The list of the best Oxford Colleges

The Best Oxford Colleges For Students in 2024

The University of Oxford, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious universities, has 44 halls and colleges where students may learn, live and grow. With around 24 thousand applicants every year it’s one of the most popular educational institutions in the UK.

But, how hard is it to get into Oxford? Learn what are the best Oxford Colleges in 2024 and how to choose the right one for yourself


How to Choose The Best Oxford College

Choosing the right college at Oxford University can be daunting, as there are over 30 colleges and 6 permanent private halls to choose from. However, with some research and careful consideration, you can find the college that is the best fit for you.

We will try to guide you through the steps to choose the best Oxford college for you. 

First, consider your academic interests and the courses you want to study. Some colleges may have a focus on certain subjects, so it’s important to research the colleges and their academic offerings to find the ones that align with your interests.

For example, suppose you’re interested in studying philosophy. In that case, you may want to consider colleges like Balliol College or Corpus Christi College, which have a strong focus on humanities and social sciences.

Next, consider the location and size of the college. Oxford is a small city, so you won’t be too far from any of the colleges, but some may be closer to your classes or other amenities that you may find important.

Additionally, some colleges are larger and have more facilities, while others are smaller and more intimate. Think about what kind of environment you prefer and choose an Oxbridge college that fits your needs.

Another factor to consider is the college community and extracurricular activities. Some colleges have a strong sense of community and offer a wide range of extracurricular activities, from sports teams to societies and clubs.

If you’re interested in extracurricular activities, look for colleges with a vibrant community and a wide range of opportunities.

Finally, don’t be afraid to visit the colleges and talk to current students and staff. Many colleges offer open days and tours, where you can get a sense of the college’s atmosphere and facilities. You can also contact the admissions office and ask to speak with a current student to get their perspective on the college and its community.

Choosing the best college at Oxford University can be challenging, but this must be your priority if you are applying to Oxford University. You will spend 3 to 5 years at university, so choose wisely your right Oxford College. 

With some research and careful consideration, you can find the college that is the best fit for you and your academic interests.

Finally, consider the courses you want to study, the location, the size of the college, the college community and extracurricular activities, and don’t be afraid to visit the colleges and talk to current students and staff.

Read the full guide here:

Which are the best colleges in Oxford?

Norrington table ranking is important for students who apply to Oxford and is the most popular ranking table. It could be one of the decision factors which Oxford College chooses.

Below is the list of the top 10 colleges based on the Norrington Table 2021. For a full list and guide visit Norrington Table

Overall, the 10 best Oxford colleges to study are in the table below. You can read below the table what we wrote for each of them.

PositionCollegeNorrington Score
2St John’s79.81%
5New College79.12%
6St Catherine’s79.01%
9Harris Manchester78.00%
10St Anne’s77.78%
The best 10 Oxford colleges according to Norrington table scoring

10 best Oxford colleges

So, Norrington’s table clearly shows us academic achievements but colleges are not only about studying. There are many other factors influencing what is the best Oxford college.

Learn below other details about the best colleges at Oxford.

Merton College

Established in 1264, Merton stands out among Oxford’s best colleges as an institution with an impressive 82.9% performance score on the Norrington Table – making Merton one of the highest academic performers at Oxford. 

Pros and cons of Merton college in Oxford

Conveniently located off Merton Street near iconic landmarks such as the Botanic Garden, T.S. Eliot Theatre and University Tennis Club – Merton offers students a real Oxbridge community experience within moments from these iconic sites.

Merton’s long and distinguished history can be seen through its ancient Mob Library, dating back to 1373 and widely considered to be the world’s oldest continuously used university academic and student library. Alumni include such literary giants as J.R.R Tolkien and T.S. Eliot as well as esteemed figures like Naruhito of Japan as Emperor; Mertonians have achieved remarkable accomplishments spanning chemistry, medicine and philosophy for which several have received Nobel Prizes.

Merton attracts around 90 undergraduates each year, creating an intimate and welcoming community. Entz reps (short for Entertainment Representatives) organise weekly “Breach of Peace” (BOPs) events with live music, affordable drinks and plenty of excitement and revelry.

Merton College stands apart by hosting its unique tradition – The Time Ceremony. Held every last Sunday of October when clocks turn backwards, students assemble in one of Merton’s quads, walking backwards arm-in-arm while sipping port or other beverages from bottles placed along their path. 

Dating back to 1971, this peculiar rite seeks to preserve the space-time continuum while adding some fun and playfulness to Merton’s history.

