Freshers’ Guide 2011 » The Colleges


Alcuin College

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Alcuin College, tucked away in a quiet corner of campus, is one of the oldest and largest colleges at York, yet has some of the newest accommodation. Fondly known as the ‘ensuite elite’, each room has its own bathroom, a serious luxury and one that ensures you can avoid awkward corridor encounters with flatmates whilst dashing half-naked from a shared shower. Some of you may even be blessed with a lift in your block, allowing you to avoid the oh so challenging task of clambering up three flights of stairs. Whilst particularly good, location wise, for students studying medicine and chemistry, the college is so big you are guaranteed a huge mix of students in your halls, and you will soon find that the popular myth of Alcuin as the gap year haven of York is just that, a myth.

The Alcuin Bar ‘B Henrys’, whilst in no way the social epicentre of campus, holds popular quiz nights, and the occasional showcase of University musical talent. The JCR is always open for an impromptu movie night with your flatmates or an exuberant game of musical chairs. However, the main selling point for Alcuin is all the outdoor grassy space, and in the summer it really comes into its own. Out come the paddling pools, and barbecues are set up where everyone from the surrounding blocks comes and joins in. The college even holds a summer fete, complete with food, bouncy castle and plenty of Pimms .

As one of the biggest colleges it’s great as you get to meet such a variety of people. Whilst the college events are often not the most popular, this is due more to limited space, and Alcuin holds a reputation as one of the most social colleges. Lizzie Bartholomew chairs the very dedicated Alcuin JCRC, who ensure that the college has some of the best welfare support on campus. They regularly hold free pizza and movie events, as well as weekly coffee, cake and condom sessions for those who like something sweet whilst stocking up on free sexual health supplies. And, to top it all off, if you are lucky enough, you will be able to watch Medieval Soc perform battles, complete with very authentic looking weaponry, on Sunday afternoons in the field behind the college.

• Ensuite bathrooms
• right next to the library- easy to sprint there for a some emergency seminar reading
• Instead of ducks, Alcuin has a contingent of rabbits who inhabit the lawns- much friendlier and quieter residents
• Annual Christmas and Summer Balls are a great celebration of the community spirit of the college

• B-Henry’s, the college Bar, is one of the quietest on campus, and is only open a few days a week
• A little further away from the centre of campus than some of the other colleges- might have to set you alarm back a precious 5 minutes
• At 600 students it can feel a little daunting to begin with
• Across campus from the gym and sports fields. However, the jog over there makes for excellent exercise

• B Henry’s, the College Bar
• JCR, with film projector, kitchen and pool table (plus giant Connect 4)
• Permanent BBQs built on the lawns
• Plenty of secure bike sheds
• 24 Hour Porters lodge, for all those times you somehow ‘misplace’ your room key
• Laundry room, with 8 washing machines and 8 dryers

Best freshers event
The Alcuin freshers bar crawl has a reputation of being particularly rowdy and a lot of fun, as the red and black clad freshers descend onto the town. During Fresher’s Week B-Henry’s also hires out a big marquee outside the bar, which makes a great and spacious venue for their extensive freshers week events, the themes of which get more imaginative/outrageous every year

“Alcuin is better than the rest for one main reason: ‘You’re Alcuin ’till you die!’ It’s the strong sense of community that really makes Alcuin special – the friends you make there will be for life. We’re never afraid to try something new, constantly striving to make Alcuin the best in every aspect.”

Alcuin Chair – Lizzie Bartholomew


Derwent College

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Derwent College has a well-deserved reputation for being the most social college on campus. The long corridors and large blocks mean you’ll be living and interacting with lots of different people, rather than just the six you might get to a flat in other colleges.

The social atmosphere is best felt at the college’s famous Club D events, taking place regularly throughout the year, on the build up to a grand finale end-of-year event, Big D.

The Derwent JCR and extensive college sports teams make sure that you won’t be short of things to get involved. Plus, it’s some of the cheapest accommodation on campus, and offers some value catering deals, well worth considering if you don’t fancy cooking seven days a week.

The prospectus missed out: It can get cold in winter, and the walls are pretty thin. When you’ve got Freshers’ Flu (inevitable) and you’re lying awake listening to the coughing at night, you might not find it so great. Communal showers and toilets can get clogged up with unspeakable things.

Favourite college hangouts: D-bar, for cheap drinks, events, pool tables, comfy sofas and wide-screen TVs. It’s basically your lounge. The JCRC is also a good place to organise film nights.

