Oxford clubs and societies

Life as an Oxford University student can mean a lot more than just academic study. Outside the libraries and laboratories is a whole new world of amazing opportunities you can get involved in. Whether it’s a desire to develop your interests, meet new people or a megalomaniac quest for power and status, with over 300 registered clubs and societies there really is something for everyone.

Most colleges are likely to have numerous relatively small societies, representing most sports, as well as often catering well for thesps and musicians. At a university-wide level, something for virtually every interest group is available – and if not, it’s easier than you think to start up your own society. The OUSU website (www.ousu.org) gives you further information on how to do this, and if you’re lucky your college could help to give you some financial backing.

Here’s just a small taster of the diverse range of clubs and societies on offer – attending OUSU’s Freshers Fair is a must to check out some awesome ways to spend your next few years here…


From orchestras and jazz bands to acapella groups and chamber choirs, the university’s most well-known musical acts produce first class CDs and tour internationally. Whilst the skill required to get involved here is extremely high, it’s often easy to get a band together with fellow students. Organisations like the Indie Music Society and JazzSoc flourish on Oxford’s awesome musical reputation, whilst many of the clubnights are run by students, with the most talented leading a double life of writing essays during the day and being a hip hop DJ at night.

University wide

OUO - generally the haunt of music students only, OUO is probably the highest standard symphony orchestra in the University. Concerts are put on once a term, usually in the Sheldonian.

OU Sinfonietta - the Sinfonietta takes its members from the other university ensembles, but is invite only.

OU Phil - OUPhil is of a slightly lower standard than OUO, but competition for places is still fierce. For strings the standard probably starts at Grade 8, moving to much higher, but for brass and especially woodwind and percussion the standard is obviously much higher. Rehearsals are on Wednesdays, for a once-a-term concert, in addition to tours (most recently to Vienna) and other ventures such as the recent Beethoven-a-thon, in which all 9 symphonies were played back to back.


OSE - the University string ensemble was started as a private venture in 2005 by Matt Bain and Marc Gascoine and 2 years on has achieved University status. OSE tours Paris in December 2007

Acapella groups - OOTB, ITP, Alternotives, Belles, Gargoyles

There are 5 main a capella groups in Oxford: Out of the Blue, In the Pink, the Alternotives, the Oxford Belles, and the Gargoyles. As a general rule Out of the Blue have been seen for many years as the leaders of the pack, with their inventive medleys and stylish choreography although this year 'In the Pink' (one of the two female-only groups) have adopted a similar musical-style, to popular accolade, and following a year in which over 75% of the OOTB line up changed, they lost the European crown to the Gargoyles, the only jazz-centred a capella group. The Oxford Belles, traditionally recognised as the more experienced of the two female groups have in recent years been noted for always looking the part, but beginning to sound it less.

Scola - Scola is the high-standard chamber choir of the university, drawing its members almost entirely from the college choral scholars.


Stage bands

College based

Most colleges have a chapel choir, and a college orchestra. Some of these are amalgamated (for instance Teddy Hall and St Hilda's share an orchestra) or perennial (Despite what it says in the prospectus, the Turl Street colleges have no permanent orchestras of their own. However the three join together for the Turl Street Arts festival)

The most noted of the college chapel choirs are the three Choral Foundations in Oxford, these being Christ Church, Magdalen and New. This means that the formation of the choir was part of the statutes of the college. These are therefore the choirs which have boy choristers.

A number of the other college choirs have choral scholars, as appointed by audition, but choral scholars or lack of them is by no means an indication of standard.


Jesus College Chapel Choir


Oxford’s thespian scene has recently seen a massive rise in popularity, with students directing their own plays, often solely responsible for sound, lighting, marketing and everything else required for that top notch production. The more ambitious have the opportunity to write their own plays, and can get involved in this almost upon arrival as ‘Cuppers’ takes place in the first term, with a judging panel looking on at the Burton Taylor theatre. Other venues where student productions have been showcased include the Oxford Playhouse and Old Fire Station.

A number of colleges have especially dramatic backgrounds

  • Wadham and Keble college respectively house the Moser and O'Reilly theatres where a new production is shown each week
  • The John Oldham Society of Teddy Hall has a rich background of dramatic success including alumni such as Al Murray (the Pub Landlord), Stewart Lee (co-writer of Jerry Springer the Opera) and Terry Jones (Monty Python).
  • Lincoln Players Society, usually try and put on around 2 plays a year.


