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 you’re 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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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).