By Joseph Gellman
Congratulations, you have been accepted to Durham University and are about to experience what you hope will be the best years of your life! Unlike other more normal universities, you have noticed that Durham is made up of 17 different colleges. Don’t know what these colleges are and how they differ from each other? No problem! Sit back and relax as I cycle through the 17, comparing each to a real or fictional character; By the end of this article, you will truly be an expert on the college system of our beloved university. Warning: this guide is somewhat satirical; you’ll have a much better time in Durham than at any other university, even if you ended up in Stephenson.
There is no easier way to describe St. Mary’s than “Catfish College”. From the outside, Mary’s is perhaps one of the nicest areas in the whole city; walking through its grounds will give you such peace of mind that you will forget all your rejection of Oxbridge. Then you enter. Suddenly, you have the impression of attending an elementary school from the 1980s; ugly buildings, toilets with 5ft high doors, endless hallways that make you feel like you’ve stepped into the Backrooms. To add insult to injury, Mary’s Bar is infamous. At least you’re close to the science site.
Character: Exterior – A portrait of Elizabeth I; Inside – What Elizabeth I Looked Like
Stairs, and a lot of them. To get to St. Aidan by the conventional route, you have to prove your worth by climbing an unnecessarily steep staircase. Quorum members claim that there is an easier way to reach their home; I can only assume this is a lie since I have never seen anyone approach the college from any angle other than the iconic stairs. Beyond these ascension shenanigans, there isn’t much to say about Aidan; I wasn’t convinced it existed until about halfway through 2nd grade. At least you’re near Mary’s place and you can pretend you’re at a nicer college.
Character: Bear Grylls
You know what? I am a Trevs supporter. Everything about Trevelyan College should make you hate it. An ugly building strangely arranged in hexagons, people having to share rooms, the whole college constantly emitting a strange hum, the college crest being a drowning horse. But it works. Something about the excessive weirdness means that I just can’t hate Trevs no matter how tempting that can be. On top of that the bar is actually half decent and tends to be a regular stopping place at the college bar
crawls in the hills. Stay weird Trevs.
Character: Moss of the Computer Crowd
Van Mildert College
Well, there is a lake. If you go for it, you might catch an illness you haven’t heard of yet, but at least it’s a nice anecdote to have. While Mary’s is beautiful on the outside and ugly on the inside, Van Mildert is ugly either way. Despite this the bar has a pretty decent atmosphere and the toast stand just outside is certainly welcome. Plus, the college mascot is a duck, and you can’t help but love ducks.
Character: Daisy Duck
I mean, I’m sure South College is probably pretty cool. As Durham’s newest college, you can expect the college’s accommodation and facilities to be in much better condition than those built in the 1800s. However, even if it was akin to a hotel 5 stars, I will never be able to get over the terrible name of the college. Even the April Fools’ Day 2020 joke that claimed she would be named after Jeremy Vine was ironically a better option.
Character: Baby Groot
John Snow College
The nomadic college of Durham has finally found a home. A story more exciting than its namesake Game of Thrones; John Snow from Durham started in Stockton, then took over the mound, moved a bit towards the viaduct, then finally settled in the hills next to South. Good for them, I guess. I hope there will be a happy ending for Snow, but sadly I see them being overshadowed by their new neighbors.
Character: Sansa Stark
Joséphine Butler College
As the college dearest to my heart, it’s incredibly hard not to be one-sided about Josephine Butler, arguably the greatest college in Durham. For those who are less familiar, Butler is a bit like a healthy cult. A mole mascot, mound, and adoration for Klute on a Friday night are just a few of the many quirks of this relatively young institution. For your own safety, never call college “Jobo” while on college premises, otherwise you could become a social outcast.
Character: Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec
If you think Stephenson is boring and irrelevant, I highly recommend that you visit it, so that you can confirm that it is indeed boring and irrelevant. Of course, I’m biased against Stephenson as a Butlerite, but I think I have good reason to be. The totality
the university’s theme is trains, which is probably the saddest theme you can imagine. Their bar isn’t that bad, but even then it’s known as “Platform One, Stephenson Central”, which immediately makes it the worst college bar in Durham (after Mary’s of course).
