The Pros and Cons of Studying at Oxford Colleges

Oxford Colleges Pros and Cons

The University of Oxford is composed of 44 colleges including Permanent Private Halls (PPHs), each with a distinct history, architecture, and ethos. Choosing an Oxford college is an important decision, as the college shapes your student experience. Each Oxford college has its pros and cons.

As a future Oxford student, researching the pros and cons of different colleges is crucial to finding the right fit based on your priorities and needs. Some students value location and facilities, while others prefer an intimate, tight-knit community.

For some, costs and food options matter more. Each college also has a particular academic emphasis or strength in certain subjects.

This guide explores the pros and cons of Oxford Colleges. 

Pros and Cons Oxford Colleges

Below are the pros and cons of Oxford Colleges. This guide is updating ofter bad and good things of Oxford colleges, trying to cover the pros and cons for every Oxford college.

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Merton College Pros and Cons

Pros and cons of Merton college in Oxford

Pros

Merton College, founded in 1264, is one of the oldest and most distinguished colleges at Oxford University. With its stunning architecture, picturesque gardens and welcoming atmosphere, Merton attracts students from all over the world. The college is small and intimate, with around 90 undergraduates enrolling each year and a total of 300 graduate students.

Financially well-supported, the college’s JCR has an annual budget of £30,000 and provides a range of welfare and entertainment options for students. Moreover, Merton offers some of the best and most affordable food in the university, with daily meal options and fantastic Sunday brunches.

Academically, Merton has an excellent reputation and has consistently topped the Norrington Table in recent years. The college provides ample financial assistance in the form of bursaries, grants and scholarships. Located close to the town centre and backing onto Christ Church Meadows, Merton’s location is both serene and convenient.

Merton is known for its lively social scene, with fortnightly Bops that last longer and are larger than most other colleges. The college also provides a games room, an affordable bar, and a fully-equipped fitness room for students. Rich in tradition and academic support, Merton offers excellent welfare provisions and has been cited as a model for other colleges to follow.

Cons

Despite its many advantages, Merton College does have some drawbacks. The college has a lower proportion of black students compared to some other colleges. The college has also faced criticism for the forced retirement of staff at the age of 65.

Merton’s historical architecture means that smoking is restricted in covered areas and passageways, and the college may experience occasional power cuts. While tutors at the college have a reputation for being intimidating, this is true for many Oxford colleges.

The on-campus bar is not as appealing as nearby pubs and first-year students have limited access to kitchen facilities. Merton students may also face negative stereotypes as workaholics, which can be tiresome to address.

Certain rules at Merton, such as walking on the grass in specific areas and gathering in large groups, can be seen as arbitrary, though these are mostly ignored. Finally, the college’s proximity to the exam schools can be both a blessing and a curse. While convenient for art students, the noise and mess from post-exam celebrations can be disruptive during the summer term.

St John’s College Pros and Cons

St John’s College in Oxford is one of the top colleges in the prestigious Oxford University, offering world-class education and facilities. However, as with any educational institution, there are some advantages as well as potential downsides to consider.

Pros and Cons St John's College in Oxford Univeristy

Pros:

Firstly, St John’s College has an ideal central location within Oxford, close to various academic departments, amenities, and attractions. Accommodation is available on-site for the entire duration of the study, fostering a tight-knit community. Costs at St John’s College are lower compared to other colleges, including affordable accommodation, meals, and generous grants. There are also excellent facilities, such as sports facilities, libraries, and common rooms. Numerous social events provide opportunities for students to connect.

Cons:

Admissions to St John’s College are highly competitive, and the application process can be challenging. Tuition and living costs in Oxford are high, especially for international students. The academic workload is demanding and intensive, which can lead to stress. The relatively small college size may limit diversity and options for some. Sports facilities are good but maybe basic for some. High academic expectations can also create pressure to excel which may overwhelm some students.

Lincoln College Pros and Cons

Lincoln College is one of the smaller, central colleges of Oxford University, offering a prestigious education and experience. However, as with any school, there are some advantages and potential disadvantages to consider.

Pros:

Firstly, Lincoln College has an ideal location right in the heart of Oxford, close to shops, restaurants and University facilities. The small, intimate size cultivates a friendly, tight-knit community where students support each other. The college has attractive architecture and provides accommodation for all years of study. It has an impressive library, bar and gym facilities. Students are actively engaged in college life and University activities. College “families” create close bonds between students.

Cons:

The food quality and service in the hall are poor and the options are limited for those with dietary requirements or who miss dinner. The bar is closed on Saturdays. Not all staff are paid a living wage. Only half of the freshers live on the main college site. Prices for accommodation and meals are expensive. The small, close-knit community may feel insular or claustrophobic for some. Limited self-catering facilities mean few options if you miss dinner. The admissions officer has been described as rude.

