Durham University (officially named the University of Durham) is one of the world’s top 100 universities. The collegiate public research university is based in Durham, North East England, and has a second campus in Stockton-on-Tees. The schools is known for its excellent programmes that are open to talented students from all backgrounds and nationalities. Currently, more than 17,000 students from over 150 different countries decided to study at Durham University. The multicultural campus is the perfect learning environment for students that are aiming for a global career. Through studying at Durham, students gain valuable knowledge in their chosen fields of study. The teaching approach is research-led and transformative. Classes are held by high-level professionals and teachers who use the latest digital technologies, in order to provide an interesting and informative lesson. The university offers 200 undergraduate and 130 postgraduate courses, as well as many research programmes. The subjects range from the Arts & Humanities, to Sciences and Social Sciences. The course range is one of the broadest in the UK. The school wants to provide an environment of educational excellence where each student can gain their personal and academic goals and maximise their potential. Durham University encourages students to take part in study abroad programmes to broaden their horizons.
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Durham is a highly acclaimed university both domestically and abroad. Hence why I would say that the fees paid are fully worth what you get out of the system.
In all, my experience so far at Durham has been a predominantly positive one. With staff always being accommodating by going through issues I had with material during office hours or through email.
There is also a diverse and vast amount of societies on offer, making it hard for anyone to not find something to suit them. This fact also makes it fairly easy to make friends and connect with people who share your interests.
The work load is also fairly manageable, with tutorials acting as the perfect medium to address issues you’ve had with the material and engage in depth with issues.
I would highly recommend those studying any degree with philosophy as a subject to take the level two module Theory Literature and Society. Not only is the content great, but the lecturer is top notch and very engaging.
While my overall experience has been great, I would say that there are issues to do with race at Durham. I know of people who have faced racial abuse by both locals and students, and have felt that not much has been done to address the issue. However, this should not discourage any person of colour, as those individuals are in the minority, and everyone I’ve met and talked to would agree that you can always find people who have your best intentions at heart and are supportive.
I actually loved my time in Durham so much. Durham helped me grow not only academically due to the challenging nature and high quality overall of teaching, but also as a well-rounded person because there were many different societies that I could participate in. There are a myriad array of college (intramural) sports – I joined football, basketball and badminton – as well as musical societies – I joined a band and gospel choir – not to mention societies for international students, theatre (both onstage and backstage), cooking, crafting…you name it, Durham likely has a society for it.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from my course, as I’d never studied Anthropology before (having done a bit of archaeology as part of my Classical Civilisations A-level). I was very pleased to find that it combines a lot of what I enjoyed from my A-levels (History, Geography, Biology and Classics), and also offered good practical experience, especially the opportunity to go on a three-week dig at the end of the year. In first year, Joint Honours Anth and Arch students have four core modules (2 in each department) that cover the basics, and we have 2 electives. I chose a medical anthropology module and a module on Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Indus Civilisation. Both were fascinating and the teaching quality superb; the tutorials in the medical anthropology module were extremely useful for consolidating the content covered in lectures.
In second and third year, the module choices grow more niche and we had increasing freedom to choose modules as we decide which areas we particularly enjoyed researching and learning about. In both second and third year there was again excellent practical work opportunities, particularly in the archaeology modules I chose – Developing Archaeological Research and Advanced Professional Training. In DAR I gained practical experience with human DNA and materials analysis (which were the areas I chose among a great variety), and in APT I had the amazing opportunity to go to Vienna with one of our bioarchaeologists and catalogue some ancient skeletons.
Overall the teaching was high-quality, though for some modules I felt like I would have benefitted from more contact hours in form of tutorials. However, it is often not difficult to find lecturers during their contact hours, though it is best to go with prepared questions (especially if it’s a complicated topic) because otherwise you might leave just as confused as you went in. The reading lists were always helpful, though for certain Term 2 modules I would have preferred they be released slightly earlier, perhaps over Christmas, so I could try and get some reading done then, rather than squash it all in during a very busy second term.
