Durham University

Durham University-About

Durham University is situated in England’s north-east on the River Wear. 

Bill Bryson described Durham as  “the most perfect little city in the world”. Durham is small enough to walk through, and large enough to offer every possible urban amenity, from Marco Pierre White’s popular upmarket restaurant, to dozens of pubs, bars, coffee shops and retail centres.

A UNESCO heritage site, Durham is a romantic, picturesque setting, with stone-arch bridges flowing beneath the silhouettes of the city’s castle and 11th century cathedral, while crowds of Durham University students meander through the medieval lanes, or stop to buy fresh produce in the ancient Market Place, with its open stalls and bustling atmosphere.

You will, in short, enjoy living in Durham – and you will gain an outstanding education!

An overview and rankings

Durham University is a public, research university, founded in 1832. It’s a member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading universities. Like Oxford and Cambridge, it is organised along the lines of a collegiate system, with each of the 17 colleges providing facilities, accommodation, dining and support, while the university itself organises academic teaching. In 2023, the QS global ratings ranked Durham University at  92nd overall.

Durham University has 20,268 students, of whom 27 per cent are international students (2023). Durham offers 200 undergraduate courses and 190 postgraduate degrees. The university comprises of four faculties: Arts and Humanities; Business, Social Sciences and Engineering and Science, and its MBA  has been ranked second in the world for value for money by the Financial Times.

Durham University has been ranked 40th in the world for employer reputation (QS, 2021), and has a successful and dedicated Employability and Careers team on site, to guide its students. The university observes three terms.

Durham University -courses

Durham University scores very highly in the QS subject rankings 2023, with 12 of its courses being included in the world Top 50, namely:

  • Archaeology (10th)
  • Theology and religious studies (6th)
  • Anthropology (23rd)
  • Classics and Ancient History(8th)
  • Earth Sciences(46th)
  • English (38th)
  • Geography (14th)
  • Philosophy (32nd)
  • History(38th)
  • Law (46th)
  • Geology  (46th)
  • Geophysics (47th)

Additionally, the Top 100 global subject rankings include Durham’s courses in:

  • Chemistry
  • Modern Languages and Culture
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Government and International Affairs
  • Psychology
  • Sport and Exercise Sciences

Of all the courses offered by Durham University, law, music, business, English and history are traditionally the most over-subscribed.


Over 80 per cent of the research undertaken at Durham University is “internationally excellent”, and the range of subjects currently being studied is broad and exciting. For instance, Durham University is:

  • mapping meltwater lakes in the Eastern Antarctic, in order to calculate the effects of climate change;
  • developing a stainless steel mesh which can be used to clear oil spills , while concurrently killing water-borne bacteria;
  • running supercomputer simulations to test alternatives to Einstein’s theory of relativity;
  • excavating Beijing’s Forbidden City;
  • creating the next generation of telescopes;
  • studying all type of hazards and risks, from flooding to earthquakes, landslides to water shortages and cyber security;
  • conducting ongoing experiments into viable alternative sources of energy which can drive clean growth;
  • focussing on cosmology and astronomy and the questions raised in relation to the nature of space;
  • developing coffee plants which are resistant to disease
  • examining a Viking board game… etc.

How do I apply?

You will submit your application to Durham University through UCAS, the central admissions system of the UK. It is worth noting that, should you be invited to take part in an online interview, Durham’s admissions committees pay great attention to extracurricular activities. You would be well advised to prepare for questions on this theme. In addition, remember to include these activities when you come to write your personal statement. Moreover, Durham University is a sporting university, so if you are involved in particular teams and sports, make sure you mention this fact!


In the first year, Durham students live in their colleges, which differ in terms of the facilities they provide and their overall reputation and atmosphere. If you decide to go to Durham University, and have a clear idea of the type of college you wish to live in, then go on the website and read through the options and descriptions. Alternatively, contact Elab and we will put you in touch with someone who has first-hand information, so we can give you the inside track. Colleges are competitive and there is a great deal of sporting rivalry, particularly when it comes to rowing.

None are in remote locations and you will be within walking distance of your department everywhere on the Durham City campus. The Queen’s Campus in Stockton, which is an International Study Centre and prepares non-European students for starting their degree, is some 30 miles away. It is linked to Durham City by a free and regular bus service. In the second year, most students tend to leave college, and return for their third year. Half of the colleges are traditional and observe formal dinners which have to be attended in gowns; others, less so. You have 17 colleges to choose from, and are bound to find the ideal environment for your personal interests and tastes.

Leisure activities

Durham University has over 200 clubs and societies and organises vintage fashion fairs, chamber choirs, revues, silent discos and a wide range of musical, theatrical and debating events . What is more, there are over 80 volunteer projects on campus, and fundraising drives have included trips to Jordan and Mount Kilimanjaro, as well as the Himalayas.

Overall, 92 per cent of students at Durham University are involved in sports, and there are 50 sports clubs including lacrosse, fencing, tennis and football. Durham University is a centre of cricketing excellence and does very well across the whole inter-varsity sporting sector organised under the banner of British Universities and Colleges Sports (BUCS), regularly coming second in the table-after Loughborough– over the last decade.

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