An overview of accommodation options in Durham

Coming to Durham next year? Or at least considering it? You’re probably wondering what are the options accommodation wise in the city so I’ve put together this introductory piece on what exactly is on offer in the city… It should be said straight away there is genuinely a great choice of accommodation in Durham and something to fit everyone’s budget and needs.

College accommodation. There are 14 colleges in Durham, 9 of which are catered during term time and 7 which are self catered. If you’re looking for the most immersive year at Durham and keen to grow strong bonds with your college living in is probably the best option for this. It’s worth looking at the Durham University colleges website to see how the postgraduate make-up varies from college to college as it does vary widely, as too does the feel of the college itself with some large, some small, some old, some less so and so on. You can also see online how the rooms on offer vary as well; if you’re certain you want your own bathroom for example you’ll have to exclude some colleges from your search as not all of them have en-suite rooms available… Cost wise for the 2017/2018 year it’s £7,171 for a standard single room with a shared bathroom in a catered college or £5,019 in a non-catered college. For a standard room with en-suite this rises to £7,616 in a catered college and is £5,464 in non-catered colleges. The Anthropology Department, if your new to Durham, is itself is located on the ‘Science Site’ right next to the main university library; the majority of colleges are within a 10 minute walk of here – Durham is a small city really so even the farthest college from the Anthropology Department; Hild Bede is only a 20 minute or so walk away.

IMG_20170712_151859

A room in St. Aidan’s College

2nd option; private halls. Durham University currently has two sites; one in Durham city and another in Stockton-on-Tees known as the Queens Campus where subjects such as Pharmacy, Medicine, Finance and Psychology are currently based. This second campus though is gradually being closed and the departments moving back to Durham city with the exception of Medicine moving to Newcastle. The two Durham colleges based in Stockton (John Snow and Stephenson College) are also moving back to Durham this coming academic year (’17-’18). As a result of this transition of all departments back to Durham from the Queens Campus between 2016 and 2019 the council has granted planning permission for a number of private halls to be built in the city with the hope of lessening the drive for owner occupied homes in the city to be turned into student lets. As a result of this there are now a good number of new or nearly new private halls in Durham, all of which it should be mentioned are self-catered. Unite have ‘Elvet Studios’ with 112 studio rooms all with kitchen and en-suites for £171/week (£8,892/year). Fresh Student Living have studios at ‘Chapel Heights’ ranging from £150/week up to £199/week on 51 week contracts (£7,650 – £10,149) with access to some really nice facilities on site including a gym. Chapel Heights though is a good walk from the Anthropology Department; being located near the ‘Gilesgate Roundabout’ found at the top of Claypath it’s probably a 25 minute walk from Anthropology – or 5 minutes further up the hill from Hild Bede. At about the same distance, maybe a touch closer to the Anthropology Department and also closer to the centre of town is a brand new private halls only opening this September called ‘The Clink’ who are offering double bed, en-suite rooms for £137.50 per week on 51 week contracts (coming out at £6,763/year) with the use of a shared kitchen. They are also offering studios with a kitchen for £155/week. There are other halls are out there to consider too; CRM students have ‘St Giles Studios’ from £122/week in Gilesgate and there’s also ‘The Village’ in the Viaduct, perhaps the cheapest option of the private halls in Durham with rooms advertised as being available from £111.5/week again on a 51 week tenancy.

