Durham Colleges Pros And Cons

Durham Colleges Pros And Cons

The University of Durham boasts a collegiate system comprising 17 colleges, one of which is exclusively for postgraduates. Choosing a Durham college holds significant importance, as it greatly influences your overall student experience. Each college within the University has its unique pros and cons that you will need to be aware of.

For prospective students, conducting thorough research into the pros and cons of Durham Colleges is essential to find the best match according to individual priorities and requirements, considering the three-year duration of your stay. 

Factors such as location and facilities may hold value for some, while others may prioritise a close-knit and supportive community.

This guide aims to delve into the pros and cons of Durham Colleges, offering valuable insights to aid in the decision-making process.

Pros and Cons Durham Colleges

Below here are the advantages and disadvantages of Durham Colleges. This comprehensive guide is regularly updated to provide an unbiased overview of the Durham Colleges pros and cons. 

The aim is to encompass the pros and cons of every college to assist individuals in making informed decisions.

University College (Castle) Pros and Cons

University College, also known as Castle, is considered one of the best colleges at Durham It is one of the nicest-looking colleges with facilities like the Great Hall for dining and a fancy bar. However, the chances of getting accommodation at Castle are quite slim. 


One of the main advantages of attending University College (Castle) at Durham University is the academic resources available to students. The faculty are highly knowledgeable and supportive, providing guidance and feedback to students on their coursework and projects. Additionally, students have access to state-of-the-art labs and software, which can help them excel in their studies.

Another benefit of attending Castle is the vibrant campus community. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved in clubs and societies, including those related to computer science and beyond. This can help students make connections and form friendships that can last a lifetime.

The castle itself is also a major draw for students. It is located in the centre of town and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Students have the unique opportunity to live in a piece of history, and the castle’s great hall serves as the location for daily meals. Twice a week, there are also gowned formals where students can dress up and dine in style for just £1 per seat.

In terms of social life, Castle also boasts the oldest student bar in the world, the Undercroft Bar, which doubles as the College’s JCR. There is also a Toastie bar located within the castle, providing students with a convenient and tasty snack option.

Durham Castle College Great Hall


One potential downside of attending University College (Castle) is the difficulty of getting accepted. Castle is harder to get into than other colleges at Durham University, and if a student is not accepted, they may be placed in a different college instead. Another potential drawback is the lack of sports facilities. While Castle does have its own gym and boat club, the college does not have its own sports grounds and must use the university’s facilities. Additionally, Castle does not have an outstanding reputation for sports, which may be a drawback for students who are looking for a more competitive athletic experience.

Another potential challenge is the housing situation. While some students live in the castle itself, most are housed in other accommodation sites, including Owensgate, Moatside, and Bailey Court. Students who live within the castle may need to share their living spaces, which may not be ideal for everyone.

Overall, while there are certainly some potential drawbacks to attending University College (Castle) at Durham University, the benefits of the academic resources, vibrant campus community, and historic castle location may outweigh any potential downsides for many students.


St Aidan’s Pros and Cons

St Aidan’s College seems to be largely irrelevant according to some students. It is located on top of a hill but beyond the location, little is known about the college. Some students note that in four years at Durham, they have never met anyone from St Aidan’s or learned anything about the college. For this reason, some students rank St Aidan’s as irrelevant.

St Chad Pros and Cons

St Chad’s College has a nice garden and chill vibe according to many students. Although it is one of the smallest colleges, it is also one of the most popular. Some students would consider going to St Chad’s if they were not a member of St Cuthbert’s Society. Based on the atmosphere and popularity, we rank St Chad’s at the top with the best Durham colleges. St Chad is considered as the college with the best food among Durham colleges.


St Cuthbert Pros and Cons

St Cuthbert’s Society, also known as Cuts, is the college so they acknowledge their potential bias. However, the college has two bars, a location on the Bailey, a nice atmosphere, and laid-back people. For these reasons, along with student experience there, St Cuthbert’s is ranked highly.

Collingwood College Pros and Cons

Collingwood College is the biggest college and known for being sporty. It has a great bar called The Stag that is highly rated. However, its location on top of the hill makes it far from town. The size and social aspects of Collingwood lead the to rank it among the best colleges, though its location is noted as a potential downside.


