• University of Oxford FAQ - Colleges

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University of Oxford FAQ - Colleges

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.

If you have questions, or just want to chat, come join us in TSR's Oxford forum and Cambridge forum.

University of Oxford: Guide & Discussion Forum
How to choose a CollegeCollege Pros and Cons
A Week in the Life: of an Arts Student or of a Science Student
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University of Cambridge: Guide & Discussion Forum
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Colleges: All Souls (no student) • BalliolBrasenoseChrist ChurchCorpus ChristiExeterGreen Templeton (graduates) • Harris Manchester (mature) • HertfordJesusKebleKellogg (graduates) • Lady Margaret HallLinacre (graduates) • LincolnMagdalenMansfieldMertonNewNuffield (social sciences graduates) • OrielPembrokeSt Anne'sSt Antony's (graduates) • St Catherine'sSt Cross (graduates) • St Edmund HallSt Hilda'sSt Hugh'sSt John'sSt Peter'sSomervilleThe Queen'sTrinityUniversityWadhamWolfson (graduates) • Worcester

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This page is primarily aimed at applicants hoping to pick a college to apply to. If you have specific questions about the application process then please see University of Oxford FAQ - Applying. If your question relates to life at the university then please see University of Oxford FAQ - University Life


Can I go to this college?

Before you get your heart set on anywhere, it's a good idea to check that you can go to the college you've chosen. As St. Hilda's goes mixed in 2008 there are only two questions left to ask.

Are you over 21 years old?

If you are then you are counted as a mature student and are eligible to apply to Harris Manchester. A lot of mature students obviously don't, but only the over-21s can. If you're straight out of school then this isn't an option.

Does the college do my subject?

Most colleges offer most subjects (particularly the more popular ones) - but if you've chosen a less popular course then it's worth checking where will take you just in case. This will be listed on the subject page of the university website. Also, some colleges offer a narrower range of subjects, such as Regent's Park College which only offers Humanities and Social Sciences.

A comprehensive list can be found here

Accommodation and Catering

The provision of accommodation varies widely by college, and what some people may consider perfect will be far from it by other people's standards. While for some living in college for three years is the stress-free option, others prefer the adventure of living in their own flat. Some colleges provide a middle ground: college owned flats or annexes - where students live out of college (with consequent comforts such as having your own lounge and kitchen) without the hassle of dealing with landlords. More detailed information can be found about room sizes / rents on the individual college pages.

Which colleges will provide me with accommodation for at least 3 years? Which of these are in annexes?

Colleges can be roughly split into three groups: Those who accommodate for 3 years on site; Those who accommodate for 3 years but with some time in annexes; and Those who only accommodation in the 1st, or 1st and 3rd years. Everybody will have their preference - for some never leaving college is great, while others enjoy the adventure of living out in annexes without having to deal with landlords. Some people find renting private accommodation much cheaper, and want to get the life experience.

Currently accommodation in college are: Christ Church, Keble, LMH, Merton, New, Queens, St. Anne's, St. Catz, St. Hugh's, St. John's, and Worcester.

Currently accommodation in annexes during just 2nd year or during 2nd and 3rd year are: Balliol (Jowett Walk annex); Brasenose (Frewin annex next to the Oxford Union); Jesus (flats rather than annex on Woodstock Road, and Cumberland Road in Cowley); Lincoln (Museum Road); Oriel (Cowley Road), Teddy Hall, St. Peter's and Univ (on the Woodstock Road).

It's worth noting however that while some of these colleges (Jesus and Lincoln) do house all their students in other accommodation, many others provide it but students opt out. For instance at Balliol accommodation is available, but the majority of students choose to live out instead. Similarly, Teddy Hall "in theory" provide accommodation for 2nd years but it's very rarely used.

Currently with students in private accommodation in 2nd year are: Exeter (NB accommodation only guaranteed for 1st years, many finalists live out too), Pembroke and St. Hilda's (both of which insist students move back in for 3rd year).

Where can I get an ensuite room?

Most colleges provide some en suite rooms which are first allocated to anybody with medical conditions - so if that's you're worry then don't let it determine where you apply! However some colleges have far more than others. Also consider what you consider en suite: officially speaking en suite rooms are usually only counted as those where one bedroom has one bathroom: but many colleges have "sets" where two students share a lounge and a private bathroom. It is rare to have an ensuite room in first year (although with some colleges, such as New, this is about 80%) but at St. Anne's virtually all 2nd and 3rd years have ensuite rooms. En suite rooms are also very common for 2nd and 3rd years at Univ, Magdalen, LMH, Teddy Hall and St Catz .

If I'm living in college I want to be self catered - where's best to go? Where's best not to go?!