IMG_20170718_203125

Thanks Yumeng for the tour – A room in Unite’s very nice ‘Elvet Studios’

 

Renting a room. Lastly you can of course rent a room in a private house; as with all cities you can buddy up with friends and rent a whole property, rent one room in a house let out room by room to students or thirdly rent a spare room in an owner occupied property. The latter two are probably more likely for prospective masters students so I’ll focus on these two. First off – renting a spare room in somebody’s home… This can be the cheapest way to live in Durham; I was offered a room for an amazing £100 a month, bills included, in a village just outside Durham during my search for somewhere to live at the beginning of the year. If you are on a shoestring budget, are looking for accommodation in Durham and are open minded about where exactly you end up living a careful look through the adverts on SpareRoom.co.uk is definitely a good place to start. Perhaps the most popular accommodation option of all in Durham for its good mixture of convenience and value for money is renting a room in a student house; this year over half of us on the Energy and Society course opted for this option, with four more living in college and one in private halls. There are some areas in Durham that are now very dominated by student houses, perhaps the most saturated being The Viaduct (the area of Durham just underneath the railway Viaduct, not far from the centre of town) and the southern end of Church Street and the roads off it; prized for their location just a few hundred metres from the science site and university library!

IMG_20170718_100055-EFFECTS

Victorian houses opposite the Science Site – a 100m walk to the Anthropology department… Very popular with students but often snapped up quickly.

These victorian terraced houses are usually snapped up in early summer, if not before, often by groups of 1st year undergraduates looking to rent a house with their friends. Masters students as a result, often looking for somewhere to live a little later and often without existing groups of friends tend to end up renting a room in other parts of town; this year most of us ended up living in Gilesgate, which although further from the Science Site brings with it a suite of benefits of its own. First and foremost, houses in Gilesgate tend to be better value. Itzell, Rick and Amit ended up renting on a room by room basis but living together in a house in Gilesgate this year that cost just £220/month plus bills, which they say came out at around £30/month (or in total about £3,000 for the year, equivalent to £58/week). This was a really good find by the three of them and great value for money but it shows there are rooms out there at this price point. A more typical price slightly closer to the centre of town tends to hover around the £110/week, or a little more with bills included. You find that also, many properties in Gilesgate are a bit more spacious than the victorian terraces popular in the centre of town and also have the benefit of being close to Gilesgate’s big Tesco and Aldi – the downside of Gilesgate is that it is a fair way into university and easily a 30 minute+ walk from parts of it. After a long search myself I ended up opting for a double room in a recently built house on a quiet road adjacent to the Gilesgate roundabout. This costs me £95/week, including bills and is on a ten month contract – coming out at a total of £4,110 for the year, I can cycle to the Anthropology Department in less than 10 minutes and having previously been an undergraduate student in London it seems to me like an absolute castle – it’s a good quality, spacious and modern house! It’s great!

IMG_20170711_150435 (1)

Lots of properties are now let… But don’t worry; there are plenty still available!

In summary then; whatever type of accommodation you’re after in Durham at whatever budget, it’s there! College accommodation isn’t the cheapest and rooms often look a little dated, especially for the price you pay, but it brings with it the social benefits of living in college and for some, the ease of having meals provided in term time… It shouldn’t be underestimated how strong the college community is at Durham and if you are a postgraduate new to Durham, coming only for a year, ‘living out’ certainly makes it a little harder to develop these bonds with your college and friendships within college in the relatively short time you have in Durham… Private halls in Durham tend on the whole to be quite expensive but are of high quality; they offer an experience akin to typical university halls in cities across the country and virtually all of them in Durham been built in the last few years. Thirdly; renting – this certainly can be the cheapest way to live in Durham and the lower end of rents are some of the most affordable of all university cities in the UK. The student rental property market in Durham is extensive and very varied and despite what some agents might suggest; there is always, year round, rooms available – so don’t panic, you will find somewhere if you are looking!

IMG_20170711_150748

Taken just a few days ago; rooms still available for £75/week including bills. There are tens of estate agents and lettings agencies in the centre of town; take a look at their websites as not all of their properties are listed on Zoopla and Rightmove… 

 

Two final tips: If you are on the hunt for a room there’s a great page called ‘Durham Find a Housemate’ on Facebook which is updated almost daily with newly available rooms over the summer and on throughout the year as rooms unexpectedly become available – it’s well worth a look. Secondly; if you do end up living in Gilesgate like a half of us on Energy and Society did this year, or indeed other non-central locations like Framwellgate Moor or Langley Moor it’s really not that far, but if you do find the walk a little long, get a bike! (There’s a second hand bike shop on North Road and also lots of great cycle routes out of Durham into the surrounding countryside). (Or alternatively you can use the bus; many of the bus routes in Durham are free to use with a student card).