St John’s College

Placing second on Oxford’s Norrington Table with an outstanding 79.8% score, St John’s College stands as a “model” of academic excellence in Oxford. Established by Sir Thomas White – a wealthy merchant tailor – in 1555, St John’s initially gained notoriety for producing Anglican clergymen before also becoming highly esteemed for law and medicine studies.

Pros and Cons St John's College in Oxford Univeristy

Today, St John’s offers an exciting learning environment to more than 390 undergraduates, 240 graduates, 100 fellows, and 25 lecturers – offering comprehensive facilities including medical care, counselling services and dental services. 

Situated north of Oxford city centre on St Giles’, its central yet tranquil location gives its members easy access to its amenities while keeping a calm ambience.

St John’s stands out with its unparalleled art collection of medieval vestments that inspire its students and the surrounding art community. 

Each year, St John’s invites a professional artist as an “Artist-in-Residence”, providing students with invaluable experiences and knowledge from these exceptional professionals.

St John’s College welcomes visitors between 1 pm and 5 pm, to explore its rich history and vibrant student life.

Lincoln College

One of the oldest educational institutions in the world. 600 years old and consistently ranking among the top Oxford colleges, Lincoln College stands as an architectural gem. 

From its iconic front quad adorned with lush climbing plants to the 17th-century library and stunning medieval hall with a 15th-century timber roof and wooden panelled walls – not forgetting Deep Hall below which serves as an intimate student bar nestled within arches – Lincoln College truly creates a beautiful oasis at its core of Oxford.

Lincoln college at University of Oxford

Lincoln College is ranked 3rd on the Norrington table with a score of 79.6% and can be found conveniently located on Turl Street near both Radcliffe Camera and Bodleian Library reading room.

Lincoln stands out among colleges by providing guaranteed ensuite housing for all first-years aka freshers for the entirety of their four-year studies – making Lincoln an attractive college. This commitment to student comfort and convenience adds another layer of attractiveness.

Lincoln offers prospective students the chance to experience its lush grounds during open days or take an engaging virtual tour through its stunning architecture through 360-degree virtual tour technology.


Brasenose stands out as a hub of academic excellence and student life within Oxford city centre on Radcliffe Square, known for its academic prowess and stunning architecture – often considered one of the prettiest colleges in Oxford and the most “Instagramable” one. 

While its old quad square remains a no-walk zone to preserve its historic charm, its new quad gives students space to socialise or relax among its iconic buildings.

Brasenose College Oxford

Brasenose strikes an ideal balance between academic rigour and an active social life. Students work diligently, while also making time to have fun; Gertie’s bar provides the hub of regular BOPs, open mic nights, pub quizzes and reasonably priced drinks.

Established in 1815, Brasenose Boat Club stands as a historic testament to Oxford and Brasenose College’s commitment to offering students of all backgrounds an array of sporting activities.

Brasenose stands out as one of Oxford’s happiest colleges due to its strong sense of community, focus on student welfare and inclusive environment that creates an unrivalled experience for all its undergraduates.

You can visit Brasenose College free of charge between 9 am and 5 pm by reporting to the Lodge at the main gate.

New College

Norrington Table with an outstanding 79.1% score, New College is not only one of Oxford’s oldest colleges but also one of its most beautiful – not least because it was thought to be the first college to admit undergraduate students.

New College building at Oxford University

Besides students, many people don’t know the full name of the college “The College of St Mary of Winchester”. Situated on Holywell Street, gives students access to various green spaces including university parks with J.R.R. Tolkien benches lining them that offer scenic views over Cherwell River. Furthermore, its prime location provides easy access to Oxford University facilities and libraries.

New College map, Oxford

New College puts a strong focus on student mental health and well-being, encouraging them to explore their interests through a diverse selection of clubs and societies ranging from sporting clubs to choir/chamber orchestra practices, drama societies, LGBTQ+ societies, women’s groups, BAME society memberships and course-specific organizations.

New College students take great pleasure in participating in competitive and leisure punting activities from March through October utilising its five traditional punts in its idyllic riverside location.

Dinning hall at New College Oxford

Dining Hall is the oldest in Oxford or Cambridge. It’s also the tallest hall – 50 feet. With the weekly formal dinners, you will have a very traditional Oxbridge experience.

St Catherine’s College

Situated among lush green spaces, St Catherine’s College (St Catz) stands out as an Oxford college with its contemporary aesthetic combining Grade 1 listed buildings for an immersive atmosphere that stands apart from others. Find it on Manor Road near Oxford’s city centre, the popular St Catz offers an almost equal balance of courses between arts and sciences programmes.

