Collegiate Developments at Durham and Princeton
8 October 2002 (collegiateway.org) — The University of Durham is the third oldest collegiate university in Great Britain, and most of Durham’s residential colleges are creatures of the central university rather than legally independent corporations. In this respect, the Durham colleges are closer in structure to the residential colleges that have been established in the United States and elsewhere in recent years than are the independent corporations of Oxford and Cambridge. As with all such arrangements, there is a natural tension between the central university and the individual colleges, and Durham has just sought to address that tension by creating a new office called Dean of the Colleges, a senior academic position within the university’s Executive Committee that will function as an active voice for college development. Durham is also planning to increase its student population over the next several years and will accommodate this increase by establishing a new college.
On the opposite side of the Atlantic, Princeton University has for many years had a partial college system, one that offered membership and support primarily to first and second year students. Princeton has a long tradition of private social clubs for juniors and seniors, and the presence of these clubs has both reduced the need for, and at the same time been an obstacle to, the creation of a complete four-year college system. This past month, however, Princeton announced that with the establishment of its next college, Whitman College, it will begin to move more deliberately in the four-year college direction. It appears this will be done initially by increasing the size of the existing colleges, but I would not be surprised if additional colleges will be established as resources become available. If individual colleges become too large the very social cohesion that they are designed to promote can begin to decline.