Balliol College Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Central Location: Balliol is located right in the heart of Oxford, within easy walking distance of all university facilities, shops, and restaurants.
  • Active Student Life: Balliol has an incredibly active student body that organizes social events, charity initiatives, and student support programs. There are always people socializing in the Junior Common Room and Buttery café.
  • Owned and Operated Amenities: Balliol runs its café, bar, accommodation, and more. The café and bar in particular are popular spots for students to gather, chat, and grab an affordable meal or drink.
  • Academic Excellence: Balliol provides high-quality academic support with abundant library resources, tutors, and funding for study and research. There are opportunities to pursue a wide range of subjects and interests.
  • Ample Extracurricular Options: Balliol encourages students to participate in sports, music, drama, journalism, and other societies and activities. Whatever students are interested in, Balliol aims to provide opportunities to pursue those interests.
  • Student Support: Balliol offers financial, practical and well-being support for all of its students to enable their success and enjoyment of the college experience.
  • Friendly, Thriving Environment: Balliol fosters a laid-back, supportive community where students can grow personally and pursue their goals and interests.

Cons

  • Heavy Tourist Traffic: Balliol’s attractiveness and history mean lots of tourists passing through, which can disrupt the peaceful college atmosphere at times.
  • Funding Difficulties: Since many facilities and services are student-run, they frequently experience financial losses and deficits that can impact operations.
  • Limited Accommodation: While Balliol does provide accommodation, the options within the college itself are quite minimal. Most students move out into private housing after their first year.
  • Maintenance and Security Issues: Students report problems with slow response times for maintenance requests as well as lax security monitoring, especially at night. There is a perceived lack of visitor access control.
  • Other concerns include an imbalance in the male-to-female student ratio, high additional fees, and variable quality in student-organized events. However, the opportunity to be part of the Balliol community and experience all it has to offer is seen by most as worth overcoming these potential downsides. 

Balliol comes highly recommended for an engaging and fulfilling student experience at Oxford.

Christ Church College Pros and Cons

Christ Church is one of the most popular colleges in Oxford, and it has a lot to offer its students. Here are some pros and cons of studying at Christ Church College:

Pros

  • Christ Church College is well-known for its stunning architecture and beautiful grounds, which include the famous “Harry Potter” dining hall. Students have the opportunity to enjoy the serene atmosphere of Tom Quad, which features a pond with koi fish.
  • The college is home to a cathedral, which is a must-visit for anyone interested in religious history. The chapel choir is also located on-site, making it easy to attend their performances.
  • With the Christ Church meadow and river located right next to the college, students can enjoy jogging in beautiful scenery or taking early morning boat rides from the boathouse.
  • The Christ Church Picture Gallery is free for university members and features works by renowned artists such as Leonardo, Durer, Lippi, and Tintoretto.
  • The college offers a formal hall every day, including weekends, with affordable prices for a three-course meal. Students can also enjoy relaxed dress codes under a gown, except for twice-termly ‘Guest Dinners’ when everyone dresses up and the food becomes Michelin Star quality.
  • Informal hall also takes place every day, with an earlier sitting than Formal Hall. The food is generally very good and sometimes ambitious.
  • Each student is entitled to a free cake each term, which is funded by JCR money. Students can choose from a variety of flavours and have their cake delivered within a couple of days.
  • The college offers free food every Sunday in the JCR funded by welfare money, and there are good takeaway vans outside Tom Gate most evenings.
  • Accommodation is provided for the entirety of a student’s course, and the college offers vacation residence, which is extremely generous and flexible.
  • All rooms in college (and out-of-college rooms) cost the same, making it easier for students to budget their expenses.
  • Christ Church College has a dedicated law library that is open 24 hours, as well as bike sheds that are secure and convenient.
  • The college has a large year, making it easy for students to find a friendship group. It also has a strong rowing tradition and college punts available for students to use.
  • Christ Church College is a very wealthy college, so it offers numerous grants, awards, and a very generous book grant. The college will also pay for students to stay in Oxford over the vacation if needed for academic reasons.
  • The college has a very friendly, sociable atmosphere, with good Entz and a very good welfare system, including the availability of a chaplain to help with any issues.
  • The college is well-located, just around the corner from the High Street and two minutes from Cornmarket. There are several supermarkets and gyms located nearby.

Cons

  • The library’s collection of books can be quite limited in certain academic areas, and rather dated, although they are willing to buy new books. The opening hours can also be limited, with the library closing at 1 am.
  • The college has a “rah” stereotype, which should be ignored as it isn’t true.
  • The college has had a few racism scandals in recent years, which made it to varying levels of national news, causing the student community to become toxic.
  • There are virtually no cooking facilities on the main college site, making it challenging to cook meals aside from hall food, which can be hit-and-miss. However, there are cooking facilities if you live in Liddell or St. Aldates Quad (2nd and 3rd years).
  • The Scholar’s ballot makes it difficult for arts and humanities students to get good rooms in later years.
  • Union elections can be overwhelming, and students may feel pressured to vote for certain candidates.
  • The college’s Picture Gallery got robbed earlier this year.
  • Tourists can be very annoying during open hours, but they can’t access most of the college and don’t have much of an impact on daily life.

