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Learning and teaching

The outstanding quality of teaching at Durham University is reflected in external assessments, in student feedback and in the success of our students both during and after their studies.

We are currently ranked fifth in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018 and forth in the Guardian University Guide 2018. In the most recent Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Durham is ranked within the top 100 globally. These league tables use metrics including student satisfaction and graduate employability prospects and reflect the University’s commitment to teaching as a core institutional priority.

The results of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) provide further evidence of our excellent approach to teaching and learning:

  • A consistent focus on research informed teaching.
  • The availability of extensive development opportunities for students beyond the formal curriculum.
  • A culture that recognises and supports the development of teaching excellence.

Research-led education

We emphasise the development of students as independent learners; our focus on research-led education means that all courses have an emphasis on project learning and students working in small groups. Appropriate contact hours are designed to actively encourage students to engage and study outside of timetabled contact hours, both within their academic discipline and beyond it, participating in college, student-led and centrally delivered activities. The impact of Durham students at the forefront of research is evidenced by the links between employer-sponsored research projects (with employers such as Rolls-Royce, Proctor & Gamble and British Gas) and future employment with the sponsoring company.


“My four years of Earth Sciences at Durham gave me much more than just a solid grounding in the fundamentals of geology, it brought me right up to the cutting edge of science. I have undertaken research projects delving into unknowns at the forefront of science, collaborated with industry on real projects, and gained over 15 weeks of field experience in areas of world class geology across six different countries.”

Jordan Phethean, MSci Earth Sciences

Jordan Phethean

Academic Skills development

The Academic Skills Programme provides a study skills support service that enhances the academic skills development of all undergraduates. Comprising both bespoke online resources and face-to-face classes, the programme has become an important and valuable tool for students. Student numbers have doubled and participants reported that the support received had results in a noticeable improvement in their work.

'With an exceptional continuation rate of 97.8% - students continuing from their first to second year of study - Durham has the 5th highest progression among UK mainstream universities.'

Durham University TEF submission 2017


Bridging the gap between secondary and higher education

At Durham, students are engaged with their academic studies from the outset. Every course begins with Transitions, a pre-arrival e-learning course which helps students to bridge the gap between secondary education and research-led study. In addition, each course has an extended academic induction introducing students into their relevant academic community of practice.


“The quality of research was the main reason I chose Durham. The lectures are taught by world-leading academics who are experts in their field, and they often discuss the applications of the lecture course material to their own research. The research and latest developments from the academics is embedded and integrated into the lecture courses, making them up-to-date and current.”

Neshat Rozatian, MChem, Chemistry

Neshat Rozatian, MChem, Chemistry