Porter at Christ Church
Porter at Christ Church
Credit: Emily Alexander

Oxford Glossary


An exam pass granted on medical grounds.
Arts and Humanities Research Council, one of the UK’s seven Research Councils.
The University’s museum of art and archaeology, founded by Elias Ashmole in 1683. It is the oldest museum in the UK.
A senior officer of the University, elected annually by the colleges in a set cycle, who is responsible particularly for student welfare and finance. The Office was created in 1960. The Assessor works closely with the Proctors.
The former name of the Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM) group, ASUC stood for Academic Services and University Collections. 


The charges made to a member of a college (student or Fellow) for accommodation, meals, etc.
Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council, one of the UK’s seven Research Councils.
Ceremonial official attending the Vice-Chancellor at events such as degree ceremonies and Encaenia, and at meetings of Congregation and Convocation. There are four Bedels, of Divinity, Law, Medicine and Arts.
The Blue is the highest sporting achievement at Oxford and Cambridge, and is awarded only to members of certain sports clubs who have competed in the annual Varsity Match.
Bodleian Libraries
The collective name for the University's integrated library service, formerly known as Oxford University Library Services (OULS).
Bodleian Library
Also known as ‘the Bod’. The largest of the University’s many libraries. It is named after Sir Thomas Bodley.
A nickname for the Proctors’ Officers (formerly, the University Police).
The chief financial officer of a college.


Elected by Convocation, the Chancellor is the ceremonial head of the University. The current Chancellor is Lord Patten of Barnes.
(abbrev. Classification) the level of award of a degree (eg 2:1 or Upper Second).
A lesson attended by approximately 6 students (though may be expanded to 8-15 to meet high demand) and of 60 to 90 minutes duration; usually intercollegiate.
Clerk of the Market
There are two Clerks of the Market, who were originally empowered to set the price of grain in Oxford. The title is now an honorary one and is bestowed by the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor.
College exams taken at the start of each term on material covered in the previous term, or in special circumstances, such as Penal Collections which a student may have to take if tutors are concerned about poor performance.
Collegiate University
The University of Oxford, comprising the academic divisions and departments, Academic Services and University Collections (ASUC) and University Administration and Services (UAS), together with the Oxford colleges and permanent private halls.
Coming up/Going down
Arriving at Oxford at the beginning of the term/leaving at the end (cf sending down).
A student who does not have a scholarship or exhibition.
Congregation is the sovereign body of the University and consists of over 5,000 members, comprising the academic staff of the University; heads and other members of governing bodies of colleges; and senior research, computing, library and administrative staff. As the legislative body of the University, changes to the University’s Statutes and Regulations are subject to the approval of Congregation. Council is bound by all resolutions passed by Congregation and all other acts and decisions taken by it.  Major policy issues may be submitted to Congregation for consideration by it by Council or members of Congregation. Congregation also elects members to Council and other University bodies and approves the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor.
Convocation consists of all the former student members of the University who have been admitted to a degree (other than an honorary degree) of the University, and those who are members of Congregation or who have retired from being members of Congregation on the date of their retirement. Its functions are to elect the Chancellor and the Professor of Poetry.
Council is the University’s principal executive and policy-making body and is responsible, under the statutes, for the advancement of the University's objectives, for its administration, and for the management of its finances and property. It has five main standing committees: the Education Committee; the General Purposes Committee (GPC); the Personnel Committee; the Planning and Resource Allocation Committee (PRAC); and the Research Committee.
Creweian Oration
The Creweian Oration is named after Nathaniel, Lord Crewe, and is delivered at Encaenia by the Public Orator or, in alternate years, the Professor of Poetry. The oration recounts the events of the past year and commemorates the University’s benefactors.