St Catherine’s College is widely respected for its dedication to student welfare, offering ongoing assistance throughout a student’s academic journey; many remain close with tutors long after graduating.

St Catherine College, Oxford

Tutorials are usually given to students individually, in pairs, or very small groups. 

St Catherine’s stands out as Oxford University’s largest and youngest college, representing an inclusive ethos with the motto, “Nova et Vetera.” It has a very cosmopolitan community with over 50 nations. While honouring its traditions, St Catherine’s embraces modern society by constantly adapting and evolving with it.

If you plan to live at campus accommodation for your entire studies, then St Catz is ideal for you. Most undergraduate students live there for three years. There are over 470 bedrooms for students to live in. Living on campus is convenient because it’s close to places like the library, dining hall, common room, and gym.

St Catz welcomes visitors year-round, giving potential students the chance to attend open days, meet tutors and staff, as well as experience its facilities and vibrant student environment.


Worcester College was established in 1714, providing both historical significance and modern amenities in one seamless package. Once located on the outskirts of Oxford, today it occupies a prime position off Walton Street close to shops, cafes, and bars while maintaining 26 acres of greenspace grounds.

Worcester College stands out as an Oxford social centre due to its active student body of undergraduates and postgraduates, who both come together through its Junior Common Room (JCR) committee to organise events including popular BOPs (Buffet of Popcorn) gatherings – creating an engaging social atmosphere and lively campus life experience for its residents.

Worcester College map, Oxford

Worcester College stands out due to its breathtaking grounds, featuring manicured gardens, an on-site lake, and extensive sporting facilities. These serene surroundings provide the ideal setting for sporting activities, social gatherings and relaxation among friends – the college hosts annual events such as “Worcester in the Park,” with student performances and refreshing Pimms served during summer months.

Prospective students may visit Worcester College between 9 am and 5 pm from Monday through Sunday. Although not necessary, booking in advance is highly recommended to guarantee availability and avoid disappointment.

Balliol College

Oxford’s Balliol (pronounced ‘bay-lee-ol’) college boasts one of the oldest academic institutions worldwide as well as being co-founded by women – making it one of Oxford University’s largest colleges with a long and storied history.

Balliol College is widely known for its great academic results, with 40% of students attaining first-class honours degrees in 2019. Balliol’s strong academic life tutorial system fosters close cooperation between tutors and students to encourage intellectual growth and support student success.

Balliol College at University of Oxford

Balliol students enjoy easy access to Oxford city centre on Broad Street, including bars, cafes, shops and theatres.

One of Balliol’s signature attractions is its student-run Lindsey Bar, an establishment run by students and led by an elected member of the JCR known as Lord or Lady Lindsey. Renowned for its affordable prices, this daily open establishment hosts regular events while still featuring its well-known jukebox and games machine to add vibrancy and fun to Balliol’s lively social scene.

Balliol College welcomes visitors year-round, charging an admission fee to non-prospective students but offering free entry for prospective students. 

However, due to college events which may limit our open times during certain dates of visitation, it is wise to contact visitor information in advance and arrange your visit accordingly.

Harris Manchester College

Harris Manchester College (HMC), Oxford’s only college dedicated exclusively to accommodating undergraduate and postgraduate students aged 21 or over, stands out as an outstanding option among colleges for mature students. 

HMC understands the unique needs of mature learners pursuing higher education at later stages in life – whether embarking on second or third degrees, changing career tracks, or seeking career advice – making HMC one of the premier Oxford colleges for mature students.

HMC’s central location on Mansfield Road provides easy access to Oxford’s bustling city centre as well as peaceful green spaces like The Grove – offering the ideal balance between urban vibrancy and tranquillity.

HMC stands out with its radical approach, epitomised in the motto, “Truth, Liberty and Religion”. Established for those renouncing particular denominations’ beliefs, HMC remains a space for open expression and learning that places inclusivity and diversity at its centre.

You can attend open days for tours of the college grounds and talks from tutors and staff, giving them a glimpse of their campus as well as experiencing its welcoming atmosphere firsthand. 

St Anne’s College

As the first Oxford college to admit women and promote woman leadership, St Anne’s College continues to rank as one of the best Oxford colleges for female education

One of the biggest colleges at Oxford University with over 70 nations and 450+ students. Since it is large, the community has students of all ages studying different subjects. This makes it easy to find help if you need it, whether it’s for an essay or a problem set.

St Anne’s has an active social life right on campus. While Oxford has many bars and restaurants for students, St Anne’s itself has a bar on campus that hosts fun events like karaoke, open mic nights, quizzes and more.

