Frequently Asked Questions

Durham Students' Union

Q. What is DSU?
A. DSU is Durham Students Union. It is your Student Union, representing the views of Durham students, organising campaigns and providing useful services. DSU is based in Dunelm House, New Elvet. When you get to Durham make sure you come in and see us!

Q. Does it cost me money?
A. Nothing, you are automatically a member of DSU and the National Union of Students (NUS). Prices at DSU services are really good too - and you also have the knowledge that the profit from the money you spend there stays in making DSU better for everyone!

Q. So what is this DUS?
A. DUS is Durham Union Society, they are not the students' union - they are a debating society! It is entriely up to you if you join. DUS charge for membership. DSU, on the otherhand, is entirely free and all Durham students are automatically a member.

Q. What about Sports?
A. Durham is 10th in BUSA's overall sports ranking for Universities. The sport in Durham is controlled by DUAU. See the Sport Durham website for more details.

Q. Are Queen's Campus students DSU members too?
A. Yes, DSU is for all Durham University students who are on a full time course or on a part-time course that lasts at least a year.

Q. What DSU Freshers' Week events are open to Queen's students?
A. Just like any other DSU member Queen's students can buy tickets for and attend any event. During Freshers' Week coaches will run to Durham for the Freshers' Bop, Planet of Sound and Freshers' Fair. There will also be coaches from Queen's Campus to the Freshers' Ball. Unlike Durham campus students, Queen's students will also get the opportunity to pre-order tickets for the first Planet of Sound of term.


Q. What is a college?
A. Every student in Durham is a member of a college. Many members of staff are too. They provide residences, communal facilities, entertainment, sports societies and much more.

Each college is different and many people become very proud of the college of which you are a member. They are not a boundary and you shouldn't be worried if you you think you don't like your college. It is quite difficult to change college (and you should speak to your Senior Tutor if you want to) but they are very diverse places. The generally provide something for everyone! Have a look at the colleges section on this website if you want to know more about any of the colleges.

Q. What about food?
A. All colleges except Butler, Ustinov, John Snow, George Stevenson and some parts of St. Cuthbert's Society are fully catered. For students self catering there is a Waitrose supermarket in the centre of Durham. The nearest big supermarkets are Tesco's and Sainsbury's which are a long walk or a bus ride away. both Tesco's and Sainsbury's offer on-line delivery options from their websites. DSU's Riverside Cafe is open during the week offering good value hot and cold food and our student shop has a range of essentials.

Q. What is a JCR?
A. A Junior Common Room - It is like a smaller students' union for each college. It runs the college bar, college ents and provides much hands-on welfare support for your college. Almost all student activities in colleges will have JCR involvement. In Hild Bede the equivalent body is called the SRC, in Ustinov the GCR.

Q. What is the JCR Levy on my college bill?
A. Make sure you allow a little bit more for your college and JCR bills at the start of each term. These can range from £4-£40 (approximately) depending on college and are paid in addition to residence charge. They help pay for college facilities and general JCR activities.

Q. Do you have pay them?
A. You can opt out of you JCR levy and your JCR must tell you how if you ask. This will not compromise your ability to use most facilities provided by the JCR (the bar may be a notable exception here), but you will not be allowed to vote in your JCR elections.

If people were to in large numbers opt out of JCR levies it would be nigh on disastrous for Durham. We strongly urge you to support and get involved in your JCR.

Q. How do I get involved with my JCR?
A. Speak to you JCR president, freshers' reps or just someone in the year above you. There will be many committees and groups that you can get involved with - just ask around. Clicking on the college shields on the DSU web pages will take you to your college JCR page.

Academic life

Q. When does term start?
A. Most Home Freshers will move into College on Sunday 30th September, International Freshers between 26th and 28th September. Your College will let you know soon about exact dates and arrangements for moving in. Term (lectures) starts for all undergrads on Thursday 4th October.

Q. Can I change course?
A. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It all depends. Firstly there is the issue of meeting all of the requirements for your chosen course change - in terms of grades. But each course has a quota and so your request may be completely out of the question. You would also need to have a good justification. If you do ever want to change your course you can ask for advice from your college or from the DSU Advice Centre.

Q. Can I fail?
A. Yes. In your first year you are required to get a 40% average. You are allowed for one module to be under that mark but it has to be over 35%. Resits are a pain and will disrupt your summer. Despite it seeming more difficult to fail than it is to pass you would be doing yourself a favour to work at a steady pace. Your first year doesn't count towards your final degree classification but pure idleness during that year is likely to catch up with you!

Q. Should I buy all the books on my course?
A. No! If you did you will have spent the entirety of your student loan, overdraft and any savings in one go! Use your common sense basically:

The University Library is good. The 4-hour loan section is really useful - it is where all of the most popular and needed texts from each course sit.
Photocopying costs money but is cheaper than buying every book when you won't need every chapter anyway.
You can buy cheaper second hand books online especially through Amazon marketplace. Also look out for the notice boards in your departments - students will be keen to get rid of their old books for the extra cash.
Share the cost of books with friends on your course. Agree that one of you will buy certain books and the other person will but other different books and then share them

Q. Should I buy a computer?
A. That's a difficult question. Almost 100% of college rooms will be cabled for access to the internet when you arrive. The University forces you to pay the connection fee regardless of whether you use the network socket in your room. Access to the university network is useful for both work and fun, and it is fast, but you will clearly need a computer to make use of it.

You could buy a computer before you arrive - a desktop machine is cheaper (as little as £300), but a laptop is a hell of a lot easier to carry around. You may also find a printer useful - you can pick up perfectly good ones for around £40. You should remember that each college has public access computer facilities, so do many departments and the library has an extensive number of computers, although there are often queues for these in busy periods of the year.

It is probably a better bet to wait until you come to university and see how much you need a PC. You can always get a PC delivered to your address at college! If you do want a machine, but feel that money would be a problem then speak to your college's senior tutor - money is available to help people buy PCs to make use of their in-room network connection.