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Frequently Asked Questions

Here some student reps have given answers to some frequently asked questions. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us on  All of our staff team are very friendly and are willing to answer your questions!

Alternatively, you may find answers to some of the more common questions about life at St John’s in this blog.

What is a campus card and what is it used for?

Campus cards are used to verify your identity as a student, e.g. in the dining hall to scan in for meals, to get books from the library and to gain access to other college bars. You will be given a campus card when you begin as a Fresher – don’t worry, there is no extra charge!

Will I like the people in my corridor?

Before the rooms and corridors throughout college are allocated, you will be emailed a questionnaire, allowing college to match you with people with similar interests and schedules to you!  The questionnaire asks a range of things, such as when you like to get up and go to bed, whether or not you like to play music in your room, how you would describe your perfect day, which societies you would like to get involved with at University, etc. Please don’t be worried though, the questionnaire is so easy to fill out and so informal!  

How does college cater for dietary requirements?

College caters to a wide variety of dietary requirements and allergies, offering meat, vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options daily. The catering team are really friendly and are always available to talk to you about queries or issues which may arise, so don’t worry and rest assured that you can and will be catered for at John’s!

How safe is Durham/John’s?

Durham as a city is reasonably safe compared to other larger cities! John’s itself is very safe, for it is a much smaller college with a welcoming community, meaning everyone is in a safe, encouraging environment.  Furthermore, John’s reception is monitored daily by our well-trained team of reception staff, and our team of Resident Tutors patrol the grounds on an evening to ensure that John’s is as safe as possible. You will also be provided with the Resident Tutors’ contact details in case of an emergency during the night.

What are college families?

College families are part of a fun and unique Durham University tradition which acts as a pastoral mentoring scheme among the student body.  In first year, you and your college siblings (other freshers) will be allocated college parents in the year above, with at least one parent studying your subject. College families are an amazing way to meet others studying your subject and to ask advice from students who were in your position last year!  When you are in first year, you can “marry” someone else – which is just a fun way of saying that you and that person will become college parents when you reach second year.

What are formals?

Formals usually run weekly, on a Wednesday. Formals is just short for “formal dining”, and you have a fancy 3 course meal while wearing formal clothes and the academic gowns (just like Hogwarts!). John’s also has a wine cellar, where wine can be bought in college. Formals are a great way of making college life a little bit more special, while coming together as a college to talk with a range of people and really feel the “John’s” spirit. Furthermore, John’s, unlike other colleges, does not charge extra for formals!

What happens with living out?

In your second/third year, you will likely rent a house in Durham with groups typically ranging from 4-6 people.  There are plenty of housing options available and lots of help and advice when the time comes to find a house!  While it is common to live in a house, there are a number of more modern, private student accommodation blocks offering flats and studio apartments, which can be a great alternative if a house doesn’t sound like your cup of tea.  You will also have the option to live in John’s after first year.  

Do you have to pay for laundry?

Unlike Durham’s other colleges, laundry at John’s is entirely free!  You will put a deposit down for a laundry card at the start of your first term, which will allow you to use the washing machines within John’s. The deposit will be refunded to you upon the return of your laundry card in your final year. The only thing you have to pay for is washing tablets/powder.

How do I use the library?

John’s itself has an almost brand-new library. There are a range of study spaces, a wide range of books, as well as a computer room.  The main University library, the Bill Bryson (or the ‘Billy B’ as it is affectionately known by students) can be booked online too – with study spaces, overnight slots and ‘browse and borrow’ book options available!

What is the collegiate system and how does it work? 

The collegiate system consists of 17 colleges spread throughout the city. When you apply, you will either express your preferences for particular colleges and you can rank them in order of preference, or submit an open application, where you can be allocated to any one of Durham’s colleges. Your allocated college will be your first point of contact for student support, as well as a community and place to make friends and to join sports and societies.  If you choose to live-in, your college will also provide your accommodation, and your food (St John’s is a fully catered college, so all of your meals are included in the accommodation costs).

Does college have bike storage?

Yes! Bike storage is available, with one behind the Garth and another behind 28 North Bailey!

Does college have wifi?

Yes! John’s has access to Wifi everywhere in college and in the Learning and Resource Centre (library).


St John’s, like all colleges on the Bailey, is catered. This means that all our meals are provided for by our wonderful college catering team. There are a wide variety of options to choose from every day, including vegetarian, vegan, gluten and dairy-free meals. If you are going to miss a meal, you can fill out a packed lunch order form from Haughton Dining Hall the evening before, pop it in the Catering pigeon hole, and pick it up the next day! And if you’re going to miss a meal regularly (e.g. you have a 12pm lecture every Monday), you can make a standing order for a packed lunch by emailing If you have any special dietary requirements, you can also contact our catering team at to discuss your requirements. 

Formals and ‘Mega-formals’

John’s has gowned formals on a weekly basis, usually on Wednesdays (‘On Wednesdays, we wear gowns’), and two ‘mega-formals’ each term that involve a sparkling reception. Formals are a three-course dinner with an after-dinner speech, and are an opportunity to catch up with old friends in college, as well as meet new people! Unlike other colleges, formals at St John’s are also free; mega-formals cost £5. 


John’s has so many events throughout the academic year that you can look forward to! This includes our Bailey Ball in Michaelmas term and Summer Ball in Easter term – two fabulous opportunities for you to ‘dress up to the nines’ and dance the whole night. Another brilliant reason to dress up is John’s Fashion Show, which is a wonderful way to raise money for our chosen charities and (again, this is a recurring theme) have some fun, too! We also have John’s Day, where we celebrate the life of John’s with various activities, such as our annual raft race. There is also an annual sporting competition between ourselves and St Chad’s on John’s/Chad’s Day (and we have a great track record when it comes to victory!). We also have Brew Fest, Eco Fest, the Festival of Sport… and many more events to look forward to! In short, there’s quite a lot, and something for everyone!

Sports and Societies

Sports and societies play a huge role in our lives at John’s! We’re passionate about doing what we love, whether that’s developing old interests or new. They also serve as a great way to bring us all together, and have some fun! Everyone is always welcome, no matter how much (if any!) prior experience you have; university is about trying new things too, after all! There are a number of sports and societies available, you can find the full list (so far!) here. Despite being one of the smaller colleges in Durham, we punch above our weight when it comes to sport, and sometimes join forces with St Chad’s for certain team sports. John’s also has a particularly vibrant music scene, and you can find more information (including details about our prestigious choral scholarships) here. This academic year, John’s Music Society (JMS) has held virtual open mics, and talks with renowned guest speakers every term; the choir has still been practising via Zoom all year; the orchestra also recorded an impressive rendition of ‘One Day More’ from Les Misérables! Our college theatre company is also very active (e.g. we have our annual Freshers Play and Summer Shakespeare performance) and successful (e.g. we won ‘Best Play’ at the Durham Oscars (D’Oscars) last year)! Still, if there’s any other society you’d like to see at John’s that we don’t yet have, you are more than free to start one yourself!

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