Another great thing about Durham is that college often have trusts and awards that can help you fund projects, volunteering, sports etc. so you don’t have to give up on an incredible opportunity because you might not be able to completely self-fund it.
Overall, the university has an excellent standard of teaching and quality of research. I would recommend the university, especially to people that want a completely immersive university experience in a smaller city. There are extremely useful career services and the collegiate system enables welfare of students to be high and integration to be relatively easy. Additionally, the sports facilities are excellent and all levels can get involved. The lecturers are generally extremely helpful and willing to answer any questions and help with any queries about the work. I will go into greater detail about the pros and cons, specifically of my course (Anthropology BSc).
1) Lectures and teaching:
A) pros: The lecturers are readily available via email and weekly consultation hours means that they are accessible if you have any queries over the work, reading, or if you want a general discussion and so on; the tutorials are particularly stimulating and classes are not too large so that everyone generally gets to discuss points; module handbooks and the online teaching support enables you to access readings mostly online and gives you clear direction and guidance about the work you must do for each of your seminars and lectures; the department is happy to take constructive criticism about its teaching and tends to act on it as long as students are upfront about issues they have; the departments are typically very helpful with issues about not being able to hand work in and valid extensions on deadlines are relatively easy to obtain; the workload is challenging but manageable and leaves time for you to get involved with other activities outside of studying.
B) cons: lecturers can sometimes be difficult to access via email; the feedback on assessments can be inconsistent between modules, with some lecturers providing extremely detailed feedback and others extremely minimal (however, further feedback can always be obtained from consultation hours); handbooks are inconsistent and some do not provide a detailed reading list to assist you with topic readings for assignments; dissertation supervision quality and quantity of feedback and meetings depends on the supervisor which means many students will experience much more feedback than others and there is no control over the amount of guidance dissertation supervisors must give (other than you have a maximum of 4 hours of time with your supervisor for Anthropology); sometimes feedback is extremely late for assessments and past the department deadline; Anthropology typically has very few contact hours per week (averaging around 6 hours of lecture time and maybe 2 hours of tutorial/seminar time); lecture quality is not always consistent and depends on the lecturers.
2) The library and study spaces:
A) pros: the library tends to have most of the books you need; there is a huge and extensive online database that is ready to access for students and enables access to most articles and papers you need that are online; the main site (the ‘science site’ as colloquially named by students) has a formal space to work (The Bill Bryson Library) and various more casual spaces to work such as the Chemistry Cafe and the Calman Learning Centre; colleges have their own libraries and study spaces for students; there are other larger libraries such as the Palace Green Library and the Leazes road library off the main site.
B) cons: the Bill Bryson Library (main library) does not have enough spaces to support all the students and with many thousands of students moving from the Stockton campus, there are even fewer spaces and the library is often overcrowded; not all articles you need will be available online; there is a shortage of books available online; there is often a shortage of core textbooks in the main library which will result in these often being recalled; study spaces are becoming increasingly crowded as the university expands and the needs of students have not been taken into account.
3) Collegiate system and sports:
A) pros: the collegiate system has an extremely strong welfare support team which assists students with welfare problems such as mental health issues; colleges also make approaching someone over difficulties with workload quite easy and often they are very happy to assist if you have valid problems that are affecting your work; college sports is very easy to be involved in and make sports viable for any skill levels; it’s easy to integrate with other students in your college with the college system; there are various study (e.g. libraries and study rooms) and leisure spaces (e.g. gyms, common rooms, music rooms) in colleges that are great; the sporting facilities at Durham are excellent and it’s really easy to get involved in sport at the college level and there are opportunities to get involved with the university-level sport.
