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

Introducing the colleges

All undergraduate students at Oxford become members of an academic community called a college, as well as being members of the wider University. Colleges offer a safe and supportive environment to foster the academic development and welfare of every one of their students. Colleges are also physical buildings, with rooms where students live, as well facilities like a dining room, bar and common room.  Everyone lives in college accommodation in their first and usually last year. 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. Colleges also have many clubs and societies that you can join.

The friendly family atmosphere that you get with such a close-knit community is almost like a second family and makes you feel at home.


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 most 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.

How can I choose a college? 

Read our advice on choosing a college.

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. There are five Permanent Private Halls (PPHs) at Oxford admitting undergraduates. They offer fewer courses than most colleges (see Which PPHs offer my course?) Students at PPHs are members of the University just like students at colleges, and have access to exactly the same University facilities and activities.

How do I find out more?

  • Read further details about each college.
  • Come to an open day to look around (see open events and visiting). You will have the chance to see several colleges in one day.
  • Read the Alternative Prospectus. (Please note that this is written by students so it gives a student perspective but does not contain official information from the University of Oxford.)

Read what Oxford University students think about their college: 

'I love the family feel of the college. It’s not too big but not too small. I know everyone in every year and we are all genuinely friends.'

'The staff and porters are lovely!'

'My college has a reputation for being ‘small and friendly’, and one of my favourite things about it is that it’s actually true! I love how we are a little family, and whenever you enter the library or walk through the quad, people smile and wave. There’s also a really great welfare team who just make me feel so looked after and safe here. Most of all, I love how much this feels like home.'

'I love the fact that everyone knows everyone, and that approaching other year groups isn’t intimidating and college really subverts the idea of exclusivity.'

'Whenever I’m heading to the library after being in insanely busy central Oxford, the stillness always makes me stop and breathe and remember what’s important!'

'I found choosing a college really hard! I chose one to apply to but was interviewed at two colleges, and ended up being offered a place at the other one.'

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