The University of Durham is the third-oldest university in England, after Oxford and Cambridge. Located in the beautiful cathedral city of Durham, it is one of the United Kingdom's leading research universities - coming eleventh in the 2002 Research Assessment Exercise and never out of the top twenty of either the Times Good University Guide or the Sunday Times University Guide. It is a member of the 1994 Group of Universities, representing medium-sized research universities. The current Chancellor of the University is Sir Peter Ustinov.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Colleges
3 Constitution
4 Alumni
5 External Links


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 actually issed letters patent for the establishment of a college in 1657. However it was not until 1832, when Parliament passed an Act allowing the Dean and Chapter to Durham to fund a new University, that Durham University was actually started. The Act received Royal Assent and became law on the fourth of July, 1832. The University's Royal Charter was granted on the first of June, 1837 by William IV, with the first students graduating a few days later.

It was founded, as Oxford was also, with one college named University College, which moved into Durham Castle (previously the Bishop's palace) in 1837. This was joined in 1846) by Hatfield College, across the road from the castle.

The University expanded out of Durham and 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 as the College of Science in 1884 and again as Armstrong College in 1904). St Cuthbert's Society was founded in 1888 to cater for non-resident students in Durham, while two teacher-training colleges - St Hild's for women, established in 1858, and St Bede's for men, established in 1839 - were associated with the University from 1896 and 1892 respectively. These merged to form a mixed college (the College of St Hild and St Bede) in 1975.

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. Also in 1899 the Durham Colleges Students' Representative Council (DCSRC) was founded to represent students at the Durham colleges (the Newcastle division having its own SRC). This was renamed as the Durham Students' Union in 1963.

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 (1904) and St John's theological college (1909). A parliamentary bill proposed in 1907 would have fixed the seat of the University in Durham for only 10 years, allowing the Senate to choose to move to Newcaste 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.

After the second world war, the Durham division began expanding 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 was laid by Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II). The new building opened in 1952. 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 for 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 (1965), Trevelyan College (1966) and Collingwood College (1972) all being added to the University.

These were not the only developments in the University, however. The Graduate Society, catering for post-graduate 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 only single-sex college. In 2002 the University announced that a new college, to open in 2004 will be built on the Elvet Hill site


In 1992 a join venture between the University and the University of Teeside saw the Joint University College on Teeside of the Universities of Durham and Teeside (JUCOT) establised at Stockton-on-Tees, 23 miles south of Durham.

This was initially intended to grant joint degrees validated by both institutions (BAs and BScs). However, Teeside, 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 resonsibilities.

Further integration lead to the campus being renamed the University of Durham, Stockton Campus (UDSC) in 1998, removing teaching resonsibilities 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 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.

Durham Today

In recent years, the University has maintained its strength, being ranked 7th in the English-speaking world (only behind Oxford and Cambridge in the UK, and ahead of instututions such as Yale) in a study of scientific citations carried out by the University of Hong Kong in 2000, while the UK Research Assessment Exercise in 2001 rated Durham research as averaging a 5 rating - "international excellence in more than half of the research activity submitted and attainable levels of national excellence in the remainder". The Teaching Quality Assessments carried out by the Quality Assurance Agency have rated Durham at an average of 22.2/24 in 2003, well above the UK average of 21.6, and the Durham University Business School was ranked 61st in the Economist listing of the top 100 MBAs in the world.

Durham remains one of only a few universities to have won University Challenge twice, with victories in 1977 and 2000, and the Durham University Centre of Cricketing Excellence is one of only three (the others being Oxford and Cambridge) to play first-class matches.

Chancellors of the University

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

  • 1909 - 1912 The Very Rev. George William Kitchin, Dean of Durham
  • 1913 - 1918 His Grace Henry George Percy, 7th Duke of Northumberland
  • 1919 - 1928 The Rt. Hon. John George Lambton, 3rd Earl of Durham
  • 1929 - 1930 His Grace Alan Ian Percy, 8th Duke of Northumberland
  • 1931 - 1949 Most Hon. Charles Stewart Henry Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry
  • 1950 - 1957 George Macaulay Trevelyan
  • 1958 - 1969 The Rt. Hon. Lawrence Lumley, 11th Earl of Scarborough
  • 1971 - 1980 The Rt. Hon. Malcolm John MacDonald
  • 1981 - 1990 Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias
  • Since 1992 Sir Peter Ustinov


Durham is the only British university apart from Oxford and Cambridge to operate a collegiate structure, and has a similar feel and reputation to these universities. The colleges dominate the residential, social, sporting, and pastoral functions within the university, and there is heavy student involvement in their operation.

