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Durham Has Colleges – How Does That Affect Students and Applicants? Dr Steve Rayner Associate Dean of Colleges Vice-Principal, Collingwood College Teaching Fellow, Physics Teachers and Advisers Conference 15th December 2010
Outline • What Colleges are and what they do • Community • Activities • Student Support • Differences and similarities • Admissions • How Colleges fit into the admissions process
What Colleges Are • Every undergraduate at Durham is a member of one of the Colleges, which are communities of students, reflecting the diversity of the general student population but on a more human scale. • The College (if a student wants it to) can provide a social and cultural focus to student life in Durham. • The College provides a number of services and is close at hand, making communication to and from the University particularly easy. • The College does not contribute to undergraduate teaching – that is the sole responsibility of the relevant academic department, so specific colleges aren’t ‘good’ (or by implication, ‘bad’) for any subject.
What Colleges do - Community • Durham has ~ 12,000 undergraduate students • There are 15 Colleges (13 at Durham City and 2 at the Queen’s Campus in Stockton) with undergraduate members and none of these has a total population in excess of 1,300. • Each student will join a community at most not much bigger than their school. • We feel this offers them greater opportunities to make a difference to the community to which they belong.
What Colleges Do - Activities • The student body in each College (the Junior Common Room, or JCR) organises a wide variety of activities that are college-based. • This results in much greater opportunity to participate in sports, arts, student welfare/organisation etc. • Opportunities exist, therefore, for a student to pursue an interest without feeling they have to perform at elite level. • A typical College JCR offers nearly 100 positions of responsibility for members on e.g. shop/bar/welfare/entertainments committees so the opportunities for personal development are significantly enhanced.
What Colleges Do – Student Support • Every College has a Senior Tutor, whose role is to lead the pastoral support within the College. • The Senior Tutor can act as a ‘one-stop shop’, liaising between the student, department(s), and central support services as required. • Student communities in each College are very supportive – every JCR has a welfare committee that publicises the availability of support services. • All of these things exist at every University, but the Colleges bring them closer to students and make them more accessible. • Durham has one of the highest completion rates in the country.
Differences and Similarities • Colleges have more in common than most people think – all offer high levels of students support and an enhanced opportunity for students to get involved. • Some colleges have more formality and tradition (e.g. University College, Hatfield) • Some Colleges are more laid back (e.g. St. Aidan’s, Collingwood) • Some Colleges are smaller (e.g. St. John’s, St. Chad’s, Trevelyan) • Some Colleges are bigger (e.g. Hild/Bede, St. Cuthbert’s) • Most Colleges offer catered accommodation only, but some (Josephine Butler, St Cuthbert’s) are self-catering.
Where Colleges fit into the Admissions process at Durham • Academic Departments make the key decision of whether you receive an offer from the University. • Once the decision has been made to make a University offer, the only question remaining is of which College will you be a member if you become a Durham student. • Applicants can express a College preference by inserting the appropriate campus code against your Durham choice. • The application may be held at a Department to ensure fairness, but College decisions are made quickly. • From this cycle on, the UCAS offer initially does not specify which College the applicant will be joining. • The College then writes shortly afterwards to let the applicant know which College they have been assigned and to start to get to know them, including inviting them to post-application open days, sending out induction information, and answering queries.
Final Summary • Colleges at Durham • Play no part in whether an applicant gets an offer from the University. • Handle much of the communication with applicants if they do get an offer. • Provide communities of a more manageable size than the University as a whole. • Provide opportunities for students to get involved in sport, arts or community engagement. • Provide excellent levels of student support ‘on the doorstep’.