She was pulled out with a bleeding wound as a doorman and one of her friends tried to resuscitate her, but she died soon afterwards.
Owen Adams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Colleges and Student Experience, Durham University, said: 'We are extremely shocked and saddened by the death of a Durham University student in Durham City last night.
Olivia had been queuing outside Missoula nightclub in the city when a barrier made of glass and mental reportedly toppled over at around 11.50pm, she received severe head injuries as a result and tragically died at the scene.
The nightclub has been contacted for comment.
Durham Police named the student as 20-year-old Olivia Burt from Hampshire.
A rival students' union night held at the same time had also recently stopped running, he said, meaning Missoula was probably busier because it was the only big club operating.
Police are now investigating the incident. She arrived last autumn to begin reading natural science with glowing references from her school where she was regarded in the highest possible terms.
'She had an outstanding academic record and was an exceptional sports woman.More news: Joint Korean march gave me goosebumps, says International Olympic Committee boss
"We understand that some of our students may need to seek support and we advise that they contact their College Student Support Office in the first instance".
Miss Burt, a former head girl at Bournemouth School for Girls, had been in the European Championships with the British Sailing Team and had recently joined the university's team. "It is hard to come to terms with her loss, and we will miss her greatly".
He told student newspaper The Tab: "People were trying to reason with them, telling the bouncers it wasn't safe and someone was going to get hurt".
"As a popular and committed Junior Optimist squad sailor, Olivia Burt exhibited all the drive, determination and good sportsmanship required to progress as a successful Laser competitor".
'My thoughts are with Olivia's family and friends, may you rest in peace'. An investigation by Durham constabulary and Durham county council has been launched to establish exactly what happened.
A large floral tribute was placed outside Missoula, formerly a Slug and Lettuce pub, which opened in September 2016 after a £385,000 investment.
"Until that is concluded we are unable to comment further. Our thoughts are with Olivia's family and friends".