What is a college?

This is us!

Magdalen is one of 45 colleges, which together with the central libraries, subject departments and facilities, make up the University of Oxford.

A college is a bit like a mini university in itself: it contains accommodation buildings, teaching offices, social spaces, a library, and more. The buildings generally surround square lawns which Oxford calls “quads”.

Mostly, a college is your community, where you’ll make friends with people studying a range of different subjects.

My favourite thing about Oxford is definitely its collegiate structure. Colleges provide a real sense of community and allowed me to settle into university life more easily



Your college is at the heart of your learning, particularly when it comes to tutorials. These tend to take place in your college, particularly in your first year. Typically they’ll be in a tutor’s office with one or two other students from your college. You’ll get to know your tutors really well, which helps with feeling at home in college when you bump into them and say hi!

The library is also a key academic space, and every college has one. Many colleges’ libraries are open 24/7, so if you really fancy doing some work in the small hours, you can! There are often group study spaces and computer rooms too, so the library is a useful space for whatever type of work you need to do. Only students from that college are able to access their college’s library, but all students can access the central university libraries for their subject.


Your college will have most of the facilities you need, such as: a bedroom, bathroom (shared or ensuite), kitchen, bar and/or café, gym and/or other sports facilities (in college grounds or elsewhere in the city), and a catered dining hall.

If it doesn’t have one of these facilities, it’s likely to offer an alternative. For example, Magdalen doesn’t have a gym on-site, but Magdalen students get free access to the much bigger university sports complex instead, which is just a short walk away on the Iffley Road.

On a typical day after my morning lectures I might go to the gym or grab an early lunch before sitting down to work for a few hours. In the evenings I’ll see friends for dinner (either in hall or we cook ourselves) or head down to the college bar before a night out.



Colleges don’t specialise in one particular subject, (though it’s worth checking if they offer your course as not all colleges will). This means you’ll get to know people from other subjects as well as those on your course.

As well as living in college accommodation, another great way to make friends in college is by joining a college club or society. Every college has their own societies, which tend to be smaller and more informal than university-level clubs – particularly for sports if you just want to play casually. For example, Magdalen has a drama society and funding body called The Magdalen Players, who produce Magdalen’s annual Garden Play as well as providing funding for other student productions with Magdalen involvement across the University.