Apart from the "degree" what else does Oxford have to offer?

(32 Posts)
legallady Sat 22-Jun-13 23:19:22

That might sound like a daft question, but having just visited several Oxford colleges I'm starting to wonder what all the fuss is about.

DD wants to study modern languages and the course does appeal to her. However, several other universities also offer courses that would suit her down to the ground (Nottingham, Bath, Warwick to name just a few) but they all seem to offer so much more in the way of other opportunities. She is very keen to do extra curricular television clubs - both Nottingham and Warwick offer these - and she is also a keen dancer and many universities offer great opportunities both to continue her dancing and perform. Oxford doesn't seem to have any of these.

Am I missing something?

Are social activities/extra curricular at Oxford limited to what your college offers? If this is the case, isn't it very restrictive? The colleges we looked at seemed to have a JCR and that was about it.

I know having an Oxford degree is great and all that but do students have to sacrifice their other interests just to get one?

Both DH and I went to redbrick universities and had a great time . Maybe I'm biased, but I would appreciate any information on what it's really like at Oxford in terms of social life and extra curricular opportunities outside of your college.

ICantRememberWhatSheSaid Sat 22-Jun-13 23:37:17

I can't comment on the Uni directly but I think Oxford would be a fantastic place to be a student.
It is beautiful and has the most incredible history and architecture. The city centre has a great feel to it. It's studenty but not run down and it still feels like a city in its own right IYSWIM grin
None of my DCs are going there but I would have leapt at the chance.
It's easy to get to London and is nice and central for getting to other parts of the UK.

alreadytaken Sun 23-Jun-13 08:11:50

Excellent bursaries, cheap living costs, a lot of opportunities outside your college. There will be others along later who know much more about Oxford but take a look at e.g. www.ouds.org/ www.oudancesport.co.uk/

RobotElephant Sun 23-Jun-13 08:13:24

Cheap living costs?? confused

MirandaWest Sun 23-Jun-13 08:13:40

I'm pretty sure there are lots of extra curricular activities on offer at Oxford.

Cheap living costs because you only pay 24-26 weeks a year unlike everywhere else where it is typically minimum 39w and often 52. Terms are condensed which is part of why it is such hard work.

Longer vacations which helps with vacation jobs. Generally no "homework" to do in that time either. Balanced by its being generally not allowed and typically impossible to have a job in term.

Good support networks in collegiate system (although some consider this too insular or nannying).

Collegiate system allows for more access to extracurricular activities - you don't have to be among the best eleven footballers out of 10,000, but only out of say 250.

Lots of hardship grants available especially at the richer colleges. Also travel grants.

The Bodleian Library has everything in. Literally. It's a copyright library. Then there's departmental libraries and college libraries, which typically get in anything reasonable you ask for. Great resources.

I am a great fan of the collegiate system ... for those whom it suits. Which is me and DH and many many other people.

Very surprised at your dancing comments BTW. I know of several competitive Oxford dancing clubs including salsa, ballroom, etc. However some of these are joint city/university clubs (within which the university teams operate) so might not be as obvious as at other universities.

All of that said, however, Oxford languages is quite a restrictive course compared to other universities, including Cambridge. Far more is compulsory right through your four years, with less scope for specialising in one of your languages or in linguistics/literature etc. If that's what your DD wants then great but I decided against choosing at 17 precisely what finals papers I should take at 22...

Relaxedandhappyperson Sun 23-Jun-13 08:36:19

Social activities are not limited to your college, there are loads of university clubs and societies. And as the university makes up a chunk of the city centre if people want they can do stuff that isn't university-based just as easily (unlike campus universities especially Warwick which is miles from the town).

But the main thing about Oxford that is different is the teaching style: lots of individual tutorials, etc, which is different from most other places I think.

At the end of the day it's going to be a question of what suits your daughter, assuming she got offers from all the places you list. People do turn down Oxford places for all sorts of reasons: it's allowed! But it would be a pity to do so just on the basis of one club - certainly without checking whether such an activity exists elsewhere in the city (at one point Oxford Brooke's broadcast a local tv channel for example).