a) the Head of House at Christ Church b) a Fellow responsible for supervising the conduct and discipline of the Junior Members of the College. To be ‘deaned’ is to be sent to the Dean.
Degree Days
Various days throughout the year on which students may graduate.
The supervision of a practical class; the term derives from the now obsolete post titles of ‘University Demonstrator’ (now University Lecturer) and ‘Departmental Demonstrator’ (now Departmental Lecturer), and may be applied equally to those in charge of practical classes and to those who assist in practical class teaching in the laboratory.
Director of Graduate Studies.
Director of Study
Senior academic with responsibility for a particular course or area of academic endeavour.
There are four academic divisions – Humanities; Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences; Medical Sciences; and Social Sciences.
Domestic Bursar
The college officer (often a Fellow of the College) with overall responsibility for domestic aspects of college life, including accommodation, security, catering and housekeeping, external lettings and sometimes sports facilities and administrative non-academic staff.
A professor, a lecturer or a Fellow.
Doctorate of Philosophy. The PhD is known as the DPhil in Oxford.


Education Committee. One of the five main committees of Council, it defines and keeps under review the educational philosophy, policy, and standards of the collegiate University on access and admissions; curriculum design and course structure; teaching, learning and assessment; academic and pastoral support and guidance; and provision and use of learning resources. Formerly known as Educational Policy and Standards Committee.
Inter-collegiate rowing races, held in Trinity Term.
A title held by retired professors and readers of the University who meet the conditions set out in University regulations. Colleges have their own rules for awarding the title.
Annual ceremony at the end of each academic year at which honorary degrees are conferred and the Creweian Oration is given by the Public Orator.
Educational Policy and Standards Committee, the former name of the Education Committee (EdC).
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, one of the UK’s seven Research Councils.
Economic and Social Research Council, one of the UK’s seven Research Councils.
Examination Regulations
The large grey book containing details of syllabuses for all courses, currently issued to all students as they start their course. Also known as The Grey Book and formerly called the Examination Decrees.
A lesser student scholarship.
The permanent loss of membership of the University and college, for serious disciplinary offences.


In colleges, the senior members of college who, together with the college head, constitute the governing body of the college.  Colleges may also have other categories of fellow, such as honorary or emeritus fellows, who are not members of the governing body. There are also research fellowships of various kinds in the University.
Final examinations at the end of three or four years as an undergraduate student – the level of degree awarded is largely dependent on performance in these exams.
A student taking, or about to take, their final public exams of their degree.
Highest class of degree.
First P.E.
(abbrev. First Public Examination) exams normally taken at the end of the first year, although there are exceptions, and that must be passed for a student to be allowed to continue their course; called either Prelims or Mods.
A first year student.
Formal Hall
A traditional meal held in college. Depending on the college, formal attire and/or gowns may be worn, and guests from outside the college may be invited.
Full Term
The main undergraduate teaching period at Oxford. It lasts for eight weeks and runs from Sunday of First Week to Saturday of
Eighth Week. The dates of Full Term are prescribed by Council and are published in the Gazette and on the University website.


Graduate Admissions Office, part of the central University.
Gathered Field
A method of grouping applications; setting a cut off date whereby all applicants can be considered as a group and ranked accordingly.
College event for old members.
The official journal of the University, published weekly in term-time and at other intervals in the vacations, in which information on the University’s formal business, including changes to Statutes and Regulations and meetings of Congregation, must be published. It also includes other key information, including general notices, special lecture details, information on prizes and awards, appointments, and advertisements.
Graduate Common Room (cf MCR).
Gardens, Libraries and Museums. The GLAM Group comprises the Bodleian Libraries, the University's museums (the Ashmolean, the Museum of the History of Science, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and the Pitt Rivers Museum) and the Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum. Formerly known as Academic Services and University Collections (ASUC).
The General Purposes Committee is one of the five major committees of Council. Its remit includes advising Council on policy in respect of issues or activities which are university-wide and transcend the remit of the other main committees of Council or other specialist committees. It also has responsibility for strategic issues relating to risk management.
Governing Body
The body defined in the Statutes of each college that has responsibility for the governance of the college. Most governing bodies meet three times a term to conduct college business.
Someone who already holds a university degree. Strictly speaking, someone taking a course of study after graduation is a postgraduate, but in Oxford the two terms are used interchangeably.
Graduate Studies Office, part of the central University.


