A NORTH-East university has “topped out” its first new college in more than a decade as it grows to accommodate thousands more students in the coming years.

Durham University, which is part-way through a ten-year expansion plan, is opening its first new college for 14 years next September.

When complete, South College, at Mount Oswald, in South Road, will house up to 392 students and its first principal has been announced as award-winning journalist Professor Tim Luckhurst.

A “topping out” ceremony was held on Friday to mark it reaching its highest point.

It is expected construction work, being carried out by Interserve, will be completed in the spring, ahead of the college welcoming its first students next September.

The Northern Echo:

Construction work at South College is expected to be complete by next spring

Jeremy Cook, the pro-vice chancellor for colleges, said: “This college is the first residential college built for 14 years and it will support the academic growth.

"At Durham the college is not just a place to live, it's a community. It's Durham's USP."

The college is part of the university’s plan to expand over the coming years, with about 2,500 more students – bringing the total to 21,500 – set to live in the city by 2027.

Universities elsewhere in the country came under fire last week after being accused of expanding too quickly as thousands of students found themselves in temporary accommodation at the start of term.

In Durham, 108 students were unable to move into their rooms at Trevelyan College as a result of refurbishment.

Mr Cook said the work was unrelated to the university’s expansion but was part of its £12m programme to refurbish existing accommodation.

He said: “It affected 108 students for three days but we got that down to less than 20 in a few days.

“We are disappointed for those students.”

He added: “The expansion plan is on track. It’s going well and we have spare capacity which has been built into the plan though we are not anticipating delays at this stage.”

The construction of a new building for John Snow College, which was located in Stockton until moving to Durham in 2018, is also underway at Mount Oswald and is also expected to be completed in the spring.

The project has so far seen £27m spent within a 40-mile radius of the site, and has also been offering work experience and apprentice roles to young people in the area.

The Northern Echo:

How South College will look when complete

Mark Gardham, regional director of Interserve, said: “This topping out of the new South College marks yet another important milestone in the delivery of the Mount Oswald scheme and it’s fantastic to be able to showcase the great work that our team is undertaking on site.

“The Mount Oswald project is a key project for Interserve in the North-East and we have been working hard to ensure that it benefits the local community, by retaining the local spend and creating new employment opportunities for local people.”