Grey College Pros and Cons

Grey College seems decently average for some students. It is located near the science site, but otherwise little stands out about the college or leads some students to rate it very highly or poorly. Its reputation appears to match its name, “grey by nature.” For this mediocrity, some students rank Grey as just average.

Hatfield College Pros and Cons

Hatfield College is ranked the lowest by some college students as the “most hated college” known for being stuck up and posh. Though some students note that individuals they know from Hatfield do not match this stereotype, the college’s reputation and inter-collegiate rivalries lead to giving Hatfield it is bottom-tier ranking.

St Hild Pros and Cons

St Hild and St Bede have pretty buildings, great views of the cathedral, and a nice location by the river. However, it also has a reputation for being private school-oriented. Some students rank this college as actually good, though acknowledges its elitist stereotype. Anyone some students have known from the college has been nice.

St John College Pros and Cons

St John’s College is small, cute, and religious, located on the Bailey. However, its bar is noted as very cramped and not ideal for tall individuals. For its size and location, it is considered a good college, though tall students may want to be wary of the bar facilities.

St Mary’s College Pros and Cons

St Mary’s College is one of the nicest looking colleges with great views of the cathedral, especially well-located for science students. Unfortunately, it has an awful bar that is tiny and in the basement. Some students want to rank St Mary’s higher due to its appearance and location, but its bar facilities are a major downside. Ultimately, some students rank the college as actually good but note the bar as its “Achilles heel.”


Mary’s College is known for having the most picturesque buildings of all the colleges in Durham. The grand old buildings and landscaped grounds make it an aesthetically pleasing choice. The college is also catered, meaning meals are cooked for students and served at set times. Students value having one less thing to worry about as first years. Mary’s also offers the option of gowned accommodation, which some students prefer for the traditional college experience. All-girls corridors are available for those who want them.


While many students appreciate catered accommodation, the speaker found that the food did not meet their dietary needs as someone gluten-free. They had to have several conversations with staff to improve the options. The college also lacks full kitchens, only having small pantries for storage, which the speaker missed being able to cook for themselves. As a first year without friends, the speaker also felt embarrassed eating alone in the dining hall multiple times a day.


Van Mildert College Pros and Cons

Van Mildert College is known for lakes and ducks, as well as being quite large and sporty. However, the lake and bar are noted as “quite shit” and the college is seen as “painfully average.” The mediocrity and limited appeal lead some students to rank Van Mildert as just average among the Durham colleges.

South College Pros and Cons

South College is the newest college with modern facilities, but it lacks traditions due to its recent establishment. It’s the number one college on the Evans Score table for Durham Colleges. The South College is difficult to judge given how new it is, though its appearance and shared spaces with St John’s College seem appealing. With limited information, some students rank South College as average but note it is still making a name for itself.

Stephenson College Pros and Cons


Stephenson College at Durham University offers several advantages that contribute to a positive student experience. One of the key pros is the strong sense of community within the college. Students often form lasting friendships and feel a sense of belonging, fostering a supportive and inclusive environment. This community spirit creates opportunities for collaboration, socialization, and personal growth.

Another significant advantage of Stephenson College is its excellent location in Durham City. Situated in the heart of the city, students have easy access to a wide range of amenities, including historic sites, shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions. This proximity enhances the overall student experience, providing opportunities for exploration, entertainment, and engagement with the local community.

The college also offers dedicated support systems to help students succeed academically and personally. Academic tutors, peer mentors, and welfare teams are readily available to provide guidance and assistance, ensuring that students receive the necessary support throughout their university journey. Additionally, Stephenson College provides unique programs and initiatives, such as research scholarships, leadership development opportunities, and volunteering projects, allowing students to pursue their interests, gain valuable skills, and make a positive impact.

Furthermore, the college boasts outstanding facilities, including a well-equipped library, study spaces, computer labs, sports facilities, and social areas. These modern amenities contribute to a conducive learning environment and provide students with a well-rounded and enjoyable university experience.


While Stephenson College at Durham University offers many advantages, there are a few potential drawbacks to consider. One of the cons is the limited availability of accommodation. Due to high demand, some students may be assigned to off-site or less desirable accommodations, which could impact their college experience and convenience.