Head of House
The Head of a College, known variously as the Dean (Christ Church), the Master (Balliol, Pembroke, St Catherine’s, St Cross, St Peter’s and University College), the President (Corpus Christi, Kellogg, Magdalen, St John’s, Trinity and Wolfson); the Principal (Brasenose, Green Templeton, Harris Manchester, Hertford, Jesus, Lady Margaret Hall, Linacre, Mansfield, St Anne’s, St Edmund Hall, St Hilda’s, St Hugh’s and Somerville), the Provost (Oriel, Queen’s and Worcester), the Rector (Exeter and Lincoln), and the Warden (All Souls, Keble, Merton, New, Nuffield, St Antony’s and Wadham).
Hebdomadal Council
Hebdomadal Council was until 2000 the University’s principal executive and policy-making body, charged with ultimate responsibility for the administration of the University and for the management of its finances and property. It comprised 25 members, 18 of whom were directly elected by Congregation; the remainder (including the two Proctors and the Assessor) being ex officio. It originally met weekly in term (hence the name) and at certain other times but latterly met at fortnightly intervals. It was succeeded by Council in the 2000 governance reforms.
Higher Education Funding Council for England - the government body which allocates funding to Higher Education Institutions.
Higher Education Statistics Agency.
High Table
The table in a college dining hall, often on a dais, at which the Head of House and Fellows dine. Guests may sometimes be invited to High Table.
Scottish (generally one-year) qualifications which roughly equate to A-Levels.
Hilary Term
The second of the academic year’s three terms, running from January to mid-March (c.f. Michaelmas, Trinity).
The House
Christ Church is sometimes referred to by its members as the House, after its Latin name Aedes Christi, the House of Christ.


The part of the River Thames that runs through Oxford.


JCR (Junior Common Room)
In addition to being the formal undergraduate student organisation of a college, the Junior Common Room is the hub of undergraduate social activity; also a physical location in a college for student recreation. (c.f. MCR and SCR)
Joint Consultative Committee (JCC)
A committee of students in a Faculty who represent their peers to the Faculty and act as a channel of communication between the two (known in Engineering as an ‘Undergraduate Liaison Committee’).
Junior Member
A Student Member of the University, undergraduate or postgraduate.
Junior Research Fellow (JRF)
A college academic post for those who are starting out on a research or academic career. It is usually a three-year fixed-term appointment at post-doctoral level or equivalent.


Lecturers are those who have the responsibility to present lectures, to which all University students in that discipline may go. In Oxford, not all lecturers are Fellows of colleges.
Literae humaniores
Lady Margaret Hall.
Long Vac
Long vacation - the name widely used for the period between the end of the Trinity Term and the beginning of the Michaelmas Term each year.


The Head of House at Balliol College, Pembroke College, St Catherine’s College, St Cross College, St Peter’s College and University College.
Matriculation confers membership of the University on those students who are enrolled at the University of Oxford and following a degree-level course.
Michaelmas Term
The first term of the academic year which begins in October and ends in December (c.f. Hilary, Trinity).
MCR (Middle Common Room)
The self-governing body and social centre for graduate students in a college. Fourth year students are also granted MCR membership. The MCR is also a room located in the college. Also known as the GCR.
(abbrev. Moderations) Honour Moderations are first year university (or in the case of Classics, second year) exams. They are the “First Public Examination” for the degree of B.A. Results are classified as Firsts, Seconds etc., Not all students take Mods - some take Prelims, depending on the subject in question. (c.f. Prelims).
Moral Tutor
The person in a college who a student can turn to with concerns about their teaching or general welfare; title and scope of role may vary widely.
Medical Research Council, one of the UK’s seven Research Councils.


Natural Environment Research Council, one of the UK’s seven Research Councils.
Norrington Table
A league table of colleges published annually, showing comparative performance of students in Finals.
Noughth Week
The week before the beginning of Full Term.


