Van Mildert College, Durham

Colleges of the University of Durham
Van Mildert College
Named after Bishop William Van Mildert
Established 1965
Sister college Halifax College, York[1]
Principal David Harper[2]
Deputy Principal Victoria Brown
Undergraduates 972 (2012/13)[3]
Postgraduates 89 (2012/13)[4]
Motto Sic vos non vobis
Motto in English Thus do ye, Not for yourselves

Location of Van Mildert College within DurhamCoordinates: 54°45′47″N 1°34′52″W / 54.7631°N 1.5810°W / 54.7631; -1.5810

Van Mildert College (known colloquially as Mildert) is a college of Durham University in England. Founded in 1965, it takes its name from William Van Mildert, Prince-Bishop of Durham from 1826 to 1836 and a leading figure in the University's 1832 foundation. Originally an all-male college, it became the first Durham college to become co-educational in 1972 with the admission of female undergraduates.

The college occupies grounds of eight acres (32,000 m²) alongside South Road and is centred on a small lake. The college's accommodation and communal facilities are modern and spacious, and includes an adjacent conference centre which is regularly used by external organisations.

History & buildings

A view of the main building and lake at Van Mildert College in 1995

Van Mildert College was established in 1965 following recommendations of the Robbins Report looking into the future of higher education in the UK. In 1963, the University of Newcastle was officially established as a separate entity from the University of Durham, meaning new colleges were required to meet the new university places that the Government wished to create. As a result, the university planned to establish three new colleges on Elvet Hill and these went on to be named Collingwood College, Trevelyan College and Van Mildert College.[5]

Women postgraduate students were first admitted in 1967, studying Certificates in Education. Female undergraduates were first admitted to the college in 1972, making it the first Durham college to become co-educational.

The accommodation blocks are named Tyne, Tees, Middleton, Derwent, Wear, Tunstall and Deerness, the latter two of which are fully en suite. These are named after rivers (River Tyne, River Tees, River Wear, River Deerness) and towns (Tunstall, Middleton) in the local area. They are all situated within the college grounds and the university is in the process of refurbishing each of the buildings in turn. In total the College can provide 550 single rooms for its members.

Dining Hall

The college's Dining Hall is the largest student dining hall in the UK. It measures 30.8m by 13.2m and can seat approximately 350 members at formal dinners.[6] The dining hall is used for a variety of functions over the academic year and plays a central role in the lives of livers in (students who live on the college site) as it is where college meals and formals are held. The hall also acts as a venue for drama productions, use as a sports hall and in 2010 was one of the main locations for the Inter-Varsity Folk Dance Festival.[7]

The portrait of William Van Mildert, whom the college is named after, hangs at one end of Van Mildert dining hall, along with portraits of the former Principals and Masters of the college.


The College library is well equipped with over 12,000 books & journals and along with St John's College Archives is the only other College library in Durham to be listed in The National Archives.[8] Opposite the library is the newly refurbished Kent Room, which is where the library's fiction collection is kept. The library is run by a part-time librarian and the library committee of the JCR, which also provides much of the funding to maintain the library. The library has recently undergone a process of automating its catalogue of books.

Bar and Junior Common Room

Van Mildert has a bar which is extensively used by members of the college, as well as by students from other colleges. In recent years, the college bar has won the 'University Bar' category of the Best Bar None[9] awards for Durham City for the 2008-09 and 2010-11 academic years.

The Junior Common Room, or JCR lounge, is used for holding JCR meetings and many of the social events that are organised by the JCR. For example bops, discos after formal dinners, band nights and amateur theatre productions. Both rooms have large plasma screen TVs which are used to show major sporting fixtures during the academic term.

Other facilities

The College has a host of other social facilities, including a music/recording suite with drums, grand piano and recording equipment. The College also has a gym, computer room, shop, tennis court and a full-size snooker table.


