Not just lecture theatres and libraries… How I actually study humanities

Amy Nugent

When I was considering my university options, I remember looking at the different facilities each uni was offering, and seeing many of them advertising suites of state-of-the-art labs, fancy technical equipment, and specialised science blocks. As someone who did not choose university for these facilities, or more so for the subjects they catered for, I was expecting some rather unassuming lecture theatres to be my scheduled study spots, followed by the library. A year and a half deep into my degree, over the span of which I have taken modules in Business, English Literature, French, and Visual Arts, here’s my experience of the facilities I use when I am attending contact hours – sorry Billy B library, you don’t apply to my list!

English Literature

Lectures – these are usually an hour or so in length, have many attendees and are led by an academic, and thus need the bigger rooms we have in Durham. My English Lit lectures have so far mostly been held in Elvet Riverside – a selection of buildings nestled between town and the main Science site. But I’ve also had them in the Calman Learning Centre (or CLC) – which is an awesome cylindrical building on the Science site that I was very excited to be studying in.

Tutorials – usually about six students with one academic, these can really be anywhere, but I have had them in Elvet Riverside, the School of Education building (next to Hild Bede College), and Hallgarth House (the English department building).

Seminars – Once again, I have had them in Hallgarth House, but also on Palace Green itself! I have loved studying in the gorgeous buildings surrounding the Cathedral. I have also had a special visit to Palace Green Library which was truly amazing. I am currently taking a module which looks at Medieval texts, so to physically see (and touch!) books from that period was mind blowing. It really brought my studies to life as I faced the real-life manifestation of the texts I had been discussing and writing essays about. What an amazing facility! It was such a great experience, and the staff were so helpful. The books were gorgeous and it was amazing have access to them… English students do get some awesome treats at Durham.

one of the amazing medieval texts I got to work on!

Marketing and Management (Business)

I am going to condense this section a little because although I have had lectures, seminars and workshops as a part of my module studies in a few different places, most of these sessions have been held so far in the Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC). I love this building; it has great seating in the café downstairs even if it can get busy at peak study times. It is a super modern facility and very close to hill Colleges, especially St. Mary’s!


Studying French with the Centre of Foreign Language School rather than the Modern Languages Department meant that I didn’t have lectures (at least not at the level I picked). Instead, I had language labs which were held in computer rooms, and seminars which were in classrooms for about fifteen people. Both were in Elvet Riverside – (if you haven’t noticed the trend yet, most humanities subjects will teach you something in Elvet Riverside).

Visual Arts and Film

This module has been very different to the others, combining a lecture-style transmission of information along with a workshop-style capability for interaction. Though many of these have taken place in Elvet Riverside once again, I have also thoroughly enjoyed the visits I’ve had to Durham’s Oriental Museum because of this module. There, we have studied object handling and have also been learning skills to prepare for our final task which is to shoot and develop a podcast on an object of our choice. I have loved the freedom this has given me to not only pursue my academic interests, but properly hone them into an amazing and valuable skill. The museum staff have been wonderful throughout this whole experience, and I have loved the ability to not just study art and through it, the cultures it represents, but get up close and see it.

one of the beautiful objects at Durham Oriental Museum

As you can probably tell, studying humanities at Durham has given me more hands-on experiences than I could have dreamed of! I have loved using the facilities dedicated to my studies and seeing how Durham University cares about its humanities students just as much as its science students. Although it’s inevitable that university means lectures, I hope you can see how it’s so much more than just that!

Discover more

Why don’t you come along to an open day to check out the facilities you will be using for your degree? For more information about open days click:

For more information on Palace Green Library, click here Palace Green library

For more information on Durham’s Oriental Museum, click here Oriental Museum

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Amy Nugent

Hi, I’m Amy and here at Durham I study Liberal Arts at Grey College. In my spare time I can be found dancing like there’s nobody watching, getting stuck into my latest art project, or writing kooky stories in one of Durham's many beautiful spots.

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