A somewhat satirical guide to Durham’s colleges


Congratulations, you have been accepted into Durham University and are about to partake in what you hope to be the best few years of your life! Unlike other more normal universities, you have noticed that Durham consists of 17 different colleges. Unsure of what these colleges are and how they differ from one another? No worries! Sit back and relax as I go through all 17, comparing each to either a real or fictional character; by the end of this article, you will truly be an expert on the collegiate system of our beloved uni. Please note: this guide is somewhat satirical; you will have a much better time at Durham than any other uni, even if you have ended up in Stephenson.

St. Mary’s College
There’s no easier way to describe St. Mary’s than as the “Catfish College”. On the outside, Mary’s is perhaps one of the most beautiful parts of the entire city; walking through its grounds will give you such a peace of mind that you’ll forget all about your Oxbridge rejection. Then you go inside. Suddenly you feel like you are attending a 1980s primary school; ugly buildings, toilet stalls with doors 5ft high, endless corridors that make you feel like you’ve entered the Backrooms. To add insult to injury, the Mary’s bar is infamously tiny. At least you’re close to the science site though.

Character: Outside – A portrait of Elizabeth I; Inside – How Elizabeth I Actually Looked

St. Aidan’s College
Stairs, and lots of them. To get to St. Aidan’s via the conventional route one must prove their worth by scaling an unnecessarily steep staircase. Members of the college claim 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 too much to say about Aidan’s; I wasn’t convinced it existed until about halfway through 2nd year. At least you’re near Mary’s and can pretend you’re at a slightly nicer college.

Character: Bear Grylls

Trevelyan College
You know what? I’m a Trevs sympathiser. Everything about Trevelyan College should make you dislike it. An ugly building weirdly arranged into hexagons, people having to share rooms, the entire college constantly emitting a weird humming sound, the crest of the college being a drowning horse. But it just works. Something about the excessive strangeness means that I simply cannot hate Trevs, no matter how tempting it may be. On top of that, the bar is actually half-decent and tends to be a regular stop-off on college bar
crawls in the hills. Stay weird Trevs.

Character: Moss from the IT Crowd

Van Mildert College
Well, there’s a lake. If you jump in it, you may catch a disease you haven’t yet heard of but it’s a great anecdote to have at least. Whilst Mary’s is beautiful on the outside and ugly on the inside, Van Mildert is ugly in both regards. Despite this, the bar has a fairly decent atmosphere and the toastie booth just outside of it is certainly welcome. Also, the mascot of the college is a duck, and you can’t help but love ducks.

Character: Daisy Duck

South College
I mean I’m sure South College is probably quite nice. As Durham’s newest college, you could expect that the accommodation and college facilities are probably in a far greater condition than those built in the 1800s. However, even if it were akin to a 5-star hotel, I will never be able to get over how terribly named the college is. Even 2020’s April Fool’s joke which claimed it would be named after Jeremy Vine was unironically 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 Game of Thrones namesake; Durham’s John Snow started off in Stockton, then invaded the mound, moved to the Viaduct for a bit, then finally settled down in the hills next to South. Good for them, I guess. Hopefully, there’ll be a happy ending for Snow, but sadly I see them being outshone by their new neighbours.

Character: Sansa Stark

Josephine Butler College
As the college dearest to my heart, it is incredibly hard not to be biased about Josephine Butler, undoubtedly Durham’s greatest college. For those less familiar, Butler is a little bit like a wholesome cult. A mole mascot, a mound, and adoration for Klute on a Friday night are just few of the many quirks of this relatively young institution. For your own safety, never refer to the college as “Jobo” whilst on the college premises, or else you may become a social pariah.

Character: Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec

Stephenson College
If you think Stephenson is boring and irrelevant, I would heavily recommend you actually visit it, so that you can confirm that it is indeed boring and irrelevant. Of course, I am biased against Stephenson as a Butlerite, but I think I have good reason to be as such. The whole
college is themed around trains which is quite possibly the saddest theme imaginable. Their bar isn’t so bad, but even then, its known as “Platform One, Stephenson Central”, which immediately makes it the worst college bar in Durham (after Mary’s of course).

