Why are these Oxford colleges so popular? Watch

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anythingyouwish
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I visited Oxford recently. I toured Christ Church and didn't much like it. But I did expect it to be one of the most popular colleges for applications (what with its grandeur and Harry Potter association) and am surprised to see that I'm wrong.

According to Oxford admission stats, these are the most popular colleges for applications over the last three years (Christ Church is the ninth most popular, with an average of 1400 applications per year):

Brasenose (2500)
Worcester (2100)
Keble (2000)
St John's (1800)

The next highest is 17% lower.

John's doesn't really surprise me. But I wouldn't have expected Brasenose (elitist reputation; not that pretty) and Worcester (peripheral; pretty quad but one I'd have thought would be underrated) to be so high, and I didn't expect Keble (edge of town; redbrick) to be anywhere near the top. (Interestingly, despite what I understand to be its reputation, Brasenose was top among both state and independent applicants.)

Any thoughts?
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captainamerica77
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Alumni, the way they look and the norrington scores...
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londonmyst
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Different people apply for different reasons.
Recommendations from friends/relatives who are alumni, personal opinions about a famous college, advice from a teacher or educational consultant.
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RichE
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(Original post by anythingyouwish)
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Where is this data from? Does it include graduate applications? Certainly Christ Church don't get 1400 undergraduate applications per year.

PS I've answered this for myself I think. It's from https://www.ox.ac.uk/sites/files/oxf...ort%202019.pdf
but that's a 3 year total for Christ Church (and others) not an average. Also the data doesn't include applicants in the last 2018-19 admissions round (rather is the 3 previous years).
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BrasenoseAdm
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(Original post by anythingyouwish)
I visited Oxford recently. I toured Christ Church and didn't much like it. But I did expect it to be one of the most popular colleges for applications (what with its grandeur and Harry Potter association) and am surprised to see that I'm wrong.

John's doesn't really surprise me. But I wouldn't have expected Brasenose (elitist reputation; not that pretty) and Worcester (peripheral; pretty quad but one I'd have thought would be underrated) to be so high, and I didn't expect Keble (edge of town; redbrick) to be anywhere near the top. (Interestingly, despite what I understand to be its reputation, Brasenose was top among both state and independent applicants.)

Any thoughts?
Hola anythingyouwish,

Thanks for your post! As a whole, all of the colleges are popular in the sense that a diminishing minority of applicants choose to make an open application.

A number of things act as drivers. How many subjects are offered / the number of places are available is important. For some applicants, a college having large grounds or being historic or being central or having guaranteed accommodation for all years of study is also important.

Regarding beauty and reputation, a few years ago our students made this 2-minute film unprompted. Judge for yourself how elite or ugly we are!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4bFpSGXZDU

We are sometimes asked what our usp is. Other than the fact we have a giant who resides in the Chapel, it is quite hard to think of anything off-hand.

We wouldn't agree that Keble is out of town (its very central!) although its original buildings are indeed constructed from neo-gothic red-bricks. For this reason it is affectionately known as Pink Floyd College or Marmite College (caveat: this last point may not be true).

The main thing is to apply by the deadline (6pm October 15th) if you feel Oxford is the right choice for you - all the colleges offer an exceptional education and a great experience. You could always make an open application and see what happens...

Brasenose Admissions
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RichE
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(Original post by anythingyouwish)
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I think what counts as peripheral rather depends on what you study and are active with. I'm surprised you think of Worcester as peripheral when I would say the same of Christ Church. A scientist might well think Keble is well-placed (I certainly think "edge of town" is unfair) and a law student might think St Catz convenient.

Also, have you wandered around Worcester? I think that most that have aren't surprised to find out that Worcester is popular. (I am somewhat biased in this.)
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Oxford Mum
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(Original post by anythingyouwish)
I visited Oxford recently. I toured Christ Church and didn't much like it. But I did expect it to be one of the most popular colleges for applications (what with its grandeur and Harry Potter association) and am surprised to see that I'm wrong.

According to Oxford admission stats, these are the most popular colleges for applications over the last three years (Christ Church is the ninth most popular, with an average of 1400 applications per year):

Brasenose (2500)
Worcester (2100)
Keble (2000)
St John's (1800)

The next highest is 17% lower.

John's doesn't really surprise me. But I wouldn't have expected Brasenose (elitist reputation; not that pretty) and Worcester (peripheral; pretty quad but one I'd have thought would be underrated) to be so high, and I didn't expect Keble (edge of town; redbrick) to be anywhere near the top. (Interestingly, despite what I understand to be its reputation, Brasenose was top among both state and independent applicants.)

Any thoughts?
Brasenose location: slap bang on Radcliffe Square, with a view of the finest building in all of Oxford (I love it so much I've made it my avatar). And not that pretty? Where are you looking? There aren't any brutalist annexes, like you get in some colleges. My younger son used to love it so much, he made up a song about it. So great was his devotion to Brasenose, he even drew a pencil drawing of the facade and sent it to the acting principal. However when it came to it, he plumped for Oriel instead. Yes it is very popular. When my younger son went to a BMAT course, all the Oxford applicants except for him wanted to apply to Brasenose.

