Introducing the colleges
Students at St Catherine's College.
(Image credit: Matt Stuart / Oxford University Images).

Introducing the colleges

The University is divided up in to more than 30 different colleges and halls. Each one has rooms where students live, as well as clubs and societies to join, and facilities like a dining room, bar and common room.  Colleges are much more than just accommodation though, as students have some of their teaching in their college, and spend time studying in the college library.

Most colleges offer most courses, and they excel in all subjects that they teach. So, you will meet a wide range of interesting people whichever college you go to. You will have plenty of chance to meet up with other students across the University as well, as there will be a library and other facilities in your department. You may have lectures, classes and lab work in the department too, depending on your subject. There are also hundreds of University clubs and societies to join, as well as all the ones in the colleges.

This all means that you can get all the benefits of a large, international university while living in a small, friendly community. You’ll probably get much more personal tuition and more support than other universities can give.

If you study here you will be a member of a college, and probably have your tutorials in that college. You will also be a member of the wider University, with access to University and department facilities like laboratories and libraries, as well as hundreds of University groups and societies. You would usually have your lectures and any lab work in your department, with other students from across the University.

Does it matter which college I go to?

Not really. Colleges have a lot more in common than they have differences, and whichever college you go to, you will be studying for the same degree at the end of your course.

Do I have to choose a college?

No, although you can express a preference by entering a particular college’s code when you apply (see the list of UCAS campus codes). You might do this if you’d prefer a particular size, age, or location of college. Also, do check which colleges offer your course.

What if I don't want to choose?

No problem. You can make an ‘open’ application by choosing campus code ‘9’ on your UCAS application. This means we will randomly assign your application to a college or hall that offers your course. This does not affect your chances of getting a place. In 2013, 19% of applicants chose to make an open application. Even if you specify a college, other colleges may also interview you, and may offer you a place.

What is a 'Junior Common Room'?

‘JCR’ means two different things. Firstly, it is a room in college, where you can take time out to meet friends, watch television, or play pool. Secondly, it refers to all the undergraduate students at the college, who elect a ‘JCR committee’ to organise events and campaign on behalf of students. The JCR committee members work with the Oxford University Student Union.

What is a college tutor?

College tutors are academics who teach and research at the University. They interview candidates and decide who should study at their college. They will oversee your academic progress, and may teach you throughout your time here. Tutors are also members of their subject departments and you may find yourself attending lectures and classes given by your own college tutors.

What is a 'Permanent Private Hall'?

These are very similar to colleges except that they tend to be smaller, and were founded by particular Christian denominations. They offer fewer courses than most colleges. Students at PPHs are members of the University just like students at colleges, and have access to exactly the same University facilities and activities. Read more about PPHs.

How do I find out more?

Read what Oxford University students think about the collegiate system: 

'The collegiate system is exactly what I expected, lots of students all living together, with the JCR (Junior Common Room) acting to support students and organise parties and social events.'
2nd year undergraduate, Archaeology and Anthropology

'Most of all, I liked the collegiate structure, which appealed to me as it is less of an imposing "body" to get involved with. This allows you to play sport and do other things similarly at any level that you like. I play football and cricket for my college and also play recreational rugby and tennis where I can fit it in.'
2nd year undergraduate, Biochemistry

'I chose to study at Oxford firstly because I wanted to study at the highest level and stretch my mind; I felt that the Oxford tutorial system was the best environment to achieve this. Secondly because the collegiate system seemed to offer a friendlier atmosphere than a large campus...'
2nd year undergraduate, Mathematics

'Not only is Oxford one of the top universities in the world... students here have the benefit of the social support of a small college community.'
3rd year undergraduate, Medicine