B) cons: not all colleges have the same facilities; college accommodation is extremely expensive and is not always consistent (e.g. some individuals have extremely small rooms, some have issues with the maintenance of their rooms, accommodation blocks might be quite far from college etc); sports opportunities at colleges have costs that depend on the college (e.g. some colleges have a standard fee so you can get involved in all sports, others ask you to pay for each sport you play etc. and prices depend on the college); university-level sport can be very costly to be involved in; though college food generally tends to be good, the standard is not always high and the options for dietary requirements (e.g. dairy free, gluten free etc) are not always good.
Durham University maintains an excellent reputation for high standards in teaching, research and employability, making it an easy choice for me to study my undergrad in History. Whilst not for everyone, the Collegiate System makes integration easy, with the opportunity to live amongst a mixed group of people across subjects, with lots of opportunities for sports and extracurricular activity.
My Course (HISTORY)
– Great department with a wide variety of research-led modules, spanning every continent and time period.
– Supportive professors and staff, open and friendly department in a beautiful setting. Marking is thorough and helpful with a quick turnaround.
-Lots of scope for independent research on a multitude of topics, giving a lot of freedom and support for larger projects such as dissertations.
– Limited contact hours – which often called in to question value for money. Average 9 hours per week in first year, falling to 4.5 in final year.
– Expensive – fees have recently risen to £9,250 which does not go a long way in the history department in terms of contact time.
– Library – often competition for key course books, although most stuff is online nowadays. Caution to those looking to study niche, smaller or older modules!
– Gorgeous little city, northern location means that shopping is generally cheaper, as well as eating and drinking out.
– Accommodation – first year (college) with full catering options. Friendly with great amenities, each college with own library, social area, bar and sports facilities.
– Sports – great sport facilities and opportunities to play at both social and high level.
– Expense – college fees are extortionate and house rental market rising too. To Let houses tend to disappear quickly within early months for the next rental year.
– “Boring” – small city with smaller clubs and bars. Nights out tend to end at about 2am. Though in close proximity, few tend to venture to Newcastle.
– Exclusive – expenses and elitism make for an exclusive environment, aside from international students, poor representation of minorities.
What I like –
In general the lecturers and staff on my course are extremely helpful, with feedback on essays being prompt and often incredibly useful for future assignments
University facilities are very up to date, with more being built for future students
Town is very nice and nothing is too far away to walk to
What I dislike –
Very few contact hours especially for BA students
Accommodation fees are extortionate
The university overall is good.
However, I feel there is a general lack of consideration for the students. For example, the new VC decided to just move the pharmacy course to Newcastle University, therefore students in year 1,2 and 3 had to relocate to Newcastle, yet will still get their degree from Durham. This was done in the middle of people’s degrees and many people had to drop out because they could not travel to Newcastle.
I also have an assignment stolen from me (so did others) and the department has not done anything to stop this from being able to happen again.
The good things are the strong vision for the future they have.
Generally, a good quality of teaching and range of modules on offer. However, general facilities, such as the main library, are already overstretched and need extending. Furthermore, the university spends too much money on ‘fancy’ buildings for only certain subjects meaning other subjects are often left with sub-par resources. The student body would far prefer current infrastructure, equipment and resources to be improved rather than investing in ‘statement’ buildings.
However, saying all that, the staff I have been taught by over three years have all be really helpful and try to help you excel in your degree. And, the city itself is a lovely place to study. Just a shame senior management isn’t as good.
While no university is perfect, I do think Durham gets pretty close to one of the best university experiences you can have in the UK. The collegiate system is great for making the transition from school to uni and means that nearly everyone gets involved with the many societies and sports teams, either with your college or the SU. I studied English Literature and Education so experienced both the social sciences and humanities. It is hard work academically but only gets properly gruelling during exam season. Education was quite a small department so you really got to know your lecturers and English Lit had a great range of modules to choose from, though I would have liked more choice for the 20th/21st century period. The city itself is so picturesque and although a bit on the small size for a uni town, just means that you can walk everywhere and easily meet up with friends. Socials and formals are also fun so don’t let talk of Klute being the worst club in Europe put you off. I had a wonderful time – would definitely recommend applying!