International Student Energy Summit 2017

by Michelle Uriarte

First a little bit about the event, according to the official web page the SES is:

The Student Energy`s International Student Energy Summit (SES) is a global event that brings together the world`s brightest students to learn and discuss the current issues and trends in energy.

Past events were hosted in Bali, Indonesia in 2015 and Trondheim, Norway in 2013, this year it was celebrated at Merida, México, and as the official page explains it brings the best speakers in the Energy sector of the world, talking about topics from democratization of energy to technical aspects of the wind and solar plants; it is intended for undergrad and postgrad students with an interest in Energy. The whole aim of the summit is for students to get to know the latest trends of energy and get involved with them.

This year Durham University gave a £500 travel bursary to the winner of the three-minute thesis competition, I was lucky enough to win this competition talking about the topic of my dissertation “The Birth of Waste to Energy in Mexico: Lessons to be learned from the UK” and was able to travel to Mexico, which is also the country I am from.

Michelle 1

The Summit started with two of the main figures of Energy in Mexico Pedro Coldwell Director of the Energy Ministry and Dr. Antonio del Rio, Director of the Institute of Renewable Energies in Mexico, welcoming the students and speakers followed by a small cocktail party.

The following days we had different seminars such as “Democratization of Energy”, “The Sustainable Development Goals and the Future of Energy”, “Energy and People”, and “Cities and the Energy Transitions”, etc. Throughout the conferences we were reminded how the students are the ones that will shape the future of energy and therefore of the world, the speakers were eager to answer all the questions we had and even got the time to speak one on one after their conference finished.

Michelle 2

I had the opportunity to speak with H.R.H Princess Size Djigma who is an Ambassador of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency of Burkina Faso, she gave an impressive speech incentivizing the students to create their own companies and research about energy, she also talked about the role of developing countries to tackle climate change.

After all the seminars and conferences were over we were invited to a gala dinner, where we could meet more students and speakers and do networking, as well of course to enjoy Mexican food and hospitality. Then on the last day of the summit we had workshops, I chose the workshop “The Complex Dynamics of Energy Markets” where through a board game we could experience how the energy markets act like in Nordic countries.

Overall, it was a really enriching experience, which I feel really proud of being part of.

Michelle 3

Deadline for scholarships extended to July 15 2017

DONG Energy are offering a number of scholarships for outstanding UK students who will be starting the MSc Energy and Society or MSc New and Renewable Energy courses in October 2017. The scholarships will have a value of up to £6,000.

This is a unique opportunity as these scholarships are only available to UK students who wish to study on these courses at Durham University.

The deadline for DONG scholarship applications is 15th July 2017. Find out more at https://www.durham.ac.uk/dei/funding/dongenergybursaries/

Funding to join exciting new European project – PEOPLE-centred development approaches

A new EU Erasmus+ project will bring an opportunity for four Masters students to join students and energy academics from Slovenia, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic (Czechia) to work on people-centered development. The project is embedded into the compulsory Field Study module for the MSc Energy and Society course; the selected students will take this module as a 30 credit module. They will be awarded mobility funding to work in collaboration with a UK company, Kemuri Ltd to help develop user friendly elements within the company’s current products and services.

Apply now to the MSc Energy and Society course to join this exciting new initiative! Find out more at PEOPLE project funding.

A research report from Orkney

This summer, Michael Westrom traveled to beautiful Orkney, Scotland for five weeks to study the local experience of governance that accompanies the transition to decentralized community renewable energy. Orkney is a collection of islands north of the mainland of Scotland that generates over 100% of its electricity from renewable sources, most of which comes from community-owned wind turbines. Mike’s findings will be written up for his MSc dissertation.