8.30am – 6.30pm, Monday – Friday portering at reception.
Secure bike sheds
1 Laundrette
Derwent Bar and cafe
Dining hall and restaurant
Study spaces inc. a Quiet Reading Room

Mythbuster: “The older buildings are made entirely of asbestos”. They aren’t and the college has spent a large amount over the last year on renovating areas of concern.

Stereotypical student: The party animal

Best Freshers event: Derwent Freshers Bar Crawl, where your STYCs will introduce you to all the best bars, clubs, and late-night takeaways in York.

Best event of rest of the year: Undoubtedly Big D. You won’t truly know why until you’ve been.

Philippa Grafton, second-year, History of Art
Pro: “Some of the best campus events (Chav D springs to mind…)”
Con: “There are barely any kitchen tables! We had to sit on the floor to eat at weekends.”
Summary: “Derwent is overall pretty great for everything except luxury. Who needs luxury anyway, you’re a student…”

Ed Gammie, second-year, Film and Television Production
Pro: “Big and sociable, there’s always things to do and people to hang around with.”
Con: “Communal toilets and showers quickly stop becoming funny.”
Summary: “The college events and communal spirit are renowned, and it’s one of the cheapest places to live. Just don’t expect the highest quality of living, but I suppose that’s all part of the Derwent experience.

“Why is Derwent better than every other college? Nouse did a pretty good job at explaining why: ‘Derwent College is the college that everyone else wishes they were in’.”

Derwent Chair – Matt Jenkins


Halifax College

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Big, bright and bold, despite not being in the middle of campus, Halifax college certainly doesn’t go unnoticed. As you may have seen on the campus map, Halifax is just south of campus, a fairly easy 5 to 10 minute walk past the sports pitches (or through scenic woods, not to be attempted after dark!) It’s a bit different to the other colleges, as students live in courts that are made up of houses rather than flats, which share kitchen and bathroom facilities if you’re not en-suite. This is one of the best things about Halifax, as by living in a house you’ll get to know all your housemates fairly quickly and build a real sense of community. The houses surround a courtyard with grass and benches, great for impromptu Frisbee matches or just sitting around chatting. Halifax has an easy-going, friendly vibe to it and as you leave campus after lectures, you’ll feel like you’re coming home.

While the community style of living is unique on campus, one thing people often comment upon is the fact we have no college bar. In fact this is a fairly minor issue, as the village of Heslington is 2 minutes’ walk away, which has 2 excellent pubs that are similar in prices to college bars and have a great student atmosphere.

You’ll find that you’ll spend a lot of time hanging about in the kitchen areas or the courtyards, but if you miss sitting on sofas then the common room, JJ’s, is open 24 hours. The pubs in Heslington, Charles VII and The Deramore, while not technically part of the college, are the local for many students from Halifax and other colleges alike.

• JJ’s, the common room, has got widescreen TVs, videos and a pool table that you can use whenever you want. Nintendo Wiis and Xbox 360s can be rented for use there from the porters’ lodge. It’s also the only common room on campus at the moment where the Christian Union offers free tea and toasties to anyone for free, every week.
• A 24 hour computer room with 30 PC’s and a black and white printer, perfect for printing off essays or for emergencies if your laptop breaks.
• The college’s very own Costcutter, which is open 7 days a week from 7am until 7pm, stocking necessities of food and drink for any last minute parties.
• A 24 hour porter service at the porter’s lodge, which can be called upon day or night if there is a problem with anyone or anything in the college.
• Bike sheds are situated throughout the college, though make sure you bring a secure lock. There’s also space for you to bring your own car, but make sure you apply for a permit from the college first.
• Heslington village has branches of Lloyds TSB, HSBC, RBS and Barclays banks, which all have cash machines outside, along with a post office and Brown’s that is known university-wide for selling excellent sandwiches.

Student Stereotype: Halifax has a reputation for being good at sport, so some people assume that the college is filled with sport fanatics, dressed for a match of hockey/rugby/lacrosse etc, thrilled at living so close to the sports pitches. In fact, many in Halifax aren’t involved with sport and most of those who are enjoy it as a fun pastime and way to get involved with college life rather than as a serious pursuit.

Events: One of the favourite events in our house from Freshers’ Week was the STYC bar crawl, where are second and third year helpers showed us all the best bars to go in York that ended in a memorable trip to the club Ziggy’s.

As for the rest of the year, highlights included the Halifax Snowball at Christmas, which had fabulous food and partying all in posh frocks, and Faxival, a festival type event taking place all over the college with live bands, bbqs, bouncy castle and face painting for a summer day of fun.