As a general rule there's no massive difference between colleges. Those that provide catering facilities are usually those where you live in for all 3 years, whereas those who don't accomodate you in college for 2nd or 3rd year tend not to bother. Jesus has no self-catering facilities in college at all: but 2nd, 3rd and 4th years live in purpose built college flats with fully functional kitchens (hobs, oven etc). At Lincoln catering facilities are limited for 1st and 2nd years but again when living in the annexes the option is there. Oriel too have limited catering facilities on site but these are available at the JMH annex.

In the middle ground some colleges such as Teddy Hall and St Catz provide small "kitchens" with fridge and hobs, although no oven.

Colleges such as St. Hugh's - where students live in for all 3 years - Christ Church and LMH have fairly reasonable kitchens.

I've heard some colleges ask you to pay upfront for food while others have an opt-in opt-out system. Which are which?

Pembroke and Teddy Hall upfront Jesus & Catz BWYE

I'm strapped for cash: which college is cheapest to live in?

Which colleges operate a 'tiered' system where different rooms cost different rents?

Opinion varies over whether a system where the best rooms cost more allows students from poorer backgrounds to not be left out of pocket, or whether it's likely to create "poor ghettos" and "rich towers". Naturally the colleges therefore vary over whether or not to do this. At Jesus, Magdalen, St. Hilda's, St. Hugh's, St Catz and University college all rooms are priced equally in college (although annex rents may differ - as they're usually for longer periods of time). Brasenose, Christ Church, Oriel and Pembroke all operate a tiered system of payment.

I want to be in the centre: which colleges are nearest?

No Oxford college is more than about 20 minutes walk from the Carfax (the point where Cornmarket meets St. Aldate's) so being "central" isn't really a major issue. If however you do want to be in the middle of things the most central colleges are: Jesus, Exeter, Lincoln, Brasenose, Balliol, Trinity, St. Peter's and Hertford. A number of other colleges (Pembroke, Christ Church, Queens, New, Teddy Hall, Wadham, Keble and Univ are still within 10 minutes walk of the centre.

I can't stand tourists - where will keep them at bay?

The main thing here is to avoid the Big Three: Christ Church, Magdalen and New. By virtue of being big, old colleges with evensong every day and the boy choir and publicity that goes along with it all three of them tend to be pretty tourist-attracting. Other than that you tend to get tourists everywhere that's vaguely central. If you don't mind being a bit far out then pick St. Hilda's, St. Hugh's, Somerville, St. Anne's or LMH, which all tend to be far enough away that the tourists can't be bothered to walk. Alternatively Queens and Pembroke lock their doors and require a key fob for access, and Teddy Hall, Catz and Mansfield are far enough off the beaten track that they tend to get missed out.

Which college has the highest ratio of state schooled students?

Overall University-wide 47.1% of offers are given to State Schoolers - so presumably a similar percentage of current students come from the maintained section. 9 colleges give more than 60% of their offers to state-schooled students (Harris Manchester, Hertford, Keble, Mansfield, Merton, St. Anne's, St. John's, Somerville and Wadham) - but if you're trying to play the statistics game rather than hoping to find somewhere where you'll fit in then be warned. Although St. John's are widely sold as the "state school college" 73.6% of their applicants are from State Schools (compared to a university average of 47.6) so they're not practicing positive discrimination in some way. Similarly Harris Manchester gave 77.8% of its offers to students from the maintained sector in 2006, but 93.8% of applicants were from maintained schools. There are actually four colleges which in 2006 gave a "disproportionate" amount of offers to state schooled students: Brasenose, Oriel, Pembroke and Worcester.

Which college has the most international students?

Are there any colleges which are particularly good or particularly bad for disabled students?

Extra curricular activities

If you're particularly into an extra curricular activity then chances are it will be university wide (there are sports teams for all the major sports, as well as less-well-attended ones such as Korfball, Kayaking and many martial arts; the majority of drama is university-organised; plenty of uni-level orchestras) but colleges also have a lot to offer.

I want to sing in a chapel choir: Which colleges have them? Which are the "good" ones? Where can I get a choral scholarship?

The vast majority of colleges have a chapel choir (exceptions St. Hilda's and St. Catz)

The three choral foundations Christ Church, New and Magdalen have a full men-and-boys choir which sings evensong every night but one. The night off is generally filled by a 'normal' chapel choir. Those choirs with the best reputations tend to be those that sing two services a week (most will only sing Sundays but others such as St. Peter's, Worcester, Oriel and Queen's also sing another evensong or mass on Thursdays) Choral scholarships are listed in the prospectus - sometimes having them can be a very good thing as it maintains a core of very good singers. At other times it can lead to the rest of the choir resenting them or, possibly worse, feeling they don't need to work as hard. Shop around for the best choir for you - not everybody sings for their own college.

Which colleges have a college orchestra?