Another factor to consider is the potential noise and congestion associated with the college’s central location in Durham City. The bustling city atmosphere can sometimes lead to increased noise levels and congestion, which may not suit students who prefer a quieter and more serene living environment.

Additionally, the proximity of certain academic departments to Stephenson College could pose a challenge for some students. Depending on their chosen field of study, they may need to commute longer distances to reach their classes, which could be inconvenient and time-consuming.

Furthermore, while there are dining options available in Durham City, Stephenson College itself may have limited on-site dining facilities. This might require students to rely on other nearby college facilities or venture into the city for a wider range of food choices.

The popularity of social events and the strong sense of community within Stephenson College can sometimes result in crowded gatherings during peak times. This may lead to longer queues, limited space, or a less intimate atmosphere during certain events, which may not suit all students’ preferences.

It’s important to consider these potential drawbacks alongside the advantages when evaluating Stephenson College at Durham University. Individual priorities, preferences, and circumstances should be taken into account to make an informed decision.


Josephine Butler College Pros and Cons


Josephine Butler College offers several advantages that contribute to a positive student experience. The rooms are spacious and well-equipped, with each room featuring a single bed, desk, chair, wardrobe, and a bathroom or shower room. This provides students with comfortable and functional living spaces. The presence of a cleaner who cleans the rooms and kitchen every week adds to the convenience and cleanliness of the accommodation.

The college is known for providing one of the best accommodations on campus. The support staff are readily available to assist students at any time of the day, and there is a weekly cleaning service along with the regular removal of rubbish. The bedrooms are sizeable and comfortable, with modern furnishings. The availability of en-suite facilities in all rooms adds to the convenience and cleanliness, making student life more enjoyable.

Josephine Butler College’s self-catered setup combined with the option to enjoy excellent food at the college bar throughout the week and on weekends is a major draw. This allows students to have the flexibility to cook for themselves or indulge in the delicious offerings at the college bar, enhancing their university experience. The college’s communal kitchens are spacious and well-maintained, providing a conducive space for eating and socializing.

The college’s social atmosphere is highly regarded. With a welcoming and respectful community, students feel a sense of belonging and quickly settle in during freshers’ week. The college also organizes frequent social events in the bar area, including formals, which are fun to attend and reasonably priced. Additionally, the college offers a gym facility at an affordable price, allowing students to stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle.


One potential drawback of Josephine Butler College is its location, which is a bit far from the town centre. This may pose challenges when it comes to shopping or accessing certain amenities. However, the college is still within walking distance of the town centre, and public transportation options, such as buses, are available to ease the commute.

Another consideration is that the rooms feature single beds, which may be smaller compared to double or three-quarter-sized beds offered at other universities. While the rooms are functional and comfortable, some students may prefer larger beds for added comfort.

Additionally, Josephine Butler College may have fewer activities available for students who are not interested in sports or drinking. While the college provides a vibrant social environment, students with alternative interests may need to explore other clubs and activities outside of the college to engage in a wider range of pursuits.

Trevelyan College Pros and Cons


Trevelyan College at Durham University offers a range of advantages for its students. Firstly, the college provides a welcoming and inclusive social atmosphere, allowing students to easily form friendships and feel like part of a close-knit community. The unique hexagonal layout of the college facilitates interaction between students on different landings, fostering a sense of camaraderie from the very beginning.

The college’s location is another positive aspect, as it is conveniently situated just a 5-minute walk away from the science site and approximately 20 minutes away from the town centre. This proximity to key areas ensures easy access to academic facilities and a variety of recreational opportunities.

Trevelyan College is known for organizing diverse events that cater to a wide range of interests and demographics. From bar nights to formal, there are numerous social activities for students to enjoy. Additionally, the college offers various facilities, including a bar with affordable drinks, a shop for essential items known as the buttery, and social spaces for relaxation and interaction.

The quality of the food at Trevelyan College has improved, with a wide variety of dishes and generous portions being provided. Although dessert quality may vary throughout the year, overall, students are satisfied with the food options available. The college’s dining room ensures that catered meals are easily accessible and contribute to a positive dining experience.

One of the standout features of Trevelyan College is its strong sense of community. The hexagonal layout, combined with communal spaces such as the bar and library, encourages both studying and socializing. This balance allows students to focus on their academics while also providing opportunities for breaks and social engagement.

