The Ultimate Guide To Studying In Oxford

The Ultimate Guide To Studying In Oxford
 Image by Martijn van Sabben is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Oxford has grown to be a legendary city over the years that is synonymous with highbrow education. So esteemed is it that whenever you hear the top universities and colleges mentioned on television anywhere in the word, the city of Oxford is always right up there with Yale and Harvard.

World-class teaching is certainly something you get access to here, while graduate prospects are as incredibly high as they always have been. But just what is studying and living in Oxford like, and is it really for you?

Universities In Oxford

There are two main universities in Oxford:

University of OxfordOxford Brookes University

University of Oxford

The University of Oxford is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world. It was was founded way back in 1096, and continues to play a major role in the intellectual development of the UK, with many of our top scientists, journalists and mathematicians citing it as their alma mater.

In 2016, the University of Oxford is still one of the best universities in the country. Research quality is top-notch, while student satisfaction is almost 100%. 96% of students go on to complete their degree, and the University sits 2nd in the latest league table rankings. It is situated in the heart of Oxford, and students who score A*A*A in their A-levels can expect a conditional offer.

Teaching standards are very high, with the University employing tutors who are usually world-leaders in their field. One-on-ones between students and teachers are offered each week, with the aim being for the student to develop independent, critical thought.

The University has strong links with sports, too, and has its own rugby and football pitches, while there are ample opportunities for rowing and basketball as well.

Oxford Brookes University

Oxford Brookes is the newest university in Oxford, though it can trace its roots back to 1865 when it was founded as the Oxford School of Art. It became Oxford Brookes University in 1992, twenty-two years after it was granted Polytechnic status.

The University currently sits 57th in the league table rankings, and scores highly for student satisfaction and facilities spend. 89% of students complete their degree, and the University has been awarded eight National Teaching Fellowship awards in the past half-decade.

Each course at Oxford Brookes has been designed to help students develop 5 key skills: research literacy, global citizenship, academic literacy, critical self-awareness and digital literacy.

Many students have the chance to study abroad, while offers vary depending on which course you choose. There are three campuses; two are located just on the edge of the city, while Wheatley campus is further out (7 miles).

Fees, Student Finance & Living Aspects

Your cost of living in Oxford will vary greatly depending on your lifestyle. On average, students studying and living in Oxford spend £265 per month on food, £469 on accommodation, £119 on personal items, £60 on social activities, £36 on study costs and £19 on other.

Most first year undergraduate students in Oxford choose to live in their university’s halls of residence. Some students instead choose to live in private halls, while others prefer to live in a private house-share. There are pros and cons to whichever option you choose, but the biggest benefits of living in halls of residence during year one is that you immediately get to meet and socialise with like-minded people, while your building provides 24/7 security. Perhaps the biggest con to living in halls of residence is that accommodation is generally more expensive than private house-shares. Here are some of the highest-rated halls of residences in Oxford:

  • Alice House
  • Cheney Student Village
  • Paul Kent Halls
  • Slade Park

For detailed information about student loans read our ultimate guide to student loans.

General Info About Oxford

Oxford is located 59 miles north of London, and has a population of 152,000, 30,000 of which are students. London is reachable in just under an hour by train, while the city’s main train station services most major cities in the UK. You can also rely on regular, 24/7 coaches to transport you to various parts of the country.

Although local buses are cheap and reliable, many students choose to cycle around the city. Cars, however, are generally frowned upon in the city centre.

The city is famously sporty, and is home to a wealth of leisure centres and swimming pools, athletic tracks, rugby pitches and football fields. The river also provides you with a chance to test your rowing skills.

Economically speaking, Oxford is as diverse as they come, and is home to a good number of science, publishing and IT-based businesses. There are numerous suburbs on the edges of the city centre, including the student-friendly but relatively overpriced Cowley.

There are numerous places to shop too, including Broad Street, George Street, Cowley Road and the Westgate Shopping Centre.

Events, Venues & Points Of Interest

As soon as you tell anyone you’re planning to study in Oxford, they might tell you to enjoy punting on the river on Sunday afternoons or sipping sherry by the fireplace in some dusty, oak-panelled pub. But while these common preconceptions are often true, Oxford also offers lot of other stuff too!