Corpus Christi College Pros and Cons

Pros

Corpus Christi College is a smaller college in Oxford, but it has a lot to offer its students. One of the unique aspects of the college is its mascot, the Pelican, which is beloved by students. The small size of the college creates a close-knit community, so students will know absolutely everyone. The beer cellar is excellent, with a good atmosphere and decent prices, creating a perfect setting for socializing. The JCR is very sociable, and formal halls are generally held once a week, making them enjoyable. The food is generally pretty good, and the new chef since 2019 is really good.

The college has an excellent library that is open 24/7 and has been described as a modern “wonder of the world” by Erasmus. There is a silence policy, making it an excellent place to study. The world-famous annual Tortoise Fair is held at the college, as seen on Blue Peter! Another unique feature of the college is the expanding Corpus Cinema which provides free DVD rental and film nights. The college also has an annual Corpus Challenge sports tournament against Corpus Christi, Cambridge. Students can walk on the grass, and the college has lovely gardens.

Accommodation is provided for all three or four years of a student’s degree, although not necessarily in town or on the actual college site. The college has a central location, making it easy to access everything Oxford has to offer. The college is known for its being the best gardener in Oxford.

Cons

There are also some cons to studying at Corpus Christi College. The rent can rise by up to 9%. There was an incident where £1300 disappeared from the room of the JCR Treasurer. The college suspended its subscription to the Oxford Student after an article concerning debauchery, anti-Semitism, and nepotism witnessed at the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA)’s events heavily featured members of Corpus’ JCR. The college wants to create a ‘Conservative rep’ on their Equal Opportunities Committee to represent right-wing opinions, which may not be appealing to everyone. There have also been instances where people tore down LGBTQ pride flags in college.

The bar is too small and a little too quiet, making it less appealing for pre-drinking or trying to get wasted. The college doesn’t pay all employees the Living Wage, and there are minimum £50 fines for bad behaviour. There is a lack of applications for the JCR committee, and the college is bad at sports, not winning a cricket game for 5 years. Boppers once climbed on the roof but couldn’t get down, so fire engines were called. There was a mumps outbreak just before exams. The college is relatively unnoticed by the rest of the students in the university, and the beer cellar is pretty quiet compared to other college bars and quite small. The college also has below-average famous alumni.

Due to its small size, the college can seem a bit insular, and formals are gownless, which may bother some students. A Christ Church student once mistook the Oldham Jackson Building for the college because she thought that the main college site was “more of Christ Church.” There is no grass in the sun dial Quad.

Brasenose College Pros and Cons

Located in the heart of Oxford, Brasenose College offers an exceptional college experience for its students. In this blog post, we will explore the pros and cons of choosing Brasenose College for your undergraduate degree.

Pros

Prime Location – Brasenose College boasts one of the best locations in Oxford, situated on Radcliffe Square and High Street. This central position means that everything you need is within a 15-minute walk, including the Frewin annexe, which is conveniently located near Oxford Union.

Guaranteed Accommodation – All undergraduate students are guaranteed accommodation throughout their degree, with first-year students living in the main college, second-year students in Frewin, and third/fourth-year students split between the two. Unlike other colleges, Brasenose offers central Oxford accommodation for all its students.

Beautiful Architecture – The college’s stunning castle-style buildings, combined with its picturesque quads, make it a visually appealing place to live and study.

Close-knit Community – With a small, cosy atmosphere, Brasenose offers a strong sense of community. Freshers live close to each other, making it easy to form lasting friendships.

Impressive JCR – The recently refurbished JCR (Junior Common Room) features a pool, arcade machines, vending machines, and Sky TV, making it one of the best JCRs in Oxford.

Wealthy College and Great Entz – As a financially well-off college, Brasenose hosts enjoyable events and boasts a lively social atmosphere.

Excellent Dining Options – The college cafe, Gerties, offers delicious, affordable food throughout the day, while the college’s main dining hall provides tasty meals at low prices.

Low Hierarchy and Informal Atmosphere – Brasenose College maintains a relaxed environment, where students can easily interact with the Principal and other staff members.

Rich Traditions and Notable Alumni – The college is steeped in history and traditions, and its alumni include famous figures like Michael Palin and William Golding.

Cons

Expensive Accommodation – While guaranteed, Brasenose College’s accommodation is not the cheapest in Oxford.

Limited Kitchen Facilities – First-year rooms only have access to a microwave and fridge, with no proper kitchens available in the college.