There are university clubs as well as college club. I would be stunned if your daughter couldn't do dance or some sort of film/TV there. You're not going to find that info out at a college open day though as they'll be focussing on college events.

Maybe browse the OUSU website - they might have more information. Try to see if you can find anything out about fresher's fair - that's where all the university clubs try to sign on new members.

RobotElephant Sun 23-Jun-13 08:38:04

Im just suprised. All thepeople I knew at Oxford lived out, so had to pay normal Oxford rent all year.
I suppose its cheap if you don't though.

Here - click on each section for more information

www.oxfordfreshersfair.org/sections.php

OneHandFlapping Sun 23-Jun-13 08:41:00

The college system offers better, more personal pastoral care, as it's dealing with groups of, say 400 students, rather than 10,000.

It's harder to become socially lost, as there are a lot of social events based in the college which you can go to and be fairly certain of bumping into people you know.

Having just been to the Manchester open day, where the whole university seems enormous, impersonal, and unwelcoming, I would worry about DS getting lost there (not in the geographical sense).

I'd be surprised if there were no dance clubs and opportunities to performin Oxford. As for a television club, if there isn't one, she could start one (perhaps in second year).

Btw - I think quite a few of the clubs haven't signed up yet. I used to belong to the gliding club for example - which still appears to exist but isn't listed.

I don't know when you were there Robot, but most colleges have had major accommodation building programmes over the last 20 years, so far more students can live in halls for 3 years than in my young day. The offer of in-college or annex accommodation for 3 years now seems to be the norm.

cassell Sun 23-Jun-13 09:05:35

As others have said there are loads of university societies so it's certainly not limited to your college. I found the college system far better socially because you had a great base to socialise in where you could get to know the people in your year pretty easily and build strong friendship groups and then for wider interests go to university based things. If you did sport then you could usually play for your college at some level as there wasn't as much competition whereas competition for university teams was fierce. Some colleges have college based societies eg drama as well as the university level ones. There is a society for pretty much any interest you have so your dd would certainly not be limited in extra curricular activities. Also as the holidays are longer (only 8 week terms) she would be able to compete if she wanted in dance competitions outside term time easily.

The Oxford media society may be of interest to your dd.

The whole way of teaching is very different at Oxford (and Cambridge) as you have tutorials which are just a couple of students and the tutor that way you have a far more in depth analysis of your work and ideas etc than is possible in a bigger group. You are constantly challenged and encouraged to think and use your intelligence, you are certainly not spoon fed.

If your dd really wants to pursue her other interests and just get a degree along the way then Oxford probably isn't for her (and tbh that would be picked up at interview so she might not get an offer) but if she is really keen on the degree but wants to maintain other interests then you should certainly explore it further.

The other thought about colleges is that it is far more common/easy to socialise with people on other courses - you'd know the other five or six linguists in your college, but might share no classes with them if they're not doing the same languages. In the meantime you live with a chemist, a medic, a geographer and a lawyer, none of whom at home lives within fifty miles of you, and through them you meet another geographer who's into Ceroc, etc. Or you nip down the college bar on a lonely Thursday and start playing pool with some people.

That's all obvious to extroverts, but for those shyer it helps enormously.

