A quad through an arch at New College
New College
(Image credit: Naoise Dolan / Graduate Photography Competition)

What is an Oxford college?

The college system is one of the many distinctive and special features of student life at Oxford. In the context of graduate admissions, ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 43 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as societies and permanent private halls.

All graduate students belong to a department or faculty and a college, except those taking non-matriculated courses. Supervision and teaching will be provided by your academic department, so no matter which college you belong to, this won't limit your access to potential supervisors or teaching staff; your course content is the same.

Oxford colleges

Oxford’s colleges are small, multidisciplinary communities. Each one has students, academic staff and administrative staff. Most colleges offer meals, libraries, accommodation, sports, events and other opportunities to enrich your Oxford experience.

Our 43 colleges have much in common, but each has its own character and history.

Thirty six colleges are independent and self-governing, having a charter approved by the Privy Council, under which it is governed by a Head of House, elected and appointed by the governing body directly. The governing body comprises a number of Fellows, most of whom also hold University posts.

The three societies – Kellogg College, Reuben College and St Cross College – operate very much like the other colleges but are considered departments of the University rather than independent colleges because, unlike the others, they do not have a royal charter. One of the main differences is that the governing body recommends a president, who is then appointed by Council.

The four permanent private halls (PPHs) – Blackfriars, Campion Hall, Regent's Park College and Wycliffe Hall – were founded by different Christian denominations and still retain their religious character.

External colleges accepting Oxford graduate students

In addition to the 43 colleges that are part of the University, two external colleges – Ripon College Cuddesdon and St Stephen's House – accept students for several courses offered by the Faculty of Theology and Religion

The benefits of Oxford colleges

The collegiate system is at the heart of the University’s success. Your college can provide support, facilities and membership of a friendly and stimulating academic community.


Within your college, you’ll have the opportunity to meet academics and fellow students from around the world, and often from a broad range of subjects. You might find yourself debating your work in college seminars, over meals in the dining hall or in college accommodation late into the evening. Your college will give you the chance to establish a new circle of friends quickly, and get involved with a wide range of events and activities.

As a graduate student you’ll belong to your college’s Middle Common Room (MCR) or Graduate Common Room (GCR), which is a student organisation as well as a physical room in college. Each college MCR usually elects a committee, who aim to foster a sense of community by organising social activities, promoting student well-being and representing student voices.


All colleges provide library and IT facilities, welfare support, and sports and social events. Colleges often have accommodation available for rent by their graduate students, although most aren't able to guarantee accommodation. You aren’t obliged to make use of college facilities, but many graduate students find that their college greatly enriches their time at Oxford in a variety of ways.


Your college can be a valuable source of support. Although your academic studies will be directed by your department or faculty, your college will have a Tutor for Graduates or Senior Tutor who has general oversight of all graduate members of the college. Each graduate student also has a college adviser, a senior member of the college’s staff who can offer support and advice.

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