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List of social activities at Durham University

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is a List of social activities at the University of Durham, including details of clubs, societies and other common leisure activities associated with Durham University. Approximately 130 student clubs and organizations run on Durham's campus.[1]



  • College Varsity, a sporting competition between college teams from Durham University and the University of York held alternately at York and Durham in the Lent term since 2014.[2]
  • Doxbridge Tournament, an unofficial sporting competition held annually since 1999 at the start of the Easter holiday between college teams from Durham University, the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and (since 2011) the University of York.[3][4]
  • Durham University Athletic Union, a student-run organisation responsible for sport at Durham University. In 2006, the Athletic Union was rebranded "Team Durham" to signify a more modern approach to sport at Durham. In contrast to most British universities, it is a separate organisation with the status of a students' union, rather than a part of Durham Students' Union, the primary student representative body at Durham University.
  • Palatinate, Durham's equivalent of the University Sporting Blue. A Full Palatinate is notoriously difficult to achieve and not just awarded for representing the university.[5] Recipients of Honorary Palatinates, given to recognise the success of former students, have included Nasser Hussain, Jonathan Edwards and Hawk-Eye founder Paul Hawkins.[5]
  • There are many college sports teams which allow for participation in sport at a less intense level than the university sports teams. There are leagues or tournaments between colleges in most major sports, with many colleges having multiple teams covering a wide range of ability levels. This is a contributing factor to the high participation in sport at the university.



College boat clubs

Blade Club
Collingwood College Boat Club
Collingwood College Boat Club
Grey College Boat Club
Grey College Boat Club
Hatfield College Boat Club
Hatfield College Boat Club
Hild Bede Boat Club
Hild Bede Boat Club
Josephine Butler College Boat Club
Josephine Butler College Boat Club
St Aidan's College Boat Club
St Aidan's College Boat Club
St Chad's College Boat Club
St Chad's College Boat Club
St Cuthbert's Society Boat Club
St Cuthbert's Society Boat Club
St John's College Boat Club
St John's College Boat Club
St Mary's College Boat Club
St Mary's College Boat Club
Trevelyan College Boat Club
Trevelyan College Boat Club
University College Boat Club
University College Boat Club
Ustinov Boat Club
Ustinov Boat Club
Van Mildert Boat Club
Van Mildert Boat Club
Stephenson College Boat Club
George Stephenson College Boat Club
John Snow Boat Club
John Snow College Boat Club

Student Unions

Durham has a central students' Union as well as junior common rooms (or equivalent) in each college.

Durham Union Society

The Durham Union Society (DUS), commonly referred to as the Durham Union, is a debating society. The largest and oldest society in the university, the Union hosts regular debates, addresses by high-profile speakers, and members socials.[12]


The Union was founded in 1842.[13] It was the last student debating union founded along the lines of those that had been established at Cambridge in 1815 and at Oxford in 1822.[14] Intended both as clubs and debating societies, they provided additional comforts like reading rooms, dining facilities, billiards, and libraries.[14] The first debates were held in the reading rooms of Hatfield Hall and University College. In 1872 the Society moved to what is now the Palace Green library, where the University's first purpose-built debating chamber was established.[13] The Union predates the 1899 founding of the Students' Representatives Council (SRC). Consequently, there exists in Durham, like that of Oxford and Cambridge, the anomaly of both a union society and a students' union.[14]

Because Durham University did not enjoy the wealth or the influence of the alumni of its southern counterparts, its Union Society did not flourish in the same way as the Union Societies of Oxford and Cambridge.[14] So poor were the facilities of the Durham Union that by Easter 1896 no debates could be held.[15] That same year the University offered the Union a financial lifeline, by which the latter would be reconstituted as a centrally funded students' union like those being established at the newer Red brick universities. This was rejected by the members however, who opted to stick with the Cambridge model and embarked on a 'precarious path of independence' that has often led it to be 'marginalised' within the wider priorities of Durham University.[14] The university authorities pressed on with the formation of a SRC regardless, and ignored calls from the Union to be given additional facilities, which would not be received until 1936.[14] Independence ensured a state of relative poverty that did not work to the advantage of the DUS. Bertie Dockerill, an academic who has written on the history of student debating societies, emphasises that continued use of Union facilities:

