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Durham University

Josephine Butler

Pre-Sessional Information

Before You Arrive

Moving to a new country is an exciting experience but there are also many things you must do to prepare for this transition. The English Language Centre, Josephine Butler College, and the International Office at Durham are on hand to provide you with as much information as possible. We have put some of the most important details below to help you with your move.


It is vital that you contact Josephine Butler College before you arrive to arrange your accommodation requirements. You may only book accommodation once you have an offer letter. Accommodation arrangements are separate from your pre-sessional language course and it must go through Josephine Butler College.

You may e-mail the College at any time to book your accommodation at You will also need to inform us of your travel details and arrival dates so we may be here to welcome you.

Living-Out Accommodation

We highly recommend you stay in College accommodation during your pre-sessional programme. Staying in College allows you to become fully integrated into the programme and provides a valuable support network for your transition to life in the UK.

Please note, even if you are living-out, it is still vital that you check and respond to all e-mails from Josephine Butler College, collect your welcome pack upon arrival to Durham, and become involved in College activities. Staying in touch with College provides you with important information from the University.

When looking for private accommodation, it is important that you verify the listing is genuine. One way to do this is to ensure you sign a contract before paying anything for the room, asking to speak to the other lodgers in the house, and finding accommodation through a trusted source, like a registered realtor or letting agency. If you are unsure of where to book, please feel free to contact the College Student Experience Officer who can advise you ( or look online at a trusted real estate website, student lettings website, or through the University. You can find further information here.

If you do decide to live in private accommodation, you must provide Josephine Butler and the English Language Centre with your updated address.

Some important advice for choosing your off-site accommodation: Pre-Sessional Programme students are only allocated to Josephine Butler College. Do not book accommodation from letting websites which offer rooms in other Durham University Colleges. It is strictly against University policy for students to rent College accommodation from other students and this will be in full violation of tenancy laws. Additionally, do not book accommodation directly from other students who advertise their College rooms or are attempting to sublet to you as this is also in violation of accommodation agreements. If something looks too good to be true – it is!

Advice on avoiding accommodation problems can be found here.

Mail and Parcels

Upon your arrival at Josephine Butler College, you will be given an official postal address in the College. It is only once you have moved into your accommodation that you will receive this address and you may start receiving mail and parcels. These are kept at the Reception desk at College or in your allocated mailbox.

Please do not send mail or parcels to Josephine Butler College ahead of your arrival.

Travelling to Durham

Durham University offers a Meet and Greet Service which would transfer you from Newcastle Airport to your College accommodation.

The Welcome Team will be wearing purple Durham University t-shirts in international arrivals at Newcastle Airport. The Welcome Team will guide you to the coach to transport you to your accommodation. Please ensure that you bring a print out of your booking with you. Unfortunately, only students who have booked their place using the online form can use the service. All other students would need to take a taxi.

You may book the Meet and Greet Service here.

If you are arriving in Durham via train, it is very easy to get to Josephine Butler College. There are always taxis available at the train station and it is a short 5-10 minute drive from the station to Josephine Butler. It is around a 20-25 minute walk from the train station to Josephine Butler, but it may take longer if you are carrying luggage.

If you would like to book a taxi from the train station to Josephine Butler, there are many companies that offer such services in Durham. You can find a list of recommended companies and their numbers here.

What to Pack – Hand Luggage and Important Documents

When you arrive in the UK, you will need to have certain things in order to get through security and immigration smoothly. We recommend that you carry these things in a small bag or hand luggage, separate to your packed luggage, to make it easier to access. This must include:

  • Passport
  • Flight information
  • Visa documents
  • University correspondence (including your letter of confirmation from the University)
  • Insurance documents
  • Small amount of British money*
  • Any valuable items
  • A book or other portable item for entertainment

*We recommend that you carry enough money to cover you for your first few weeks at university in cash or, preferably, Traveller’s Cheques. Once you arrive in Durham, you will be able to set up a bank account which can hold larger quantities of money. The local banks are Lloyds, Nationwide, Barclay’s, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), HSBC, and NatWest. Information on setting up a UK bank account can be found here.

What to Pack – Checked Luggage

We recommend that you think carefully about what you want to bring, because most airlines will set a weight limit for your luggage and it may be very costly if you exceed this limit. When you arrive in Durham, you may find it colder than you are accustomed to so you will need clothing appropriate for winter and colder climates. However, the weather can be very changeable, so we suggest you bring the following:

  • Light clothing that you can layer
  • Some warmer clothing, such as knitwear and wool
  • A thick coat and a lighter coat, too, for the slightly warmer months
  • Boots or shoes that will withstand wet weather
  • A few home comforts (photographs, books, DVDs, etc. - although be selective!)
  • Any relevant documentation (particularly photo copies of your passport and travel details, just in case)

You will be able to purchase scarves, hats, and gloves very cheaply once in the UK.