The shield of Van Mildert College

The college arms are blazoned as "Gules two Scythe blades in saltire in chief the Cross of St Cuthbert Argent And for the Crest On a Wreath of the Colours in front of a Castle of three Towers Sable a silver penannular brooch proper the ends charged with Gilded Crosses of St Cuthbert." The scythes and the red field are taken from Bishop Van Mildert's episcopal arms; the cross of St Cuthbert is a common emblem of Durham City and University. The college generally uses only the shield of its arms for most purposes.

Student life

Common Rooms

All members of college are members of a common room. Undergraduates are members of the Junior Common Room (JCR, not be confused with the room). The JCR elects an Executive Committee which ensures the successful running of the JCR, in conjunction with the College Officers. The governance procedure of the JCR is stated in the constitution, which can only be amended by resolution of the JCR members during general meetings. Undergraduates constitute the majority of the student population of the college, 972 students in 2012/13.[3]

Postgraduate students are members of the Middle Common Room (MCR) which hosts its own events and benefits from a refurbished Common Room and separate accommodation in Deerness block. All rooms in this block are en-suite and have access to kitchen facilities due to the fact that postgraduate students are often resident in college outside of normal term times. Postgraduate members of the college are entitled to make use of all the JCR facilities available. Administrative, academic and other members of college are members of the Senior Common Room (SCR).


The college has a number of groups involved in music, art, and the performing arts. The college hosts an annual arts week and annual musical, with recent productions being Cabaret, Our Country's Good, Guys and Dolls, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Rent.[10] The college has a Big Band, Dance Society and Jam Night Society. This Society organise Jam by the Lake, the only open-air musical festival in County Durham and frequent winner of Purple Radio's 'Best Music Event' award.[11]


The college has a strong sporting profile, finishing 1st in the college league table in 2008/9.[12] There are a number of sports teams, notably eight successful male football teams and two male rugby teams. However, Van Mildert also excels in less traditional sports such as Cheerleading, with the College team having won the Inter-Collegiate Competition for five consecutive years; Ultimate Frisbee; and Women's Rugby (a joint team with Josephine Butler College). Awards for graduating sports players are given at the Annual Sports Formal. This event celebrates the work and success of the sports teams, but more so the JCR Members who captain the teams and make up their Executive Committees.

Van Mildert Boat Club
Image showing the rowing club's blade colours
Location Durham, United Kingdom[13]
Coordinates 54°46′23″N 1°34′22″W / 54.773122°N 1.572693°W / 54.773122; -1.572693 (Van Mildert BC)
Home water River Wear
Founded 1965 (1965)
Membership 100 (approx)
Affiliations British Rowing, Durham College Rowing

Boat Club

Van Mildert Boat Club is the college rowing club. It was founded in 1965 by Simon Scott, an Engineering undergraduate at Durham University and one of the founding members of Van Mildert College. [14][15] The boathouse of the club is on the River Wear, opposite Dunelm House and below Kingsgate Bridge.

The club competes against other college clubs in intercollegiate competitions organised by Durham College Rowing. It also takes part in regional events and national events (such as Head of the River Race, Women's Eights Head of the River Race and BUCS Regatta).


High Table at the Mildert Day Formal Meal in 2008

One of the most unusual aspects of Van Mildert's College is its passion for Community Outreach. Over recent years, six projects have been set up to provide support to a range of groups in the community. This includes visiting local young offenders (Prison Project), engaging with young children and teenagers (Primary School Project and Young Peoples' Project), visiting and building relationships with the local elderly community (Community Visiting Scheme); or working as respite carers for the families of young disabled children (Carers Respite Committee). The latest outreach project, Environmental Conservation Committee helps to raise the profile of sustainability by visiting rehabilitation centres, schools and recreational areas. These projects cumulatively raise over £15,000 each year in order to function. This is through a range of methods, but mainly through hosting large-scale College events such as Mildert's Got Talent and Van Mildert Take Me Out.