has remained dependent upon the University believing that they were necessary, a system of landlordism that has not served the DUS well. The Union has been forcibly removed from its original home upon the library side of Palace Green that it had been gifted by the Warden of the University in 1873 (it now houses a lavatory complex), had its artwork appropriated, its coffee shop and dining room confiscated, and enjoys neither a library nor sole usage of its debating chamber, the latter commandeered daily by the University for lectures[14]

In the final years of the nineteenth century debates often revolved around ecclesiastical matters, a reflection not just of the student intake (which included high numbers of young men preparing for holy orders) but Durham's traditional curriculum of the university and the 'stranglehold' that the Dean and Chapter of Durham exercised over the university – with the few political debates tending to concern the then contentious issue of Irish Home Rule.[14] A few of the debate subjects were tongue-in-cheek, such as an 1887 motion 'That in the opinion of this House the Fair Sex is the root of all evil' – a proposal eventually defeated by a large majority.[15] The first 'Ladies night', where female students were able to participate, was held in 1895. In 1900, as the Boer War raged, members sent a telegram congratulating Messrs. Tuckey and Macpherson[a] – both former Durham Union men who had been trapped in the city of Ladysmith as it came under siege from Boer forces – on finally being relieved, and soon received a reply from the pair of them.[18]

The turn of the century saw more political debates, with society members almost invariably siding with the positions of the Conservative Party, while those of the Liberals were roundly rejected by majorities in excess of 70% at each of three debates in 1905, 1907, and 1911.[14] The third administration of Lord Salisbury attained a vote of confidence in excess of 90%.[14] Opinions on immigration were not consistent. While members applauded the robust views of Hatfield student and future Bishop of Bangor D.E. Davies, who suggested immigrants were predominantly 'disease-ridden criminals' that would 'have to be supported by public money', they rejected in the following term the motion that ‘the introduction of yellow and black races into western lands removes white man’s comforts’ by a ratio of around five to one.[19][20]

Participants in the 1912 Anniversary Inter-University Debate
Participants in the 1912 Anniversary Inter-University Debate

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Durham Union, an inter-varsity debate chaired by then President J. E. T. Philipps, was held on Saturday 16 March 1912 at the Great Hall of University College, and featured visiting teams from Oxford, Cambridge, Trinity College, Dublin, and Edinburgh University – with the burning issue of Irish Home Rule as the subject of discussion.[21] This was something of a reunion for three of the participants: Philipps, F. K. Griffith (President of the Oxford Union), and H. Grose–Hodge (from the Cambridge Union) were all schoolmates in the same form at Marlborough College.[22]

To get around the limitations of its premises, the society traded its ownership of 44 North Bailey opposite Hatfield College for the old site of St Aidan's Society at 24 North Bailey, which allowed the creation of a social club (named the 'North Bailey Club' or, more informally '24').[13] This contains a bar which is open to all Durham Union members; a snooker room; a reading room that the Durham Union uses for functions, such as post debate entertaining, and an en-suite guest room that can be hired out by members. Student members also have the opportunity to rent bedrooms as student accommodation.[23]

In 1977 the Union was obliged to move across Palace Green to a purpose-built debating chamber in the Pemberton Buildings, which sit in the shadow of Durham Cathedral.[13]

The Union today

The Union Society's offices on Palace Green are shown in the centre of the image. To the right is the Department of Theology and Durham Cathedral
The Union Society's offices on Palace Green are shown in the centre of the image. To the right is the Department of Theology and Durham Cathedral

The Durham Union still maintains its offices and debating chamber on the Palace Green World Heritage Site, as well as 24 North Bailey. It hosts weekly debates featuring prominent external speakers, as well as inviting address speakers and holding social events.