Oxford Colleges Admissions Office - the former name of the Undergraduate Admissions Office.
Oxford University Department for Continuing Education - offers courses covering a wide range of subjects; many of them lead to university qualifications. Provision is made for individuals, organisations, and professional groups. Courses are offered on a part-time basis, online, or in the form of short courses.
Oxford University Dramatic Society, pronounced ‘owds’.
Oxford University Press.
Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
Oxford SU
Oxford University Student Union (formerly OUSU).


Constituent parts of an examination.
Permanent Private Hall
A religious hall which has been licensed by the University to matriculate students for degrees. There are six Permanent Private Halls.
Post-Graduate Certificate in Education.
Research graduate.
Taught graduate.
Personnel Committee
One of the five main University committees that report direct to Council. It is responsible for the development and review of comprehensive policies on the employment of all university staff, including policies on recruitment and selection, staff development and training, equality of opportunity, and salaries and other conditions of service.
Pigeon Post
Nickname for the University Messenger Service, the free internal mail system.
A student who is studying having already completed (at least) one university degree. Often referred to as a Graduate or Graduate Student.
The study of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.
The study of Psychology, Philosophy and Physiology.
PRAC (Planning and Resource Allocation Committee)
One of the five main University committees reporting directly to Council. The Planning and Resource Allocation Committee advises Council on planning, budgets and forecasts, resource allocation and other financial arrangements, and monitors performance against plans and budgets.
(abbrev. Preliminaries) Preliminary examinations are first year examinations and are not classified into Firsts, Seconds etc. These are only awarded on a Pass/Fail/Distinction basis. See First P.E. (c.f. Mods).
The Head of House at Corpus Christi College, Kellogg College, Magdalen College, St John’s College, Trinity College and Wolfson College.
The Head of House at Brasenose College, Green Templeton College, Harris Manchester College, Hertford College, Jesus College, Lady Margaret Hall, Linacre College, Mansfield College, St Anne’s College, St Edmund Hall, St Hilda’s College, St Hugh’s College and Somerville College.
Principal Investigator (PI)
Senior departmental staff who lead research programmes and manage those research staff involved.
The two Proctors (Senior and Junior) are elected each year by colleges in rotation to serve for one year.  The statutes provide that they ‘shall generally ensure that the statutes, regulations, customs, and privileges of the University are observed.  They serve on the University’s main committees and where not members of committees may receive their papers and attend meetings but not vote.  They have responsibilities under the statutes and regulations for aspects of student discipline, for ensuring the proper conduct of examinations and for dealing with complaints. They also carry out ceremonial duties, e.g. at degree ceremonies.
The Head of House at Oriel College, The Queen’s College and Worcester College.
Probationer Research Student. Students working towards a DPhil or an MLitt or MSc by research must apply in the first instance for admission as a Probationer Research Student.
Public Orator
Elected by Congregation, the Public Orator’s duties include presenting those who receive honorary degrees, at Encaenia and at other degree ceremonies, and introducing each in a Latin speech; giving the Creweian Oration at Encaenia in alternate years. He or she may also be called on to compose letters of greeting to other Universities and loyal addresses to the Monarch, and he or she is ex officio examiner for certain University prizes. The office can be traced back to 1564, when the University appointed an Orator to greet Queen Elizabeth I on her visit to Oxford.
Pro-Vice-Chancellor. There are five Pro-Vice-Chancellors with specific, functional responsibility for Development and External Affairs; Education; Personnel and Equal Opportunities; Planning and Resources; and Research.


Quality Assurance Agency - body that assesses the quality of teaching in Higher Education and makes recommendations to funding bodies such as HEFCE.


Recognised Student
A student working in Oxford for up to a year (i.e. one, two or three terms) but not preparing for a higher degree – they are entitled to use library and other University facilities, but do not have college association.
The Head of House at Exeter College and Lincoln College.
The Registrar is the senior administrator within the University and is formally Secretary to the Council of the University. He or she is responsible to the Vice-Chancellor and to Council for the effective organisation of the University’s administration, and is line manager for a large number of senior officers within the administration.
Research Excellence Framework - a series of exercises conducted nationally to assess the quality of UK research and to inform the selective distribution of public funds for research by the UK higher education funding bodies.
Regius Professor
The holder of a chair founded by the Crown, and to which the Crown still formally makes the appointment. The Regius Chairs are: Civil Law, Divinity, Ecclesiastical History, Greek, Hebrew, Medicine, Modern History, and Moral and Pastoral Theology.
The withdrawal of the right of access to the land, buildings and facilities of the University, including teaching, exams and all related academic services, for a fixed period of time or until specified conditions are met. It usually occurs as a result of a major disciplinary offence.


