Durham Jargon

Ben Bassett

Before coming to Durham, I was completely clueless about the student jargon, I found myself hearing all of these words such as ‘JCR Levy,’ ‘Matriculation’ and ‘Billy Bee’ and getting slightly confused. Here is my guide to the Durham Jargon – so you don’t have to be as confused as I was!

Billy B and Tilly C

The Bill Bryson Library and the Teaching and Learning Centre are two amazing facilities for studying here in Durham. They have these cool nicknames, these are two places that have become my home for the past few years – I spend a lot of time studying in both. The library is named after our ex-Vice Chancellor, Bill Bryson and has a fun mascot named Billy Bee.

Obby H (cover photo)

I’m trying to get this nickname to catch on too! Observatory Hill is the best place in Durham for a view of the Cathedral and it is delightful for sledging in the snow in the winter and for cute picnics in the summer. I am very proud of the cover photo for this blog, taken from Obby H. I have cried and I have laughed on Observatory Hill, this is where I first met some of my best friends during Freshers’ Week, it is where I took my Freshers when I frepped for the first time and it is where we took a ‘Survivors Photo’ after Trevs Summer Ball (a photo of all of the students who ‘survived’ and stayed up until sunrise). A lot happens on Observatory Hill, I have so many happy memories!

Survivors photo on Obby H

Big Tesco, little Tesco

Whilst there is a Tesco Metro in the city centre, which is perfectly fine for weekly shopping (except for their lack of Mini Egg chocolate bars), there is also a Big Tesco. Big Tesco is the mother of all Tesco’s, it is huge and situated in Gilesgate which is a long walk or a short Uber or bus ride away. It has everything! Big Tesco is a day out in itself and is fun for all the student family – it even has the aforementioned Mini Egg chocolate bars!

JCR Exec

A JCR is a Junior Common Room, and they are often described as mini students’ unions as each college has one. They are run by students, for the students, and plan a busy schedule of social events and they also provide welfare support. Exec is short for Executive Committee, and these are the students who have been elected to positions of responsibility, usually in a JCR or wider University Society. Currently, I am the JCR Chair at South College, and a large part of my role is chairing meetings of our members and mediating between students and college staff. I also ensure that formal rules are followed. To join the JCR, you must pay a levy – a membership fee, which often covers your entire degree and allows you to join college societies, vote in elections and get cheaper tickets for balls and college events.


Formals are formal dinners! This is your chance to dress up fancy, put on a gown and attend a delicious three-course meal in college with your friends. The atmosphere is amazing and it is a great distraction from degree work! Many colleges have formal traditions such as toasting to Oswald the Owl at South College and banging spoons on the tables at Trevelyan College. Many colleges also do themed formals for Chinese New Year, Diwali and many other events! At Christmas, many colleges have a Christmas formal where there are carols, brass bands and everyone sings the Twelve Days of Christmas!

Formal dinner at college

Hill and Bailey

The Bailey refers to the colleges on the Peninsula, meaning that they’re in the city centre. These are generally the older colleges such as Castle, Hatfield, Cuth’s, Chad’s and John’s. The Hill colleges are along a hill (a long but not very steep hill), about a 15-minute walk from the city centre. These are the newer colleges like Grey, Collingwood, Van Mildert, Aidan’s, Trevs, Mary’s, South, Stevo, Butler and John Snow. Then there’s Hild Bede in a beautiful riverside setting and has amazing grounds.


Stashhhhhh! I mostly live in stash, and yes, it is a substitute for a personality! Stash is another name for the clothing items that have your college crest, society or Uni logo on them. It’s a great way to show off your pride for your college or society. You will see a lot of stash around Durham, especially during Freshers’ Week as all Freps wear stash.


Frep is short for Freshers’ Rep! They are older students from your college who have volunteered to support you in your first year, particularly in Freshers’ Week. They help to move you in on move-in day and they organise many activities throughout the week to help you settle in. They are also great for welfare support. I have been lucky enough to Frep twice, and I acted as co-Head Frep at South College this year!

South College Freps 2020

College Day

College Day is possibly the best day of the year! All students in a college come together to chill in the sun after the exam period is finished. The day is filled with live music, fun activities and drinks and they are a celebration of our amazing college communities. They often have fun themes such as ‘COVID is a Beach’ and ‘Around the World’.


Matriculation usually takes place in Durham Cathedral during Freshers’ Week. It marks your formal entry into the University, and it is a brilliant opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the Cathedral. Many colleges also hold their own matriculation ceremony too! At South, we pledge our allegiance to Oswald the Owl and sign our names into a big leather book.

Matriculation at South College 2020

Honourable mentions include SNK (Sunday Night Klute – a club night), Spaggs (a delicious Italian restaurant) and the Mound –  a man-made mound on the Josephine Butler college site, which has really good views across Durham!

I hope this jargon buster has helped you! Now you will never have to worry if your friends ask you to buy some strawberries at Big Tesco for a picnic on Obby H after your study sesh at the Billy B. ?

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Ben Bassett

Hi, I’m Ben, a second-year History student, originally at Trevelyan College, I am transferring to South College as a Pioneer Student. When I’m not doing my degree, I can be found playing guitar in my band, The Dead L!nes, getting involved in music societies and mentoring local sixth form students.

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