Durham University Records: Central Committees

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Minutes and agendas, with their associated reports and other submitted papers, of the major governing bodies of the university, principally Senate (from 1836), Court (1937-1963) and Council (from 1910), and their various (on occasion joint) standing and ad hoc committees which have increasingly come to carry out much of the actual administration of the academic work of the university, and the administration of its estate and staff, since WW1. Included are also similar records of the boards administering the various faculties into which the subjects taught and researched at the university have been divided over time. There are also records of some free-standing committees, some of which continued to oversee jointly functions at Newcastle after the establishment of the independent university there in 1963. There are also a few such records of the Institute of Education from 1948 and the university's King's College in Newcastle.

Administrative / Biographical History

The chief governing body of the university for academic matters has always been its Senate, set up by statute in 1835. Also set up then was Convocation which confirmed or rejected Senate's actions but came mainly to deal with the conferment of degrees. The 1909 statutes established a Council, including outside representation, for the Durham Colleges to oversee their administration. The 1937 statutes established a Court for the whole then formally federal university to oversee finance and the administration of the university's property. On the independence of Newcastle in 1963, Court ceased to exist, leaving Senate and Council as the main governing and executive bodies of the university. In the 1990s, a smaller informal grouping of chief officers began to meet as the University Executive Committee for the more rapid transaction of immediate university business.

The work of these major bodies was already by 1900 beginning to be assisted by standing committees which proliferated after especially 1918, and which in turn spawned sub-committees, working parties and ad hoc committees. On occasion identically titled committees answered separately to Senate and Council, and other committees answered jointly to both. To assist Senate with educational matters, a Board of Faculties was set up in 1892 which became the Academic Board in 1937. It was soon followed by boards for each faculty, in their turn being in time assisted by sub-committees covering such as planning, higher degrees, concessions and exemptions, regulations, and specific degrees.


Arranged into the present classification in April 2004 after consultation between M.M.N. Stansfield, M.S. McCollum and E.R. Rainey, with records of additional committees being generally added in chronological order.

Conditions Governing Access

Mostly open for consultation, with exceptions as noted, generally with regard to the Data Protection Act.

Acquisition Information

Transferred to the University Library from the university's central administration at various times since the 1950s, and especially since 2004.


Part of : Durham University Records

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail PG.Library@durham.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Custodial History

Almost all these records have always been held by the university, with the occasional exception which has been retrieved via local booksellers or otherwise come back into the university's custody.

Related Material

Records of committees wholly concerned with the administration of the university's operation in Newcastle prior to 1963, such as the councils of the separate colleges there to 1937 and then King's College, are now to be found in the archive of Newcastle University.