Various meanings - can refer to Examination Schools, a large building on High Street where some exams are taken and lectures are held; or to Prelims/Mods/Finals in general “to take Schools”; or to a course “Honour School of Philosophy”.
St Edmund Hall.
Sending Down
Known as ‘termination of course’; where a student is expelled from the University for failing the First Public Examination twice, or from college for failing penal collections, or for a disciplinary offence.
Senior Common Room - the organisation to which all Fellows and College lecturers belong. The SCR is also the name of the room in college which is used by SCR members for a coffee and reading room, as well as for special events hosted by SCR members. (See also the JCR and MCR).
Sheldonian Theatre
The main ceremonial hall used by the University for events such as Encaenia, Matriculation and degree ceremonies.
Student Information Systems section, responsible for all matters concerning student records.
Student Loans Company - administers student financial support to eligible students in higher education in the United Kingdom.
Oxford’s online library catalogue.
Split Finals
The idea of taking half of Finals exams at the end of the second or third year, and taking the second half at the end of the third or fourth year, with both counting towards the final degree attained.
The person in charge of certain domestic matters within a college, including accommodation and the booking of dinners and other events. NB. The Steward of Christ Church is the equivalent of Domestic Bursar.
Science and Technology Facilities Council, one of the UK’s seven Research Councils.
At Christ Church, a Fellow is known as a Student.
Formal attire worn by students and academics on formal occasions, including matriculation, examinations and graduation. It is made up of a dark suit, skirt or trousers, a white shirt or blouse and a white or black bow tie, black full-length tie or black ribbon, worn with a black gown and a mortar-board. The name derives from the Latin subfuscus, meaning dark brown.
Ask for a degree to be conferred at an award ceremony.


Teddy Hall
Affectionate name for St Edmund Hall.
Inter-collegiate rowing races, held in Hilary Term.
Trinity Term
Summer term (c.f. Hilary, Michaelmas).
Someone who teaches students on an individual basis or in pairs. They may be a Fellow, JRF, or a graduate. They act as both a teacher and an academic guide.
Undergraduates attend, on average, one hour-long tutorial every week, either on a one-to-one basis or with one or two other students. Students must undertake a considerable number of hours’ preparatory work for each tutorial, including background reading, essay-writing and problem-solving.
Tutorial System
The college teaching system whereby undergraduates are taught in very small groups by a tutor (usually a Fellow of the college). Through tutorials, students develop powers of independent and critical thought, analytical and problem-solving abilities, and skills in both written and oral communication and argument.
The Union
The University debating society (NB not to be confused with Oxford University Students Union, or OUSU).


Someone studying for their first degree.
Abbreviation for University College.
Universities UK
The UK’s major representative body for the higher education sector in the UK.


Abbreviation of vacation - the periods between terms; see also Long Vac.
University, especially when concerned with sport.
Varsity Match
Sporting fixture between Oxford and Cambridge (c.f. Blue).
The senior officer of the University. The role of the Vice-Chancellor is to provide strategic direction and leadership to the collegiate University, and to position and represent the University internationally, nationally and regionally. The Vice-Chancellor chairs Council and other major University bodies, and nominates deputies to chair others. He or she works closely with the colleges to ensure a coherent vision across all the constituent parts of the University, and with Council, Congregation, the academic divisions, and the Conference of Colleges to ensure that the governance, management and administration of the collegiate University are efficient and effective.
(abbrev. Viva Voce) oral exam.


The Head of House at All Souls College, Keble College, Merton College, New College, Nuffield College, St Antony’s College and Wadham College.
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