Societies and sports

Alongside their academic studies, students at Magdalen are encouraged to participate in extra-curricular activities. These societies allow students with similar interests to come together to socialise.  There is a wide variety of College societies for students to join at Magdalen, including:

You can find out more about each of these on the JCR website.

These are just some of the societies in Magdalen, and with over 400 clubs and societies at University level too, there’s something for everyone.

Other Magdalen societies include:

The Florio Society meets to appreciate its members’ own poems: the traditional form of the meeting invites anonymous contributions on a set theme and/or subject. These are duplicated, circulated at the meeting and read aloud. Critical discussion follows. There have been, and still are, occasional departures from this procedure (prose meetings, no set requirements, waiving of anonymity, etc) but they have been proved to work less well. There is an annual feast cooked by the members themselves, and an annual punt outing. In the 1960s and 1970s the Society invited famous guests to a different sort of annual dinner (Auden, Pinter, Porter, Murdoch). In the 1980s several hand-printed booklets of Florio poems were published by the Sycamore Press. The Secretary appoints his or her successor in Hilary Term.

Our records go back only to 1956, but there is evidence that the Society existed before then. It lapsed in 1960 and was revived in 1968 and again in 1972 (after an interval of three years), since when it has had a continous and vigorous existence. Many of its former members have proceeded to distinguished literary careers, either as poets (Jon Stallworthy, James Fenton, Adam Thorpe, Mick Imlah), novelists (Jonathan Keates, Alan Hollinghurst, David Profumo, Fernanda Eberstadt), journalists (David Pryce-Jones, Pico Iyer, Daniel Johnson), academics (Peter Heyworth, Ian Donaldson, Claude Rawson) and even politicians (John Redwood). There are many more names in the pipe-line.

John Florio was an old member (1553?-1625) of the College, principally known for his translation of the Essays of Montaigne (1603) and for his Italian dictionary, entitled ‘A Worlde of Wordes’ (1598). Shakespeare drew on his work in ‘The Tempest’ and he may be the intended object of ridicule in ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’. His friend Samuel Daniel paid tribute to him as a translator in terms that may equally be applied to the present creative and critical efforts of the members of the Society:

All law students at Magdalen, undergraduate and graduate alike, are subscribing members of the Atkin Society, which takes its name from Lord Atkin, the Magdalen lawyer who is best remembered for his famous judgment in Donoghue v Stevenson, the case of the snail in the ginger beer bottle ([1932] AC 562).

This thriving organisation promotes closer links between students at all levels of study, their tutors, and also the profession. Magdalen is one of the strongest colleges for law and usually has over thirty undergraduates and fifteen graduates in residence. The highlight of the year is the Atkin Society Dinner Moot, before enjoying a fine meal, four students argue points of law based on a fictitious set of facts. The moot is heard by a distinguished judge. Past judges have included distinguished Magdalen graduates such as Lord Denning, Lord Keith and Lord Browne-Wilkinson, and eminent judges such as Lord Hoffmann, Lord Mackay, Lord Neuberger and Lord Scott.

The Atkin Society is run by an annually elected student committee and therefore its activities tend to vary. The students organise and cook a Christmas dinner which tends to become more elaborate every year. They also arrange other social events in and around Oxford, the occasional speaker evening, a group photograph and for chambers and firms to provide careers information.

Students are also active in the University Law Society but it is the Atkin Society which helps to make the lawyers a close-knit group within the College. Magdalen’s separate Law Library provides them with a natural meeting place and is where entries in the infamous Atkin Society Book are made throughout the year.

The Sherrington Society is a University-wide medical society based at Magdalen College. Named in honour of the 1932 Nobel laureate Sir Charles Sherrington, a former Waynflete Professor of Physiology and tutor at Magdalen, the society regularly hosts distinguished speakers in the medical sciences to encourage debate on topical medical and life-science issues. The society’s roots stretch back to the start of the 20th century, making it one of the College’s oldest and most venerable student-led institutions.

