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Durham University News

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Durham offers self-contained single-sex provision to satisfy demand

(12 March 2007)

Durham University is responding to the demand for single-sex accommodation by opening a completely self-contained women only wing on Friday 9 March for students who have special accommodation requirements, such as health, religious or cultural reasons.

Unlike some other universities that offer single-sex floors or flats in blocks, the newly refurbished Shepherd Wing at St Mary’s College is completely self-contained. Only the students living in the wing have access to the building and others only have access by invitation. While residents of the new wing have all the benefits of the extra privacy and security that completely separate single-sex accommodation provides, they can still take advantage of the supportive social and pastoral side of college life. All resident students eat together in the communal dining hall, have their own personal tutor, concerned with supporting their personal and academic development, and have access to all the clubs and societies on offer within the college and university as a whole. Principal of St Mary’s College, Jenny Hobbs said: “Through our past experience of running a women only college and our international links we believe that this new wing will be very popular amongst those with special requirements. Demand has already outstripped supply for next term and we’ve found that it is popular with students for a variety of reasons including with some Muslims. It is also particularly popular amongst students who are looking to live in a quieter environment, such as postgraduates, or those with health issues.” St Mary’s College, which was the last college at Durham University to go mixed when it opened its doors to men in October 2005, has maintained its commitment to providing some completely separate single-sex provision for women and men in recognition of the demand from both UK and international students. This provision is in keeping with the college’s ethos of respect for and equality between people of all races and socio-economic backgrounds. Raya Alkhajib, a 19 year old first year law student from Saudi Arabia, is living in the Shepherd Wing and says: “Being able to choose a single sex wing made a huge difference for me and my parents. It’s completely different to being in a single sex flat or floor as in both situations there could be men living just across the hall or shared landing. I feel very safe and comfortable here. The accommodation complements the collegiate system offered at Durham really well, allowing me my privacy but also offering me the social side - meeting friends and other students at mealtimes, through college activities and on my course.” Alkistis Pourtsidou, a 24 year old postgraduate student in Physics said: “I moved from a room elsewhere in St Mary’s to the Shepherd Wing because I felt I needed more peace and quiet to get on with my studies. As a postgraduate, I spend quite a bit of time working in my room and the environment in this accommodation is perfect for me to do that.” The Shepherd Wing, named after St Mary’s alumna, Amy Shepherd, is made up of a mixture of single and twin rooms some of which are ensuite. As well as internet access in all rooms there is also a reading room for study and leisure. Students in the Shepherd Wing also have access to all other areas of St Mary’s College and take their meals in the communal dining hall, which was the first at Durham to offer Halal food. The Shepherd Wing will be opened by Dr Bill Bryson, Chancellor of Durham University, on Friday 9 March who will then join staff and students for lunch in the college dining hall.

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