And, of course, Brasenose admissions keep popping up here, giving friendly advice, and applicants think, "ooh what kind people, I want to apply there!"

Worcester is also beautiful. It was very popular when my elder son applied. This may be due to the fact that Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame had studied there.

Keble - I find it's architecture very quirky and enjoyable. It has a beautiful mosaic chapel and the largest dining hall in Oxford. What's not to love?

Johns - a very wealthy college and pretty, too.
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Plantagenet Crown
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(Original post by anythingyouwish)
I visited Oxford recently. I toured Christ Church and didn't much like it. But I did expect it to be one of the most popular colleges for applications (what with its grandeur and Harry Potter association) and am surprised to see that I'm wrong.

According to Oxford admission stats, these are the most popular colleges for applications over the last three years (Christ Church is the ninth most popular, with an average of 1400 applications per year):

Brasenose (2500)
Worcester (2100)
Keble (2000)
St John's (1800)

The next highest is 17% lower.

John's doesn't really surprise me. But I wouldn't have expected Brasenose (elitist reputation; not that pretty) and Worcester (peripheral; pretty quad but one I'd have thought would be underrated) to be so high, and I didn't expect Keble (edge of town; redbrick) to be anywhere near the top. (Interestingly, despite what I understand to be its reputation, Brasenose was top among both state and independent applicants.)

Any thoughts?
It's subjective. I absolutely love Brasenose, I find it to be the most beautiful college by a long way. I also love its quaint, more cottage-like feel over the intimidating grandeur of somewhere like Christ Church.
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Oxford Mum
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(Original post by Plantagenet Crown)
It's subjective. I absolutely love Brasenose, I find it to be the most beautiful college by a long way. I also love its quaint, more cottage-like feel over the intimidating grandeur of somewhere like Christ Church.
Nicely put. And Oriel has the same type of atmosphere. It's like a beautiful little jewellery box.
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nulli tertius
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(Original post by Oxford Mum)
Brasenose location: slap bang on Radcliffe Square, with a view of the finest building in all of Oxford (I love it so much I've made it my avatar). And not that pretty? Where are you looking? There aren't any brutalist annexes, like you get in some colleges. My younger son used to love it so much, he made up a song about it. So great was his devotion to Brasenose, he even drew a pencil drawing of the facade and sent it to the acting principal. However when it came to it, he plumped for Oriel instead. Yes it is very popular. When my younger son went to a BMAT course, all the Oxford applicants except for him wanted to apply to Brasenose.

And, of course, Brasenose admissions keep popping up here, giving friendly advice, and applicants think, "ooh what kind people, I want to apply there!"
But this is a description of Brasenose English in 1997

"When I arrived fresh and eager in 1997 as the sole English fellow in Brasenose, I found English admissions in a sorry
state. We were averaging fewer than two applicants per place in English, when the University average was 3.5 per place. 85% of our applicants
were from independent schools, though clearly not from the best of the students from those schools either. There was still a very high standard
among our English undergraduates, but work clearly needed doing if we were to sustain this standard with such a low number of applicants. In
my first year of admissions, I ended up with a superb group of students, after interviewing 35 more candidates from across the university and
adding them to those candidates who had already selected Brasenose. In any case, something needed to be done to encourage more applicants."
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anythingyouwish
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Apologies for this stacked post!
(Original post by RichE)
Where is this data from? Does it include graduate applications? Certainly Christ Church don't get 1400 undergraduate applications per year.

PS I've answered this for myself I think. It's from https://www.ox.ac.uk/sites/files/oxf...ort%202019.pdf
but that's a 3 year total for Christ Church (and others) not an average. Also the data doesn't include applicants in the last 2018-19 admissions round (rather is the 3 previous years).
Yeah, you're right, they're three-year totals. Doubt it would change the positions significantly, and I don't know why you think it worth remarking that it doesn't include the year for which statistics haven't been published.

(Original post by RichE)
I think what counts as peripheral rather depends on what you study and are active with. I'm surprised you think of Worcester as peripheral when I would say the same of Christ Church. A scientist might well think Keble is well-placed (I certainly think "edge of town" is unfair) and a law student might think St Catz convenient.

Also, have you wandered around Worcester? I think that most that have aren't surprised to find out that Worcester is popular. (I am somewhat biased in this.)
Obviously, everything's relative. But there's a sizable cluster of colleges around High Street and Broad Street, and Worcester and Keble are each a 5 minute walk outside that. Christ Church has a gate that exits just behind Oriel, which hardly gets more central. Yeah, I have walked around, but I've also walked around Magdalen. I'm not asking, How could they be popular? I'm wondering why they are so much more popular than other famous and beautiful colleges.

