These records cover a broad range of types and formats concerned with all aspects of the administration of the university, its estate and staff by its officers. The records of the formal head of the university, (since 1908 the chancellor), are few and mainly concerned with their installation. The administrative papers of the university's executive head, from 1909 the vice-chancellor, supported by the registrar, are generally subsumed within a central filing system which covers all aspects of the university's administration, and also includes files supporting the work of many of its committees. Before 1963, there separate filing systems for the administration of the Durham Colleges, that is the colleges in Durham, and the university as a whole, ie including Newcastle, and also affiliated colleges at such as particularly Fourah Bay in Sierra Leone. After 1963, a single system persists, though by the 1990s this is less generally used for central filing with the growth in size of the administration and the establishment of separate filing systems in the burgeoning separate departments.
Aside from these central files, there are also some records of vice-chancellors carrying out functions away from the university, either representing the university on national bodies, or acting in an independent capacity; there are such sequences for Sir Derman Christopherson (VC 1961-1978) and Sir Fred Holliday (VC 1980-1989). Vice-chancellors were increasingly supported from their inception by pro-vice-chancellors, though separate records of their work only consistently survive from the time of John Clarke (PVC 1984-1990).
Records of the registrar, supplemented by those of the proctors (which office ceased in WW2), include all those to do with the core aspect of the university: the admission, administration, teaching, examination and graduation of its students. So these include registers of students admitted, lecture timetables, a few student files, exam papers, mark books, pass lists and records of the graduation of students, and the university's honorary graduates, at congregations, including speeches, photographs and videos.
The financing of the university's work has left extensive series of volumes of financial records, including ledgers, cash books and journals, with again separate seqences for the distinct colleges and university administrations until 1963.
The records of the university's surveyor or estates and buildings department at present mainly comprise the deeds for the university's estate, which considerably predate the university and provide much valuable property history for the city of Durham, and elsewhere, back into the sixteenth century. There are also some correspondence files on the major building projects of the university in mainly the 1960s.
Public relations and development work has been an ever growing and vital part of the university's work, which has generated considerable files on events and public relations, and newsletters, alongside extensive audiovisual and press cuttings collections.
Finally, a quantity of artefacts and memorabilia, especially gowns, hoods and headwear, are also part of the archive.