What the prospectus didn’t tell you: That there’s two different sides to the college. One is a chilled, friendly feel by day, surrounded by beautiful countryside. The other is a more lively and a vibrant vibe by night.

Student opinions:

Kat Robinson 1st year, : Pros are that “the Halifax sporting community is really welcoming and fun” but a con is that there’s “no bar, so it’s harder to meet other college people.”
Eve Stokoe, 3rd year: Thinks that “being in houses rather than colleges, the college has a fantastic atmosphere” but that it can be “too lively/noisy, so you can end up a bit sleep deprived in the first year.”

James Smith, 1st year: Liked “the convenience of having a Costcutter in Halifax” but noted that “there’s no cash machine actually in the college, but there is one 5 minutes’ walk away.”

Halifax is a great college in terms of college spirit and atmosphere. If you are living in Halifax this coming academic year, you will definitely have a fantastic year; make sure you get to know your neighbours and people from all courts (as well as your housemates of course!)

Halifax Chair – Davedass Mootanah


James College

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James College lies to the south of campus beside the sports centre but this short distance to the gym doesn’t mean that it is any easier to get out of bed to go to. Apart from N Block, all of the accommodation in James is split into blocks and houses, rather than corridors; with the kitchen on the ground floor it is much easier to get to know people in your block and quad. The quads each have a grassy area in the centre which is perfect for games, drinking or just lying there in the summer- if you can get rid of the ducks and geese that is. Great nights out are often followed by great all-English breakfasts in the Roger Kirk Centre and two JCR common rooms and a bar mean that there are lots of areas to socialise outside of your house.


While the ducks and geese may be adorable and intriguing at first, this feeling will slowly drift away as a cacophony of quacking awakens you from drunken sleep in the early hours of the morning. Other animals you will encounter are pigeons flying into your room if you are the top floor and ducklings plucking up the courage to venture into kitchens, but leaving behind unwanted mess, in the summer. 24 hour porters may well come in handy on more than one occasion after losing your keys on a night out and it remains to be seen what the new college bar in the Roger Kirk Centre will be like.


When the sun comes out during the summer term James College comes into its own as everyone pours out into the grassy quads between the various college buildings. Many will just sunbathe but BBQs and drinks outside are a must; though watch out for the football or cricket games that emerge spontaneously. Although the lake may get a bad reputation, having a drink on the benches behind the lakeside JCR on a summer’s evening is a great way to spend your last term of first year.

JCR Lakeside
Central JCR
2 Computer rooms
Laundry rooms
Roger Kirk Centre
New College bar within the Roger Kirk Centre
From this year, some students in James will be in catered accommodation, but you will still have access to a fully equipped kitchen for those late night munchies


It is said that James College is the preserve of students who have taken a year out; while this is true, it is none more so than any other college on campus.

Stereotypical student

Has the intention of going to the gym 3 or 4 times a week, but in reality is more likely to be distracted by the ducks. Tries to break the record for the number of BBQs in a single term, but will probably just settle for drinking outside in the end.

Best fresher event

Pub crawl ending in Salvation – what better way to be introduced to nightlife in York than by going to some of the main pubs and bars in York and then onto Club Salvation where dancing on tables was the way to go.

Best event of rest of the year

Quad Dash n’ Bash – spread out throughout the quads in the college pimms and hog roasts accompanied you throughout the day, whether that was: watching the quad dash; having a go at the sumo wrestling; or going out clubbing in the evening.

Sarah Wolfe, second-year
Pro: “Both the tight and wide communities of friends you make both within your flat, block and other blocks.”
Con: “Geese mating season where all the geese take over the grass quads and river”
Summary: “James has a great Junior Common Room Committee, has some of the best accommodation and holds regular social events”

“James is the best college on campus because of our sheer determination. Our motto, ‘let them hate us, so long as they fear us’, lets everyone know we’re not a college to be messed with. Join us and be a winner!”

James Chair – Emma Bartlett


Langwith College

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Langwith, the oldest college at York, loud and proud about its history and itself. Even though it is one of the smallest colleges, its spirit and community atmosphere make up for its scale in comparison to larger colleges where you can feel swamped. Langwith is a bit of an oxymoron: despite a laid back atmosphere, its student’s loyalty borders on fierce which means you get to know people quickly.