The society has a long history of hosting a range of esteemed doctors, scientists, philosophers and politicians from the UK and beyond. In recent years, our guests have included Sir Paul Nurse (former President of the Royal Society), Professor Dame Sally Davies (the Government’s Chief Medical Officer), Johann Malawana (former Chair of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee), Dr Nessa Carey (author of The Epigenetics Revolution), Lord Robert Winston (pioneer of IVF) and Professor Semir Zeki (founder of the field of neuroaesthetics).

In 2018, we are delighted to announce that our speakers will include Professor Thais Russomano (space and aviation physiologist and member of the Mars One advisory board), Ms Clare Marx (former President of the Royal College of Surgeons), Dr Paul Harrison (inflammation biologist and former President of the British Society of Haemostasis and Thrombosis), Dr Sophie Acton (cell biologist and tumour immunologist) and Professor Robin Franklin (cellular and molecular neuroscientist and recipient of the 2017 Barancik Prize for Innovation in Multiple Sclerosis Research).

The Sherrington Society is open to students reading subjects within the Medical Sciences Division including Medicine, Biomedical Sciences, Experimental Psychology, Biochemistry and Human Sciences, although we also welcome attendance from other members of the university as well as the general public. Our speaker events are free to attend and include wine, soft drinks and nibbles.

For more information or to be added to the mailing list to be notified of upcoming talks, please contact the committee of the Sherrington Society at

This small home-grown organisation aims to encourage current College Members in their support of charitable causes – with an emphasis on deprivation and youth. It was founded by concerned undergraduates and former members of the College and has been supported by Magdalen students, past and present, for more than 85 years. It is overseen by Trustees, and by a Committee comprising senior members, former members, and both current graduates and undergraduates.

Magdalen College Trust: a CIO

The Trust is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. It is successor to the Magdalen College Mission, founded in 1884 and working first in Stepney, and from 1908 in Somers Town (Euston), but which ceased activities in 1940. The best-known Missioner was Fr Basil Jellicoe, in the 1920s. A Trust had been set up in 1920 to fund the work of the Mission, and in 1948, after several years of discussion about whether it was feasible to revive the Mission, a new constitution was adopted, and the name changed to ‘The Magdalen College Trust’. The objects of the Trust were ‘to provide, promote, assist and encourage on Christian principles, social, education and benevolent work and the means of recreation for the people of St Mary’s, Somers Town or elsewhere as the occasion may arise’. A clubhouse in Somers Town continued to operate until the 1960s, with a resident Warden, and opportunity for visits by members of College. Provision for young people in the area was increasingly taken over by local authorities, and by 1966 the Oxford Committee of the Trust was beginning to look nearer home for worthwhile projects to support. The clubhouse was demolished, and although the Trust continued to support similar ventures in London, notably Oxford House, Bethnal Green, it turned increasingly to social and educational projects in the Oxford area, and others that had the active participation of College members, increasingly in developing countries.

The CIO Constitution echoes the original terms of 1948, and defines the objects of the Trust as: “advancing education for the public benefit by making grants to support charitable activities in which…Members are involved”; and “advancing education and relieving financial hardship for the public benefit by making grants to support young people, underprivileged people and the people of the Parish of St Mary, Somers Town, London”.

These days we only occasionally make grants to social or educational work in London, though we always have in mind the historical focus of our activities and do make donations on that basis to London-based causes.

  • Paul Billingham (Chairman of the Executive Committee)
  • Rob Gilbert (Treasurer)
  • Andrew Bowyer (Secretary)

Recent Awards

We currently meet three times a year, in each of Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity terms, to make awards. Any Magdalen member is welcome both to bid for funding and to attend the meetings, which are advertised by email a week or two in advance.

The list below of organisations that we have recently donated to gives an idea of range of causes that we support:

Donations & Bids for Awards

Students and Fellows make a small annual subscription to the Trust unless they decide to opt out. The great majority of Magdalen people have contributed to this worthwhile enterprise in the past, and we hope that this will long continue. Any College member can learn more about the Trust, and influence its policy making, by attending the Annual General Meeting. This is held in May or early June each year.

Any College member who is involved in a charitable project is welcome to contact the Trust, which may be able to help with funds. Please email the Trust Secretary, Andrew Bowyer, at

Should you wish to make a donation to the Trust, of any size, you can do this by filling in the Bankers Order and Gift Aid Form (PDF). It will be greatly appreciated, and will be well used.