Here he tells us more about what he found:

For three of the five weeks, I lived on the small island of Shapinsay, home to about 300 residents. The Shapinsay Development Trust (SDT) is a community charity group that owns and manages a 900 kW wind turbine (see photos below of the turbine and SDT). Aside from earning revenue by exporting the electricity on to the grid, the SDT is a part of a 10 million Euro funded project to convert some of the electricity that would otherwise be curtailed (due to grid restraints) into a hydrogen fuel. Orkney Islands Council (OIC) has agreed to purchase the fuel to power a fleet of council vehicles, to heat the Shapinsay primary school, and eventually to power ferries, adding more revenue to the community.

I studied how both the revenue from the wind turbine benefits scheme and the partial ownership over the production and distribution over hydrogen fuel has empowered the SDT charity and changed local governance. Now the SDT charity, headed by a small group of residents, has a new and strong influence over island policy, provisioning of social resources, and even transport relative to the local council government, as related to their control over the renewable energy facility.

 

Memoirs of the 6th Symposium for CONACYT Scholars in Europe

Michelle Uriarte Ruiz

The sixth edition of the Symposium for CONACYT (Mexico’s entity in charge of the promotion of scientific and technological activities) Scholars in Europe was organized and hosted by the European Parliament and CONACYT on 29, 30 and 31 of March of 2017 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France; with the participation of over 130 scholars from 13 European countries.

M1

This symposium aims to gather Mexican scholars throughout Europe to discuss, share and collaborate on their research topics, there were roundtables and seminars given by the scholars in 9 main different topics proposed by the Scientific Committee. I was lucky enough to present my dissertation topic in the roundtable of Climate Change and Energy, the title of my presentation was “The Social and Environmental Impacts of Waste Management in Mexico City”

I explained how Mexico City has expanded in the last decades from a rural to an urban area with an ever increasing population (20 million people in the metropolitan zone), even though Mexico was the first Latin American country to sign the Kyoto Protocol in 2012 and became one of the world pioneers in Climate Change Regulations, the quality of life in Mexico City has been severely affected due to the greenhouse gas emissions. The lack of urban planning, increased population and climate change mitigation actions, has driven Mexico City to a tipping point, where is absolutely necessary to reconsider the urban planning, as well as short, medium and long measures of how to improve the citizens quality of life. With the improvement of the life quality and the population growth, the volume of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) has also increased, currently more than 13,000 tons of MSW are generated and the average generation per capita is 1.31 kilograms per day, which is higher than the global average of MSW. This has a great impact over the environment, only in 2010, 31 millions of CO2e emissions were emitted, and this would represent 5% of the total emissions of the country in that year. Fourteen per cent of these emissions came from the MWS management and disposal.

In order to avoid what many consider an environmental and social crisis, the government has looked for technological solutions. Waste to energy treatment seem to be the logical solution, but it is not the whole solution, the waste management problem in Mexico City is really complex, and all the social implications of this problem have to be explored, I compared what the UK has accomplished since the 90s in waste management which includes:

  • 45% of the MSW were recycled
  • The total MSW destined to landfill decreased by 71% (in comparison with the year 2000)
  • The volume of MSW destined to Waste to Energy was tripled (2.4 million tons in 2000 to 7.8 million ton)
  • Methane emissions were reduced by 61% (in comparison with 2002)
  • The Waste Management sector made profits of £18.7 billions
  • 10 TWh were generated in Waste to Energy

Finally I pointed out what were the lessons that Mexico could learn from the UK in waste management including landfill tax, emphasis in waste prevention, invest in research and community projects and creating a waste hierarchy focusing in waste reduction.

