When Mark Hillery – Durham University’s largest donor – cut his funding for the institution last month over ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, the students of Collingwood College had the most to worry about. Hillery had previously endowed his alma mater with a £5.6 million arts centre, a shiny new gym and a revamp of its junior common room. He was also known for returning once a year to attend a formal dinner and pick up a bar tab that regularly exceeded £10,000. Double Grey Goose Red Bulls were a popular drink on those jubilant evenings in the Stag’s Head.
But the Durham of recent years is being fuelled by a stronger stimulant. A heady mix of cancel culture, left-right ideological beefs and student rent strikes are becoming the cultural exports of a university previously known for its rugby boys behaving badly and the occasional Tatler feature starring its students.