Durham has some office space that is allocated to theology postgrads, and I was fortunate enough to hear from someone that spaces were open last summer.  Three of us that started in NT last year jumped on the opportunity and settled in with a couple of others already there.  It’s got two rooms with comfortable room for about 6-7 people, a couple of computers, and a spill-over library from the department.  After moving there, I felt obligated to pass along to the department that more spaces like this should be opened up. 

At the request of John, I wrote a short assessment of study space for theology postgrads and submitted it to him along with recommendations for changes.  As with most things like this, I thought it might be a ‘nice to know’ thing but not much done about it.  To my surprise it was shared with all the faculty on staff, discussed in a couple of departmental meetings and then passed along to the dean of Arts and Humanities–all within a couple of months. 

In December John scheduled a meeting with the Dean, who was kind enough to listen to our requests.  He recounted the problems of being situated on a World Heritage site with limited options for immediate improvement.  There is dedicated (but underutilised) postgrad space (Elvet Riverside 144) about a 5 min walk from Abbey House that he said would need to be the focus of any improvements.  I believe the general consensus from the meeting was that ER144 would need to include mostly individual carrels if updated.  (Maybe it would fit 30-40 carrels?).  We were told they would look into it and take a survey of postgrads.

Again, I thought, ‘well, that might happen sometime in the next couple of years’ as it gets caught up in the school’s bureaucracy.  But the survey was sent out in less than a month and the deadline has already passed.  Also, there apparently was better postgrad recruiting for the Arts and Humanities faculty for 07-08, so there is some additional unallocated money in the budget that must be spent by 31 July.  Part of this money has apparently been tagged for this project. 

In addition to ER144, I’ve heard that the department is also attempting to secure some space in the cathedral just for theology postgrads.  If both opportunities open up, it will provide a couple of nice additional options.  Nothing has been definitely communicated, but the winds all seem to be blowing in the right direction for improved space.

[You might ask about how current study spaces stack up.  Most people study in the libraries–Palace Green, Sharp (Cathedral), the main university library, or college libraries.  PG has a dedicated room for postgrads with individual but unassigned carrels, with lockers to leave books or laptops.  (That’s where I studied last year, though I also regularly used the Sharp and John’s libraries.)  Also, laptops can be checked out from PG and main libraries, so you don’t have to lug yours around if you don’t want to.  Also, a good number of people study at home so they don’t have to commute.  I get too distracted so I have to go into school each day, plus it’s nice to see people more regularly.]