Even though St Anne’s is quite big, the community feels very close and friendly. All students are guaranteed accommodation on campus for 3 years during their degree programme.

Offers a tranquil environment just minutes away from Oxford city centre, close to university parks where JRR Tolkien’s famed bench offers views across River Cherwell.

5 Best Oxford colleges for UK and International students
5 Best Oxford Colleges

Oxford Colleges Acceptance Rate 

The acceptance rate at Oxford Colleges is quite low, with only about one in four applicants being offered a place. According to Oxford’s official Annual Admission Statistical report, in the 2022 academic year, the overall acceptance rate was 13.73%.

This low acceptance rate is due to the highly competitive nature of Oxford University and the large number of Oxbridge applications it receives from highly qualified students.

However, the acceptance rate varies by college and course, so it’s important to research the specific programme you are interested in to get a more accurate idea of the chances of acceptance.

The acceptance rate of Oxford colleges for UK and international students in 2022 is:

  • UK applicants – 18.7%
  • EU applicants – 6%
  • International students (non-EU) – 7.8%

Below is a table with more data regarding the Oxford acceptance rate and offers being made by the university.

StudentsApplicationsOffersAcceptance rate

Acceptance Rate by College

According to the Oxford Annual Admission Report, the two most oversubscribed colleges for the 2019-2021 period are Worcester, Keble and Brasenose. Also, these three have the lowest acceptance rate Worcester – 10.8%, Brasenose – 12.5%, and Keble 13.7%. 

Oxford colleges with the highest acceptance rate are St Hugh’s College – 29.2% and St Hilda’s College – 31.7%. 

Below is the table with the acceptance rate for each college. 

CollegeAcceptance rate
Balliol College16.5%
Brasenose College12.5%
Christ Church20.1%
Corpus Christi College24.8%
Exeter College18.9%
Hertford College19.8%
Jesus College21.4%
Keble College13.7%
Lady Margaret Hall19.6%
Lincoln College21.5%
Magdalen College15.4%
Mansfield College22.8%
Merton College16.8%
New College22.2%
Oriel College21.1%
Pembroke College20.0%
Somerville College25.4%
St Anne’s College25.3%
St Catherine’s College20.7%
St Edmund Hall25.3%
St Hilda’s College31.7%
St Hugh’s College29.2%
St John’s College14.0%
St Peter’s College22.9%
The Ǫueen’s College21.0%
Trinity College20.2%
University College22.8%
Wadham College22.6%
Worcester College10.8%

Acceptance Rate by Subject

For three years total, 2019-2021, the most oversubscribed courses are medicine, law, physics, and mathematics. Below is the table is the acceptance rate by subject for Oxford colleges in 3 years period (2019-2021). 

SubjectsAcceptance rate
Biomedical Sciences13%
Computer Science6%
Earth Sciences42%
Economics & Management9%
Engineering Science26%
Experimental Psychology20%
History & Politics14%
Materials Science40%
Mathematics & Computer Science8%
Modern Languages43%
Oriental Studies31%
Theology and Religion38%

Learn more in our guide:

Oxford Collegiate System

The Oxford Collegiate system is a unique system of student support and guidance that is designed to help students make the most of their time at Oxford University.

It is based on the idea that students should be supported and guided by their peers, rather than relying solely on faculty members.

The system works by assigning each student to a college, which acts as their home base for the duration of their studies. Each college has its own set of rules and regulations, as well as a range of activities and services available to its members.

Students are encouraged to take part in these activities and services, which can include academic support, social events, sports teams, clubs and societies.

New students need to familiarise themselves with the rules and regulations of their college before they arrive at the University of Oxford. They should also take advantage of the resources available to them through their colleges, such as academic support services or social events.

Finally, they should make sure they get involved in the activities offered by their college so that they can make the most out of their time at Oxford.

The Most Popular Oxford Colleges 

Oxford University is made up of 38 colleges and 6 permanent private halls. The colleges are self-governing and financially independent institutions, each with its distinctive character and traditions.

Some of the most well-known colleges at Oxford University include Christ Church, Magdalen College, Balliol College, and Merton College.

Ultimately, the best college for you will depend on your personal preferences and academic interests. This is our list of the most popular colleges at Oxford University:

  • Christ Church
  • Magdalen College
  • New College
  • St. John’s College
  • Trinity College
  • Worcester College
  • Balliol College
  • University College
  • Merton College
  • Exeter College

Recommended reading:

The Best Oxford Colleges for Law 

Brasenose College is one of the colleges at Oxford with the strongest reputation for law programmes. It has a dedicated law library and a law faculty that includes many distinguished scholars. There are more High Court judges produced by Brasenose than at any other institution.