RobotElephant Sun 23-Jun-13 10:44:42

Ah... This was a while ago,I'll give you that smile

funnyperson Sun 23-Jun-13 15:19:51

o.m.g. OP you could not be more wrong if you tried. The extra curricular activities at Oxford including every possible type of dance, drama, media, are so numerous and varied that your DD could do something different every hour of every day for three years and still not get through it all!
Students are not limited to their college: many many many societies and activities are intercollegiate; there are special intercollegiate competitions for first years (called 'cuppers') in theatre, sport and dance, so that each group of college freshers gets a chance to put something together. There are the arts weeks, the Oxford playhouse, and each college has its own auditorium for students to put on shows and performances ( and they do....non stop...) The difficulty with Oxford is not the lack of opportunity, but the abundance of it, which can get overwhelming, so students have to learn to make choices, and to remind themselves that they are there to get a degree and learn stuff, not just to put on shows and have a blast. Most of them seem to learn stuff and put on shows and have a wonderful time. It helps to be physically very fit and energetic.
As an example in the first year my DD was in 3 plays, (2 of which were intercollegiate) 2 dance performances, 7-8 concerts and the jazz band as well a doing a telethon, charity fundraising etc etc. She did fine in her exams and learned loads academically. It helped that she was well organised and had done similar stuff at school. Some of the other first years found the multiple opportunities overwhelming.

funnyperson Sun 23-Jun-13 15:21:08

I should mention that Oxford is a very friendly place.

funnyperson Sun 23-Jun-13 15:22:42

I should also mention that they dont seem to watch much tv at all.

HesterShaw Sun 23-Jun-13 15:29:07

I don't know about Oxford, but I had a wonderful time at Nottingham. The campus is big and beautiful with enough students there in 12 halls to make the first year experience on campus a great time. Loads of clubs, good pastoral care. When students move off campus it's a bit of a shock to the system to be honest and I remember feeling quite isolated - Nottingham has become quite crime ridden I believe. I think I would have loved Oxford if I had been brainy enough to get in!

HesterShaw Sun 23-Jun-13 15:29:46

<most contradictory and pointless contribution ever grin >

MummyMastodon Sun 23-Jun-13 17:07:47
rightsaidfrederick Sun 23-Jun-13 22:20:48

If there is a society that does not already exist, and she can find others who are interested, then she will be able to set up her own society (fantastic for the CV!) and probably be given funding for it.

She may be able to join any societies at Oxford Brookes too - it's fairly common (though rarely well publicised) to find that there are reciprocal arrangements between universities in the same city that allows this sort of thing.

legallady Sun 23-Jun-13 23:02:50

Thanks everyone - I thought it was odd that we'd only really seen college based activities and now I know why. I really want DD to make her choices based on correct information so it's all really useful. I'm not convinced that she has a "passion" for any academic subject tbh, and to that extent Oxford may not be the right place even if she were lucky enough to get an offer.

Anyway, at least she doesn't have her heart set on any particular institution at the moment so I'm hopeful she'll just end up somewhere where she'll work hard and play hard and have a great time grin

funnyperson Sun 23-Jun-13 23:14:32

mummymastodon that is a very interesting article. OP I went to London in an age when it was very student friendly indeed (it is not so now, sadly, due to the expense of accommodation and entertainments: so called 'concession' prices at the theatre are a joke). I had a wonderful time. But observing DD has made me realise that Oxford really and truly is fantastic. Everything within walking or cycling distance, accommodation of good quality and affordable even in the years out, friends with every conceivable range of interests, all entertainments cheap and often free. No need for the drink culture of other universities because there is plenty to do, and when the sun shines (and often even when it doesn't) it is like a little heaven, it is so beautiful. The libraries are on site and well stocked.
Academically the tutorial system has to seriously be thought through by the applicant. It means that engagement with the subject and with the tutor is compulsory and inevitable. There is a lot of work to be done in between tutorials. Thus Oxford is not for the 'coaster' or even last-minute type of student, who would be most unhappy there, because it is awful to be rusticated, and some of DD's acquaintance have been rusticated when they fail exams.
As a parent I can say that Oxford is, if anything, underrated.

funnyperson Sun 23-Jun-13 23:22:08

What is also very nice though is that the students don't have to apologise for caring about their work. This is such a relief. In fact Oxford encourages students to be passionate about their subject and to take it to a higher level than just the lectures, and so there is no 'too cool for school' attitude which means that students can say 'I have an essay deadline' to their friends and they will not be laughed at.

alreadytaken Mon 24-Jun-13 08:52:21

funnyperson has obviously fallen in love with Oxford, it is a pretty place. But let's not get carried away, the short high-pressure terms and the tutorial system don't suit everyone. I thought the only exams that really count are the final year so that is for the last-minute type of student, may other universities give some credit for earlier (second year) exams.

