• Academic Facilities at the University of Oxford

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Academic Facilities at the University of Oxford

This page (which you can edit) is part of The Student Room's information and advice about Oxford and Cambridge (known collectively as Oxbridge). Whilst the two universities have have much in common, they also have many differences. Our information on the application procedure and interviews applies to both.

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University of Oxford: Guide & Discussion Forum
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Academic Facilities


The library system of Oxford is made up of college libraries, subject or department libraries and the main Bodleian Libraries

Each college has a library on site although opening hours / borrowing systems / range of books available varies widely. Some colleges will be happy to let you borrow books, others strictly forbid it (Jesus being a case in point) and you will need to convince a friendly student to take it out on your behalf.

The main Bodleian libraries are:

The Bodleian Library (The old bod)

The Bodleian Library on Broad Street is the main research library of the University of Oxford. It is also a copyright deposit library, and the library's stacks are accordingly huge. Some of the stacks are in fact located in other parts of town, which is why some stack orders take longer than others to be processed.

Any member of the University is granted access on production of a valid Bod Card and after agreeing to a bag search. If you are going to the Duke Humfrey's Library, however (which has some of the library's most valuable books), you will not be allowed a bag at all, and you will only be allowed to take a pencil to write with.

Strictly speaking, the Old Bodleian is not just a single library, as it consists of three reading rooms, the Lower Reading Room, the Upper Reading Room and the Duke Humfrey's Library. Each of those has books on open access shelves (or not quite open in the case of the Duke Humfrey's Library)that mainly cover one or several subjects. The Lower Reading Room is intended as the primary reading room for students reading Classics or Theology (or more specifically, Patristics), while the contents of the shelves in the Upper Reading Room are aimed at those doing History or English. The Duke Humfrey's Library specialises in manuscrips - which you will not actually be allowed to look at unless you are a graduate student. But since you will most likely be visiting the reading rooms to study books you have ordered up from the stacks, there is nothing to stop you from ordering the books to whichever reading room you like best. When you take books from open shelves, remember to fill in one of the coloured slips, so other people looking for the books will know somebody else has them and know at which desk they can find them (in case that person isn't using them at the moment).

One slight disadvantage about the Bodleian is that it is not a lending library, but of course this also means that (nearly) every book will be (nearly) always accessible, which is a definite plus. But at least it is a rule which is equally strict for everybody: During library inductions for the first years, librarians sometimes like to tell the story about how king Charles I, who was staying at Oxford for some time during the Civil War, tried to borrow a book from the Bodleian. They turned him down.

Incidentally a team of Bodleian Librarians recently won University Challenge Professionals!

The Radcliffe Camera

The Radcliffe Camera is located close to the building of the Old Bod and and houses two reading rooms, imaginatively called the Upper Camera (mainly for History) and the Lower Camera (English, particularly for undergraduates, and Theology) - not to be confused with the Upper and Lower Reading Rooms at the Old Bod. The Camera is one of the most photographed buildings in Oxford and usually besieged by tourists who will give you jealous looks as you walk past them. That in itself is a good reason for spending some time there. The reserve shelves at the Camera reading rooms are pretty small, which means the limit of books you can order there is lower than at the Upper or Lower Reading Room (4 for the reading rooms at the Camera, 10 for those at the Old Bod).

The Bodleian Law Library

The Bodleian Law Library is housed in the St Cross Building on Manor Road, a ten minute walk from the Bodleian Library in Broad Street. Open during term time: Monday - Friday 9am - 10pm Saturday 9am - 5pm Sunday 11am - 6pm Again any member of the uni is allowed access

The Radcliffe Science Library (RSL)

The RSL on Parks Road is the main science reference library. It holds the Legal Deposit material in the sciences and is therefore entitled to receive a copy of all British scientific publications

The library holds over one million items but only about one quarter of these books and journals are displayed in the Reading Rooms, the rest are housed in bookstacks, not open to readers.

Admissions is, as above, with a bod card or Reader's licence

The Sackler Library

The Sackler Library is the research library for Archaeology, Art History, and Classics. It is at the south end of St John Street, which runs north from Beaumont Street to Wellington Square and Little Clarendon Street.

Open: Monday to Friday 09:00-22:00 Saturday 10:00-17:00

The Social Science Library

The SSL is responsible for the texts used by students of Criminology, Economics, International Development, Politics and International Relations, Russian and East European Studies, Social Policy and Social Work, Socio-Legal Studies and Sociology. It is on Manor Road and opens: Monday to Thursday 09:00 - 22:00 Friday 09:00 - 19:00 Saturday 10:00 - 18:00 Sunday 12:00 - 18:00

The Taylor Institution Library

The Taylor Institution (or the Taylorian) is the University's centre for the study of modern European languages and literatures. Its research library contains the largest specialist collection in this field in Britain. The Taylor building also houses the more recent Modern Languages Faculty Library, the main Oxford lending library for Modern Languages undergraduates. Monday-Friday, 0900-1900 Saturday, 0900-1300.

Other Bodleian Libraries

In addition to those named above the Bodleian is made up of:

  • The Bodleian Japanese Library,
  • The Hooke Library (South Parks Road, Sciences)
  • The Indian Institute Library
  • The Oriental Institute Library
  • The Philosophy Library
  • The Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House
  • The Vere Harmsworth Library.

IT and Computing

A few basic things

  • Every student is provided with a herald webmail address on matriculation. It will be of the form [email protected]
  • Every college has a provision for connection to their network, with fast speed internet access
  • Every college has a computer room of some sort, with access to printers etc
  • The vast majority of students will bring their own desktop or laptop. The majority opt for a laptop, although very few will take their computer to lectures, or really anywhere other than the library
  • Skype is allowed, but P2P (including BitTorrent) is banned
  • The majority of colleges will allow iTunes to be used (as this only allows sharing with 5 users per day) but any other kind of file sharing (i.e. anything illegal) is banned
  • You can expect all the usual rules with a network. If you look at porn, use too much bandwidth or do anything illegal, you're likely to be disconnected. Bandwidth allowance will probably be much higher then a home connection, e.g. 500 MB per day in college [1] compared to 3000 MB per month from a home connection.

More information can be found on IT at Oxford and Welcome to IT.

The Language Centre

The University has a Language Centre with a well-stocked lending library with over 190 languages. It also offers language courses for university members. Two main courses are offered:

  • OPAL - Intensive, fast-paced language courses running through Michaelmas and Hilary terms with an optional assessment at the end. OPAL is currently offered in Arabic, Mandarin, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish and each language is available at multiple difficulty levels. For matriculated students, the cost is £215 for the year for teaching and £60 for the optional exam at the end of the course. Most colleges will reimburse students on OPAL courses 50% of the course fee upon passing the exam at the end. Some courses (such as Materials Science) allow students to take a funded OPAL course for credit.
  • LASR - More relaxed courses primarily aimed at students and staff who need a language for their study or for research. These are available in French, German, Georgian, Italian, Chinese, Modern Greek, Portugese, Russian, Spanish and Welsh and costs £35 per term.
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