Notoriously pronounced the worst college for sports, the majority of Langwith students are involved in non-sport related activities such as RAG, campus societies and university media. Langwith has a diverse range of activities and a dedicated welfare programme, there is the almost mythical Punch, and at the other end of the spectrum, the Langwith Lollop. Arranged by the provost it is a termly walk across some of Yorkshire’s nicest countryside. If you want to win college football, then Langwith is not for you, however if you’re looking for a rounded, open and friendly environment then it’s definitely one of the best.

The prospectus missed out: Getting sports teams together for Langwith is an uphill struggle, when you mix small numbers and lack of sport enthusiasm then you get a much depleted turn out. For example there are 4 Vanbrugh football teams, Langwith only has two.

Favourite college hangouts: The Courtyard is the most popular student hang out, serving a good range of food till 9pm it’s a good location to relax away from the kitchens and is central on campus, also favoured because it shows live sports on its three flat-screens all day and at weekends. The Corner Room is popular with hard-core Langwithans, it has a comfy sofa and a Wii.

Freeview box in the Upper Junior Common Room
Large screen TV in the Corner Room
Study room adjacent and computer centre
Norman Rea Gallery
The Student Union bar, The Courtyard is the Langwith College bar
Laundrette in B Block

Mythbuster: “Langwith always lose at college sport”. In reality they are mostly average, but do have one of the best rounders teams.

Stereotypical student: the fancy-dressed, horrendously drunk people at Ziggy’s who aren’t bothered about their latest sports defeat because there too busy abusing Derwent

Best Freshers event: Langwith bar crawl, if not for the cheap drink deals, then reading the abuse/messages of never ending love from strangers written on your t-shirt is worth the hangover

Best event of rest of the year: Langwith’s Got Talent or any of the organised bar crawls to different cities.

Sarah Bartlett, third-year Psychology
Pro: “you get to know a lot of people fast because it’s so small”
Con: “the accommodation at the minute is very poor”
Summary: “Langwith is fun and feels like, quite a tight-knit community”

Charlotte Carter, third-year Language and Linguistics
Pro: “met some cool genuine people”
Con: “dated accommodation”
Summary: “Langwith is the university runt but makes up for it in charisma and togetherness”

Jasmine Pain, third-year Sociology and Criminology
Pro: “lovely lovely people!”
Con: “the heat in the kitchens at summer time”

“Langwith is the best because we have everything; an amazing welfare system, with three fully-fitted welfare rooms and being the smallest college we have the closest spirit. Langwith is known as the friendly college, but we like to have fun too, so whatever you’re like, you’re bound to fit in.”

Langwith Chair – Cem Turhan


Goodricke College

  • Information

As the most recently built college, Goodricke is in the process of forming its own identity. It has neither the party-going attitude of Derwent, nor the quiet and reclusive feel of Alcuin. In fact, it falls both inside and outside of those extreme parameters. What you can guarantee is that you will meet a diverse range of people at Goodricke, some of whom will become friends for life.

One aspect of the college that people are very sceptical about is the fact that it resides on a separate campus, Heslington East. However, this is usually the attitude of ‘outsiders’ and Goodrickers generally take pride in and full advantage of the shiny, new facilities on Heslington East that few other students even know about! Overall, toastie nights and film nights in the JCR, as well as frequent college events make Goodricke a fun and friendly college.

The prospectus missed out: There aren’t many downsides to living in Goodricke, BUT there are a few nevertheless. The main issue is socialising. Flats are obviously breeding grounds for meeting new people, what with all the walking up and down stairs involved, but if you’re in a house then you miss out on that side of things. The second issue is security which, though great for protecting our belongings, means that we can’t roam freely about our college, use our balconies, or open our ground-floor windows wider than two inches. Finally, WE HAVE NO COLLEGE BAR.

Favourite college hangouts:

When those kitchen chairs become too hard to bear, the JCR and GCR are there offering comfort and entertainment in the form of sofas, board games, wide-screen TVs, video games, films, a piano, and toasties (only on a Wednesday between 10:30pm and 3am). In the summer the quads fill with people chatting, sunbathing, having BBQs, even playing ping-pong or cooling off in paddling pools!


Junior and Graduate Common rooms
Laundry room (£2.20 wash, £1.00 dry)
Ron Cooke Hub – with cafe and vending machines
Printers and computers in the Hub and GCR
Undercover and indoor bike sheds in each court
Bookable study pods on the lake outside the Hub

Mythbuster: “It takes ages to get to main campus”. It’s actually two minutes by bus, four minutes by bike, and fifteen by foot.

