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Students exiting Durham Cathedral after their Congregation ceremony

Congregation is an annual event at Durham. The ceremonies allow our students to celebrate all they have achieved in their time at university, not only academic, but social and pastoral too. This period allows our students to connect with fellow course mates as well as their friends and family and the wider Durham community.

This group of students have encountered and overcome so many challenges through their educational career. The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that the reality of their university experience was different from their expectations. They have felt the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and undoubtedly the current industrial action has brought frustration and anxiety, particularly for those for whom the graduation process is not yet complete.  

Proud of our students and their journey 

For many students, however, these circumstances have made the Congregation period even more important. The last two weeks’ ceremonies have marked the immense achievement of this group. Their enthusiasm and positivity of spirit were clearly evident as they celebrated the end of their journey at Durham with their peers, friends and families.   

Our supportive Durham community 

VC at Collingwood Congregation Dinner

At the heart of life at Durham are the communities that have supported this cohort through their journey. The relationships forged within the Colleges and the friendships developed through enrichment activities have been a great source of strength to our students. These are the opportunities that make our Durham experience so distinctive and special - in theatre, music, politics, and volunteering to name just a few. This cohort have embraced all these opportunities wholeheartedly alongside their studies. 

Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Karen O’Brien paid tribute to our students in her Congregation address;  

“We are so proud of your extraordinary resilience. This gives us confidence in your abilities to go out into the world and continue to triumph under any further adversities that come your way.” 

A new Chancellor 

Fiona Hill as Chancellor

The Congregation period started with a ceremony to welcome our new Chancellor, Dr Fiona Hill to the University, taking over from Sir Thomas Allen, who had served the University as Chancellor for the last 10 years.  

Fiona is a world-renowned foreign affairs specialist, she has been an advisor to three serving US presidents, George W Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. She is also fiercely proud of her County Durham roots and a passionate advocate for the transformational power of education and will be a powerful role model for our students.  

In the ceremony, Joe Docherty, Chair of University Council said: “Fiona is a living embodiment of the transformative powers of education and research and will help inspire our University community and especially our students to achieve extraordinary things at Durham and beyond.”    


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