M2

My presentation was well received, and many people had questions in the topic, people that are from Mexico City pointed out that even if they are not studying something related to waste management or environmental issues in the city, they were aware of the impacts and wanted a solution, they liked the comparison between the UK and Mexico and were impressed of what the UK accomplished in such a short amount of time. Overall it was an amazing experience to be able to share my research and I was able to meet a lot of students that are also interested in Energy and Climate Change. M3

‘Why I chose to study Energy and Society’ – Hetty’s perspective

A field trip to Cape Town in April 2016 inspired me to pursue a masters in energy; I was in my final year of studying a BA in Geography at Durham. The fieldtrip gave me the chance to experience a low carbon energy transition first hand, with the added dimension of the complex apartheid history of South Africa. The research explored the dynamics of solar energy in two low-income settlements, with the intention of establishing the extent to which the solar transition in the Western Cape is as a result of international actors or local ambitions. It was made clear that there is an intricate set of networks that are required to facilitate the transformation of an energy system, with various stakeholders required to drive the technological changes alongside the behavioural changes required for the adoption of new technology.

 

The Energy and Society MSc has been the perfect opportunity to explore energy from an interdisciplinary perspective, more specifically it has enabled me to investigate key social challenges relating to a wide range of energy systems. I particularly enjoyed exploring the socio-political and economic issues associated with oil in an extended essay, as it demonstrated the way in which carbon has become locked into society. Understanding these issues are vital for ascertaining the obstacles to the low carbon energy transition. Furthermore, what has been made clear by my experiences in South Africa and on the masters course is that there is an increasingly complex set of actors and governance networks involved in transforming how society produces and uses energy.

 

I’m planning on taking this further for my dissertation in the coming months. I will be exploring the governance networks relating to reducing carbon emissions in the UK supermarket meat supply chain; a sector of paramount importance. Given the current political climate I think it’s going to be fascinating to research where this sits on the agenda of the different stakeholders involved; from government, to suppliers to consumers.

 

EAGA grants now offered

http://www.eagacharitabletrust.org/grants-offered

Eaga Charitable Trust invites applications for its postgraduate bursary awards. These encourage graduate students to research and write dissertations related to the causes and impacts of, and solutions to, fuel poverty issues in the EU. The subject of research needs to demonstrate direct relevance and application to UK fuel poverty policy.
Current master’s students and those with a confirmed place on a master’s course during the next academic year are eligible to apply as are PhD students in the second or third year of study. All applicants should be based in the EU.
A maximum of three bursaries worth £2,000 are available.

Energy and Tango?

A blogpost from Silvina Zublena, Environmental Engineer from Buenos Aires, Argentina

tangoIn my recent visit to Durham University I attended the Energy, Society and Practices Intensive course, which was organized by Durham´s Energy Institute. Surprisingly, after the final lecture was over I could only think about one thing and that’s TANGO!

TANGO is a partner type of dance, very typical in Argentina, the country where I come from. In order to dance tango, two dancers have to synchronize their movements in a close embrace to move from point A to point B.

This certainly reminded me of Energy Practices and the Social Contexts and how, just like TANGO dancers, these two should be articulated together towards a better understanding of energy use and consequently allowing to find solutions for energy-related issues.

The thread that united all the dissertations within the program was the need to link these two worlds, for there is no energy project that can be reliable, sustainable or successful by only paying attention to the technical and financial aspects of it, rather than also including the culture, habits, location or even the geography of the society that is going to embrace it.

We learnt through the course that this argument could be as applicable to a small scale program such as a rural biogas digester in Nepal as to a large scale energy grid transition to wind in the European Union.

I would definitely like to participate in more courses like this coming forward, not only to be able to hear such a wonderful selection of lecturers on the most diverse Energy related analysis but also to share experiences and inputs with other fellow students coming from all sorts of backgrounds, just like I did this time. What a wonderful and nourishing experience it has been!

One final thought: Energy Use and Sustainability; Social practices and Resource use; Engineers and Anthropologists. I certainly think these would be some interesting dancing partners worth to watch in the near future. After all, it takes 2 to TANGO!