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University of Durham

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.

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, but it wasn't until 1832 when Parliament passed an Act founding the University that Durham University was actually started.

It was founded, as Oxford was also, with one college named University College, which soon moved into Durham Castle[?], which had previously been the bishops' palace.

Other colleges were founded as the university spread into various parts of the peninsula in the river Wear on which the city centre stands, where some departments and colleges are still housed. A major expansion took place in the 1950s, largely on and around Elvet Hill (one of several hills around the city), bringing several new colleges and new science departments.

For a time the university had a medical school ("King's College, Durham") at nearby Newcastle-upon-Tyne, but in 1963 this was spun off to become a separate university. More recently, the university has developed the new Queen's Campus, 20 miles south of the city, including a new medical school.


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. They also play a role in academic life, but teaching mostly happens in departments rather than in the colleges.

As well as the various Peninsula Colleges, during the 1950s expansion, St. Mary's (which had been on the Hill since the 19th century) was joined by many others, including Grey College[?], the name of which commemorates the second Earl Grey, who was the Prime Minister when Durham University was begun. Many of the other colleges were named to commemorate local saints.

There is a great deal of intercollegiate rivalry, particularly in rowing and other sporting activities.

List of colleges (with some information):

  • Peninsula
    • University College (informally known as "Castle")
    • Hatfield (fine stone buildings on the Bailey)
    • St John's (including a theology teaching hall)
    • St Chad's
    • St Cuthbert's Society (subtle distinctions exist between a Society and a College)
  • Hill
    • St Mary's (the only remaining women's college)
    • Grey
    • St Aidan's (formerly the "Society" for female "home" students (ie, already living in Durham), now a full-fledge mixed sex college)
    • Trevelyan
    • Collingwood
    • Van Mildert

  • Queen's Campus (20 miles south of Durham city centre, on the fringe of Stockton)
    • George Stephenson College
    • John Snow College

  • Others
    • St Hild and St Bede (geographically speaking, neither Peninsula nor Hill; the name arises since the college is the result of a merger between two single-sex colleges, St Hild's and Bede)
    • Ushaw (a Roman Catholic seminary some way out of the city, affiliated to the University)
    • Ustinov College (postgraduate college)

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