The esteemed Bill Bryson, a former Chancellor of the University of Durham, once gave this piece of advice to our students: “Don’t let your degree get in the way of your education”.
I have benefited from bearing these words in mind, and I encourage new students to heed them too. Of course, your subject of study is greatly important and you should pursue it keenly, but it is only one part of the wider education that you can and should seek to obtain at university. Durham’s collegiate system really facilitates this: a college is a community driven by camaraderie, co-operation, and mutual ambition. By living and working with like-minded students in this college environment, you have an incredible opportunity to develop yourself intellectually and socially, to cultivate your interests, and to gain practical skills and experience with which to make a difference in the world — all alongside achieving academic success in your degree studies. Now that’s an education.
Exciting new opportunities
To join South College is an exciting opportunity to help build a new such academic community, and it is why I decided to apply straight away when I read about it. I see South prospering because we can stand with a foot in the past whilst looking to the future: we inherit many wonderful traditions from Durham’s rich history and our experiences in other colleges, but we also have the chance to add new ideas, and principles of modernity, to the mix. We can combine the great values of liberty and ambition with a commitment to inclusivity and equality. I think that this is a powerful foundation for South College which will make it really quite special and uniquely successful within Durham from day one — a place where everyone can fit in and flourish.
But what does this all mean in practice? That’s something which will take shape over time with our new students, and I have been delighted to lay the groundwork for that with my fellow Pioneer Scholars. I’m utterly impressed by them and am thrilled to join them; as a group, we bring an impressive range of skills and experiences which we have already been putting to good use.
We’ve collaborated with our JCR President to write the standing orders, which embed democracy at the heart of South’s procedures. We have Pioneer Scholars who have great ideas for providing strong welfare support, whilst others are already drawing up plans for establishing sports teams. I’m personally very enthusiastic about running a casual debating society in South — an enthusiasm which comes from my own college experience so far. Before joining South, I was a member of Josephine Butler College and a keen participant in our debating society there. College offers a space in which anyone with an inquiring mind can develop their thinking and seriously learn about the world. I very much want South to have its own unique version of this, to foster intellectual curiosity within the College.
A brand new home
Our new buildings certainly match our ambitions for South. They are quite remarkable and give us everything that we could need. The accommodation is really high-spec; there are ample facilities for all manner of societies; and I can already imagine the spirited evenings which we shall spend together at formals in our impressive dining hall. The café-bar in the Pitcairn building will be an excellent social centre, bolstered by the well-equipped physical common rooms.
I can’t wait to move into South in the autumn and welcome the new students with my fellow Pioneer Scholars. It is a chance to build something new within an old and venerable institution. Together, we shall make a dazzling start to this new chapter of Durham’s history.