As one of the UK’s only collegiate universities, York prides itself on its eleven colleges. The University’s website is full of glowing testimonies which speak of the college “family” and “support network”, accompanied by photographs of beaming students living and working together in harmony. Your own experience of college life may not conform to this ideal. Mine certainly didn’t - being a fresher during the pandemic ensured that my own college “family” was, much like everything else, locked down. Rather than recap my own rather anticlimactic year at Halifax, however, I am here to offer a guide to all eleven colleges at York, so you know what to expect when you do arrive (and hopefully get to immerse yourself in a college “family” that no longer has to stay two metres apart).
The centre of the University, Campus West, is where most of the teaching takes place, the majority of learning takes place (West Campus is home to the University Library) and where the large proportion of students live. It also contains the York Sports Centre and Market Square, home to Nisa.
Located right next to the library and the medicine school, Alcuin is often thought of as the quiet, brainy college.* The College’s Junior Common Room is open 24 hours a day, and it boasts two restaurants: The Kitchen at Alcuin and the Alcuin Bistro.
Home to the infamous Long Boi, Derwent is known as the University’s party college.* It does indeed possess a great number of facilities, including three common rooms: the JCR, GCR and SCR (don’t ask me what the difference is). As well as this, the college has large outdoor spaces, which offer a great place to unwind in the spring and summer months. If you’re lucky, you might even spot Long Boi enjoying some summer sun. As if that wasn’t enough, Derwent also enjoys its own bar (D-Bar) and restaurant (Courtyard) which, thanks to an overhauled menu, now offers a great selection of food!
The University’s largest college (as well as my college), Halifax is a self-contained village, separated from the rest of West Campus by the 22 Acres playing field, itself a great place to play sports or relax during the warmer months. The College has two common rooms, St. Lawrence and JJ’s, the latter of which is the largest common room on campus. The College Computer Room and College Classroom are both located in the Reception Building, offering an alternative to the often dispiriting 14-minute walk to the library. Nisa also now provides an on-site mobile shop on weekday evenings for two hours, a compromise between the permanent store that was once located in the College and the 14-minute walk students would be subjected to whenever they need some milk!
Named after Baron James of Rusholme, York’s first Vice-Chancellor and architect of the collegiate system, James is York’s only fully catered college. Its location next to the Sports Centre has earned it the reputation as the ‘sporty college’. It contains two common rooms, and its own bar, The Lounge.
The most popular college on campus, Vanbrugh is just a two-minute walk away from Market Square and three minutes from the Library and Spring Lane Building. It has two common rooms, as well as The Warren, the former Provost’s house which has been converted into a unique college space. Vanbrugh is also home to The Garage, a bookable space for bands and musicians to record music and borrow instruments. V-Bar, located just outside Vanbrugh reception, also hosts some great nights of entertainment, including Jazz night on a Monday.
If West Campus is the loud family which attracts attention, then East Campus is its more placid, buttoned-up neighbour. I’ve only been to East Campus twice and was on both occasions struck by its tranquillity. It was quiet like Halifax but whilst Halifax seemed eerily close to an abandoned town during that pandemic year, with the closed common room looking like a small business gone under, the silence on East Campus had a peaceful quality. People who live there have described it to me as a respite from the hectic nature of Campus West. A way to live on campus without living on campus, with its associated shouts, screams and the unmistakable honk of geese.
However, that doesn’t make East Campus boring. It boasts extensive facilities: firstly, the Glasshouse and Piazza buildings offer great places to eat and drink. Also, the Kimberlow Retail Park has a Greggs in addition to the customary Nisa, so you can replenish yourself with a sausage roll (vegan or otherwise) in between seminars. It also has incredible study spaces (Ron Cooke Hub), exercise facilities (York Sport Village) and transport links (contrary to popular opinion, the journey from East to West Campus is not particularly hellish).
So, there’s lots to like about Campus East. Let’s start with its newest additions…
Anne Lister and David Kato College
Both opening for the first time this year, the construction of the Anne Lister and David Kato colleges marks a massive expansion of the University’s East Campus, adding approximately 1500 students to the widely accepted quieter side of the University. Being new, however, means they haven’t earned themselves such a reputation just yet. With this influx of students, will East Campus itself hold on to its tranquil image?
What Constantine lacks in a college bar, it makes up for with The Forum, the College’s common room. Open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, it contains everything from a PS4 and Xbox to an electric keyboard and air hockey. Constantine does, however, have a reputation for being the ‘rich kids’ college.*
Does it even exist? According to the University’s website, it does. The most popular of the Campus East colleges, Goodricke includes three communal spaces. While the Junior Common Room and Clarbour Room are great places to socialise, the College also has the Well-being Hub, a space for students to quietly relax and practice mindfulness. It is the only college to offer such a facility.
One of York’s founding colleges, Langwith was opened by the late Queen Elizabeth II in 1965. Langwith has two common rooms, the Corner Room and the Basement, the latter of which includes soundproof music practice spaces. The Glasshouse Bar is also located within the college, giving it the reputation of Campus East’s party college.*
Wentworth Graduate College
Worth mentioning for completion's sake, Wentworth is a college for postgraduates only. Located on West Campus, it contains a lot of people who were seemingly happy in one family for three years and have since found a new one to live with. So… like an actual family then.
*However, I wouldn’t take these characteristics very seriously: York is not Hogwarts and college placement isn’t decided by a Sorting Hat. Each college in the University is home to a wide range of people with a diverse set of interests.