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University College

Durham Castle Lecture Series

The Durham Castle Lecture Series is devoted to bringing high-profile speakers to Durham who can contribute to academic and public discussion on issues of significance. Each of the specially invited presenters has made an outstanding contribution over a sustained period of time.

The lectures take place in the stunning setting of Durham Castle's Great Hall. With a maximum capacity of 250, the Great Hall provides a unique, historic location.

All of the lectures in the series are free and open to all. Some events requre a free ticket, please see the individual lecture listings for information.

Doors open from 7.30pm.
Lectures begin at 8pm, with questions for the speaker at 9pm.

The Durham Castle Lecture series has been made possible thanks to a generous gift from Santander Universities.

The Future of the University

The Future of the University Public Lecture series is a co-convened series by the Institute of Advanced Study and University College . In the face of this rapidly changing landscape, urging instant adaptive response, it is too easy to discount fundamental questions. What is the university now for? What is it, what can it be, what should it be? Are the visions of Humboldt and Newman still valid? If so, how?

During 2017/18 leading world figures on the university and political stages will deliver a public lecture in the Great Hall of the Castle. Speakers include Peter Horrocks CBE, Professor Peter Coveney, Lord David Willetts, and Professor N.Kate Hayles among others.

Lectures in this series are marked below.

Upcoming Lectures

25th April - Professor Markus Gabriel

'Are We Real? Consciousness and Fiction'

It is a widespread believe in our contemporary natural scientific culture that central features of our mind are fictions or illusions of sorts. The prominent philosopher Daniel Dennett even claims that illusionism about phenomenal consciousness (our qualitative experience of reality as rich with colors, sounds, tastes, smells, etc.) should be “the obvious default theory of consciousness.” Remarkably, illusionists about consciousness typically do not offer actual error theories that tell us in what precise sense consciousness counts as a fiction or an illusion. I will argue that this blind spot is not a coincidence, but rather a consequence of theoretical deficiencies in the hypothesis of illusionism itself.

In my talk, I will dismantle the assumptions motivating views about ourselves as minded agents that claim that we are subject to some kind of user-illusion created by the brain (or some better specified subsystem of our organism). In this context, I will distinguish various forms of illusion about ourselves and argue that illusionism and fictionalism about the mental lives of humans (and other minded animals) are themselves cases of a thoroughgoing ideological delusion. They serve the function of denying facts that would otherwise lead to an insight into the normative dimension of the human being.

More information


3rd May - Professor Linda Colley

'Why Do Constitutions Matter and Why Should We Care?'

From c.1750, new written constitutions increasingly spread around the globe. But why exactly did this happen, and why and how did these documents come to be so widely regarded as essential identity markers for modern states? The conventional answer is that constitutions naturally proliferated along with democracy. Yet these texts were already spreading into every continent long before most men and women won the vote. Instead, Linda Colley argues, constitutions can usefully be approached as a branch of literature, and their gradual spread needs to be understood in relation to the impact of war and the expanding influence of print. Looking at these instruments in this broader fashion helps to explain why the United Kingdom currently possesses no written constitution – and why one or all of its component parts may well seek to secure such a document in a post-BREXIT future.

Please note, the start time of this lecture is 6pm.

More information


30th May - Professor Stuart Corbridge*

*The Future of the University Series

'The Uses and Misuses of Universities'

Just over 50 years ago, University President Clark Kerr reflected wisely and wryly on the future uses of major research universities like his own, Berkeley. This lecture revisits the major themes of Kerr’s book, The Uses of the University, and ponders the scope for various misuses of the university at a time of extraordinary government intervention in higher education around the world.

More information


Watch the Durham Castle Lecture Series: Video Archive

Cutting Edge at Castle

Durham Castle Museum website