Average Hall Food – The food in the college’s main dining hall can be unappetizing, leading to sparse attendance.

Lack of Internal Phones – Unlike some colleges, Brasenose does not provide internal phones for its students.

Noise from High Street Rooms – Rooms facing High Street can be noisy due to traffic and pedestrian activity.

Limited Political Engagement – The JCR’s political side is not very active, and students tend to be apathetic towards college politics.

No On-site Gym – Brasenose College doesn’t have its gym, but it provides membership to the well-equipped Iffley Road gym.

Brasenose College offers a well-rounded college experience with a prime location, guaranteed accommodation, and a strong sense of community. However, there are some drawbacks, such as the cost of accommodation and limited kitchen facilities. Overall, the pros outweigh the cons, making Brasenose an excellent choice for prospective students.

Exeter College Pros and Cons

Exeter College located in the heart of Oxford has a long and rich history dating back to 1314. This prestigious college offers a wonderful collegiate experience, however, like any place it has its pros and cons.

Pros:

Exeter College provides an intimate learning environment due to its small size. Students get to know each other and form close-knit friendships. The college’s location on Turl Street is perfect, situated in the city centre yet quiet and peaceful. Exeter boasts an exquisite chapel and grand hall where students can attend formal dinners a few times a week. Three meals are served daily for students with brunch and dinner available on weekends.

Exeter has an active LGBTQ community that hosts regular social events. The college has a tradition of LGBTQ fellows and staff. Exeter also has a feminist magazine and community. The rector frequently organizes seminars on various topics with guest experts.

Many notable authors studied at Exeter like Philip Pullman, Alan Bennett and J.R.R. Tolkien. The college has an excellent library open 24/7, especially for historians. Exeter arguably has the best mixed-voice choir in Oxford. Students founded a charity called ExVac that organizes holidays for underprivileged children in the area.

The beautiful Fellows’ Garden offers stunning views of Radcliffe Square and All Souls’ College. Exeter has an exciting nightlife and social scene. The college fields competitive sports teams and has a gym on-site with the University gym nearby. Exeter hosts fun bops and balls with live music and activities.

Second-year students and some third-year live off-campus in shared housing. This provides more independence and a chance to cook meals without moving out each term. Exeter focuses on students’ academic welfare and support. The small, tight-knit community means no one feels lonely or forgotten.

Cons:

Exeter College hosted a conference by a homophobic Christian group that promotes ‘conversion therapy’ and considers homosexuality immoral like paedophilia. The college was accused of discrimination in hiring and does not pay all staff a living wage. Students received warnings about joking online regarding ketamine. A mumps outbreak occurred before exams one year.

Students had to temporarily relocate to a hotel at £115 per night during renovations, although the college covered the costs. Asbestos and asbestos-containing materials were found in some student rooms. Hall meals are not the most affordable following the removal of the catering charge. Prices rose to £3.90 for a main dish with sides, higher than other colleges.

While the choir is outstanding, Exeter is not considered exceptionally notable in other areas. This can be appealing to newcomers but may deter some. Staircases lack kitchens with only one communal kitchen by the JCR.

Overall, Exeter College has a charming atmosphere, beneficial resources and a community. However, some practices and facilities could improve to better support students. For many, the pros outweigh the cons at this historic Oxford institution.

Harris Manchester College Pros and Cons

Harris Manchester College is the smallest college at Oxford University with around 250 students and faculty. Its intimate size fosters a tight-knit, friendly community where year groups mix well and it can be hard to determine what year students are in. However, the small scale may feel claustrophobic for some.

Pros:

The architecture at Harris Manchester is stunning with attractive buildings and grounds. The college hosts active Wine and Film societies and regular social events like bops. Harris Manchester provides the same high-quality meals to students and faculty, considered by some to be the best food among Oxford colleges.

The location could not be more convenient, situated within 5 minutes of the Bodleian Library, University Parks, shopping areas and more. All students have access to a shared or en suite kitchen and bathroom. The college offers housing for all first-years, third-years and some second-years who choose to live in. Since there is no gym on-site, the college provides gold membership to two nearby gyms. Harris Manchester pairs with Wadham College for sports so students can still participate.

The library, while small, has a good selection of resources for such a small college. Book grants of £140 and £50 are available for undergraduates and graduates respectively.

Cons:

Harris Manchester is the second poorest college at Oxford per student. The college controversially emailed members to “remain vigilant” after a black student entered, suggesting he could endanger their “safe environment” despite also being an Oxford student. The college does not pay all staff a living wage. Charges for room and board (battels) are higher compared to most colleges.

No meals are provided on weekends, though kitchens help address this. The college cannot afford as many lavish events like balls that other colleges host, but organizes other social activities. There is little green space within the college, however, the nearby University Parks compensate for this.