Read our full guide: The Best Oxford Colleges for Law

In addition to having a long history of top lawyers teaching there, it also has a two-room law library, so you do most of your reading without having to trek to St Cross.

It also has a highly regarded law society, the Ellesmere Society. It took about twice as many lawyers as other colleges, and about 10% of students were studying law.

The Best Oxford Colleges for Medicine 

The best Oxford Colleges for Medicine are Christ Church, Magdalen, and St. John’s. All three of these colleges have excellent reputations for medical studies and offer a range of courses in the field.

Christ Church is one of the oldest and most prestigious colleges at Oxford, and it has a long history of excellence in medical studies. It offers a range of courses in medicine, including pre-clinical and clinical studies. Magdalen College is also highly regarded for its medical courses, with a focus on research and teaching.

St. John’s College has an excellent reputation for its medical courses, with a strong emphasis on clinical practice. All three colleges have excellent facilities and resources to support students studying medicine at Oxford.

Notable alumni of these three colleges in medicine include Sir William Osler (Christ Church), Sir Alexander Fleming (Magdalen), and Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins (St. John’s). All three of these individuals made significant contributions to the field of medicine, and their work is still highly regarded today.

The overall acceptance rate for Oxford colleges in medicine is very low, with an average of around 13%.

The Best Oxford Colleges For Maths

Some of the colleges at Oxford with a reputation for excellence in mathematics are:

Balliol College: Balliol is one of the oldest and most prestigious colleges at Oxford, and it has a strong reputation for mathematics. Many well-known mathematicians have studied or taught at Balliol.

Magdalen College: Magdalen is another top-ranked college at Oxford with a strong tradition in mathematics. It has a large and active mathematics community, and many of its students go on to study or work in mathematics and related fields after graduation.

St. John’s College: St. John’s is a college with a long history of excellence in mathematics. It has a thriving mathematics community and is home to many notable mathematicians and scientists.

Trinity College: Trinity is a college with a strong reputation for mathematics and science, and it has produced many notable mathematicians over the years. Its students have access to a range of mathematical resources and opportunities, including a dedicated mathematics library and a math club.

Merton College: Merton is a college with a strong tradition in mathematics and many notable mathematicians among its alumni. It has a thriving mathematics community and is home to a range of mathematical resources and opportunities for students.

Some notable alumni who made significant contributions to the field of mathematics from these colleges are

John Horton Conway mathematician is known for his contributions to combinatorial game theory and the creation of the “Conway’s Game of Life” cellular automaton, studied at Balliol College. Andrew Wiles, a mathematician who proved Fermat’s Last Theorem graduated from Magdalen.

Famous scientist and mathematician, Sir Isaac Newton, is known for his contributions to calculus, optics, and the laws of motion studied at Trinity College.

Best Oxford Colleges For History

Oxford University has a strong reputation for its history programmes, and several colleges are particularly well-known for their history offerings. Some of the best colleges for history at Oxford University include

Balliol College has a long history of excellence in the study of history, with many distinguished historians among its alumni and faculty. It offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate courses in history, as well as a strong research culture.

Christ Church is one of the largest and most famous colleges at Oxford University, and it has a strong reputation for its history programs. It offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses in history, as well as a range of extracurricular activities for history students.

Magdalen College is known for its beautiful gardens and riverside location, and it also has a strong reputation for its history programs. It offers a range of undergraduate and graduate courses in history, as well as a strong research culture and a vibrant student community.

Merton College has a long history of excellence in the study of history, and it offers a range of undergraduate and graduate courses in the subject. It also has a strong research culture and a vibrant student community.

St. John’s College is one of the largest and most prestigious colleges at Oxford University, and it has a strong reputation for its history programs. It offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate courses in history, as well as a strong research culture and a vibrant student community.

Best Oxford Colleges For English

The best Oxford college for English lectures is Magdalen College. It has a long history of excellence in English literature and has produced some of the most influential writers in the world, including J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Oscar Wilde.

The college also offers a range of courses in English literature and language, as well as seminars and tutorials with leading academics in the field.


Which Oxford College is easiest to get into?

The easiest Oxford college to get into is Hilda’s. The University of Oxford has a system called ‘pooling’. The admissions tutor may send your Oxbridge application to other colleges if a course placed at one college fills up, but they still think you are a strong candidate.

Which Oxford College has the best reputation?

One of the most popular Oxford colleges for students is the castle-like Christ Church. There are several Harry Potter filming locations at the college, including Christ Church Cathedral.