine (shared with Newcastle University), Biomedical Sciences, Business (with various specialities), Applied Psychology, Primary education and Human Sciences. The University has recently purchased a four acre site on the North bank of Stockton and has plans to develop the academic structure at Queens and the possibility of a new college.

Academic standards


The University is part of the 1994 Group and the N8 Group of Universities. Durham was ranked eighteenth for quality of research out of 124 of the institutions which took part in the UK Funding Councils' 2001 Research Assessment Exercise in the Guardian's unofficial ranking. Nearly 87% of the University's academic staff are located in departments with top research ratings of 5 or 5*, with Durham's research averaging a 5 rating — "international excellence in more than half of the research activity submitted and attainable levels of national excellence in the remainder". In terms of individual academic departments, the Department of Geography is considered one of the best in the United Kingdom and a world leader in many research areas, gaining a 5* rating. Other subjects that gained a 5* rating in the RAE were Applied Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, English, History, and Law.

In 2005 the Times Higher Education Supplement's citation rankings placed Durham as the number 1 university in the UK for its impact of scientific research.

Reputation and rankings

See also: League tables of British universities

2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002
Times Good University Guide 8th 9th 10th 8th 10th 13th
Guardian University Guide 16th 17th 26th 24th 29th
Sunday Times University Guide 8th 11th 11th 8th 9th 13th
The Independent 6th 10th

World Universities
2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003
THES - QS World University Rankings 122th 109th 132nd 83th 128th N/A
Academic Ranking of World Universities 152-200th 151-202th 151-200th 203-300th 202-301th 152-200th

In other assessments and league tables Durham has been ranked the following:

  • 10th in the first National Student Survey in 2005
  • Ranked 5th in the 1994 Group for Student satisfaction 2006
  • Teaching Quality Assessments by the QAA have rated Durham at an average of 22.2/24 in 2003, above the UK average of 21.6
  • Joint 46th out of 120 universities in the "Green League 2007" by People & Planet
  • 57th in the world by The Economist in 2006 for Durham University Business School's MBA (62nd in 2005)
  • 82nd in the world by the Financial Times in 2004

Durham University is also one of the few to have won University Challenge more than once. Teams from Durham won University Challenge in both 1977 and 2000.

Student life and future developments

The Durham University Centre of Cricketing Excellence is one of only six (the others being Oxford, Cambridge, Loughborough, Cardiff & Bradford/Leeds) to play first-class matches. Durham was ranked 6th across all sports by the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) in 2006/7. It is also the current BUSA rowing champion, keeping the title won in 2004. Since 1975 the university has played host to the Durham Drama Festival. Durham University Light Opera Group produce four musicals per year and showcase the talents of Durhams finest theatre performers, the highlight being at the Gala Theatre in the second term. Music is also a high-ranking activity in Durham, particularly marked by the Durham University Chamber Choir and Orchestral Societies. Durham University is one of three universities to compete in the Doxbridge Tournament, a sporting competition between Durham University, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. In the 2007 tournament, Durham won over half the trophies available at Doxbridge, with John Snow College (Queens Campus) largely dominating the tournament, winning the women's football, badminton and men's rugby and coming runner up in the mixed hockey, men's football and women's hockey. Other notable results from Durham were St. Cuthbert's Society winning the netball and George Stephenson college (Queens Campus) coming runners up in the badminton.

The presence of Durham Cathedral is felt strongly within the University and city. It provides opportunities both for worship and for music-making, the Cathedral Choir offering seven scholarships to students of the University. Several of the colleges (University College, Hatfield, St Chad's, St John's and Hild-Bede) also offer organ and choral scholarships to prospective students.

In 2005 the University unveiled a re-branded logotype and renamed itself as "Durham University". The news was poorly received among many academic and student members of the university, with Van Mildert JCR going as far as boycotting the new name and logo. However, the official name of the institution remains the University of Durham and the official coat of arms is unchanged.

In the last half of the 20th century, the number of students at the university has grown considerably, and continues to grow with the addition of Queen's Campus, Stockton. The more recent rises are in line with government policy of increasing access to higher education.

In 1989 the University started its fund-raising and alumni office, with a virtual community for alumni and several large gifts made to the University, including for the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies, the department of Physics and the Wolfson Research Institute.

Student views and opinions are well represented by Durham21, an independent student website which has won the NUS Website of the Year Award in five of the last six years and is also the current holder. In print, student views are represented by fortnightly newspaper Palatinate.