Students often bring their own mobile phones, laptops, and other electronic devices from home that are not on UK voltage levels or are equipped to use without adaptors. A few points on electrionics are listed below.

  • Please note: for safety reasons, electric appliance adaptors are not allowed in University residences. Please do not use your electrical equipment in the residences unless you have an undamaged British cable with a 3 pin plug, this must be stamped BS1363 to connect to the electrical supply. Josephine Butler College does supply these cables free of charge to incoming accommodation students.
  • Electrical equipment can only be used in university residences if connected by a UK cable. Some electrical equipment, such as computer laptops, mobile phones, etc. have separate cables for connecting to the electrical supply. It is possible to buy separate cables in the UK in order to use your electric equipment safely in your college.
  • The electricity supply in the UK has a much higher voltage than in some countries outside Europe. It is therefore very important that electrical appliances are used safely – an electric shock can be fatal!

Please label all of your luggage with your full name, College address and, if your accommodation address is different to your College address, your accommodation address in case your luggage is misplaced.

Arranging Your Visa

Josephine Butler College is unable to advise or provide any information regarding your student visa and the application process. If you have any questions, please contact the International Office directly at

When You Arrive

Once you have arrived at Josephine Butler College you will be greeted by pre-sessional coordinators (in red or yellow shirts) who are on hand to help you. Your luggage will be taken to a secure place and you will be organised according to your accommodation block. We will then check your valid passport to verify your identity and take you in groups to your new accommodation. Snacks, beverages, and sim cards will be provided during this transition.

Rooms Packs

Every person who has accommodation at Josephine Butler College will be supplied with packs containing basic necessities for their rooms and kitchens. There are bedding packs, kitchen packs, and superior kitchen packs for each block of 6 flats to share.

Each pack is liable to change but they usually include the following.

Bedding Pack:

  • 1 single non-allergenic duvet
  • 1 single duvet cover
  • 1 pillow
  • 1 pillow case
  • 1 single fitted sheet
  • 1 hand towel
  • 1 bath towel

Kitchen Pack:

  • 1 dinner plate
  • 1 side plate
  • 1 cereal bowl
  • 1 mug
  • 1 glass tumbler
  • 1 knife
  • 1 fork
  • 1 spoon
  • 1 teaspoon

Superior Kitchen Pack (for the flat to share):

  • 1 small, 1 medium, and 1 large non-stick stainless steel pans
  • 1 sautee pan
  • 1 wok
  • 1 baking tray
  • 1 plastic colander
  • 1 measuring jug
  • 1 medium and 1 large chopping board
  • 1 set of tongs
  • 1 tin opener
  • 5 kitchen utensils
  • 1 utility knife
  • 1 cooks knife

As these items will be supplied to you, you do not need to worry about packing these essentials in your luggage.


You will be supplied with a secure safe in your Josephine Butler accommodation, but we do not recommend that you carry more than £400 in cash in your hand luggage for safety purposes. Josephine Butler College is not liable for anything that goes missing or is stolen from your rooms. We strongly recommend that you place all valuable items in the locked safe and keep your windows and door locked at all times when you are away.

Some people do decide to insure their belongings in case of accident, theft, or other unforeseeable incidents. You can find information on contents insurance here.

What’s included in the rooms

Each room at Josephine Butler College is en-suite, which means you have your own bathroom facilities, and are approximately 4.60 metres by 2.60 metres. There are a number of larger rooms designed for students with disabilities – please make sure we are aware of any special needs you may have which could affect your allocation of room (e.g. wheelchair user).

Rooms come with a single bed, a desk, a chair, a desk lamp, wardrobe, drawer unit, shower, sink, and toilet. Also included are a computer network point and a television aerial socket*.

*Note, if you have a television in your room, you will need a separate TV licence for it. Information on acquiring a licence is available here.

Accommodation at Josephine Butler College is self-catered, which means that you are given a kitchen space to prepare your own meals. Each en-suite room is located in a block of 6 rooms which share a kitchen, creating a great social space where you can cook and eat together with your friends, giving you the flexibility and freedom to eat when and what you want.

Each kitchen facility comes with a cooker, sink and washing up area, individual (lockable) storage areas, refrigerator, freezer, cupboard space, television point, table and dining chairs, extra seating, microwave, toaster, kettle, iron and ironing board, and vacuum cleaner.

Your first week

Arrivals day for each pre-sessional programme are below:

  • 10 week programme – Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 July
  • 5 week programme – Saturday 17 August


There are certain things that you should have prepared for your first week in Durham. Some of these (like your passport and flight details) will have travelled with you to the UK and others you can get in town once you arrive. We have assembled a suggested checklist of important items to help you prepare for this transition.

