Good University Guide 2023

Durham University

National rank

Firsts / 2:1s
Completion rate

Key stats

Teaching quality
Student experience
Research quality
Graduate prospects
Durham University

Contact details


The Palatine Centre, Stockton Road, Durham, DH1 3LE,

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Durham’s collegiate structure leads to intense sporting rivalry and participation rates are high. Durham is our Sports University of the Year, a title it last held in 2015. The university is third overall in the  Bucs (British University and Colleges Sport) league for the 2021-22 season and is No 1 for producing the most professional sports stars with 141, compared with its nearest rival Oxford, with 86. The university recently invested £32 million in its Sports and Wellbeing Park and offers numerous sports scholarships. 

Extracurricular life at Durham has gone up a gear via Game Changer — a programme that pits real-world problems to students, who work in teams to solve them. Each challenge is linked to at least one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and teams use “design thinking” (the creative problem-solving methodology) to come up with innovative solutions. Students pitch their ideas to win a share of a cash prize. The programme caught the eye of the UN, which has included Game Changer in its SDG Best Practices, a compilation of successful SDG implementations. 

The scheme is one of a range of employability initiatives at Durham, whose graduates are among the most sought after. The university fares well in our graduate prospects measure, rising three places year-on-year to rank seventh. Over the past year the university has facilitated 1,100 employer events, hosted 310 employer sessions and advertised more than 5,000 graduate job vacancies. The Santander Universities scheme enables Durham to provide work experience opportunities in sectors where it is often difficult to gain experience, including the culture and heritage sector, and small and medium-size enterprises.

The university’s purpose-built space for entrepreneurship — the Hazan Venture Lab — provides individual and group working areas, a bookable meeting room, a mini-library and other facilities for students or graduates working on new ventures or enterprise projects. Experienced entrepreneurs and sector professionals help to deliver Durham’s start-up programmes, and the number of students working on business ideas with the potential to scale is growing, the university notes. 

Based around the cobbled cathedral city of Durham, the university is England’s third-oldest and has a collegiate structure similar to Oxford and Cambridge. Unlike Oxbridge, however, teaching takes place centrally rather than within the colleges — although these provide an important social hub, each with its own characteristics. While it is worth choosing the college that feels like the best fit, an algorithm now allocates students to colleges, with principals having a much reduced say in who goes where. 

Even so, University College (Castle) and Collingwood remain the most popular options. The former is part of the Cathedral and Castle Unesco World Heritage Site at the heart of the historic peninsula ringed by the River Wear; the latter is at the heart of the hill colleges to the south of the city centre and close to the science site and the main university library. 

Durham is in demand. Application numbers first exceeded 30,000 in the 2019 admissions cycle and have not looked back. New student enrolments increased by about 8 per cent in the 2021 admissions round, year-on-year, to their highest yet. 

Facilities continue to be developed to meet the growing student population — including the recently opened South College and a fresh teaching and learning building. 

Durham was one of the winners in our analysis of the impact of the Covid pandemic on Britain’s campuses in 2021, with improvements in student satisfaction with teaching quality and the wider undergraduate experience. However, the university has lost ground on both measures, according to outcomes from the latest National Student Survey, published in summer 2022. The university sits 71= (down 28 places) for student satisfaction with teaching quality and 77= (down 21 places) for the wider undergraduate experience. 

Durham has introduced a range of initiatives designed to widen participation. The university teamed up with a local sixth-form centre to establish the newly opened Durham Mathematics School, following the model of similar schools with input from King’s College London and the University of Exeter which have created some of the country’s highest-attaining sixth-form colleges. It is hoped that the school will provide a stream of students into Durham’s maths, science and engineering departments. 

Increased recruitment from within the northeast — the English region with the lowest participation rates in higher education — should help to diversify the student population, which is among the least inclusive in England and Wales. The university stands eight places off the bottom in our latest social inclusion index. Durham is one of three universities where less than half the student intake is drawn from non-selective state schools.

Contextual offers are part of Durham’s determination to change the student profile. Last year 19 per cent of applicants were made a contextual offer of at least one A-level grade below the standard offer for a given course. Students need to meet at least two criteria for eligibility — such as attending a state school, being in receipt of free school meals, living at an address within the two quintiles with the lowest progression rates to higher education, or the two quintiles with the highest rates of socioeconomic disadvantage.

A member of the research-led Russell Group of universities, Durham’s top 100 global university status remains secure in the 2023 QS world rankings. In our domestic research quality index, which is based on results of the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021), Durham is 23rd, a drop of seven places on its previous spot derived from the previous national assessment in 2014. The best results in REF 2021 were in education and geography, archaeology and forensic science. Classics and ancient history, theology, and sports science also did well. 

All new students must take a one-hour online course called Consent matters: boundaries, respect and positive intervention. There are also sexual misconduct and violence awareness talks delivered in college by staff and student leaders during induction week. 

Colleges can offer accommodation for all first-years, with more than 7,500 places available. Despite the small size of the city, there is no shortage of private landlords and private university accommodation blocks for those who “live out” in their second and third years.

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Category Score Rank
Ranking - 6 (6)
Teaching quality 74.9 71st=
Student experience 70.8 77th=
Research quality 55.9 23rd
Ucas entry points 183 9th
Graduate prospects 87.3 7th
Firsts and 2:1s 92.6 4th=
Completion rate 97.2 4th
Student-staff ratio 13.7 12th=
World ranking - 92 (82=)

Vital statistics











Applications/places 32,570/6,160
Applications/places ratio 5.3:1
Overall offer rate 71%


Places in accommodation 7,472
Accommodation costs £149 - £187
Catered costs £232 - £245
Accommodation contact


UK/EU fees £9,250
Fees (placement year) £1,850
Fees (overseas year) £1,385
Fees (international) £22,500 - £28,500
Finance website
Graduate salaries £28,000


Social inclusion and student mix

Social Inclusion Ranking 109
State schools (non-grammar) admissions 49.1%
Grammar school admissions 12.4%
Independent school admissions 38.4%
Ethnic minority students (all) 13.7%
Black achievement gap -7.3%
White working class males 3.3%
First generation students 23.4%
Low participation areas 7.6%
Working class dropout gap 0.4%
Mature 3.1%
EU students 3.6%
Other overseas students 19.9%

Student satisfaction with teaching quality

Archaeology and forensic science 86.4%
Physics and astronomy 84.7%
Accounting and finance 83.2%
Biological sciences 82.4%
Classics and ancient history 80.9%
General engineering 80.9%
History 80.6%
Criminology 80%
Theology and religious studies 80%
Geology 79%
Natural sciences 78.1%
Sociology 77.2%
Business, management and marketing 75.9%
Chemistry 75.7%
English 75.7%
Linguistics 75.6%
Geography and environmental science 74.9%
French 74.7%
German 74.7%
Iberian languages 74.7%
Italian 74.7%
Russian and eastern European languages 74.7%
Anthropology 73.7%
Sports science 73.5%
Education 72.7%
Music 72%
Philosophy 71.7%
Law 71.2%
Computer science 70.7%
Mathematics 69.5%
Economics 67.8%
Psychology 66.6%
Politics 64.2%
East and South Asian studies 50.6%