While intimate, Harris Manchester College provides a supportive community, quality resources and amenities. However, the small scale and budget constraints pose some difficulties. For students seeking close relationships in a picturesque setting at the heart of Oxford, Harris Manchester has much to offer. With continued progress in addressing issues like racial injustice and fair pay, this college could become a model for inclusiveness and ethical practice.

Hertford College: Pros and Cons

Hertford College is centrally located within Oxford, providing easy access to resources, facilities and amenities. All student housing for the duration of study is offered and provided by the college, mostly within proximity. The college and library are open and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The formal hall at Hertford is considered among the best at Oxford. Internet connectivity and resources are high quality throughout the college.

Pros:

Hertford fosters a tight-knit and supportive college community. Student rooms have free internet and phone access. The formal hall offers PAYG meals paid for in advance. While regular hall food is unremarkable, meals at Warnock House for upperclassmen are excellent. Students have 24-hour access to the iconic Bridge of Sighs. The small size means there are always friendly faces around.

The JCR includes recreational activities like pool, table tennis and video games. Generous bursaries assist students in need. Hertford has a reputation for promoting diversity and equality, admitting women early on. The college bar serves affordable drinks and has multiple rooms. Hertford’s gym has high-quality equipment and resources for strength and cardio training at no cost. Simpkin, the college cat, brings students joy.

Cons:

A Hertford drinking society produced a sexist list ranking incoming female students to target for drunken parties. Hertford has the second-highest rate of break-ins, theft and property damage. The college circulated a list of hundreds of rejected applicants. Despite overwhelming opposition, Hertford privatized its formerly student-run bar. The college’s drainage system overflowed, flooding the kitchen with sewage at one point. Repeated vandalism has occurred in the JCR.

Hertford failed to offer the Reach Scholarship for students from developing countries. A tutor claimed wrongful dismissal after receiving a contract allowing termination within one day’s notice. Spaces at Hertford can feel cramped. Very few kitchens are available, though some floors and staircases have fridges and microwaves. Regular hall meals remain unpopular, though improving. The location in a tourist hotspot can be bothersome at times, though a reality for most of Oxford.

Hertford College provides community, amenities and a central location, however, issues like privacy violations, discrimination and subpar conditions demand remedy. For students seeking lifelong friends and memories in an iconic setting, Hertford has potential. With progress in inclusion, transparency, facilities and overall well-being, this college could become a leader in ethical and holistic education.

Jesus College Pros and Cons

Jesus College, located on Turl Street, is a popular choice for many students. With a small student body of around 95 people per year, there is a strong sense of community and a great opportunity to get to know people across different years. Here are some of the Pros and Cons of studying at Jesus College.

Pros:

One of the biggest advantages of studying at Jesus College is the active JCR, which offers something for everyone to get involved with. The JCR is a great way to meet new people and be a part of the college community. Jesus College is also quite rich for its size, so meals and rents are well subsidised, with current rents around £850 per term.

Accommodation is provided for all three years at Jesus College, as the college owns two large blocks of flats on Woodstock Road and Cowley Road. This means that students have a guaranteed place to live throughout their degree. The college also has rooms on the new staircases which are a very good size.

Jesus College has a great sports scene, with teams for most sports such as football, rugby, netball, hockey, rowing, lacrosse, and more. There are also bar parties and college bops organized throughout the term.

The college library is open 24 hours, making it a convenient place to study and work on essays. And for those who need a break, the college bar is one of the best in Oxford, with a stunning chilled underground vibe featuring a UV room.

Jesus College also has a great music room above staircase 18 which has one of the nicest views in central Oxford. The chapel choir is all-inclusive, with no auditions required, and there are events organised during the term for LGBT+ students.

Cons:

One of the downsides of Jesus College is the gender imbalance, with 56% male and 44% female students. The college has also been criticized for the low number of black students admitted, with white candidates being three and a half times more likely to get in, according to The Guardian.

The college size is small, and some students may feel suffocated at times. The years are split between the Jericho and Cowley Road sites, which can be a disadvantage for those who prefer to be in one location. The Cowley Road site is also quite far from the centre of town and not in the nicest of areas to be walking back through late at night.

The Jesus ball is held with Somerville at their college, which means that students will never have a ball within the college. Another downside is that all in-college rooms (first years only) are catered only, and the college does not serve food on a Saturday night.

While the college library is a great place to study, the bar is situated directly below it, which can be distracting for those who need to work on a Friday night. During exams, the upper Merrick can become a mess, and agency staff hired for the hall may set up for formal hall early, making it hard to get a seat at dinner.

Keble College Pros and Cons

Keble College is one of the largest colleges within the University of Oxford, with a lot to offer to its students. Below are the pros and cons of studying at Keble College based on student feedback.

Pros

Keble College has a larger social and sporting atmosphere, with lots of social events and BOPs held twice a term or more with intercollegiate ones. The 60s bar is a great place to socialize with friends and enjoy great cocktails. Recently, the bar has undergone regeneration and now offers special nights with cheaper drinks and weekly special cocktails.