Before arriving in Durham, do you have:

  • Valid passport
  • University offer letter
  • Any correspondence with the University
  • Flight details
  • Any insurance information
  • Warm clothing
  • Wet-weather shoes
  • Any small home comforts (books, photos, DVDs, etc.)
  • Some British currency

During your first week, have you:

  • Picked up your welcome pack from College?
  • Read through the contents of your welcome pack?
  • If you have any questions, have you asked a member of staff at College?
  • Attended all necessary passport checks?
  • Filled-out all provided forms to fully register for your course?
    • NHS registration forms
    • Medical questionnaire
    • Bank registration
    • Police registration
  • Read and responded to all appropriate correspondence from College, ELC, and the International Office?
  • Attended all necessary induction and registration sessions at College and ELC?
  • Signed-up for the Saturday out-of-town trip if you would like to attend?
  • Taken a Durham City tour offered by College?
  • Signed-up for any subsequent tours offered by College?
  • Brought all study and notetaking materials for your course (laptop, pen, notebook, etc.)?
  • Located the English Language Centre, the Bill Bryson Library, and your future Department?

Life at Josephine Butler

Durham is a collegiate university and every incoming student is assigned to a college. While on the pre-sessional course, your college is Josephine Butler. We host a number of events during your stay, including formal dinner, themed evenings, academic talks, and mentor nights. We strongly encourage you to participate in these events as they are great opportunities to improve your English speaking skills. Information on these events can be found here.


Josephine Butler College offers a range of accessible facilities you may use while on your course. Both students living in College and living in private accommodation are welcome to use these spaces. You can find a complete list of facilities here.

College offers several study spaces, a quiet study room, a library, and IT suite for study purposes which may be accessed 24/7. There are also several meeting rooms, an events hall, a music room, an art room, and acres of landscaped grounds for you to explore.

There is a designated College bar which serves food from 11.30-21.00 Monday to Friday and 12.00-21.00 Saturday and Sunday. The College bar also comes equipped with numerous tables and chairs, a stage, billiards tables, dart boards, TVs, and a lounge area.

As members of Josephine Butler College, you will have access to the Middle Common Room (MCR), which comes with a TV, games consoles, board games, books, a bar, refrigerator, and sofas.

The College also has a designated modern gym (£10 membership), multi-purpose sports field, multi-use games area (MUGA), and an outdoor green gym. Other facilities are provided for everyday life, like a laundrette and shared living areas.


Supermarket deliveries can be made to the site. Flatmates often club together for their shopping and cook together - the experience of communal cooking and eating is one that leads to close friendships.

In the city centre (easily accessible via the Park and Ride bus directly outside the College) you will find a Tesco Metro which provides amply for the needs of the vast majority of students, as well as many smaller shops and the indoor market which provides discounts to students. Alternatively, there are several bigger supermarkets on the outskirts of the city (including Sainsbury's and Tesco Extra) which can be reached by bus.

JB's Bar

JB's is our bar and kitchen area open to all. If you don't fancy cooking, a wide variety of meals at very reasonable prices can be purchased from JB's.

Formal dining

Formal dinners are an integral part of the social calendar here at Butler and we have several a term with themes ranging from murder mysteries and Harry Potter, to Burns night and Valentine's day - so there really is something for everyone. They provide an opportunity for the whole of College to come together and are fantastic evenings of wining, dining and entertainment, which can be fully formal (e.g. gowns, lounge suits and dresses) to fancy dress or black tie. Our formals are some of the most popular in the University, and with good reason, as you will come to see!

Mentor Nights

You will be allocated a College Mentor who will meet you in the few weeks of your programme in a group. These are held in an informal setting with tea, coffee, and some food provided. This is a wonderful way to improve your English speaking skills and learn about life in Britain. Your Mentors are on hand to answer questions about the College, University, and living in Durham.

Pre-sessional Society Charge and the Middle Common Room (MCR)

You will be asked to pay a membership fee for the MCR Pre-sessional Society. You can opt out of this payment but we strongly encourage you to pay it. Paying the membership fee means you get a significantly reduced rate on all College activities. For example events and trips and other activities are subsidised by the membership fee, meaning you will have to pay far less to attend these events. The vast majority of students choose to pay for membership as it greatly enhances your College experience and saves you money overtime. If you do not pay the membership fee you will not be able to attend some events for example the Harry Potter evening we hold will only be open to Pre-sessional Society members.

Even as a liver-out this fund can help improve your experience of the college. This membership fee is a one off payment which applies to your entire pre-sessional time as a Josephine Butler College member. Typically, around 98% of our students pay the membership fee. We ask that you pay this charge to ensure that the programme can keep producing great events and that we are able to provide all the sports, societies, and committees that you would like to join throughout your entire time at the College. If you do not wish to pay the membership fee you will be asked to pay a premium for events and trips and some events you will not be able to attend.

If you have any questions regarding this fee, please contact the pre-sessional team at:;; or