Durham’s “worst kept secret”: what are the plans for Durham’s 19th college?

By Luke Alsford, and

Durham University has outlined plans to establish a 19th college that will neighbour Hild Bede.

This proposal forms part of the University’s project to refurbish Hild Bede on the Leazes Road estate.

In an email to Hild Bede students on 24th May, the College’s principal Professor Simon Forrest labelled the development a “new college neighbour for the College [of St Hild & St Bede] on the site.” Work on the project is scheduled to start in 2025.

Avesta Afshari-Mehr, an exec member of Hild Bede SCR until May 2024, confirmed to Palatinate that the exec were informed of plans to build a new college on the Hild Bede site by the University in a meeting on 5th May.

Plans are already in place for Rushford Court, which from October 2024 will become the “temporary home” of Hild Bede during the refurbishment, to be established as the University’s 18th college.

Durham University revealed plans for a 19th college in a notice for tender on 22nd July 2022. In the original tender, the University outlined their intentions to redevelop the Leazes Road site to “deliver two colleges comprising circa 1,000 self-catered bed spaces and associated facilities, including a shared hub building”.

The tender confirms that the “University’s preference” is that the refurbished Hild Bede and the 19th college will be ready for students for the start of the 2026/27 academic year.

The refurbished Hild Bede and the 19th college will be ready for 2026/27

Hild Bede students were also told that UPP, a specialist student accommodation contractor, has been recently selected as the Preferred Bidder to develop the site.

The development plans form a key tenet of Durham University’s target to grow “University-owned or managed college accommodation capacity to allow at least 40 per cent of full-time students resident in Durham to benefit from the residential aspects of a Durham college experience.”

Durham’s University Estate Strategy includes goals to establish four to six new Colleges between 2017-27, to “heavily” refurbish Durham’s existing seventeen Colleges, and to ensure that over half of students are housed in University-owned accommodation. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the University has since said that they are reviewing the timescale and details of the plans.

In response to the proposals, Dan Lonsdale, President of Durham’s Students’ Union, said that “Durham

University’s worst kept secret has finally been confirmed” arguing that Durham needs to build more accommodation to achieve their stated goal of increasing the number of students housed in University- owned buildings.

“I’d like to pay tribute to the students and staff at Hild Bede,” Mr Lonsdale continued, because he believes that “They have been failed consistently over the years by the University.” He added that “the college has lost the use of many facilities, the building is a wreck. They’ve done beautifully to manage as well as they have.”

“Students and staff at Hild Bede… have been failed consistently over the years… They’ve done beautifully to manage as well as they have.”

Dan Lonsdale

Some students at Hild Bede have moved accommodation mid-year, while buildings such as the Leazes Road Library have been shut down and split across multiple sites over the past few years. Refurbishment plans for the College also include the demolishment of Caedmon Hall and other buildings.

In response to the comments made by Mr Lonsdale, Durham University said in a statement that “Rrepresentatives of the college community at Hild Bede have been involved throughout the project, and will continue to be on an ongoing basis as we progress.”


4 thoughts on “Durham’s “worst kept secret”: what are the plans for Durham’s 19th college?

  • New college on our sit – disgraceful !
    Bede College 73-76

  • Why does the University have the right to spoil the best frontage left onto the river in our city. New accommodation for Hild/ Bede 👍After all they have been there several centuries – but why does our city have to become ‘a City within a University’ – instead of a ‘University within a City’
    Bede Man 73-76

  • Why does the university keep spoiling every pie with it’s sticky monopolising fingers? Leave peaceful, historic things alone instead of trying to make even more money. These things are worth MORE THAN MONEY. Go away.

  • Surely if it’s a second college on the same site, it would be best presented as a demerger of Hild & Bede back into St Hild’s College and Bede College (but obviously not turning them back into the single-sex teacher training colleges they were). That would give each of the two colleges a ready-made history, and all the trappings (coat of arms, motto, colours, etc etc).


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