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

What are Oxford colleges?

Our University has no central campus but is made up of over 30 colleges and halls spread across the city centre and beyond. These colleges are at the heart of Oxford's reputation as one of the best universities in the world and make it a very special place to study and live. Every student belongs to a college as well as being a member of their course department and the University. This means all Oxford students have the benefits of belonging to both a large, world-class university and to a small and friendly academic community.

Colleges provide a safe and supportive environment so you can focus on your studies, enjoy time with friends and make the most of all the opportunities on offer. Everyone lives in college accommodation in their first and usually last year - some people live in for the duration of their course.

Students mix freely across colleges and you are welcome to have friends over or invite them to some college events. Inter-college sport and drama can be a fun way to meet people from other colleges. You will also meet other people not at your college in your course department and at University-wide events. If you come here, you are likely to spend lots of time in your college, particularly in your first year.

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.

Jack

College teaching

Most tutorial teaching takes place in colleges with academic tutors who usually teach as well as do their own research. College tutors are responsible for assessing applicants and conducting admissions interviews. They decide who comes to their college and who they will teach. Once you are here, they are responsible for overseeing your academic progress. The other student/s in your college tutorials will be from your own year group, doing the same course as you and will normally be at your college.

Read more on personalised learning in our section on Student Life.

College facilities

Each college is unique, but generally their facilities are pretty similar. Each one, large or small will have the following essential facilities:

  • Porter’s lodge (a staffed entrance and reception)
  • Dining hall
  • Lending library (often open 24/7 in term time)
  • Student accommodation
  • Tutors’ teaching rooms
  • Music rooms
  • Laundry
  • Green spaces
  • Common room (known as the JCR)

Have a look at the college pages to see the facilities at each.

More about the JCR

Much college socialising revolves around the Junior Common Room or JCR. Every college has a JCR room where you can meet friends, play games, get a cup of coffee and watch TV. Confusingly, JCR also collectively refers to all the undergraduate students in a college. Elected students form the ‘JCR’ committee which organises lots of events and campaigns on behalf of the students in their college.

Welfare matters

College academic tutors support your academic development but you can also ask their advice on other things. Lots of other college staff including welfare officers help students settle in and are available to offer help on practical or health matters. Participating in your college's clubs and societies is a great way to relax and spend time with friends.

Read more on support and welfare.

Read more about how colleges help to bring down the cost of studying here.

Where are the colleges?

There is a map on every college page so you can see exactly where each one is. A few colleges are slightly further from the centre. Typically they are some of the largest and feel spacious. They often have beautiful and peaceful gardens, sometimes running alongside the river. All are within easy distance of the city centre and main University buildings such as the Bodleian Libraries. They may also be conveniently near privately rented student accommodation.

Do you choose a college to apply to? 

You can specify a college preference on your UCAS application but you can also make an open application. To help you decide, read our advice on choosing a college or making an open application.

What is a 'Permanent Private Hall'?

  • These are very similar to colleges except that they tend to be smaller.
  • They are founded by particular Christian denominations.
  • There are three PPHs at Oxford admitting undergraduates.
  • They offer fewer courses than most colleges.
  • Students at PPHs are members of the University just like students at colleges, and have access to exactly the same University facilities and activities.

Ways to find out more

  • Come to a University Open Day to look around. 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.)

What our students say:

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

'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.'
Anna

'The staff and porters are lovely!'
Michael 

'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.'
Chloe 

'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.'
Leila 

'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!'
Nyasha

'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.'
Imogen

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