The college also hosts a ball every year, with the ball committee truly excelling themselves every time. The hall serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a formal hall every Tuesday and alternating Thursday/Friday nights. The Cafe is open every day, offering sandwiches, paninis, snacks, cereals, toast, proper machine coffee, and cold drinks.

Keble College guarantees accommodation for first and second years, with almost all rooms en-suite. The college is in a great location, within a 10-15 minute walk of almost all departments and attractions within Oxford. The library is large and has a lot of seating, and books can be loaned for the whole term. The JCR has a brand new LCD TV and a ping pong table, making it a great location for a drop-in with friends.

The college also has a lot of sports teams and societies, with rugby, rowing, and football being very prominent. There is also a 200-capacity theatre within the college that has played almost every week.

Cons

Keble College has had some controversies in the past, such as banning ‘Blinds’ events whereby 2nd years invite all of their subject freshers to a party where subject-related drinking games are played and imposing £200 fines for violating the ban. The college also paid out hundreds of thousands of pounds after a tribunal ruled an ex-employee had been unfairly dismissed and racially discriminated against.

The library atmosphere is very strict, with the Dean threatening that ‘there will be no second offences’ even for whispering. There have also been incidents of theft, such as intruders who broke in and stole a valuable candlestick from the college chapel. The college doesn’t pay all employees the Living Wage and has asbestos or asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) on site.

In terms of accommodation, prices are quite expensive, and all belongings need to be moved out over holidays except for fridges, which can be a real pain if you live abroad or have to catch the train. There are no kitchen facilities for first or second years, the only options being hall, eating out (best to use student offers like student beans), or cooking a ready meal in a friend’s microwave. Toasters and grills are not allowed, although most of the scouts do not care and can easily hide these. Microwaves are allowed, but half the rooms are not provided with fridges. Hall food varies a lot but is quite reasonable compared to self-catering at other universities.

The gym is quite small, but it is reasonably priced at £50 for the entire year. The location can also be a bit annoying compared to other colleges, but it is still very reasonable considering most clubs are within a 15-minute walk, and the train station is not much further.

Lady Margaret Hall Pros and Cons

It is a large and extremely friendly college with equal numbers of men and women. Read the pros and cons of Lady Margaret Hall below.

Pros

One of the biggest advantages of Lady Margaret Hall is the overall vibe of the college, which is fair-minded and forward-thinking. The year groups mix fantastically well, and the tutors are talented and offer good pastoral care. The college is also close to Summertown, St Giles and Jericho, which are great for bookshops, cafes, delis, bars, and Phoenix Picturehouse.

Lady Margaret Hall is close to the linguistics department and to some science and engineering buildings. It is also close to the English Faculty, which is a lovely walk away from University Parks. The college has stunning gardens, especially in Trinity, which are great for parties. The library is open 24/7 and is very well-stocked, especially for arts subjects. The workstations overlook the gardens, which is a great place to study.

The college has good sports facilities and offers yoga and pilates for the less energetic. The Simpkins-Lee Theatre is a lovely space for concerts, lectures, and student drama. Lady Margaret Hall also has accommodation for all three years, which are spacious rooms.

Cons:

According to the student survey, Lady Margaret Hall has the worst learning experience among all the colleges. The college has also faced allegations of staff-on-student harassment. It hosted a £180-a-head homoeopathy conference, lending credibility to potentially dangerous quackery, and a discussion on “corrective therapy” entitled “Pray the Gay Away” during LGBTQ month.

Lady Margaret Hall doesn’t pay all employees the Living Wage, and the JCR executive committee has engaged in electoral malpractice. Undergrads promised a place in new college accommodation were forced to live out the next term, and someone faked getting 13 A-levels and was accepted for E&M.

Another disadvantage of Lady Margaret Hall is that it is a bit further out than some colleges, but it is still a great place to study. The college doesn’t have medieval bits, but you can visit those in other colleges. Lady Margaret Hall is also considered expensive, as it is on the higher end of the rent.

Mansfield College: Pros and Cons

Mansfield College, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford, offers a unique and diverse experience for its students.

Pros

Mansfield College is widely known for its high percentage of state school intake and its commitment to access and equality. The college’s famous principle, Helena Kennedy, has achieved a lot in her life and makes an effort to connect with her students.

The college has a reputation for being more left-wing and liberal than most Oxford colleges and is less focused on maintaining traditions for their own sake. Mansfield is home to the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, which often hosts talks and events related to the field.

Location is another advantage of Mansfield College. It is situated close to many university departments, allowing students to easily access their lectures. The college is also known for being one of the friendlier and more sociable colleges, with some even considering it a party college.