Stereotypical student: isolated rahs, alongside Alcuin known as the ‘Ensuite Elite’

Best Freshers event: Best event of rest of the year: Goodfest. The one-day festival with live music, food, drink, an inflatable obstacle course, circus tricks, and a bucking bronco.

Best freshers event: the first night block party that encourages you to meet everyone from the College and settle in before hurtling off around the city for the rest of the week

Elizabeth Maciver, Accounting Business Finance and Management

Pro: People-watching through the giant kitchen window.
Con: People watching you through the giant kitchen window.

Sophie Ball, Environmental Geography

Pro: Nice, new accommodation.
Con: Not enough areas to socialise e.g. a bar. Plus, it’s a bit far from the supermarkets although the Asda bus is really useful.

“We have the best accommodation and amazing common rooms. We are the first College on Hes East meaning that our students are closer than a wolf pack; we have successful sports teams, an approachable College Welfare Team and a hardworking JCRC that delivers results.”

Goodricke Chair – Nacho Hernando


Vanbrugh College

  • Information

Vanbrugh is centrally located by the lake, helping its students gain the reputation as some of the most sociable on campus. Its Volume Events are its most successful, and Vanbrugh’s proximity to the main lecture theatres means you can literally roll out of bed and wander over in your pyjamas.

The college is split into ‘old’ and ‘new’ Vanbrugh. The new part is the luxurious Barbara Scott and the old part is the unfortunately dilapidated Eric Milner. Fairfax House is also a part of the college, but is located off campus. Despite the varied levels of accommodation, or perhaps because of it, college spirit is runs high with many Vanbrugh students across all walks of college life.

The prospectus missed out: Eric Milner is very creaky; the buildings are essentially falling down around your ears and there have recently been problems with the plumbing. Fairfax House is an isolated pocket therefore a massive gamble should you be placed there.

Favourite college hangouts: Le Page students spend most of their summer term lounging on the grass outside. Vanbrugh Paradise (inappropriately named slabs of concrete bordering the lake) is a great hangout for students of all colleges. Few people drink in V-Bar outside of Volume events, but is a good centralised meeting place.

625 rooms
Catered and non-catered available
39 week lets
Quiet areas
All kitchens are equally stocked

Mythbuster: “Vanbrugh is the musical college.” There’s a converted garage space in the provosts house, but aside from that musical direction is thin on the ground.

Stereotypical student: Unlike other students Vanbrugh will continue to loudly proclaim superiority long after the alcoholic haze of Freshers Week has dissipated. Vanbrugh students are generally characterised by their contribution to college life.

Best Freshers event: ABC – Anything But Clothes

Best event of rest of the year: When I Grow Up – Volume Event involving dressing up as your childhood ambition, featured a bouncy castle and oversized children’s games

Fi Stuart-Clarke, History second-year, Fairfax House
Pro: “the accommodation is at the centre of campus so at least for the first year it is really easy to get involved in uni activities and settle in properly. Volume events are always good.”
Con: “there is a big discrepancy in the quality of accommodation in Vanbrugh, especially when you look at what you are properly getting for your money.”
Summary:“There is a huge variety of people so you’re able to find something you’re interested in and people you enjoy hanging out with.”

Michael Sutcliffe, History and Politics first-year, Le Page Court
Summary: “Vanbrugh is in a good location, and there is a great college spirit through mixing with other blocks.!
Con: The accommodation can be really bad, depending where you are put.”
Pro: “Generally though, if the accommodation is bad the people are more up for a laugh. Vanbrugh is all about college events, sport, and general college spirit.”

“Vanbrugh’s got it all – it’s at the heart of everything, punches above it’s weight of student numbers in terms of sports, music and its own weekly events, it still has it’s own bar and even the name sounds classy.”

Vanbrugh Chair – Kallum Taylor


Wentworth College

  • Information

Opened in 1972, Wentworth is the only college exclusively for graduate students, though they may live in any college on York campus. Housing the departments for Sociology and Criminal Justice, Wentworth is the centre of the Graduate Student Associate (GSA), and the location for GSA events throughout the term. Popular and well-attended comedy nights are held throughout each term at the college bar, which also has a reputation for serving the best food on campus. An art studio open to all students can also be found in the college.

Dave Mariano
Pro: “Beautiful lake views, The Edge our bar and the peace and quiet”

Cons: “Too many ducks!”

Wentworth is a great place to grab a snack at Edge and sit down in front of the beautiful campus lake.

Graduate Students Association President – John Calhoun

Wentworth Vanbrugh Langwith Alcuin Derwent James Halifax Goodricke sports

Charlotte Fairclough

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