Originally founded so that monks of Ampleforth Abbey could take degrees at Oxford, St Benet’s today comprises mostly lay students, but retains a small number of monks at its core. St Benet's Hall welcomes male and female students of all faith traditions and none, inviting them to engage in rigorous scholarship within a community of learning inspired by the Rule of St Benedict.
St Benet’s is distinctive for its close-knit and egalitarian community, fostered by its small numbers. In St Benet’s, monks, tutors, graduates and undergraduates all share the same common room and facilities, and eat together at one shared table. Graduates often appreciate this close integration into the general life of St Benet's.
The college concentrates on a small number of closely related subjects in the humanities and social sciences, at both graduate and undergraduate level, thus enabling all its members to talk to each other about their interests.
There are usually about five monks, fifty undergraduates, and 15 to 20 graduates at any one time. Being part of a small, supportive community is particularly valuable for graduate students who can sometimes feel a bit isolated.
The monastic office and Mass are celebrated daily in the chapel, and all members are welcome to attend if they wish, but there is no pressure to do so. St Benet’s is proud of its diversity, and aims to create a space in which each person’s tradition and culture is respected.
Accommodation and meals
The main building at 38 St Giles is a fine Grade II listed Georgian house containing a chapel, a library, a dining hall and student bedrooms, and an enclosed garden.
In addition, St Benet’s is in the process of acquiring another building at 11 Norham Gardens, less than ten minutes’ walk away. This contains further facilities, such as more library space, teaching rooms, accommodation for the Master and his family, and more student bedrooms. It also includes a dedicated graduate workspace and relaxing area.
St Benet's Hall also has an allocation of rooms in the University's graduate accommodation block in Wellington Square, two minutes’ walk from St Benet’s. The Hall aims to house graduates in Wellington Square as far as possible, but a few rooms may also available in both the main building in St Giles and at 11 Norham Gardens. St Benet's aims to accommodate all its graduates if possible but graduates are free to find their own accommodation if they wish.
All St Benet's accommodation locations are in central Oxford and therefore amongst the most conveniently situated graduate accommodation in the University. In Wellington Square, each room has a wash-basin, with a common kitchen and shower-room shared between groups of four to six rooms; some accommodation is also available for couples. In Walton Street, the rooms are all en-suite but of varying sizes and rents. At 38 St Giles, rooms have telephones and Ethernet points, and a few are en-suite. At 11 Norham Gardens, the rooms are not en-suite but there are a good number of showers.
Wherever they are housed, all students at St Benet’s are strongly encouraged to eat as frequently as possible in the dining hall in the main building at 38 St Giles. The dining hall provides all meals, seven days a week, for a flat charge per term, which is separate from the accommodation charge. The meal charge includes payment for formal meals (three a week) and special Guest Nights, as well as the termly Hall Party.
Library and IT services
The library in the main building, open 24/7, is principally an undergraduate library of about 10,000 volumes, a pleasant workspace with internet points and computers linked to the University’s library network. There is further library space in Norham Gardens.
There is a small, much-used computer room in the main building, with an efficient printer/photocopier/scanner. A computer room and printer are also planned for 11 Norham Gardens. There is wireless internet access throughout all the buildings and accommodation.
Sport, music and college facilities
St Benet’s has its own rowing team. For all sports, students may participate in the teams of other colleges, as well playing for the University teams if selected.
St Benet's has a tradition of involvement in drama, putting on a Christmas pantomime and a garden play each year and a termly "Smoker" at which members entertain each other with music and sketches.
Students also sing in University choirs, participate in the Oxford Union, and in general are encouraged to take a full part in Oxford life, its societies and activities.
Facilities for students with disabilities
There is a disabled toilet on the ground floor and portable ramps for access into the Hall.
St Benet’s has a joint MCR and JCR, with MCR representation on the JCR committee. The MCR also participates in social events with other college MCRs across the University. The main common room is a large, pleasant sitting room, with newspapers, magazines and a piano.
The MCR and JCR also share a spacious, more informal room with flat-screen TV/DVD, kitchenette and fridge. The enclosed garden includes a croquet lawn and a walled, private garden area.
There are laundry machines on site, free to members.