After you’ve unpacked your bags, you might want to indulge in some sightseeing straight off the bat to get acquainted with your new surroundings. You can easily walk around the centre, or you can hop on your bike or jump on a bus. There are numerous pleasant points of interest to see in this picturesque city, from Carfax Tower and the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin to the Martyr’s Memorial Intersection of St. Giles and the ancient Saxon Tower.

If you’re a culture vulture looking to get some inspiration between classes, Oxford is home to the Ashmolean Museum, the Modern Art Oxford, as well as the Museum of the History of Science. The city does theatre well too, with the Oxford Playhouse hosting regular plays and performances. Other theatres include the Creation Theatre Company, the Old Fire Station and the Burton Taylor Theatre. So whether you want a bit of Shakespeare or fancy a bite of something more contemporary, you’re all catered for.

You should also know that Oxford does books really well. Some buildings are practically built with old copies of Hugo and Hardy instead of bricks. There are bookstores all over the city. Some are easy to find, while others require a bit more digging. A favourite is Blackwell’s, which has pretty much every book you can think of.

Oxford does cuisine well too, with superb restaurants and cafes on literally every corner that suits every taste imaginable. So, whenever you want to get out of your halls and enjoy being waited on, you won’t be short of a curry, a steak, a vegan dinner, or a bit of seafood. It’s all here!

Neither will you be short for gigs. The infamous Bullingdon club is popular with students who enjoy live music and comedy, while The Jericho Tavern is where Radiohead made their live debut. More recently, bands who have performed here include Foals and Bombay Bicycle Club. Then there is the O2 Academy Oxford, which is the city’s best live music venue by far.

Naturally, you’ll want to spend some time chilling during your stay in Oxford, and there are many parks outside the city centre that give you somewhere outdoors to relax with your mates. These include the University Park, which is open from 8am until dusk, the idyllic Christ Church meadow, which is a popular picnic area, and Port Meadow, the biggest area of common land in the city.


If you’ve got any mates who could drink George Best under the table, it’s probably best that you don’t tell them you’re thinking of studying in Oxford.

“You enjoy your tipple of sherry, pal,” they’ll say sarcastically before drinking you under the table.

Oxford is most definitely not cheap, which is why a lot of students don’t like straying too far from their students’ union. But although the running joke is that a midnight chess club accompanied by the soothing sounds of Mozart gently seeping through the speakers is as hardcore as Oxford’s nightlife gets, if you’re prepared to spend a decent amount of your budget on pubs and clubs, Oxford doesn’t fare too badly.

It’s fair to say that Oxford’s nightlife is not the prime reason a student chooses to study here, but it’s at least better than Cambridge’s, where the nightlife is pretty much non-existent. Here in Oxford land, the best night agreed on by students by far is Park End on a Wednesday. Home to three rooms that are always packed, Park End offers electro, RnB and pure cheese.

Alternative night outs in Oxford include Cellar and Baby Love. These clubs put on live music, as well as dubstep, drum ’n’ bass and rock nights. Baby Love also offer a fun gay night every Tuesday.

But it doesn’t always have to be about getting smashed and losing your wallet, clothes and dignity in a darkened club, of course. In Oxford, you’ll find plenty of chances to test yourself against the world’s cleverest people via pub quizzes. There are also plenty of pubs (some of which do offer chess boards), with some of the best including The Cape of Good Hope, The Black Boy, The Old Bookbinders, and The White Heart. If you like your real ale, you can’t go wrong!

So There It Is…

If you’re good enough to get into a university in Oxford, most people would tell you to just go for it.

“It’s Oxford!” they’ll say.

“But there aren’t many clubs apparently,” you contest. “I’ve always fancied going to a foam party.”

Grabbing you by the shoulders and shaking some sense into you, your friend reminds you that “It. Is. Oxford.”

Sure enough, if you’ve got a chance to study in Oxford, you should probably take it. Start searching for your perfect course in Oxford with Coursefindr here…