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Unite Students starts work to enhance Rushford Court, Durham

16 August 2023

  •  Work has started to extend and improve Unite Students’ Rushford Court, in partnership with Durham University
  • Rushford Court will be improved and extended and is part of a 40-year agreement, further strengthening the company and University’s relationship
  • Work to upgrade the property will be completed in Autumn 2024

Unite Students, the UK’s largest provider of student accommodation, has begun work to improve and extend its Rushford Court property in Durham, in partnership with Durham University.

The building, which has 358 bedrooms, will become the temporary home of the university’s College of St Hild and St Bede from September 2024 while the proposed redevelopment of the University’s Leazes Road site takes place. In the longer-term, it is the university’s intention to establish a new, 18th college at Rushford Court.

The works now underway include a new two-storey amenity building, creating a college housing a junior common room with a cafe, bar and social space, reception, and study space, built into an existing sloped gradient on the site. Alongside this, works on the Harding Building will see college staff offices and welfare and study spaces created, as well as the reinstatement of the historic entrance. Finally, the current reception building is to be transformed into a gym and yoga suite.

Unite Students will continue to operate the building while work is carried out, with residents staying at the property.

Plans to develop Rushford Court, which currently boasts an on-site gym, cinema room, and games area, were approved unanimously by a Durham County Council planning committee earlier this year.

In unanimously approving the plans, the Council’s committee said biodiversity and carbon reduction were both above and beyond the required levels, and the proposal reduced the pressure on permanent residents, as well as the risk of loss of housing to houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). The chair of the Committee added the plans were a “positive step forward” for the university and the city of Durham.

Richard Smith, Chief Executive of Unite Students, said:

 “We’re delighted to start work to upgrade Rushford Court, delivering new facilities on site to enable the property to become Durham University’s newest college. This is an exciting step forward as it allows us to strengthen our ongoing partnership with Durham University. I look forward to seeing the scheme progress over the next year and ultimately students and college staff enjoying the use of the building for many years to come.”

Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience) at Durham University, said:

“This exciting development will enable the university to provide a home to our much-loved Hild Bede College, while we redevelop their historic home. Following this, it is intended for Rushford Court to become our newest college, creating a thriving community of students at all levels of study, from all subject areas.”

Durham’s collegiate system offers a wide range of student-led activities including sport, music and theatre as well as pastoral and wellbeing support. Students are affiliated to a college for their duration of their studies at the university and beyond.

Rushford Court first opened as County Hospital in 1853, closing in 2010. Unite Students opened it as student accommodation in 2018. It was previously used as the temporary home for the university’s John Snow College during the 2019/20 academic year.


Notes to Editors

For further information, please contact Unite Students press office on 0117 4506300 or email:

For any enquiries relating to Durham University, please contact:

About Unite Students

Unite Students is the UK’s largest owner, manager, and developer of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) serving the country’s world-leading higher education sector. We provide homes to 70,000 students across 157 properties in 23 leading university towns and cities. We currently partner with over 60 universities across the UK.

Our people are driven by a common purpose: to provide a ‘Home for Success’ for the students who live with us. Unite Students’ accommodation is safe and secure, high quality, and affordable. Students live predominantly in en-suite study bedrooms with rents covering all bills, insurance, 24-hour security and high-speed Wi-Fi. We also achieved a five-star British Safety Council rating in our last audit.

We are committed to raising standards in the student accommodation sector for our customers, investors, and employees. This is why our new Sustainability Strategy, launched in 2021, includes a commitment to become net zero carbon across our operations and developments by 2030.

Founded in 1991 in Bristol, the Unite Group is an award-winning Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), listed on the London Stock Exchange. For more information, visit Unite Group’s corporate website or the Unite Students’ site

About Durham University

Durham University is a globally outstanding centre of teaching and research based in historic Durham City in the UK.

We are a collegiate university committed to inspiring our people to do outstanding things at Durham and in the world.

We conduct research that improves lives globally and we are ranked as a world top 100 university with an international reputation in research and education (QS World University Rankings 2024).

We are a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive UK universities and we are consistently ranked as a top 10 university in national league tables (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, Guardian University Guide and The Complete University Guide).

For more information about Durham University visit: