Oxford college reputations help

(70 Posts)
laairventte Fri 10-Aug-18 09:43:26

Hi all,

My Dd is anxiousl awaiting her a level results, just as many in this board are.

She applied to study English at Somerville College.
She got an offer, but it is an “open offer”, which means that she will get allocated a college on results day if a place appears at another college due to someone missing their grades etc. If not Somerville will have to give her a place.

She applied there due to it being modern and down to earth, she couldn’t think of anything worse than an old college that make people like david cameron. grin

After a lot of terepidation, she firmed the open offer with the view to turn it down and go to Birmingham if faced with a college she doesn’t like the look of. I have left this decision completely up to her.

So trying to get my facts together, for the dreaded d day.

What colleges are renowned for being

High pressured

OP’s posts: |
Marriageoftrueminds Fri 10-Aug-18 09:49:02

I think everyone’s experience is so different and she’s bound to find likeminded people wherever she goes! I had friends who went to colleges with that sort of reputation - Christ Church springs to mind - but they were very happy there! Maybe I’m biased because I had such a wonderful time at Oxford and I really think it’s an opportunity you shouldn’t give up lightly, but I’d be tempted to say she should go for it regardless.

Vebrithien Fri 10-Aug-18 09:54:13

Jesus College (Turl Street) is small and friendly. Old though. I loved it there. Lots of accommodation in flat complexes for students. To be fair, I spent more time in labs and the library than in college, although it depends on the degree.

St. Catherine's is a modern college (60's), also very friendly.
St. Hilda's is same sort of age as Somerville, and along with Lady Margret Hall, was originally a women's only college.
I found Christchurch and St. John's so big they were overwhelming. Magdalene felt very high pressured.
St. Hugh's, Exeter and Lincoln were all lovely.

Balliol (DH's college) was fab, very very old, but not stuffy at all. Plenty of open space in the Tree Quad.

Hope that helps!

LoniceraJaponica Fri 10-Aug-18 11:42:41

I believe St Catz is less formal than most. One of DD's friends is going there because of this.

bluebird3 Fri 10-Aug-18 11:48:52

Dh went to St Peters and it was lovely, open minded and modern. Everyone I've met who went there has loved it and it is definitely not the type to make a David Cameron! Good luck to your daughter.

Au79 Fri 10-Aug-18 12:43:19

My dd2 going into y11 may be thinking about Oxford- it’s a mystery to me about the colleges. How many are there? How big are they, or what is the size range? Do you pick according to your subject, personality ? Can the college you go to really turn you into a Cameron? It sound so like you don’t even get what you pick anyway...

mateysmum Fri 10-Aug-18 14:00:32

Honestly, I really wouldn't let the college be the deciding factor. Liking the course is much more important. I speak as an Oxford graduate with a son at Birmingham.
Oxford is a much "broader church" than people realise. Yes colleges do have different atmospheres but to assume that if you go to a certain college you will turn out like David Cameron or Boris Johnson is simply not true.
I was at St Anne's and loved it - a very down to earth, modern place,
but many of my friends were outside college, made through societies I joined or seminars with people from other colleges.
In truth I think you find your people wherever you are. Christchurch and Magdalene have reputations for being a bit posh and pressured but none of the people I met there fitted the stereotype. Whilst some of the poshest people (think related to royalty) I met were some of the nicest.
Going to uni and especially Oxbridge exposes you to people you would never otherwise have met. It should be a mind opening experience,not just a way to mix only with people "like me".
Birmingham is a good uni - but it's not Oxford slight bias creeping in .


mateysmum Fri 10-Aug-18 14:09:05

AU79 There is loads of info online - on ox.ac and student room about colleges and the application process. It's also useful to look at individual college websites which often have student written sections that give you a feel for the college.
Inevitably some colleges are far more over subscribed than others, so there is a process to make sure the best candidates are offered a place regardless of the college they applied to. In the past this wasn't so much the case and good candidates could slip through the net. So now there is much more pooling of candidates and it is quite normal to be interviewed at more than one college.
You can also make an open application but few people do.
Best thing is to go and visit Oxford. If you don't want to wait for open days, just wander round, tell the porter's lodge that your DD is a prospective student and they will normally be allowed in without paying or sometimes even if the college is closed to visitors.
Don't be too swayed by the architecture. Some of the newer colleges /ex women's colleges have much more practical rooms and facilities and less chance of being caught in your towel on the staircase by Japanese tourists - which happened to my nephew.

HingleMcCringleberry Fri 10-Aug-18 14:17:41

laairventte I have no wish to be blunt, so please take this in a kind spirit - turning down an offer to go to Oxford because your daughter doesn't like the look of the place would be a mistake. At least attend for the first term and get a feel for the place before deciding it's not for you (ideally I would give it a year, I found my first term a bit tough in terms of making friends, as I felt everyone else seemed to have gelled nicely, but by the end of the year I was incredibly well settled. I loved the course from the start, so it was only the social side that was a bit hard.)

Birmingham is a fantastic university, but in terms of how recruiters view the world (and this of course should not be the only deciding factor in life) it is no Oxford.

In terms of your question about High-pressured, Posh, Conservative colleges:

All of them. None of them.

It's all on you. No college is going to say to an undergraduate 'You're making us look bad by threatening to get a 2:1, buck your ideas up.' You may find yourself surrounded by some super high-achieving people, who may set the tone a little, but really, come crunch time everyone is in the library working harder than they ever have before. Any pressure that is felt, is going to come from within.

Eh, every college is going to have some posh people, and some not so posh people. I don't think many colleges would be defined (as in, first thing that comes to mind, as posh.) Christ Church slightly, I guess? Plenty of colleges have reputations for being sporty, or musical, or a bit alternative, or Welsh (Jesus College, promise I'm not throwing shade Verbrithien!).

Hmmm, trying to think. Easier to think of the more lefty ones: Balliol and Wadham. But again, each college will have a mix of people. And also, unless you're wearing gang colours, you probably won't know people's affiliations anyway - a friend of mine, who has known me more than 10 years, was surprised when I told her how I voted - 'I assumed as you're posh, you'd be a Tory' - our political preferences had never come up in all that time.

To be honest, and I've spoken about this on previous threads, please, please, please, don't go with preconceptions. University is the time to get exposed to different people. Yes, it may be uncomfortable at first, but you'll find your own tribe, as well as rubbing shoulders with someone who is a bit different to yourself, and your background. There's really nothing wrong with being posh and conservative. There's nothing right with it either. It just is. Some people live it down, some people play it up. I've met lots of posh twats. I've met lots of lovely posh people. I've met, in about the same proportion, lots of not posh twats, and lots of not posh lovely people.

I went to University College. It's (your daughter will not approve) the oldest Oxford college. Currently, there are 3 sitting Conservative MPs who were educated there, two of them who were the year below me. Equally, Owen Jones, darling (where's my sarcastic face?) of Mumsnet, very much not a Conservative was in my year. It was a super laidback place. Seriously. I liked the place for not having an overt identity. Everyone 'knows' Christ Church is just like Brideshead Revisited, and 'knows' St Edmund's Hall is full of rugger buggers (both these assertions are slightly true, slightly not), but I didn't think of Univ as being much of anything. Just students and tutors, muddling along, getting on with things.

Au79, I'll be back in a few hours to answer your questions as best I can (as a quick gimme though, there are 33 colleges that accept undergraduates. They vary in size... I'll be back later, although someone else may come along to give some other concrete details.)

mateysmum Fri 10-Aug-18 14:24:43

Hingle We think alike!

mateysmum Fri 10-Aug-18 14:27:47

AU Also look at some of the statistics on the Ox.ac website that tell you how many people applied to a particular college for each subject etc, but don't get hooked on the numbers game, it's just one piece of the jigsaw.

Here is a good starting point:


Vebrithien Fri 10-Aug-18 14:29:57

grin Hingle 11% only. But that 11% can make itself heard!
However, I'm not Welsh, and fitted in just fine.
I used Freshers Fair to find lots of different clubs and societies to join, and made lots of friends from different colleges, with the bonus that we all have something in common.
As an aside, I came from a school in special measures, with only 2 students going to uni from the whole year. I was also the first one in my family to go to uni. I was petrified that I wasn't going to fit in. But, Oxford was the first place that I felt accepted as ME. No one bullied me, my views were allowed a hearing and my quirks just accepted. It was a truly liberating place.

Gruach Fri 10-Aug-18 16:53:19

Good grief.

I know there are more important things going on in the world but - seriously? Surely this is a joke? After the ‘no cooking university’ thread we now have the ‘this college will turn you into David Cameron’ thread? hmm

How is it possible to have access to the internet, gain a place at university and yet be this ill-informed?

LoniceraJaponica Fri 10-Aug-18 16:54:36

"You can also make an open application but few people do."

Why is that? DD's friend made an open application because he wanted to go to Oxford. He didn't care where he ended up as long as it was Oxford. He got pooled to St Catz, and is happy with the idea because it seems less formal than some of the others.

