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Durham University

Centre for Catholic Studies


Agreement could secure future of Ushaw College as centre for international research

(20 December 2013)

Plans are being explored which could see a former Catholic seminary become a new College of Durham University with an international programme of residential and academic activities based around its internationally renowned library.

University and Church officials today (Wednesday, December 18) signed a Heads of Terms agreement underlining their commitment to continue their partnership and further exploring educational opportunities which could secure the long-term future of Ushaw College, on the outskirts of Durham City.

Today’s agreement follows the completion of a detailed set of master-planning proposals by Malcolm Reading Consultants, jointly commissioned by Durham University and the Trustees of Ushaw College and overseen by a joint steering group.

Under the proposals the University will continue to occupy parts of Ushaw College and manage its internationally significant library and culturally important collections. The possibility of bringing the larger part of Ushaw under the direct management of the University, while remaining in Catholic ownership and trusteeship, will also be further explored.

The College, which was originally founded in Douai (now northern France) in 1568 and re-founded on its current site four miles to the west of Durham City in 1808, was a Catholic seminary until June 2011.

Professor Chris Higgins, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, and Bishop Terence Drainey, Acting Chair of the Ushaw Trustees, today signed the agreement in the Senate Suite of Durham Castle (University College).

Durham University’s Centre for Catholic Studies will continue to work closely with University Library and Museums staff and key academics in hosting events and research projects focused both on the history, cultures, and intellectual heritage of British Catholicism and on the full range of the Ushaw collections, from early science and travel, to politics and music.

To support this, the Trustees and the University have committed to working on a joint regional, national and international fund-raising project to support visiting fellowships and postgraduate scholarships across a range of disciplines.

Funds raised would also pay for the care and opening-up of Ushaw’s library, archive, and cultural collections.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the joint fund-raising project should contact Andrew Harston, in the Development and Alumni Relations Office, at Durham University, on +44 (0) 774 810 6320 or

Professor Chris Higgins, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “The signing of the Heads of Terms marks a significant step in exploring the potential opportunities for this historically important site.

“We look forward to working with the Ushaw Trustees and with the many communities that have an interest in supporting the future of the College to ensure that its collections are preserved intact in Durham and are made more widely available to the community as well as to educators and researchers from the University and around the world.”

Bishop Terence Drainey, Bishop of Middlesbrough and Acting Chair of the Ushaw Trustees, said: “We are delighted that the work and efforts of the joint steering group for the Ushaw project have resulted in a proposal that could allow the heritage of Ushaw College, its collections and library, as well as its educational traditions, to continue and to secure a future for this very important estate within the Catholic community.”

Professor Paul D. Murray, Professor of Systematic Theology and Dean and Director of the Centre for Catholic Studies, Durham University, said: “This joint collaboration of the Ushaw Trustees and Durham University holds real promise for this region, for the Catholic community both nationally and internationally, and for the international scholarly community. We urge all who earlier pledged or considered support to contact us.”

Historic agreement