Additionally, Trevelyan College has a vibrant musical culture, with numerous socials and events centred around music. This aspect appeals to music enthusiasts and provides students with opportunities to engage in musical activities and performances.


Despite its many positives, Trevelyan College at Durham University does have a few drawbacks that some students have noted. One recurring concern is related to management issues. There have been complaints from students regarding food theft in the kitchen during lockdown periods, and some have expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of security measures in place. Students feel that despite receiving emails acknowledging the problem, the college administration has not taken sufficient action to address these issues, leading to a sense of frustration and discontent among some residents.

Another area of criticism is the quality of facilities and rooms. While the communal spaces and dining facilities receive positive feedback, the quality of individual rooms has been a point of contention. Although the rooms are cleaned regularly, some students have found them to be outdated compared to other university halls. This discrepancy in room quality has led to concerns about value for money, as some students feel that the relatively high rent does not match the modern furnishings available in other accommodations.

Additionally, navigating around Trevelyan College can be challenging for some students. The layout and design of the college, including the hexagonal architecture, may initially confuse and disorientate newcomers. Furthermore, some students have reported that the Wi-Fi connectivity within the college is not reliable, which can pose difficulties for online activities and studying.

Some students have expressed that the location of Trevelyan College, while convenient for academic purposes, is a bit far out and not aesthetically pleasing. The distance from the town centre may require extra time for commuting, and the appearance of the college may not appeal to everyone’s aesthetic preferences.


Ustinov College Pros and Cons

Ustinov is a postgraduate-only college at Durham University. 


Ustinov College seems to have a calm and friendly environment. It hosts many interesting international events throughout the year. The college bar is nice and there are events with live music open to both postgraduates and families.

The accommodation and facilities at Ustinov are modern and located close to the business school. The college has a diverse mix of students from different backgrounds and ages, especially postgraduates. This could appeal to older or international students looking for a more mature student lifestyle. The college organizes social events focused on different nationalities that do not solely revolve around drinking.

Ustinov College could suit students who want to focus seriously on their studies in a quiet environment away from noisy undergraduates. The large international student population also provides opportunities to learn Mandarin or experience other cultures.


Ustinov College may lack character and history compared to other Durham colleges. The wide range of student ages and backgrounds could be off-putting for some. The limited number of formals and balls may discourage students from seeking a traditional collegiate experience.

The large proportion of postgraduate and international students may make it difficult for younger British undergraduates to integrate or find like-minded peers. The college environment may seem very serious or too career-focused for students prioritizing an active social life or extracurricular activities.

John Snow College Pros and Cons

John Snow College would likely appeal most to dedicated students looking to balance studies and moderate college involvement. However, its limited social events and shared facilities with South College could be off-putting for students seeking an extremely close-knit or traditional collegiate environment. 


John Snow College has excellent modern facilities including a college bar, gym, music room and dance studio. It provides many opportunities for students to get involved in sports, societies and other extracurricular activities. The college seems to foster an academic and achievement-oriented environment, reflected in its motto about striving for excellence.

The college accommodation and shared facilities appear quite new, having been recently renovated. John Snow College shares some amenities with the adjacent South College, providing students access to resources in both colleges.

The college organizes a few social events each year for students to interact, though not as frequently as some other Durham colleges. This may suit students preferring to focus on their studies and who still want to experience some traditional collegiate social aspects.

Living in college accommodation allows students to fully immerse themselves in college life and often form close bonds with flatmates. Making the effort to engage with flatmates and establish rules about shared spaces helps to ensure an enjoyable housing experience.


John Snow College may lack opportunities for frequent social interaction and a close-knit community feel compared to other colleges hosting more events. The shared facilities and proximity to South College could make it hard to differentiate the colleges’ distinct characters.

The college’s strong academic and achievement focus may discourage some students from seeking a well-rounded student experience emphasizing extracurricular activities and college involvement on par with studies. Strict rules within the college accommodation may not suit all students’ living preferences.

Not living in the college accommodation prevents students from fully experiencing traditional collegiate life at Durham which is a key part of its appeal. Students may miss out on forming close relationships with flatmates and participating in college activities.