Students at Mansfield enjoy good-quality, affordable food and excellent formal. The college offers a variety of meal options, including good vegetarian options. Mansfield College is also central but not touristy as it is not located on a main road.

The college is known for its beautiful buildings and architecture, as well as it’s affordable rent and modern accommodation. Freshers are guaranteed ensuite rooms, and the college is located near the University parks.

Mansfield’s library is a beautiful, 24-hour space with a painted ceiling, and there are two additional smaller libraries available for students. The college also has a nice JCR (common room) featuring snooker, table tennis, and table football.

The college boasts a large Entz (entertainment) budget for the JCR, and its sports teams often perform well in joint competitions with Merton College. Mansfield has also maintained a good ranking within the Norrington Table in recent years.

Cons

Despite its many advantages, Mansfield College does have some drawbacks. It is the poorest college per head, and there is a gender imbalance with 56% of students being male and 44% female.

The college bar has been criticized for its lack of entertainment options, such as a pool table or darts, and for allowing smoking. There have also been complaints of the college retroactively raising formal prices and imposing fines for various violations.

Mansfield College relies on Merton’s gym facilities, and some have raised concerns about the college’s security, as it is possible to enter the campus without passing through the porters’ lodge.

Some students find the statue in the middle of the quad unattractive and have complained about construction issues, such as the destruction of three years’ worth of building work. There have been incidents of faulty electrics causing a fire and leaving the college without a computer room.

The college has faced criticism for a poorly organized May Ball where food and drink ran out, as well as a house party shut down by police due to noise complaints. Mansfield College is not known for its clubbing culture and has had cases of staff-on-student harassment allegations.

Some employees at the college are not paid the Living Wage, and the college is not as famous as some other Oxford colleges. Finally, with only three kitchens in the college and limited study grants available, some students may find the college’s resources lacking in certain areas.

Magdalen College Pros and Cons

Pros of Magdalen College

Magdalen College is an aesthetically stunning college set in over 100 acres of beautiful gardens, meadows, and a deer park. The grounds provide opportunities for relaxation, picnics, and punting. The college accommodation provides comfortable and spacious rooms for all undergraduate years at an affordable flat rate. Magdalen College is one of the wealthiest colleges in Oxford, offering generous financial support for students including bursaries for living costs, travel, research, and internships. The college offers good food options with kitchen facilities, an affordable self-service dining hall, and high-quality formal dinners.

Magdalen College has a prime location, only a 3-minute walk from Oxford city centre and close to the Exam Schools, libraries, and university faculties. The college offers many opportunities through events, networking, and participation in activities like the famous May Morning Madrigals. The college has an excellent choir and daily chapel services. There are frequent social events like parties and bops. The newly refurbished college bar provides a social space for students.

The college has fantastic tutors and an excellent library collection, especially for arts subjects. The college offers free amenities to students such as condoms, lubricants, and rape alarms. The college has sports facilities for activities like football, cricket, tennis, and access to a gym and swimming pool. The college hosts active student societies in areas like medicine, poetry, debating, and law. The college offers amenities such as an art studio, allotments, and a cinema. Magdalen College has a reputation for an attractive student body and encourages original thinking.

Cons of Magdalen College

Magdalen College has one of the worst gender ratios for an undergraduate college at 59% male and 41% female. The college ranks low on student satisfaction with living costs due to compulsory pre-paid charges. The college has faced issues like bed bug infestations in freshman accommodation and a history of attempted illegal evictions. The college had an outright ball ban for intermitted students and lacks diversity and inclusion. The college does not pay all employees a living wage. The college ranks low for vegetarian and vegan food options. The college has faced issues like theft of property and vandalism in the past.

The college has an intense academic environment, topping rankings like the Norrington Table. The college cancelled its historic commemoration ball after receiving too few student applications. The first-year accommodation is located outside the college walls, a couple of minutes walk away. The hall food is not amazing, although formal dinners are high quality. The college’s large geographical spread can feel daunting and unfriendly at times. The college has a reputation that precedes its actual atmosphere.

New College Oxford Pros and Cons

Building of New College at Oxford Univeristy

Pros:

New College offers a diverse student body, with no specific group or type of student being favoured. The college is renowned for its stunning architecture and extensive gardens, which students are free to use. The college is academically strong, with excellent teaching across a wide range of subjects. 

The location of the college is ideal, a five-minute walk from town but still quiet and spacious. The college boasts exceptional sports facilities and a world-famous choir, along with a vibrant music society. The common room is well-equipped with a massive plasma screen, comfortable sofas, and game consoles. The library is well-stocked and has wireless internet access throughout the building. 

The college offers a range of accommodations, including large rooms with ensuite facilities, and superfast internet access is available in every room. The staff is friendly and approachable, and the college offers financial support to students who need it.

Cons:

New College is highly competitive, with a reputation as the fifth most academic college according to the Norrington table. Room shortages can force students to live outside the college in their third year, despite having assumed that accommodation would be provided by the college. 