Character: That bloke from TikTok who goes trainspotting, but without the cute charm

Collingwood College
Oh look, someone made the jock from every American teen movie into a Durham college. Collingwood prides itself on being absolute sweats in every sport, even their darts teams are required to train for 12 hours a day. In their very limited free time away from representing the uni at various sporting outings, Collingwood students can be found in their offensively massive JCR, or in their bar with infamously slow service. Like Van Mildert, there is also a toastie booth, but obviously it has to be better because it’s Collingwood

Character: Oz from American Pie

Grey College
As the name suggests, Grey College is just pretty dull. I genuinely don’t have much to say about it beyond that. If you’re in Collingwood and the queue for the bar is too long, I guess you can pop over for a quick drink. The only real benefit of attending Grey is its proximity to the science site, assuming that you’re planning on doing any work towards your degree (which is often rare amongst Durham students).

Character: Dot Cotton

St. Cuthbert’s “Society”
Hey guys, did you see that? They call themselves “society”, not “college”. Oh my god that’s so quirky and unique. That’s such a silly and goofy thing to do. Wow, I am in complete awe of how different you are. You clearly aren’t like everyone else. Such levels of kookiness are
almost too much to bear. I’m actually finding it hard to review the rest of the college when faced with such levels of eccentricity.

Character: A 2014 Tumblr user

St. John’s College
John’s is Durham’s most religious college, conveniently placed in the middle of the Bailey with easy access to the cathedral. As such, I am sure it’s safe to assume that any students who attend only partake in respectable, Godly activities. My one main criticism is that the college discriminates against tall people; the college bar has an incredibly low ceiling which makes life for beanpoles like myself mildly inconvenient. I’m sure there’s something in the Bible that forbids this but oh well. At least Cuth’s and Chad’s and their far superior bars are nearby.

Character: Ned Flanders

St. Chad’s College
I think it’s safe to consider Chad’s as the best Bailey college, although that’s akin to deciding which piece of litter in your bin is your favourite. The main appeal to Chad’s is its bar, which boasts both very pleasant inside and outdoor areas. Be careful if you decide to apply for Chad’s though; due to its very small intake you’ll probably end up getting reallocated to one of the unloved colleges, like Stephenson or Trevs.

Character: The least toxic member of a group of rugby boys

Hatfield College
The college everyone loves to hate, and for good reason. Hatfield exemplifies the worst of Durham with possibly the most annoying student body ever created. Ironically, Hatfield was first created as a college for poorer students. These days though, the college is filled with the poshest of the posh; “rahs” can be heard from within a 5-mile radius and strange traditions are aplenty. At least their bar is nice though! 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 (Castle)
Okay fine, I can’t really deny that a college being based in a castle isn’t incredibly cool. However, when flexing about this, most Castle students tend to forget to mention that most of them do not actually live in the ancient building but are actually in pretty bland accommodation that is often on shared sites with H*tfield students. Unlike their main rival though, Castle’s bar is lovely, getting a perfect balance between tradition and modernity. The only issue is that it’s relatively expensive, only takes cash, shuts unnecessarily early, and your campus card is confiscated upon entry.

Character: Princess Anne

Hild Bede
Do you fancy being stranded out in the middle of nowhere, miles from any other college? Then come to Hild Bede! This amalgamation of two formerly single-sex colleges is quite the enigma to most Durham students, mainly because nobody can be bothered to walk that far. In its defence, Hild Bede is actually quite a pleasant place with some pretty nice grounds. Shame that its location consigns it to eternal irrelevance.

Character: Napoleon after he was exiled to Saint Helena

Yep, Durham has a postgraduate college. Yet another example of our attempts to cosplay as Oxbridge. Either way, I guess it’s nice to have a place where older students can go and retire together. I mean, most of them are probably in their mid-20s but that’s still pretty old by university standards. Apparently, their bar is quite nice; shame it’s near impossible for us mere undergraduates to enter.

Character: Grandpa Joe from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

And that’s that! Durham’s 17 colleges somewhat satirically reviewed. Hopefully, you now have a more concise understanding of Durham’s collegiate system and are even more excited to study here. Good luck (especially if you’re in Stephenson)!

Image: Durham University

3 thoughts on “A somewhat satirical guide to Durham’s colleges

  • Thank you! I’m not the only one who thinks Hatfield’s bar is like an airport lounge. Although I can’t say JBs is far off either, it’s too big unless it’s packed for an event – you simply get lost in its open bareness on a quiet day.

  • will be using this as the sole guidance for picking my college!!

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