Life at Oxford
Life at Oxford
Credit: Ian Wallman

What is it like to live in Oxford?

During their studies, students belong to one of our colleges.

There are over 30 colleges located around Oxford’s city centre. These are safe and welcoming communities where your child will spend much of their time, particularly when they first arrive here.

Oxford doesn’t have a central campus like some other universities.

What is a college?

Colleges are the centre of Oxford life, and most students feel that this is their home from home. A college is where students can eat, live, spend time with friends and do their washing.

College tutors support students’ learning, and normally teach students in their colleges. Colleges have entrance lodges which are usually staffed 24/7.

Your child will also meet people from other colleges in their subject department and at university-wide events. Lot of events are organised across colleges and students often have friends over.

What are the differences?

Each college has its own character, but life in them is pretty similar. Some are very old, others are much newer. Some are fairly big and others are quite small.

Whichever college they belong to, your child’s degree course will be taught in the same way.

Do you choose a college?

When they apply, your child can either choose a particular college or submit an ‘open application’, which is like saying “I don’t mind.”

We hope people won’t worry too much about choosing a college - most students think their college is best - choosing the right course to study is far more important.

Do you live in college?

All our students are given a college room for their first year. This is arranged by the college, so your child won’t need to sort it out themselves.

All colleges offer rooms for at least one other year, and some offer them for the whole course. Living in private accommodation can be more expensive as contracts normally cover a full year, including the holidays.

Students who don’t live in their college still can use all the facilities, and many really enjoy living with friends and the experience of living independently for the first time.

What are college rooms like?

These rooms might be in main college buildings or somewhere nearby. Rooms can vary in size, but they are good quality and are furnished - and your child will never have to share a bedroom. Some college rooms have their own shower or bathroom.

Many students sometimes choose to study in their room and desks are provided.

New students are normally given rooms near each other so it’s easy to get to know others who have just arrived.

What about meals?

All students can eat subsidised hot meals in their college dining hall. They may also have access to kitchen facilities where they can make their own food, if they’d like.

Can my child live at home?

Undergraduates must live within six miles of central Oxford, or within 25 miles if they live in their family home. There are some exceptions to this, but we think it helps students to get the most out of their time at Oxford.

Most students are over 18 when they come to university and are therefore adults. But many will also just have left school and this will be the first time that they have lived away from home.

We want everyone to feel at home here and settle in quickly and there are lots of people available to help.

What support is there?

Oxford takes the wellbeing of all of its students very seriously. There are plenty of ways your child can find support if times get tough.

College tutors support your child’s studies but they can also ask their advice on other things. Lots of other college staff, including welfare officers, help students settle in and are around to give advice on practical or health matters.

What health support is available?

Most students have access to a college nurse, as well as a local GP surgery. The John Radcliffe hospital has an A&E department and is 15 minutes’ drive away.

What if they are disabled?

Our Disability Advisory Service are there to make sure all of our students with either seen or unseen disabilities can make the most of their time at Oxford.

Where can my child go to talk?

  • The University has a free counselling service which offers one-on-one and group sessions with trained counsellors, as well as workshops and self-help materials.
  • Volunteer peer supporters are trained by the counselling service, so students can talk to other students if they prefer. There are specific programmes for LGBTQ+ students and students of colour.
  • Oxford’s student union runs a general advice service where students can open up in confidence about their worries, for example, about managing money or sorting out a relationship.
  • Run for and by students, Oxford Nightline gives students the opportunity to chat to someone about anything and everything between 8pm- 8am every night during term time.

One of the best things about going to university is the social life. Oxford is no different. There are lots of people to meet, things to do and chances to discover new interests and talents.

While Oxford students work hard, they still have plenty of time to have a laugh, relax and enjoy themselves.

What activities can my child get involved in?

Oxford has an enormous range of activities for students to get involved in when they are not studying. These are not only lots of fun and a great way to make friends, but also offer the chance to build useful skills for the future.

Clubs and societies 

From music, sports, politics or drama, to religious faiths, national and cultural groups there is something for everyone.


Oxford has 80 sports clubs and there are lots of different ways to take part. It doesn’t matter whether you are a beginner or training as an international athlete.

Music and drama

There are a huge range of bands, choirs and orchestras to join as well as some amazing opportunities on stage and on screen for actors, directors and writers.

Will there be people like them?

Our staff and students come from all kinds of backgrounds. Your child is likely to find people like them and not like them. We think this is one of the most enjoyable and exciting things about student life here.

Joining one or more of the hundreds of groups, clubs, societies or campaigns at Oxford is definitely one of the easiest ways for your child to meet friends and find their people.

What is Oxford like to live in?

Oxford is ranked as one of the top ten safest student cities in the UK, so your child can enjoy themselves without you having to worry too much!

The city is home to two universities; the University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University and has one of the largest student populations in the UK. It is a fun and vibrant place to live.