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Frequently Asked Questions

Each year we receive a large number of enquiries from applicants and parents regarding the college allocation process. We hope this information will help answer more of the frequent questions.

We appreciate there will be a number of disappointed applicants and parents of applicants every year who feel that the allocation process is unfair, does not work, has let them down or should be changed. We are happy to receive feedback on the process and always looking at ways it can be improved or developed so that it continues to operate in a fair, open and transparent manner. Durham University makes over 20,000 offers each year.

We advise that you read through all FAQs prior to submitting a new question. It is likely that we may have already answered any questions that you may have either within the FAQs or our webpages.

Please note: Colleges staff and the Accommodation and Allocations Office are unable to discuss individual applications with parents or interested third parties unless written permission has been received.


Are all first-year undergraduate students guaranteed college accommodation?

We guarantee college accommodation to all first-year undergraduate students, and the expectation is that all will live in. Please be aware however that this is not compulsory and we appreciate that not everyone will want to live in colleges.

Can I still change my college preference after an allocation is finalised?

Durham University has a policy that once a college allocation is made then it is part of our broader offer and not something that would be changed at the applicant’s request.

Having multi-disciplinary academic communities is very important to maintaining our unique collegiate experience and so our allocation process is designed to ensure that this academic balance is maintained.

Can students stay in their college for second, third and fourth-year accommodation?

Returning students are welcome to return to their college for accommodation should they wish. Each college reserves a number of rooms for returning second, third and fourth-year students, and students are encouraged to contact their allocated college for further information.

How do I apply for college accommodation?

We guarantee college accommodation to all first-year undergraduate students, so accommodation is not something that you need to apply for. This is another great aspect of our collegiate system that applicants do not need to worry about before coming to Durham!

I have not got the college I would prefer, can I be moved?

The college you are allocated to will not be changed at an applicant’s request. Read further information regarding the allocation process.

Will college allocations come out immediately after the allocation process begins?

Once initiated in February, the college allocation process runs on a daily basis meaning that once an academic offer is made and communicated to UCAS, college allocation will immediately follow. There may be a delay of a couple of days for this to be updated in our records.

From February, an applicant who has received an academic offer from their department and has still not received a college offer after ten days can contact the Accommodation and Allocations Office at or alternatively via telephone at 0191 334 1770 / 1774.

Can I express more than one preference for a college?

Yes. As of February 2021, we have created an online preference ranking form for all applicants to rank colleges in order of their preference.

I have an unconditional offer, surely I can be placed in my preferred college?

Applicants are eligible for college allocation once an academic offer is made and communicated to UCAS, whether conditional or unconditional.

Durham University, in common with other universities, use offer factors to make the right number of offers to applicants to ensure we end up with the targeted number of students for the start of the academic year. The factors may be smaller for unconditional offer holders. The offer factors are taken into account when running the allocation process across our colleges for both unconditional and conditional offer holders.

I have deferred my offer, why am I not in my preference college?

College allocation is undertaken in the year of application. We seek to allocate deferred applicants proportionately across colleges using the same allocation principles. We would not wish to disadvantage applicants in the following year from being able to receive their preference college due to large numbers of offers having been made previously to deferred applicants.

I have a particular interest/skill/ability and that is why I wanted my preferred college. Can I be moved?

All colleges are academic communities offering opportunity for participation in a wide range of activities. There are also university wide organisations and activities that students can join. Students have the opportunity to participate at college, inter-collegiate and university level in any activities they wish to participate in. We do not look at such factors when allocating colleges. See further information regarding how the allocation process works.

I have been allocated to a college which does not offer the facilities I wanted. Can I change?

The allocation process is based upon two principles only; multidisciplinary communities within all colleges and an applicant's preference. See further information regarding how the allocation process works.

We do not allocate colleges on the basis of the facilities they have. The college allocation is part of the broader academic offer and as an offer holder you are being offered membership of a college community, not a particular room/catering type.

I cannot afford a catered college, can I be reallocated to a self-catered college?

Our current policy is that once a college allocation is made this would not be changed based upon an applicant’s request. The only exception to this would be where a specific medical need cannot be met in the allocated college.

