Oriel College, Oxford

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Founded in 1326, Oriel is the 5th oldest of the Oxford colleges and is the oldest of the royal colleges: our emblem is the three lions of England, or the three ostrich feathers (commonly associated with the Prince of Wales). Matthew and Thomas Arnold and historians AJP Taylor and Michael Wood rank amongst Oriel's alumni.


Situated on Oriel Square and the High Street, Oriel rests beside Christ Church's Canterbury Gate, Corpus Christi, Merton, and University. The college has a very small tourist trade, making it far less likely that tourists will interrupt your daily routine unlike at the more famous "Harry Potter" colleges. Nevertheless, students still have all the benefits of being located right at the heart of the city. Cornmarket, the Covered Market, Christ Church Meadows, the Bodleian and the Exam Schools are all within five minutes walk (and that's if you're dawdling).

Oriel College, Oxford


Oriel is fortunate to be able to offer all undergraduates accommodation for every year of their course, if they want it. This includes students studying a 4-year course. The rooms are split between the main site and James Mellon Hall (always called JMH) with the former being largely reserved for first and second year undergraduates with some graduate and finalist accommodation. JMH is a 10-15 minute walk from College, or 5 minutes on your bike. The best and most historic rooms are on the main site with those that were once part of Tackley's Inn being the oldest (Staircase 29 & 30). There are 4 quads in college with almost all first year accommodation being in 3rd Quad (aka St Mary Quad). Many of the rooms in 3rd Quad have recently been renovated to a very high standard and many have en-suite facilities (quite often Fresher's live there). The college also has a number of rooms that have been adapted to make them more accessible for those with physical disabilities. More about accommodation: [1]

As with most things in Oxford, you get what you pay for. Ensuite means expensive and with accommodation prices going up and up in the city, it's always worth thinking about compromises. The majority of finalists live on staircase 30 on the Island site of college, or at JMH where the promise of a kitchen, and ensuite, and some (albeit relative) peace and quiet is a bonus. For those wanting to enjoy living together as a group with the safety of college as a landlord, Oriel owns a number of flats and houses on the Main Site and at the JMH complex. The Flats have just been refurbished, the houses are perhaps avoided unless you really do want some of the worst accommodation college has to offer.

Another way of looking at accommodation is through the 9 point rating system from A* (best) D worst.

The A*/A rooms are generally on the island site (the pretty different coloured buildings) or in 3rd Quad and are almost always ensuite (although bizarely sometimes you have your own bathroom but it's just outside your room so you do still have to leave your room, but it's just for your use). They have good carpets, newly painted, full-length mirrors and silly gimmicks like motion-sensored lights which actually annoys me a little. They've also got intercom systems which is pretty swish.

B/C are fine, it's on the main college site and to be honest it's identical in size to the island site rooms (there are probably a few that are bigger but similarly a few that are smaller). It just has older furniture and carpets and the walls are covered in blue-tack marks. I like it better though as on the new rooms you're not allowed to put stuff on the newly painted walls to protect them but in the older rooms you can go mental so my room's covered in photos and I really like it. Bathroom's are 3 between 6 so you never have to queue but they are downstairs which is a bit annoying.

D rooms also fine, again the carpet has a dodgy pattern and the showers are not amazing but it's fine. I personally wouldn't like to live there just because of the showers, but it is one of the few staircases to have a kitchen on and it can be a really friendly staircase. In fact most of the main college staircases are more sociable as you live so close together and there can be 18 on a staircase rather than about 6 on the island site.

EDIT: The accommodation at Oriel recently went under a radical refurbishment, and the once D grade rooms are now between B - A* and all pretty nice. If you want a cheaper room apply for a C, it's the lowest they currently offer and are still pretty decent, especially compared to other colleges.


Formal hall

One of the main plus points of Oriel is probably its formal hall. Running every evening other than Saturday, it consists of a 3 course meal with waiter service. Generally this consists of a soup starter with bread rolls, a main meal with vegetables and potatoes (and additional platters of vege and potatoes usually laid out on the tables) and then pudding. Obviously there can be the odd dodgy meal but the standard is generally pretty high - to the extent that you can get strangely used to eating roast pheasant, guinea fowl etc. - and visitors from other colleges always seem to be impressed. The college subsidises the cost, so prices are quite low (recent prices: [2]). Arguably the best feature, however, is the fact that wine (or champagne if you're feeling particularly flush) can be ordered during the course of the meal and is charged to your termly battels. People dress up and just chill out for an hour or so.

Informal hall food is normally fairly decent too, and does precisely what its name would suggest; students roll up and serve themselves, meaning there's generally more scope to give yourself a very generous portion. The college operates a 'pay as you eat' system, so students can view the menus and book online for dinner, or just swipe their card for breakfast and lunch. We now have a Sunday brunch as well. If you have specific dietary requirements then it tends to be easiest to cook for yourself, but there a couple of kitchens around the main college site and you can state this as a requirement when you're indicating your accommodation preferences. The college kitchen can also cater to special requirements if you make your needs known.