In 2006 Josephine Butler College, opened at the Howlands Farm site on Elvet Hill. This was the first new college to open in Durham itself since the 1970s, at the creation of Collingwood.

The University's Strategic Plan through to 2010 is at the University's web site.


The teaching departments of the University are divided into three faculties: Science, Arts and Humanities, and Social Sciences and Health. Each faculty has a Dean and one or more Deputy Deans. These, along with the heads of the departments in the faculty, the Vice-Chancellor, and the Pro-Vice-Chancellors, make up the Faculty Board for that faculty. Each department also has a Board of Studies consisting of the Dean and Deputy Dean of their faculty, the teaching staff of the department, and student representatives. See also Natural Sciences, one of the largest degree programmes.

Faculty of Social Science & Health

  • Department of Anthropology
  • School of Applied Social Sciences
  • Department of Archaeology
  • Durham Business School (Including the Economic, Finance and Business Departments)
  • School of Education
  • Department of Geography
  • School of Government and International Affairs (Including the Politics department and the Institute for Middle East and Islamic Studies)
  • School of Medicine and Health
  • Durham Law School

Faculty of Arts & Humanities

  • Department of Classics & Ancient History
  • Department of English
  • Department of History
  • School of Modern Languages and Cultures (Includes Arabic, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish Departments)
  • Department of Music
  • Department of Philosophy
  • Department of Theology and Religion

Faculty of Science


Durham operates a collegiate structure like the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, in that all the colleges at Durham are "listed bodies under the Education Reform Act, 1988, "recognised by the UK authorities as being able to offer courses leading to a degree of a recognised body" (the "recognised body" being, in this case, the federal University). Though most of the Durham colleges are governed and owned directly by the University itself, and so do not enjoy the independence of colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, the status of the Durham colleges is similar to those in Oxford and Cambridge and the constituent institutions of the University of Wales, setting Durham colleges apart from those at the universities of Kent, Lancaster, and York. However, unlike at Oxford, Cambridge, Wales, and London, there is no formal teaching at most Durham colleges (although St John's, St Chad's and Ushaw College have their own academic and research staff and offer college-based programmes in conjunction with the University). The colleges dominate the residential, social, sporting, and pastoral functions within the university, and there is heavy student involvement in their operation.

Formal dinners (known as "formals") are held at many colleges; gowns are often worn to these events. There is a great deal of intercollegiate rivalry, particularly in rowing and other sporting activities. There is also rivalry between the older colleges of the Bailey and the newer colleges of the Hill.

Types of college

The University is collegiate in structure. There are four different sorts of college: Maintained Colleges and Societies, Recognised Colleges, Licensed Halls of Residence, and Affiliated Colleges.

  • Maintained Colleges are governed directly by, and are financially dependent on, the University. Their principals and staff are appointed by University Council. The colleges are represented on Council by the Dean of Colleges, chosen from among the principals.
  • The Recognised Colleges (St John's and St Chad's) and Licensed Halls (Ushaw) are 'recognised' as constituent colleges of the University, but they are separately incorporated and are governed, financed and managed independently of the University, being educational charities in their own right. However, as a condition of their recognition, University Council must approve the appointment of their principal and be notified of changes to their constitutions.
  • Affiliated Colleges Codrington College, Barbados (and, until 1967, Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone) is an overseas institute that presents its students for University of Durham examinations. It not generally considered part of the collegiate structure of the University and is listed as an "Affiliated College" in the University Statutes rather than as one of the "Colleges and Societies". The Royal Academy of Dancing also used to teach courses leading to degrees validated by Durham.

List of colleges

Most of the colleges located in Durham itself can be grouped into two areas of the city. Bailey colleges are those located on the peninsula formed by a meander of the River Wear, and Hill colleges are on Elvet Hill on the other side of the river. Queen's Campus, Stockton, is south of Durham, in the town of Stockton-on-Tees.