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". This is same legal status as the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge and the constituent institutions of the University of Wales, and sets Durham colleges apart from those at the universities of Kent, Lancaster, and York, which have no legal standing. However, unlike at Oxford and Cambridge, there is no teaching at Durham colleges.

Formal dinners (known as "Formal Halls") 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.

List of colleges (with some information):


  • University College (1832) (informally known as "Castle")
  • Hatfield (1846) (the second oldest college - named for Thomas Hatfield, Prince-Bishop of Durham 1345 - 1381)
  • St John's (1919) (founded as an Anglican theological college in 1909, St John's is still administratively and financially independent of the University. It includes the Cranmer Hall Anglican theological college, named for Thomas Cranmer, and the Methodist Wesley Study Centre, named for John Wesley).)
  • St Chad's (1919) (founded as an Anglican theological college in 1904, St Chad's, like St John's, remains an independent college and is self-financed and self-governed. It includes the North East Institute for Theological Education (an ecumenical institution of the Anglican, Methodist and United Reformed Churches.)
  • St Cuthbert's Society (1888) (St Cuthbert's was founded to cater for those students who were not members of either of the two existing colleges (Castle and Hatfield)


  • St Mary's (1899) (the only remaining women's college, though the University announced on 7 January 2004 that the first mixed intake will be in October 2005)
  • Grey (1959) (named for Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, Prime Minister of 1830 - 1834
  • St Aidan's (formerly the "Society" for female "home" students (ie, already living in Durham), now a full-fledge mixed sex college)
  • Trevelyan (1966) (named for George Macaulay Trevelyan, Chancellor of the University 1950 - 1957)
  • Collingwood (1972) (named for the mathematician, Sir Edward Collingwood)
  • Van Mildert (1965) (named for William Van Mildert, Prince-Bishop 1826 - 1836)
  • Ustinov College (1965) (the postgraduate college, known as the Graduate Society until 2003 when it moved its centre to the Howland's site on Elvet Hill. Named for Sir Peter Ustinov, Chancellor of the University since 1992)

Queen's Campus

The Queen's Campus is 23 miles south of Durham, on the outskirts of Stockton on Tees


  • St Hild and St Bede (1975) (geographically speaking, neither Bailey nor Hill; the name arises since the college is the result of a merger between two single-sex teacher-training colleges, St Hild's (female, founded in 1858) and St Bede's (male, founded in 1839).
  • Ushaw (1968) (a Roman Catholic seminary, founded at Douai in 1568, which moved to Ushaw, near Durham, in 1808 and became a Licensed Hall of the University in 1968)


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 consituted 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. This sets out that:

"The University shall be governed by a Visitor, Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Convocation, Council, Senate, Boards of Faculties and Boards of Studies."

The Visitor

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.

The Chancellor

The Chancellor is the nominal head of the University. He or she is nominated by the Concil and Senate and appointed by Convocation.

The Vice-Chancellor

The Vice-Chancellor is the chief executive of the University. He or she also holds the positions 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.


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 meets once a year in order to hear the Vice-Chancellor's Address and to debate any business relating to the University. Its powers are limited to appointing the Chancellor (and even then, only on the nomination of Council and Senate) and the making 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-Chancellor(s) 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.


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 not financially independent of the University and their principals are appointed by 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 financially independet of the University and have a greater degree of administrative independence than the Maintained Colleges. However Council must approve the apointment of their principal and be notified of changes to their constitutions. There is also a requirement that they must be within the County of Durham.

Affiliated Colleges (Codrington College, Barbados and, until 1967, Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone) are overseas institutes that present their students for University of Durham examinations. They are not generally considered part of the collegiate structure of the University and are not listed as colleges in the University Calendar.


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, a Deputy Dean and an Associate Dean. 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 factuly, the teaching staff of the department, and student representatives.


Famous Alumni include:

External Links