Durham college popularity rankings revealed


Palatinate can reveal the official popularity rankings of all Durham Colleges, according to how many applications they receive from incoming students each year.

A Freedom of Information request concerning the data collected by the University from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) shows the last six years of applications from prospective students, and which college they put as their top choice.

Last year, the university switched from a single preference system to a ranking system, so the 2021 entrants were able to rank each college. University College placed first in the rankings, followed by St Cuthbert’s, Collingwood, and St Chad’s. South, the newest college in Durham, placed seventh.

The only three colleges to have placed in the top five every year are Castle, Collingwood, and St Mary’s.

University College, also known as Castle, has remained the number one choice since 2016, though in 2020, Collingwood came within eight offers of placing above them.

The only three colleges to have placed in the top five every year are Castle, Collingwood, and St Mary’s. Despite this, St Cuthbert’s reported the most consistent popularity in 2021, placing as the second most popular college for students’ first choice, as well as the most popular for students’ second, third, fourth, and fifth-place college.

The majority of students who apply to Durham do not list any preference for colleges, with more than double the number of students who apply for Castle listing their college option as “Open”. 34% of students who applied to Durham used the ranking system in 2021. Additionally, participation in the ranking system decreased drastically after the initial choices, with more than 10,000 applicants listing their top three colleges, but only 4,500 ranking all 16 colleges.

Though Castle received the largest number of first-place rankings, St Mary’s received the smallest number of last-place rankings. Despite placing eighth in the first-place choice, Hatfield saw the largest increase in last-place rankings, making it the most polarising college for incoming students. Hild Bede likewise saw a notable increase in last-place rankings, potentially due to its distance from other university buildings.

Grey topped the list for students’ seventh, eighth, and ninth-place colleges, making it the mid-range average for Durham colleges.  

Stockton Campus was available as an option until 2019, meaning there were only 15 options to choose from that year. South College first became an option in 2020, where it placed 12th. However, it quickly rose to 7th in 2021.

John Snow is the college with the greatest upwards trend in the last five years, rising from 14th to 12th, then 9th, reaching 6th place by 2021. St Aidan’s, Trevelyan and Stephnson consistently ranked the lowest out of the 16 colleges. Recent years have also seen the decline of Josephine Butler and Hatfield.

Last year, St Cuthbert’s replaced Collingwood as the second most popular college for the first time.


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