Shield Scarf colours College Founded Undergraduates Post-graduates Campus Website
St Aidan's 1947 806 28 Durham (Hill)
St Chad's 1904 321 63 Durham (Bailey)
Collingwood 1972 1134 41 Durham (Hill)
St Cuthbert's Society 1888 1144 67 Durham (Bailey)
Grey 1959 932 50 Durham (Hill)
Hatfield 1846 736 29 Durham (Bailey)
St Hild & St Bede 1975 1123 111 Durham
St John's 1909 392 55 Durham (Bailey)
Josephine Butler 2006 ~400 30 Durham (Hill)
St. Mary's 1899 641 35 Durham (Hill)
Trevelyan 1966 625 42 Durham (Hill)
University 1832 694 59 Durham (Bailey)
Van Mildert 1965 1037 39 Durham (Hill)
Ustinov 1965 0 1253 Durham (Hill)
George Stephenson 2001 1001 30 Queen's
John Snow 2001 899 17 Queen's
Ushaw 1568 n/a* n/a* Ushaw Moor
– as the Graduate Society
– Postgraduate-Only College
* – Roman Catholic Seminary


The University holds the powers to award degrees under the Royal Charter of 1837, extended to include the power to award degrees to women under the Supplementary Charter of 1895. However, the rules governing how the University is constituted are to be found in the Statutes put in place by the Universities of Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne Act, 1963, and subsequently amended by the Privy Council. The Statutes provide that: "The University shall be governed by a Visitor, Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Convocation, Council, Senate, and Boards of Studies."


The Visitor for the University of Durham is the Bishop of Durham. The Visitor is the final arbiter of any dispute within the University, except in those areas where legislation has removed this to the law courts or other ombudsmen, or in matters internal to the recognised colleges, each of which has its own Visitor.

Student complaints and appeals were heard by the Visitor until the Higher Education Act 2004 came into force. All student complaints are now heard by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.


The Chancellor is the nominal head of the University. He or she is nominated by the Council and Senate and appointed by Convocation. The current Chancellor is the author Bill Bryson.

Until 1909, the University was nominally governed by the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral. Following the University of Durham Act, 1908, the University has, like most other British universities, been headed by a Chancellor.


The Vice-Chancellor is the chief executive of the University. He or she also holds the position of "Warden of the Durham Colleges" and is appointed by the Council. The deputy to the Vice Chancellor is the Pro-Vice-Chancellor who also holds the position of "Sub-Warden of the Durham Colleges" and deputises for the Vice-Chancellor. There may also be additional Pro-Vice-Chancellors. The previous Vice-Chancellor, Sir Kenneth Calman, retired in April 2007, and was succeeded by Professor Chris Higgins.

From 1908 to 1937, the Warden of the Durham Colleges was appointed for a period of two years, and the post of Vice-Chancellor alternated between Durham and Newcastle. From 1937, though a permanent Warden was appointed, the post of Vice-Chancellor continued to alternate until the establishment in 1963 of the independent University of Newcastle upon Tyne.


Convocation is the assembly of members of the University. It consists of the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, and Pro-Vice-Chancellors, all graduates, the teaching staff (lecturers, senior lecturers, readers, and professors), and the heads of colleges and licensed halls of residence. It must meet once each year in order to hear the Vice-Chancellor's Address and to debate any business relating to the University. Further meetings can be called if representation is made by a minimum of 50 members. Its powers are limited to appointing the Chancellor (and even then, only on the nomination of Council and Senate) and the making of representations to the University on any business debated.


Council is the executive body of the University. In addition to representatives from the University it includes the Dean of Durham Cathedral and representatives of the alumni, the Students' Union and the local councils. Its powers include establishing and maintaining colleges, and recognising non-maintained colleges and licensed halls of residence.


Senate is the supreme governing body of the University in academic matters. It nominates the Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellors to Council, and recommends the establishment of Faculties and Boards of Studies. It is Senate that grants degrees, and has the authority to revoke them. It also regulates the use of academic dress of the University.

Notable alumni

See List of Durham University people

Notable alumni of the University include Princess Anne's husband Vice-Admiral Tim Laurence, the son-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II and Rear-Admiral of the Royal Navy, James Bond actor Sir Roger Moore and General Sir Richard Dannatt.

A number of current and former Members of Parliament, including Conservative MP Edward Timpson and Labour MP Mo Mowlam, are alumni of Durham University.

Other high profile former students include Newsnight presenter Jeremy Vine, as well as BBC newsreaders Matthew Amroliwala, Kate Silverton, George Alagiah, and Tim Willcox. Writers Minette Walters, Sir Harold Evans, Hunter Davies and Edward Bradley also attended Durham University.

Durham graduates famous in the sporting arena include former England rugby captain Will Carling, Phil de Glanville, Will Greenwood, Olympic gold medal-winning triple jumper Jonathan Edwards, former England cricket captain Nasser Hussain and Andrew Strauss.


External links

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