Collingwood opened its doors in 1973 – well, actually, it didn’t, it was still a sea of mud when it was supposed to open and the first lot of students had to be farmed out to another College, Van Mildert. It was set up as the first mixed college – slightly to the alarm of the more conservative members of the University Senate (“Of course”, they said, “the girls and the boys will be in separate wings ...!” — “Certainly not,” said the first Principal). It also saw itself, from the very beginning, as very informal – so it didn’t have gowns, or graces, and relations between students and staff were always very warm (I expect everyone to call me Steve, and you’ll call all the staff by their given names). The College was originally designed for around 260 students, all in individual rooms (which was very unusual at the time); it was set in nice grounds on the outskirts of the city, just next door to the University’s Botanical Gardens, with a little lake, and a tennis-court, and good gardens. Students liked the idea of being coeducational: they flocked .... and by now, of course, all the colleges in the University are mixed.
In the early 1990s, the University wanted to expand – and Collingwood took the decision to double its size. It built a series of new wings around a croquet-lawn and an amphitheatre (which is used as a turning-circle, and occasionally to put on plays and other events). In 1993, the new wings opened – with nicely spacious en-suite rooms for every resident! And by now we could house 570 of them ... What didn’t happen was a new dining-hall, so we’re still a bit short of space there – but we did get a new and much more spacious JCR which can house a shop, a pizza-shop, a coffee-shop, a games area, and a very large and luxurious bar (the best in Durham: renovated by a generous alumnus who’s really enjoyed himself ... in the bar!). We also have a red telephone-box ... and how it got in and down the stairs is difficult to imagine!
Collingwood has always been very successful academically, and in sports – a previous principal, Gerald Blake, still coaches the rowers and they perform quite remarkably! – and in things like drama. The College has quite a lot of smart public space which is also available for students ... and it’s always had a particularly lively, committed bunch of students who buzz with ideas and new initiatives ...
Another former Principal, Jane Taylor, helped the College build up a pre-eminent reputation within the University for engagement with the local community. The College has an expanding number of students providing academic and personal mentoring support for young peope across county Durham. As of 2009/10 we have nearly 90 people involved in mentoring schemes run through the College working in partnership with such bodies as the Durham Local Authority and the County Council Access Service.
There’s a lot of competition for places here – and we think it’s perfectly obvious why!Steve Rayner, Vice-Principal and Senior Tutor