The Union also excelled at competitive debating, until its debating branch disaffiliated in 2021. Having won the European Universities Debating Championship in 2005, and more recently having teams reaching the final of the European Championship, Oxford IV, Cambridge IV and John Smith Memorial Mace and the quarter-final of the World Universities Debating Championship. It also hosted the prestigious Durham Intervarsity competition, the Durham Open and Durham Schools; the world's largest residential school's debating competition.

The social highlight of the year is the annual Ball held in Michaelmas term. The programme for the evening varies, but usually consists of a champagne reception, dinner, music, and after dinner dancing. The Union also holds members only socials, with recent events including a 'Halloween Social', 'American Election Social', 'Chinese New Year Social' and 'Valentines Social'.[24]

Lord Adonis has cited his and Anna Soubry's 105-82 victory at a Durham Union Brexit debate as evidence that students are turning against Britain's decision to leave the European Union.[25] Upon winning a debate at the Durham Union, Spectator columnist James Delingpole wrote that "For a real Oxbridge education, you now have to go to Durham"[26]

NUS incident

In 2010, the Union was forced to cancel a debate on multiculturalism on safety grounds, after the National Union of Students' Black Students Officer Bellavia Ribeiro-Addy and LGBT Officer Daf Adley sent a letter to the Union, Durham University and Durham Students Union. The letter opposed the invitation of then BNP MEP Andrew Brons, and warned of a “colossal demonstration” if the debate went ahead. It went on to say “If any students are hurt in and around this event, responsibility will lie with you.”[27]

The cancellation of the debate by Union President Anna Birley on safety grounds was met with fierce backlash. NUS President Wes Streeting was prompted to personally appear before the Durham Union to apologise for the actions of the officers concerned, though outrage among Durham students was sufficient that a significant number protested outside the debating chamber at the time.[28] An anti-censorship protest group on Facebook quickly amassed over 2,500 members.[29] An official petition was lodged with Durham Students' Union to call for a referendum on disaffiliation from NUS.[30] On 12 March 2010, the referendum concluded with a majority of voting students choosing to disaffiliate. In 2011 the Durham Students' Union held a further referendum, whereby students taking part in the referendum voted to reaffiliate with the NUS.[31]

Chinese Embassy incident

In 2017, the Chinese Embassy attempted to block the invitation of supermodel and activist Anastasia Lin from speaking in a debate. An official at the embassy warned the Union that the debate, which also featured former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, could damage relations between the UK and China.[32][33] Union President Tom Harwood insisted that "Everyone has been very polite," and the debate went ahead as planned.[34][35]

Tommy Robinson incident

In 2015, the Union cancelled a speech from Tommy Robinson, reportedly after pressure from the University.[36]

Durham Debating Split

As a result of a December 2020 members referendum, Durham Union Debating, the student competitive debate wing of the Durham Union, voted to leave the wider Durham Union Society, and affiliate with the Durham Student's Union as the now-independent Durham Debating Society.

Reciprocal relations

The Union's members enjoy reciprocal relations with, and use of facilities at, the Oxford Union, Cambridge Union, The Hist & The Phil, both of Trinity College Dublin.[37]

Notable members

Academic societies

  • Arthur Holmes Geological Society
  • Durham Astronomical Society
  • Durham Space Exploration and Development Society (SEDS)
  • Durham University Accounting and Finance Society
  • Durham University Anthropology Society
  • Durham University Archaeology Society
  • Durham University Biological Society
  • Durham University Business Society
  • Durham University Business Psychology Society
  • Durham University Chemistry Society
  • Durham University Classics Society
  • Durham University Combined Honours Social Society
  • Durham University Computing Society
  • Durham University Economics Society
  • Durham University Education Society
  • Durham University Engineering Society
  • Durham University English Literature Society
  • Durham University Finance Society
  • Durham University French Society
  • Durham University Geographical Society
  • Durham University History Society
  • Durham University Law Society
  • Durham University Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) Society
  • Durham University Marketing Society
  • Durham University Mathematical Society
  • Durham University Medical Society
  • Durham University Women in STEM
  • Durham University Philosophy Society
  • Durham University Psychology Society
  • Durham University Palaeontological Society
  • Durham Physics Society
  • Durham University Politics and International Relations Society
  • Durham ELSA
  • Durham University Society of Applied Social Science
  • Durham University Sustainable Finance Society
  • Durham University Theology Society
  • Durham University Chemical Society[44]
  • Geology for Global Development (Durham Group)

