One learning point for me was (or is) the College and University relationship at Durham. It is a great addition to the university experience. If you are considering a school like this, I offer my experiences, thus far.
When you apply to Durham University of a Postgraduate Research Doctoral Degree (that’s my degree) you must submit a research proposal including a topic, research plan, and proof of writing/research ability. When you application is accepted, you are assigned two research supervisors and an academic department. After you accept your place in the University, you are then asked to make application to a college.
Your college will be a center of your educational experience throughout your academic career. You are enrolled at the University, a student of a department, and a member of a college. Choosing St. John’s College was easy for me. At the beginning of the academic year, the college holds a matriculation service for its students. I signed my name in the matriculation book, as all St. John’s students have before me and all will after me, as a contract between me and the College. We have a mutual agreement and commitment to this journey ahead.
The University holds its own Matriculation Day. On this day all the new students are formerly matriculated into the University in a ceremony at the Cathedral. I was one of 40 postgraduate students from St. John’s who was matriculated into the University. A representative from our college signs the University matriculation book on our behalf, making a similar promise as the one we make with College.
There are 16 Colleges at Durham. Each of them has their own unique culture and community. For example, University College is housed in the Castle. It was the first College and student housing is in the keep and they have their meals in the Great Hall.
My college is St. John’s College. Founded in 1909 St. John’s one of the smallest colleges in Durham. St. John’s is on the Bailey, which is itself a part of the Castle complex. It is housed just a short distance from the Cathedral. St. John’s was founded as a theological college and though it is no longer exclusive to theological students, it maintains this culture.
The motto, I think, sums up St. John’s culture: Fides Nostra Victoria, Faith is Our Victory. St. John’s has a unique relationship and strong ties with Cranmer Hall and the Wesley Study Centre, which prepares future Anglican and Methodist clergy, respectively. St. John’s is the logical choice for students of Theology at Durham University.
So your college membership is not limited to your field of study. Instead the college brings people from various backgrounds, study interests, and goals to a common ground. This provides for some interesting opportunities.
Many undergraduates live at St. John’s and work alongside Anglican Ordinands, Methodist Ordinands, post-graduate master’s students, PhD students of all disciplines. Georgian era houses along the River Wear make up St. John’s buildings. This provides for living and learning spaces and a strong theological library.