The college orchestras vary in standard - they're usually good fun, especially for experienced people who just want to play some easier music but often attendance can be limited and only comes together for the final concert night. College orchestras tend to come and go as attendance does but some of the best established are SASJO (St. Anne's and St. John's joint), St. Hilda's and Teddy Hall; Christ Church; Hertford; Somerville and Exeter. Be warned of the prospectus - Jesus college has claimed to have a non-existent orchestra for at least the last 5 years!

I want to give rowing a shot - where shall I apply?

Almost every college (including some of the PPHs) have rowing of some kind. If you're a guy it might be an idea to give St. Hilda's a miss for a while until they buy some more boats, and build up some kind of structure. The big rowing colleges tend to be Oriel, Magdalen and Pembroke. They do consistently well, which means they consistently have a lot of money and field around 5 boats at any one time. Teddy Hall are also Head of the River (by a long way) for women's rowing. Of course the disadvantage of going to a very rowing-orientated college is that unless you're 6 foot tall and prepared to put yourself through hell you're unlikely to make the first VIII. If you want to be at the top of your college, then you might be better off to pick another college in the first division. Current colleges in both division other than those named above are Christ Church, Balliol and Hertford, while Somerville, Univ, Keble, Exeter, New, Hilda's and Merton all have a crew in either Men's Division 1 or Women's Division 1.

I want to play high level college rugby / football / netball - where is doing well at the moment?

Which college is doing best depends a bit on whether you're looking at cuppers (a knock out tournament where any college can be pegged against any other) or the JCR league.

The current premier division for football includes Worcester, St. Anne's, Teddy hall, Wadham, Oriel, New, Jesus and Lincoln.

The top division for rugby contains St. Peter's, Teddy Hall, Exeter, New-Templeton, Catz and Brasenose with Queen's set to be promoted this year.

The top division for netball is made up of teams from St. John's, Wadham, Hilda's, Queens, Lincoln, St. Peter's, Jesus, St. Hugh's, Pembroke and Worcester.

I'm a woman and I want to try rugby / football - where has a good team?

  • Obscure sports

I want to be a member of an active Christian Union. Which colleges do more than just Sunday services?

I want to get involved in Drama. Which colleges have funding for thesps?

Scholarships / Awards

  • Academic
  • Travel grants

Social spaces and facilities

  • Well equipped JCR
  • Large Bar

I've heard some college have bars with really cheap drinks - where would that be exactly?!

Well college bar pricing varies a lot uni wide. Everywhere is "student priced" (i.e. less than £2 a pint) but some colleges can be a lot less! The three most noted are: Hertford - while not particularly cheap in other respects, Hertford is home to the legendary Dark Pango. 7 shots in a pint glass with lemonade for the student-friendly price of £5.50 - not bad!

Mansfield - Mansfield have a well-kept-secret (until now) of a Happy Hour on Friday nights

Balliol - spirit and lemonade for 75p on Crazy Tuesdays. Need I say more?

Regent's Park - Pint for £1.50, singles for £1 (mixer free!), wine for £1.50

I don't have a laptop so taking my computer to the library isn't an option. Which colleges have internet access in bedrooms.

Simple answer: All of them.

I have my own computer, but no printer. Will I be able to use printing facilities in college?

Will I need to use a local laundrette to wash my clothes? Is it necessary to bring an ironing board and iron? What about a clothes horse?

I've heard a lot about these "essay crises" and can easily see myself not starting the work for a 9am deadline until 2am. Which colleges have libraries that are open 24 hours?

Regent's Park College

I want to bring my car to Oxford. Which colleges will provide me with parking?

Very few of them actually. Bear in mind that Oxford city is actually very small (it's probably 45 minutes walk between the two most distant colleges St. Hugh's and St. Hilda's - so the distance from any one college to the centre is only about 20 minutes walk), and that it is largely pedestrianised, and in many parts operates a one-way system. Aside from expensive parking in Broad Street and the Westgate Centre it's nigh-on impossible to park in the centre, so you can forget about driving to lectures. Within a mile of Carfax there are two Sainsbury's and a Marks and Spencers, with Tescos on the Cowley road probably being more convenient for those at St. Hilda's and Magdalen.

So basically: you don't need a car!

If however you have a desperate need for your own parking space then in 2nd and 3rd year it is possible to live out in private accommodation or a college annex, many of which will have parking spaces. (For the Jesus annexes this is at the rate of 1 space per flat of 3 or 4 people). If having a car in first year is a must, then St. Catz probably has by far the most adequate parking facilities: You can forget about central colleges (Jesus, Exeter, Lincoln, Pembroke, Balliol, Trinity, St. Peter's, St. John's, Univ, Christ Church, Wadham and Teddy Hall) although some of the colleges further afield offer limited parking.

NB: If your need is because of a medical condition then colleges often have 1 or 2 spots reserved for e.g. the principal's guests, and they are usually quite accommodating.

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