Other universities will also have students who don't laugh at their friends if they have a deadline. They will also have clubs and societies. I know nothing about modern languages but the course flexibility and when you can go abroad mentioned earlier sound like important things to consider.

Warwick seems to be a marmite place students either love or hate when they visit. Bath has amazing sports facilities. Nottingham has high crime rates. Take a look at employment rates after the courses, student satisfaction rates and what the students go on to do. I suspect an Oxford degree might offer a few more opportunities but all the universities the OP mentioned have good reputations.

It depends on what your subject is whether other years count towards your final degree class. Certainly your college can insist in a good performance in non-final college ("collections") or university ("mods") exams in order to hold your place for the next year - DH had to do some resits to be allowed back one year too much rowing and beer and not enough lectures.

I agree that the system doesn't suit everyone. It is insanely intense for those eight weeks at a time and the constant deadlines are pressurising.

Another disadvantage of the collegiate system is that teaching provision varies between colleges - if you are at a rich college you get more teaching than if you are at a poor college.

For example, I went to an impoverished Cambridge college and in second year I had half the supervisions (1:1 or 1:2 classes) that my friends at certain richer colleges were offered as a matter of course. We had the same lectures and departmental contact, but the close college provision was vastly different.

This is why it matters which college you apply to, but it is almost impossible to find out unless you know people up already in your subject - part of the reason independent schools do well, because they tap up former pupils who are current students for the current lowdown. And the college that suits you socially might not be the best fit academically, or might be vastly oversubscribed in your year: if they take six linguists a year and in your year thirty-five apply, that's going to be a tough year.

funnyperson Wed 26-Jun-13 19:22:12

Yes sorry I realise I sounded a bit gushy-I was just trying to do the place justice. 2nd year exams do count for some degrees, as does lab work done from the 2nd year onwards.
Also, in relation to state school vs private school entry there seems a fairly even balance. In relation to ethnicity and/or being very left wing (or even communist shock) some colleges are better than others. Black security porters in a recent 'left wing' college ball photo still looked worlds and worlds away from the ball goers. So home has to be a place where the students can stay grounded. A place which is outside the Oxford bubble: friends with it, but not of it.

MariscallRoad Thu 27-Jun-13 11:49:45

Several universities offer good opportunities to participate in performance. My son at Oxford participated in a play which had good reviews and he enjoyed very much. He also went to College balls and liked it. He had joined outside the College several clubs. Your DC perhaps should explore what there is in universities. For example, Imperial has a good student orchestra which performs at Cadogan Hall with celebrity soloists. I presume you would first decide where you would like to study your subject. Regarding the ‘degree’, one needs to think that in the present economic circumstances the job market has changed, and you might look at the graduate employment stats in several universities. Having lecturers and professors who will help you with links after graduation is something to discuss at an open day.

Regarding graduate destinations and jobs, Oxford website here says that 52% of graduates got a job, 29% went on studying more, 8% had some job and study. The average starting salary was £25K ranging 10K to 45K. You may be able to find more about other universities.

Lilymaid Thu 27-Jun-13 16:02:45

Only know about Oxford as DH was there and I live near the other place. I would have thought that there are more opportunities to get involved in extra-curricular activities in Oxford than other universities (I've been a student at two universities and worked for four). There seem to be college clubs and university clubs for practically anything you could think of. Plenty of clubs at other universities too but perhaps slightly less "compulsion" to get involved.
Main questions for your DD to think about is where she would like to be for 3 years, whether she likes the courses, whether she likes the assessment/teaching system. Oxford will provide more tuition ... and essay requirements than other universities but lectures are not compulsory and not always linking into course.
DH enjoyed his time there but still rather envies my time at Exeter.

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