When you think of Durham, what comes to mind is the “perfect little city” as described by Bill Bryson and the “best city in the UK” as voted by Condé Nast’s Traveller magazine readers. Nestled in this picturesque medieval city dating back to the 11th century, complete with a UNESCO World Heritage Site, however, is one of the UK’s most prestigious universities – complete with a Sports University of the Year accolade.
Durham University stands out for its impact, beauty, history and wealth of opportunities to take part in over 54 sports across hundreds of teams. The university campus includes the city’s castle founded by William the Conqueror in 1072 as well as ultra-modern learning facilities and state of the art sporting amenities.
As someone pursuing Ancient History and Archaeology at the world top 100 university, Savannah Jordan shares that living here is a “dream come true.”
“Durham is a magical small town that feels like you have stepped into the past without losing any modern conveniences!” she says.
“You have a quaint city full of historical wonder and amazing architecture, surrounded by nature and water that you have free access to. You can easily reach all the important shops by walking.”
Whether it’s learning in the cathedral grounds, going to the Castle bar for some live music, heading over to the racecourse to take part or watch a variety of sports, or rowing on the beautiful River Wear, the international student from Texas says that there are many opportunities to feel the lives of people who live in and love the city. “Durham is full of culture and nightlife as well, it’s constantly thriving,” she says. “There is never a dull moment. Festivals, markets, clubs, concerts — all you could need in a safe city where the people are super friendly and proud to be from Durham.
Here, every student is a proud member of one of 17 colleges — each with its own character and traditions. A college community is not just a mix of people who live within the college, but also includes undergraduates and postgraduates who choose to live outside in the community, members of staff, and alumni.
For international students like Jordan, this collegiate system made it easy to adapt to a new environment. “Every time you step outside, you see at least three people,” she shares. “I never feel alone at Durham, [as] there is always someone to lend a hand if I were to need help and it feels like a large family to me.”
Part of her family here includes the Assistant Principal from the St Cuthbert’s Society, a City University of New York graduate who has helped Jordan to overcome challenges to succeed during her first year abroad. “She showed me how much Durham prioritizes their student’s wellbeing,” Jordan recalls.
Sports University of the Year
Durham University was named the Sports University of the Year and ranked #1 for producing professional sports stars in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023. The title is proof of what students, graduates and staff already know – this is a university that makes athletes; professional, casual and everything in between.
Sports are important here – and a whole lot of fun too. More than three-fourths of students are engaged in sports and physical activity, which they get to do in facilities that have had 47 million pounds (US$57.67 million) invested in since 2012. Here, you can choose from sports across 700 different teams (or even start your own). Whichever route you take, you get to stay active and healthy, while making the most of the social opportunities it provides and feeling belonged.
From coaching to facilities and finances, the university aims to support students throughout their studies. Every year, the university awards a number of sporting scholarships valued at £2,000 (US$2,455) each on an annual basis throughout a recipient’s undergraduate career.
A research-led education that empowers and inspires
As the third oldest university in England, years of experience set it apart. Rankings are a testament to this — Durham University ranks among the world’s top 100, according to this year’s QS World University Rankings. Twelve Durham subjects were in the world’s Top 50 of the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2023. Guardian University Guide 2024 also ranked Durham as the seventh-best institution in the country.
From renowned departments such as Sports and Exercise Science to a diverse range of faculties encompassing everything from Business and Economics to Natural Sciences, Durham offers a comprehensive academic experience. Whether you’re passionate about History, Science, or Humanities, Durham’s top-ranking departments ensure you’ll find a program tailored to your interests and career aspirations.
Undergraduate and postgraduate programmes here are research-led, transformative and take advantage of the latest digital technologies.
The emphasis on hands-on learning experiences was also “extremely exciting” for someone with no prior field experience. “In the Archaeology department, we get to go on a month-long dig at Bishop Auckland, an archaeology site near Durham, where we learn basic skills and [acquire our] Archaeology Skills Passport, an important document in a young archaeologist’s career,” says Jordan.
Beyond this, faculty members engage in not just any research, but Durham research, which spans the world and beyond across various research institutes and centres. From working on a new X-ray satellite mission to discovering a new form of oxygen, world-leading and world-changing research informs an education at Durham.
Student life is equally vibrant. There are over 80 student-led music societies, 27 theatre companies across the university, 54 sports to participate at Durham, and many more student enrichment activities.