Academic dress

At Van Mildert the undergraduate academic gown is not required to be worn to formal events nor at Matriculation, instead formal dress is used. In addition, students wear black tie attire at the end of term balls.


Formals take place regularly during the academic term, with the college holding between three and five per term. As with all colleges there are a number of traditions at Formals, such as pennying and odds on. Students are not required to wear academic dress to formal dinners, instead formal dress is worn except when it is a Ball and dinner jackets are worn. At the end of the dining hall a High Table consisting of members of the SCR and their guests are present at every formal. The Principal's entrance and exit signifies the official opening and closing of the formal meal. Food at a formal meal usually consists of three courses and is often followed by evening entertainment.

The Kazu

The Kazu is a traditional ceremony performed by the winning candidate after elections to the JCR Executive Committee following the announcement of results by the JCR Chair. A Kazu is a celebratory action which requires the winning candidate of every election to kick a full can of Coca Cola down the stairs in the foyer, throw it over their head three times and then opening the can over their head. The JCR Standing Orders and website note that it "may be done wearing clothes" and that "Wikipedia knows more about Kazus than anyone in College".[16] The tradition is thought to stem from a Japanese exchange student visiting Durham from Teikyo University who regularly completed the act in the 1996/1997 academic year.

Kazu being performed

Associated Institutions

Following the tradition of Oxbridge Colleges being twinned with each other, as of 2012 Van Mildert College has been twinned with Halifax College, University of York.[1]

People associated with Van Mildert


David Harper is the current Principal of the College, a palaeontologist and former Professor of Palaeontology in the University of Copenhagen.[2]

The following list is of the past Masters & Principals of the College:


The college has two fellowships for visiting scholars; the Arthur Prowse Fellowship, named after the College's first Master, and the Arnold Bradshaw Fellowship. The fellowships are typically awarded for one academic term in conjunction with the Institute of Advanced Study with the fellow residing in the College and becoming a member of the SCR. Recent fellows have included Adi Ophir and Mikhail Epstein.

Notable alumni

Van Mildert alumni are active through organisations and events, such as the Van Mildert Association, which cater for the more than 7,500 living alumni.[17]


  1. 1 2!twinned-colleges/cum5
  2. 1 2 3 Van Mildert College official website: New Master of Van Mildert College Announced
  3. 1 2 "Table 4.1 Accommodation, Undergraduates by College" (PDF). Durham University. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  4. "Table 4.1 Accommodation, Postgraduates by College" (PDF). Durham University. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  5. Martin, Susan (2006). Trevs: A Celebration of 40 years of Trevelyan College Durham. Roundtuit Publishing.
  6. "Van Mildert College Official website: Meeting Rooms".
  7. "Inter-Varsity Folk Dance Festival 2010 website".
  8. The National Archives | Search the archives | ARCHON Directory | Repository Details
  9. Durham University News: Best Bar None Awards
  13. Durham College Rowing. "River Wear". Retrieved 2009-08-16.
  14. "CUWBC Blondie 2011 Squad List". Retrieved 25 January 2013. |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  15. Van Mildert Association Obituaries. "VMA Obituaries". Retrieved 2013-01-13.
  17. "The Durham Difference" (PDF). Durham University. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
  18. ‘ALAGIAH, George Maxwell’, Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2012 ; online edn, Nov 2012 accessed 5 April 2013
  19. ‘BAIN, Ven. (John) Stuart’, Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2012 ; online edn, Nov 2012 accessed 5 April 2013
  20. ‘BARROW, Prof. John David’, Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2012 ; online edn, Nov 2012 accessed 5 April 2013
  22. ‘HUGHES, Rt Hon. Sir Anthony (Philip Gilson)’, Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2012 ; online edn, Nov 2012 accessed 5 April 2013
  23. ‘KELLY, Prof. Francis Patrick, (Frank)’, Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2012 ; online edn, Nov 2012 accessed 5 April 2013
  24. ‘MAITLAND, Viscount’, Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2012 ; online edn, Nov 2012 accessed 5 April 2013
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