The college bar has experienced price hikes, making it more expensive to drink there. Students studying a three-year course may need to live outside the college in their third year, which can be a costly and inconvenient experience. 

The quality and cost of the food provided by the college could be improved. 

There are no proper kitchens for first-year students, and cooking is limited to a microwave, hob, toaster, and toastie maker. The college is large, so students looking for a small, cosy environment may not find what they are looking for. 

The college is not politically active, and disabled access to the college’s buildings is limited. The college no longer has a gym on-site, and the bops have not been great in recent years.

Oriel College Pros & Cons

Pros

Oriel College has a strong sense of community within the student body. The small size of each year group (around 89 students) and the college itself helps foster close-knit relationships between students and staff. 

The porters and librarians know all the students personally. Accommodation at Oriel is comfortable and upgraded to high standards while maintaining historic features. The college library has over 100,000 books and is open 24 hours. 

The dining hall provides good food and a friendly atmosphere. Formal dinners on Sundays bring the whole college together.

The college bar hosts fun events like bops (college discos) and shows big sports matches. Oriel College is located next to beautiful parks and the River Thames, perfect for activities like walking and rowing.

Oriel has a thriving drama and music scene. The Provost organizes champagne concerts with world-class musicians for students.

Cons

Oriel College has a reputation for being right-wing and conservative. The college has been criticized for not removing a statue of Cecil Rhodes despite student opposition. 

Some freshers had issues with flooding in their rooms. The college voted to disaffiliate from the Oxford University Students Union and to not donate to a trans-South Asian performance group. The rowing team was accused of cheating by using a non-student ringer. 

Not all college staff are paid the Living Wage. Accommodation, especially better rooms, can be quite expensive. 

Facilities on the main college site are basic. While the college wants students to excel academically, this can also create pressure. 

The tight-knit community can also lead to gossip and certain students feeling excluded, though the college welfare system aims to address such issues.

Pembroke College Pros and Cons

Pros

Pembroke College has a friendly and supportive community. Students are guaranteed college housing for three years. 

The location is convenient, close to shops and nightlife but not right in the busy city centre. The college is also ideally located for rowers, near the river and Christ Church Meadows. 

Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien will appreciate that he wrote some of his famous works while at Pembroke. The staff and tutors are friendly. 

The college has beautiful gardens, buildings, a dining hall and a chapel. Pembroke offers cheap, good food. It is a medium-sized, cosy college. The library is open 24 hours. There is an active student union.

 Pembroke is the wealthiest college student union in Oxford. The college colour is bright pink. Undergrads get discounts at a nearby gym.

Cons

Pembroke has a poor record of admitting students from state schools, at only 41%. There is also a gender imbalance, with 56% male students. 

Student satisfaction rankings place Pembroke near the bottom. Living costs at the college are high. A student at the college committed suicide after facing harassment from a tutor. Accommodation fees are very expensive. 

The college hosts expensive summer schools for prospective applicants that can pay high fees. The Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, studied at Pembroke. There have been allegations of staff harassment against students. 

There are frequent bike thefts. Security cameras don’t function properly. The welfare provision is lacking. 

Not all staff are paid the Living Wage. The boat-burning tradition seems outdated. The college bar is unimpressive. The college seems cramped. 

Rent is high for the facilities. Science facilities and the Social Sciences Library are a 20-minute walk away. The college is quick to find students. 

Some accommodation is in an ugly modern building from the 1960s. Formal dinners can run long. The bright pink colour is seen by some as a downside.

Queen’s College Pros and Cons

Pros

The Queen’s College has a very welcoming and friendly atmosphere. With around 300 students, it is a medium-sized college where you can get to know most people but has enough variety to meet new people. 

The central location on the High Street is convenient, right across from the Exam Schools and close to Cornmarket. Many northern students attend, contributing to the warm community. Accommodation is guaranteed for all 3-4 years. 

The college promotes a balanced lifestyle without excessive stress. Refurbished second-year housing in Carrodus Quad. Most first years live in the Florey Building in St Clements, fostering a close-knit community. 

Great sports facilities nearby for football, rugby, tennis, and more. Fast internet in every dorm room. Alumnus Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. 

Closed to tourists provides privacy. Excellent food with diverse daily options and a formal hall on Saturdays.

Cons

Very low state school attendance at only 45.5%. Controversial alum Tony Abbott. Most staff harassment allegations among Oxford colleges. 

President pressured to resign over poor marks. Doesn’t pay living wage to all staff. Asbestos on site. IT office overcharged students. High rents and uneven room allocation. 

Outdated Florey Building across the bridge. Apathetic political atmosphere. Unimpressive architecture, though front quad still inspiring. Formal hall tickets sell out fast, limiting dinner options with minimal kitchens. First-years and second-years live off-site.

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