Drama societies

Durham Student Theatre

Durham Student Theatre (DST, formerly Durham University Student Theatre, DUST) is a student-run organisation responsible for theatre at Durham University, with performances put on every week of term at the Assembly Rooms Theatre.[45]

DST acts as an umbrella organisation for the many theatre companies based at the university, such as Durham University Light Opera Group (DULOG).[46] There are also numerous college based theatre groups, run by the Junior Common Room of the individual colleges, some of which are college members only, with others being open to all.[46]

Durham Revue

The Durham Revue is an established sketch comedy group. In 1974, four students founded 'DUST' (Durham University Sensible Thespians), which initially produced comedy revue shows exclusively for Durham student audiences.[47] However, in 1977, under the presidency of Arthur Bostrom, DUST took their first show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.[47] This inaugural Fringe show included John Inge (Bishop of Worcester) and Jennie Campbell (former BBC comedy producer).[47] The group changed its name to the 'Durham Revue' in 1988.[47]

Its members write and perform all material themselves and shows are put on annually at the Assembly Rooms Theatre, and the professional Gala Theatre where they perform alongside the Cambridge Footlights and the Oxford Revue.[48] The Durham Revue also travels yearly to Cambridge, Oxford, and the Edinburgh Fringe where they perform for the full run of the festival.[48]

The Durham Revue membership generally consists of six writers and performers. Membership is based upon audition and interview, and these take place just once a year during Michaelmas Term. Former members include Jeremy Vine, Nish Kumar, Ed Gamble, and Alex Macqueen.[49]

Miscellaneous societies

  • Purple Radio, the student radio station
  • Palatinate, Durham's independent student run fortnightly newspaper, has been continually published since 1948
  • Mostly Harmless, student satirical publication
  • The Grove, student literary publication
  • Durham Inter-Collegiate Christian Union, the university's most prominent student Christian organisation, founded in 1931

Leisure activities


  1. ^ Presumably the Reverend Ewen George Fitzroy Macpherson (BA, 1887), and the Reverend James Grove White Tuckey (a Trinity College, Oxford graduate who was a university lecturer and later chaplain of University College), both of whom were in South Africa serving as Chaplain to the Forces[16][17]