From table football to tennis to tiddlywinks to trampolining to Taekwondo, sports are well represented, whether you are a complete novice or wanting to compete at a university level. Rowing remains the most popular sport, with the inter-collegiate Torpids and Eights events being highly successful year on year, whilst a swimming pool has recently been opened at Iffley Road.

Oxford has provision for all the major sports, as well as quite a few of the more obscure ones. In addition to college sports grounds (usually a football / rugby pitch and a hockey pitch) the University has, spread across three sites:

  • Olympic water-based astroturf pitch
  • 4 Rugby Pitches
  • 5 Football Pitches
  • Dojo
  • 2 Eton and 2 Rugby 5's courts
  • 2 Lacrosse Fields
  • 2 Cricket Square
  • 2 Croquet Lawns
  • Pulse Gym (45 Cardio Vascular and Body Conditioning machines)
  • 20 Grass and 4 Hard Tennis Courts
  • Powerlifting Room
  • 9 Practice Cricket Nets
  • Indoor Cricket School
  • Fencing and Shooting Room
  • 2 Grass Hockey Pitches
  • Rosenblatt Swimming Pool
  • Sports Hall (used for trampolining, gymnastics, boxing, cheerleading, 5 a side football etc)
  • 3 Squash Courts
  • Iffley Road Running Track
  • Climbing Wall
  • 3 trampolines and a rig

Most colleges have permanent women's and men's (or mixed) teams for Rugby, Football, Cricket, Tennis and Netball (female only) as well as organising teams for Cuppers (inter-collegiate) events in Trampolining, Swimming, Athletics etc. Teams for less-well-played sports such as Lacrosse and Basketball do also exist. Many colleges also have teams for Darts and Pool


Presidency of The Oxford Union is a globally prestigious position, OUSU’s campaigns regularly make national headlines, and the university’s Conservative Association and Labour Club remain a popular breeding ground for aspiring politicians. Whilst for some it’s just a bit of fun, the scene is notorious for backstabbing as many ambitious ‘hacks’ attempt to climb the greasy pole to the top spot.

For the ostensibly revolutionary trots who attend their appears the SWP and AWL seem to operate - although this is based on articles from their papers by students that have probably finished their degrees by now, so a current student who knows the local far left should update this.


We’re lucky to have two of UK’s best student newspapers – The Oxford Student and Cherwell, It’s easy to get involved in writing, and if you’re up for a challenge, being on the editorial team is greatly rewarding. Elsewhere there’s student-run Oxide Radio, and magazines including the historic Isis.

Culture & Religion

It’s easy to meet others sharing your cultural, religious or ethnic background with a wide range of societies that exist. They’re all open for anyone with an interest as well – the AsianSoc showcased Panjabi MC last year, whilst the Russian Society is popular with those vodka lovers amongst you…

The OICCU (Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union) website can be found here: http://www.oiccu.org.uk/ and has brief details about each college's Christian Union. This usually includes a wide spread of activities that members pick and choose from.

As an example, Jesus College Christian Union offers: - 8am morning prayer twice weekly - Sunday evensong - Midweek communion, Tuesday at 5:30pm - [email protected] (which varies week by week from formal compline to taize to unstructured prayer) on Thursday evenings at 10pm - Theologians Anonymous - And a weekly meeting on Wednesdays

Student Life is a society that is for anyone to explore life's big questions, who Jesus is and what it means to connect with God. The society is set up by a few Christian students to create an open, honest and relaxed environment for anyone to consider the big questions of life. Who is God? Who am I? What is my Purpose? Everyone is welcome, whether or not you have thought about these things much before. https://www.facebook.com/studentlifeoxford Meets Thursdays 5-6pm for thought provoking discussions.


If, however, the sound of being involved in clubs and societies is not your cup of tea, then don’t worry, you’re not alone. Whether your idea of a great evening instead is chilling at a pub or club with your mates, a DVD night in with your other half or even further immersing yourself in the world of academia, there’s plenty in the same boat.

Full list of clubs and societies