Our catered colleges serve around 650 meals per year to students and this approximately averages at less than £4 per meal. We feel this offers good value to all students who reside in a catered college. There is no culinary equipment needed to be purchased and no weekly food bills on top of the overall price.

Our Student Finance team have put together some information for applicants who are concerned about the cost of living whilst at university and managing your money and advice about budgeting as a student.

I have a medical need that I feel cannot be met by my allocated college. Can my college be changed?

In the first instance, you should speak with your allocated college to see if any needs can be met or mitigated. The college will also be able to give you more information if necessary on how to be considered for a transfer on medical grounds, should your needs be potentially best met in an alternative college. Further details regarding this can be found on our College Transfer Requests page.

I/we am/are Durham alumni and went to X College. I/we wanted my/our child to go to this college.

Applicants have the opportunity to express a college preference within their UCAS application. Previous family membership of a Durham college is not taken into account in the allocation process. The college allocation process is based upon two principles only; multidisciplinary communities within all colleges and an applicant's preference. Further information regarding how the allocation process works can be found on our undergraduate pages.

Can I be placed on a waiting list for my preference college?

We do not operate waiting lists, whether this be centrally or within each individual college. Once a college allocation is finalised this will not be changed. 

Our process is designed to calculate offers to make prior to further accept or decline decisions being made by the applicant or by the University. We expect a large number of offer holders will not end up at Durham, and this is built into our planning and the allocation process.

Can I swap colleges with a friend?

We do not operate a swap system.

How are applications from Erasmus students dealt with?

Erasmus students are allocated to one of our colleges for membership once their attendance at Durham University is confirmed.

Can I change which college I'm allocated to if I don't want to live in college accommodation?

No. College allocation and the collegiate system of Durham is about more than just accommodation. 

Your college is where you are provided with membership and will be the place where you socialise and meet students and staff from all levels, disciplines and nationalities. Being part of a college means that you get the benefits of a large, international university whilst being a member of a smaller, friendly scholarly community.

Colleges also offer a comprehensive programme of student-led events and extra-curricular activities as well as personal support. You can even help run aspects of your college, which provides you with unique leadership opportunities and gives you valuable experience for your future career.

Read more information on our distinctive collegiate student experience.

How do I appeal a decision not to permit a change of college on medical grounds?

Applicants are allocated to a college through our publicised college allocation process. Durham University has a policy that once a college allocation is made then it is part of our broader offer and not something that would be changed at an applicant’s request.

Requests for a college transfer that are not based upon a medical need will not be considered, and there is no appeals process for this decision.

If an applicant has a medical need, they must first liaise with their allocated college to see if their needs can be met or mitigated for. If an applicant's needs cannot be met by their allocated college then they will need to follow the College Transfer Request process. If this is followed and a reallocation is confirmed, then there would be no appeals process for the decision made.

Similarly, if an applicant follows the College Transfer Request process and no transfer is required, there is no appeals process for this decision.

I want to express a preference for a different college to that which I originally put on my UCAS application - how do I do this?

Applicants are able to amend their original college preference before the college allocation process commences. The allocation process begins in February and runs on a daily basis from this point onwards. 

You can amend your college preference by completing the College Ranking Preference Form

Does college preference matter for my choice of study programme?

All colleges are multidisciplinary communities, meaning there is no one college for a particular subject. You can therefore express a preference for any of our 16 colleges where undergraduate students are members, or an 'open' application if you do not have a preference. Your preference will be taken into consideration as part of the allocation process.

Do I need to accept my offer for undergraduate study before I am allocated a college?

All applicants who receive an offer from Durham University are eligible for college allocation. As soon as a departmental decision to make an offer is recorded, applicants become eligible for college allocation. You will be allocated to a college when the college allocation process begins, around February, regardless of whether you have accepted your offer from the University.

If I submit two applications to Durham, can I specify a different preference on each application?

It is possible to submit two applications to Durham University, for further information please contact the Enquiries Team using the online enquiry form.

You are only able to state one college as a preference within an application to Durham University on UCAS. Should you have more than one application, then you are able to express a college preference within each application submitted.

Do catered colleges offer food for students with dietary requirements and/or allergies?

All colleges are able to cater to a wide variety of dietary requirements, including vegan. We would advise you contact your allocated college directly to discuss your dietary needs, as this can be passed onto the college kitchen staff.