Social Stuff

The bar seems pretty busy most evenings, with games machines, a pool table, table football, a juke box and plenty of space for just lounging around. The drinks are very reasonably priced, two pounds for a single mixer, and soft drinks can be conveniently charged to your battels. There are 3 bops a term, for which the entire college seems to get dressed up and cram itself into the bar, and people just generally seem to be out to have a good time whenever they can.

Library and Computing

The Senior Library

The library is really well-stocked with around 100,000 volumes, most of which can be borrowed for up to a term at a time. It's open 24 hours a day, so if you've managed to leave your essay to the very last minute (again) then that can definitely come in handy. It's also a very beautiful place in which to work, especially the Senior Library, and the librarian staff are very helpful in terms of purchasing new books which you need for your course; I reported one book missing in the morning and a brand new copy had been delivered to my pigeonhole by that afternoon. If they don't have the book you need, then the Bodleian is an extremely short walk away, just across the High Street.


Easily accessible welfare and LGBT reps, a peer support team, a couple of welfare teas a term with free food and drink a-plenty, with free condoms, pregnancy tests and the like available whenever. The most important 'welfare' consideration in my view, however, is the fact that first and second years both live on the main college site, whereas at quite a few other colleges it seems to be freshers and finalists. Living in and around - and hence having the opportunity to better get to know - people who were freshers themselves not so very long ago means that there are plenty of people to turn to in times of crisis, or just for general chats and advice throughout the year. More about welfare: [3]


It really is a beautiful college, everyone really is very friendly and it's a fantastic place to study. Check out the Alternative Prospectus for more information: [4]

Third Quad


Oriel is very good at rowing - if you want to get involved they will welcome you with open arms - the equipment is great, the coaching is very good. If you don't want to that's also fine - Rugby, football, darts, ultimate frisbee, Lacrosse, etc. all have clubs and if you're not into sport there is plenty more to do elsewhere in college... there is something for everyone. The college also has multiple gyms, squash courts and a sports ground about a 10-15 minute cycle from college.

Student-eye view

Apparently the college has earned a reputation as being something of a maverick, although I don't really know why. In practice this means Oriel used to stand outside of OUSU (Oxford University Student Union) but we recently voted to reaffiliate. In reality the college has an entertaining mixture of Oxford tradition and modern student life. Formal Hall, one of Oriel's proudest traditions, is served six nights a week with the food served to the students being identical to that served to fellows on High Table; students wear suits and gowns and the whole experience strikes you as being uniquely Oxford. Few colleges actually have this any more and Oriel students defend their right to Formal Hall vigorously.

Oriel has had strong political activism in over the years years, though on all sides of the political spectrum. Oriel regularly features on Oxford Union committees and a number of its students have become officers, all the way up to President. In between, JCR members have been active in OUCA (Oxford University Conservative Association), the Labour Club, the Liberal Democrats, and in Green groups. The College's conservative character certainly no longer holds for most students and is perhaps an amusing tradition for most, who either don't care or simply laugh.

If Oriel's place in the political sphere of Oxford has been strong in recent years, it is overshadowed by the fortunes of our college sporting success (and failure). The college has a reputation for rowing and is the only college in Oxford history to hold both Men's and Women's Head of the River in the annual Hilary Term Torpids races. Each college has a premier sport but this does not mean that Oriel is solely about rowing. Rugby, Football, Table Tennis, Squash, Boxing, Netball, Hockey, Mixed Lacrosse, Cricket and (most importantly) Rounders, plus various bar games, are a regular feature of the sporting week.

Most Oriel students, though, make their way into the newspapers as actors or standup comics. In recent years the Oriel has performed consistently well in Drama cuppers, featured prominently in the Oxford Revue - including President of the Revue. Unfortunately Oriel is not blessed with a great number of resources for drama, despite the reputation, and colleges such as Keble or Magdalen with their own theatres tend to have more in the way of college-based drama. Nevertheless the revived garden Shakespeare (performed in second quad), including 2015's Twelfth Night and 2016's Love's Labour's Lost , are a sign of Oriel strength despite lacking materials.

Second Quad

In terms of music, the college has a beautiful music room and a number of pianos for student use. It also has a Visiting Musician programme ([5]), which means that each year a professional musician holds two 'masterclasses' (where they work 1-1 with students) and a concert in Oriel. Visiting Musicians have recently included acclaimed pianist Joanna Macgregor and Grammy-winning saxophonist Tim Garland. Oriel also has a strong choir and organ scholar programme.

In terms of academic results, Oriel has been moving steadily up the Norrington Table (which ranks the academic results of Oxford colleges) in recent years. Oriel was 12th in 2014/15, 9th in 2013/14 and 13th in 2012/13.



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