Character: This guy from TikTok who does train spotting, but without the cute charm
Oh look, someone made the jock of every American teen movie in college in Durham. Collingwood prides themselves on being absolute sweats in all sports, even their darts teams have to train 12 hours a day. In their very limited free time away from representing the uni on various sporting outings, the students of Collingwood can be found in their massively offensive JCR, or in their bar with infamously slow service. Like Van Mildert, there is also a toast stand, but obviously it must be better because it’s Collingwood
Character: Oz from American Pie
As the name suggests, Gray College is just boring enough. I really don’t have much to say about it beyond that. If you’re in Collingwood and the line for the bar is too long I guess you can drop by for a quick drink. The only real benefit of attending Gray is its proximity to the science site, assuming you are planning to do some work towards your degree (which is often rare among Durham students).
Character: Cotton polka dots
The “Society” of St. Cuthbert
Hey guys, did you see this? They call themselves “society”, not “college”. Oh my god, this is so original and unique. It’s such a silly, wacky thing to do. Wow, I am completely amazed at your difference. You are clearly not like everyone else. Such levels of insanity are
almost too much to bear. In fact, I find it hard to see the rest of the college again in the face of such levels of eccentricity.
Character: A 2014 Tumblr user
John’s is Durham’s most religious college, conveniently located in the middle of the Bailey with easy access to the Cathedral. As such, I’m sure it’s safe to assume that all students who attend only respectable and pious activities. My only main criticism is that the college discriminates against tall people; the college bar has an incredibly low ceiling which makes the life of beans like me slightly inconvenient. I’m sure there is something in the Bible that forbids it but hey. At least Cuth’s and Chad’s and their far superior bars are nearby.
Character: Ned Flanders
I think it’s safe to consider Chad the best college in Bailey, even if that comes down to deciding which junk in your trash is your favorite. The main attraction of Chad’s is its bar, which has both very pleasant indoor and outdoor spaces. Be careful if you decide to apply for Chad; due to its very small amount, you will likely end up being reassigned to one of the unloved colleges, like Stephenson or Trevs.
Character: The least toxic member of a rugby group
The college everyone loves to hate, and for good reason. Hatfield exemplifies Durham’s worst with perhaps the most boring student body ever. Ironically, Hatfield was first established as a college for the poorest students. These days, however, the college is filled with the chicest of chic; The “rahs” can be heard within a 5 mile radius and strange traditions abound. At least their bar is nice! Oh wait no, they destroyed their old bar and replaced it with a slightly uglier version of an airport lounge.
Character: Draco Malfoy
University College (Château)
Okay, I can’t really deny that a castle based college isn’t insanely cool. However, when thinking about it, most of the students at Castle tend to forget to mention that most of them don’t live in the old building but are in fact in fairly bland accommodation that is often found on sites shared with H * tfield students. Unlike its main rival, the Castle’s bar is charming, striking the perfect balance between tradition and modernity. The only problem is that it’s relatively expensive, only takes cash, closes unnecessarily early, and your campus card gets confiscated at the entrance.
Character: Princess Anne
Do you want to find yourself in the middle of nowhere, miles from any other college? Then come to Hild Bede! This merger of two once-single-sex colleges is a real puzzle to most Durham students, mainly because no one can bother to walk that far. In his defense, Hild Bede is actually a pretty nice place with some nice pitches. Too bad its location condemns it to eternal uselessness.
Character: Napoleon after his exile in Saint Helena
Yes, Durham has a postgraduate college. Yet another example of our attempts to cosplay as Oxbridge. Anyway, I guess it’s nice to have a place where older students can go to retire together. I mean, most of them are probably in their mid-twenties, but it’s still pretty old by college standards. Apparently their bar is pretty cool; too bad it is almost impossible for us simple undergraduates to get in.
Character: Papy Joe from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
And this is it! Durham’s 17 colleges have been the subject of somewhat satirical scrutiny. Hope you now have a more concise understanding of Durham’s college system and are even more excited to study here. Good luck (especially if you are in Stephenson)!
Image: Durham University