The University of Oxford is made up of dozens of constituent colleges and permanent halls (see full list here).
On your postgraduate application, you have the option of putting down your college preference. After you accept your initial offer from the School, it can take up to eight weeks to receive your college assignment in the form of an official offer from the college itself (exactly how the selection process works behind the curtain isn’t very clear, nor are your chances of being allocated to your preferred college, although presumably your chances are higher at some of the less famous colleges).
Although college choice probably isn’t as significant for a graduate student as it is for an undergraduate, there are a few key features to bear in mind when choosing your preferred college:
- College Location – Somewhat important, especially if you’re planning on using college facilities a lot. There are a few colleges that really are off the beaten track.
- Graduate Accommodation Location & Quality – Probably more important than college location. With a few exceptions, most colleges don’t offer in-college accommodation to graduates, but rather provide external accommodation site(s). Some colleges offer graduate accommodation right in the center of town, while others offer accommodation in other neighbourhoods such as East Oxford. The type of accommodation will differ (flats, shared town houses, ensuite bedrooms, etc.), as will the cost of rent. You can find a helpful breakdown of college accommodation and rents here.
- College Library – If you’re on a book-heavy course, don’t underestimate the value of a good college library. Except for exceptional circumstances, students can only use the library at their own college, and some are much better stocked than others, especially in particular subjects. You can typically keep books from your college library longer than from one of the faculty libraries and might be able to find a copy there when the other libraries have been cleaned out.
- Dining Hall – Some colleges are known for serving great food at a reasonable price. Others, not so much. Depending on your location and accommodation, you may or may not eat in hall all that often, but it’s worth considering.