SchnitzelVonKrumm Fri 10-Aug-18 16:59:59

You are being ridiculous. Every Oxford college has a mixture of people. Cameron's old college is over 60 percent state school nowadays; leftie hotbed Balliol brought you Boris Johnson.

IAmTheWifeOfMaoTseTung Fri 10-Aug-18 17:00:38

She may not find Christchurch, Magdalen or St John’s to be perfect fits for her, but honestly the college rep is trivial by comparison with the question of whether she wants to do the Oxford Eng Lit syllabus or the Birmingham one.

I’m still in contact with twenty or thirty mates from my Oxford degree thirty years ago. Not a single one of them is from my college.

Etymology23 Fri 10-Aug-18 17:03:28

I agree with what Hingle and Matey said, completely!

Harken53rig Fri 10-Aug-18 17:05:24

How bizarre to consider turning down a place at Oxford based on preconceptions of a college??

Your experience of life in college is based on the other people you end up there with. Some will be 'posh', some won't at ANY college. The 'poshest' person might be the nicest and end up being a lifelong friend. Somebody who grew up with nothing might have a massive chip on their shoulder and be really hard to be around. It's ridiculous to be prejudiced about what a group of young people will be like based on the 'reputation' of the place they are going to live in.

If you don't like the people in your college, you just hang out with the people on your course or in the same society as you out of college.

I went to Christ Church. Advantages I can think of include:
Big cohorts of undergraduates so you have more chances to find people like you.
It offers 3 years living in, which is a huge bonus.
The food is good.
It has loads of money so lots of things are well subsidised, including the beer...
They have good hardship arrangements- DH got a hand-out when he was a bit skint.
You can spend the rest of your life telling people you went to Hogwarts.

BubblesBuddy Fri 10-Aug-18 17:05:33

I tend to think that if you cannot hack other people who are as bright as you, from whatever background, you need to grow up! Or not go. Why cannot young people mix with whoever is around that’s a bit like they are and have the same interests? How can a college make you turn into someone that is not you? Stay true to yourself and be tolerant of others - even David Cameron!

SchnitzelVonKrumm Fri 10-Aug-18 17:06:14

I've also got as many friends from other colleges as my own.

mateysmum Fri 10-Aug-18 17:07:38

Lonicera a lot of people do have a perception and a preference (even if misplaced). Some prefer to be near the town centre, others want a modern college or one that guarantees 3 years accommodation. Some colleges offer cooking facilities others not etc.
Some courses eg: Ancient and Modern History are not offered by all colleges.
Finally, it is only quite recently that open applications have been a "thing". I believe they have existed for a long time but are now promoted more in the interests of widening accessibility to those not clued up in the college system.
However, Oxford is very much a collegiate university. The college is your home and your family in a way a campus/city uni is not. If like your friend you don't have a preference then that's fine.

onholiday Fri 10-Aug-18 17:07:44

DH was at Magdalen- at the same time as Lady Di's brother in fact. He is not posh or a Conservative! He has lots of very normal friends from lots of different colleges.
I was at Birmingham- there were lots of 'posh' people there but everyone got on together.
Please don't let negative stereotypes be the sole reason for your DD to decide on where to go to Uni.

SchnitzelVonKrumm Fri 10-Aug-18 17:08:49

Also in what sense is Somerville (founded 1879) modern?

waitingforwombat Fri 10-Aug-18 17:16:11

I went to David Camerons old college (Brasenose). Neither stuffy, nor posh, tho definitely old and pretty! I came out more left wing than I went in. I'm sure if I had joined the bullingdon society and spent all my time in the union I would have had a different experience, and turned out a oxbridge tory clone, but I promise its the friends you make /clubs you join that make much more of an influence on your time at Oxford, rather than the college. Vast majority people I spoke to applied to their college for random reasons (location, number of places for a subject, looks) rather than a "reputation", which I am not sure mean much other than stereotypes with which to tease people from other colleges.

PS - does she know who Somerville most famous alumna is?

HesMyLobster Fri 10-Aug-18 17:33:26

Haha Wombat I was just about to ask that!

My DD considered an open application, as when looking around she couldn't decide on one college. But then chose a college at the last minute because she went to a summer school last year and really enjoyed a lecture she went to in her subject, so applied to that tutor's college. It was also central and pretty (Brasenose) so that decided it for her.
I don't think the reputation came into it.
She was interviewed at 4 different colleges though, and her offer was from one of those. Luckily she liked that one too and it happens to be next door to the college she applied to so she was very happy.

Now just got to wait for her results (6 days to go . .)

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