(Original post by Oxford Mum)
Brasenose location: slap bang on Radcliffe Square, with a view of the finest building in all of Oxford (I love it so much I've made it my avatar). And not that pretty? Where are you looking? There aren't any brutalist annexes, like you get in some colleges. My younger son used to love it so much, he made up a song about it. So great was his devotion to Brasenose, he even drew a pencil drawing of the facade and sent it to the acting principal. However when it came to it, he plumped for Oriel instead. Yes it is very popular. When my younger son went to a BMAT course, all the Oxford applicants except for him wanted to apply to Brasenose.

And, of course, Brasenose admissions keep popping up here, giving friendly advice, and applicants think, "ooh what kind people, I want to apply there!"

Worcester is also beautiful. It was very popular when my elder son applied. This may be due to the fact that Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame had studied there.

Keble - I find it's architecture very quirky and enjoyable. It has a beautiful mosaic chapel and the largest dining hall in Oxford. What's not to love?

Johns - a very wealthy college and pretty, too.
Thanks for your thoughts. Exeter and Hertford are also in Radcliffe Square, but neither is especially popular. I was brought around quite a few colleges and I just found it a bit bland compared with others. (I'm not that big on quads, if that explains it!) Perhaps it comes down to personal taste, then. As I said above, I'm not looking for reasons why it might be popular, so much as reasons why it is most popular, trumping Magdalen, New, and other famous and beautiful colleges.
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Oxford Mum
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My elder son went to Exeter which is just as beautiful as brasenose but not as popular. It’s a delicious, well kept secret
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Oxford Mum
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Well , nulli tertius,
You have certainly achieved what you have set out to do, and brasenose has the popularity it deserves
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anythingyouwish
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(Original post by Oxford Mum)
My elder son went to Exeter which is just as beautiful as brasenose but not as popular. It’s a delicious, well kept secret
You've coached your children well! And, yeah, isn't it?! It was the last college I visited, mainly on a whim, and it didn't disappoint. To me, the "vista" of Radcliffe Camera from the garden is so much more impressive than when looming over Brasenose.
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RichE
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I mentioned the most recent figures as they would have changed the ranking somewhat.
(Original post by anythingyouwish)
Obviously, everything's relative. But there's a sizable cluster of colleges around High Street and Broad Street, and Worcester and Keble are each a 5 minute walk outside that. Christ Church has a gate that exits just behind Oriel, which hardly gets more central. Yeah, I have walked around, but I've also walked around Magdalen. I'm not asking, How could they be popular? I'm wondering why they are so much more popular than other famous and beautiful colleges.
This is sort of my point. Worcester or Keble might be peripheral to other colleges, but not to the city. A student will have reason from time to time to go to other colleges but more likely places they will frequent that aren't their own college will be departments, libraries, shops, clubs. I find the idea that Christ Church's back gate is particularly central unconvincing but my prejudices might be those of a scientist who spends more time in the north of the centre. And I've seen Worcester often mentioned as one of the most beautiful colleges, but that's effectively a point I've made before.
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SuperHuman98
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Brasenose was one of the best looking when I was trying to apply and visited Open days. I think it had the best aesthetic and wasn't too big.

Worcester offers accommodation all 3 years, and apparently has an amazing chef and has a lake

St Johns is the richest apparently
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anythingyouwish
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(Original post by RichE)
I mentioned the most recent figures as they would have changed the ranking somewhat.

This is sort of my point. Worcester or Keble might be peripheral to other colleges, but not to the city. A student will have reason from time to time to go to other colleges but more likely places they will frequent that aren't their own college will be departments, libraries, shops, clubs. I find the idea that Christ Church's back gate is particularly central unconvincing but my prejudices might be those of a scientist who spends more time in the north of the centre. And I've seen Worcester often mentioned as one of the most beautiful colleges, but that's effectively a point I've made before.
I don't really think there's any reason to think it would cause a non-trivial change to the three-year average, unless popularity fluctuates wildly.

Fair enough. I'm not really in a position to judge what feels central. Just, as an outsider, with a prospectus and map, deciding (two years ago) where to apply, those seemed peripheral. And I suggest that most applicants are deciding from my perspective.
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RichE
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(Original post by anythingyouwish)
I don't really think there's any reason to think it would cause a non-trivial change to the three-year average, unless popularity fluctuates wildly.
You're right, the changes would only be a slight reordering. What might be more worth mentioning is that popularity does change in the medium term. Worcester was the most popular college in 2018-19; for something like the previous 5 years it had been Brasenose; for the 5 or so years before that it was Worcester; the year before that it was Balliol and for the 5 or so years before that it was Magdalen. That's as far as my memory extends. The data i'm sure has both trends and fluctuations, and looking at things by subject, some colleges are popular (or unpopular) in subjects that is totally incongruous to their general popularity.
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Oxford Mum
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The great thing about oriel is that it’s central yet hidden away
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nulli tertius
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(Original post by Oxford Mum)
Well , nulli tertius,
You have certainly achieved what you have set out to do, and brasenose has the popularity it deserves
Not me. This was the Brasenose English don writing.
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