  1. ^ "Durham Students' Union: Find a Society". DSU. Archived from the original on 31 January 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2009.
  2. ^ Sears, Maddy (30 January 2014). "York College Varsity Announced". Palatinate. Retrieved 7 October 2015.
  3. ^ "Doxbridge". Sports Party. Retrieved 7 October 2015.
  4. ^ "Cambridge Companion To: Doxbridge". The Tab. 22 October 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  5. ^ a b Henderson, Kat (2011). "Palatinate Ball". Durham University Sports Review 2010/2011: 11. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  6. ^ Hannah Graham (11 April 2016). "Meet Durhamstrang – the university quidditch team hoping to become European champs". Chronicle Live. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  7. ^ Durham College Rowing. "Novice Cup Regatta". Archived from the original on 29 January 2009. Retrieved 28 December 2008.
  8. ^ HEADS OF HOUSE COMMITTEE. "Minutes AoB (d)(i)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 October 2012. Retrieved 21 August 2009.
  9. ^ Durham College Rowing. "Senate Cup". Archived from the original on 29 January 2009. Retrieved 28 December 2008.
  10. ^ Durham College Rowing. "Pennant Series". Archived from the original on 29 January 2009. Retrieved 28 December 2008.
  11. ^ Durham College Rowing. "Admirals Regatta". Archived from the original on 29 January 2009. Retrieved 28 December 2008.
  12. ^ "About Us". Durham Union Society. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  13. ^ a b c d "Our History". Durham Union Society. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dockerill, Bertie (2017). "'Forgotten Voices': The Debating Societies of Durham and Liverpool, 1900–1939". In Burkett, Jodi (ed.). Students in Twentieth Century Britain and Ireland. Palgrave. pp. 101–128. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  15. ^ a b Fowler, J. T. (5 June 1912). "The Durham Union Society". Durham University Journal. 20 (10): 205. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  16. ^ "Unattached Members". Durham University Calendar: 227. 1897. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  17. ^ Graduates of the University. Durham: Durham University. 1948. p. 230.
  18. ^ Fowler, 1912, p. 206
  19. ^ DUS, Minute Book, 25 February 1903, University of Durham Special Collections, UND/GE1/AB2
  20. ^ DUS, Minute Book, 18 June 1903, University of Durham Special Collections, UND/GE1/AB2
  21. ^ "Durham Union Society: Visitors' Night". Durham University Journal. Durham University. 20: 201. 5 June 1912. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  22. ^ Durham Union Society: Visitor's Night, p. 202
  23. ^ "Our Buildings and Where to Find Us". Durham Union Society (via Internet Wayback Machine). 10 January 2014. Archived from the original on 10 January 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  24. ^ "Durham Union Society – Members' Socials". Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  25. ^ Adonis, Andrew. "Lord Adonis Tweet". Twitter. Twitter.
  26. ^ Delingpole, James. "For a real Oxbridge education, you now have to go to Durham". The Spectator. The Spectator. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  27. ^ Tallentire, Mark. "Student union apologises over BNP claim". The Northern Echo. The Northern Echo. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  28. ^ "Student union apologises over BNP claim (From the Northern Echo)". 10 February 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  29. ^ "NUS mis-handling prompts backlash". Palatinate Newspaper. 22 February 2010. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  30. ^ "NUS mis-handling prompts backlash". 8 February 2010. Archived from the original on 18 April 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  31. ^ Johnson, Daniel (28 January 2011). "60% vote to reaffiliate with NUS". Palatinate Online. Archived from the original on 3 October 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
  32. ^ Swerling, Gabriella. "Student debate will harm relations, insists China". The Times. The Times of London. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  33. ^ Waterson, Jim. "The Chinese Embassy Told Durham University's Debating Society Not To Let This Former Miss World Contestant Speak At A Debate". Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed News. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  34. ^ Minting, Stuart. "Durham: Chinese embassy official calls for speaker to be barred from University debate". The Northern Echo. The Northern Echo. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  35. ^ "Durham Union Tweet". Twitter. The Durham Union. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  36. ^ Hopkins, Steve. "Tommy Robinson Speaking Events Cancelled At Edinburgh And Durham Universities After Pegida Speech". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  37. ^ Why Get Involved Durham Union Society, Accessed October 2006
  38. ^ "Week One Debate". Cambridge Union Society Term Card: 13. 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  39. ^ Sengupta, Kim (18 July 2009). "Soldier's soldier: General Sir Richard Dannatt". The Independent. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  40. ^ Willis, Harriet (18 November 2017). "In conversation with Mark Elliott: In defence of the travel guide". Palatinate. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  41. ^ "Rt Hon Sir Edward Leigh MP". Gainsborough Conservatives. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  42. ^ "Biography". Giles Ramsay (via Internet Wayback Machine). 29 July 2019. Archived from the original on 29 July 2019. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  43. ^ "Durham graduate named Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice". Durham University. 8 August 2019. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  44. ^ "Durham University Chemical Society". Retrieved 13 February 2016.
  45. ^ "What's On : Theatre Performance". Durham University. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  46. ^ a b "Durham Student Theatre". Our Theatre Companies. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  47. ^ a b c d "Spotlight on the Durham Revue". Durham First (34): 25. 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  48. ^ a b "The Durham Revue". Durham Student Theatre. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  49. ^ Percival, Becky (18 February 2018). "In conversation with: The Durham Revue (Part One)". The Bubble. Retrieved 18 March 2020.

External links

This page was last edited on 14 February 2021, at 16:33
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