Before looking at which college at Oxford suits you, it is useful to have a brief look at some key facts about studying Law at Oxford in general (for a longer, detailed breakdown of Law at Oxbridge as a whole, see our page on Oxbridge law).
The University of Oxford is known for being an incredibly prestigious institution. As of 2023, it is ranked as the best university in the world across numerous league tables, and has a reputation respected across the globe.
The Law Faculty at Oxford is particularly renowned. Alumni include Lord Neuberger (previous Supreme Court President), Lord Sumption (a hugely influential Supreme Court judge) and Lord Denning (arguably the most famous English judge of all time).
Entry is very competitive – for the last 3 years admission has sat around 12% (almost 2000 applicants for around 200 places). A range of courses are offered, including the BA Jurisprudence (the most common choice – a qualifying law degree despite the lack of an ‘LLB’ title). There are also a number of 4-year options including a year abroad, where students study Law with a language (e.g. Spanish or French).
A place at the University of Oxford’s Law School is guaranteed to develop both your academic skills (for example, your essay-writing abilities through the unique tutorial systems operated by Oxbridge) and your network, which will be invaluable as you progress into the workplace, whether that be outside of law, or as a solicitor or barrister.
As part of your application to Oxford (generally, not just for Law), you will be asked on your UCAS form which college you want to apply for. To clarify, upon admission to Oxford, you become a member of both a college within the university and a faculty – so you might live in Christ Church College and study at the University of Oxford Law Faculty, for example. The subject is certainly the most important part, and your college choice should be secondary.
Leading on from that, it is worth highlighting rule number one – don’t overthink your college choice. The main reason for this is that many students who do get a place end up at a different college to the one for which they applied anyway (some years as high as 50%) due to a ‘pooling’ system. This ensures the best candidates get in regardless of which college they applied to – in other words, your choice of college will never affect your chances of admission to the university as a whole.
Some students will even be so disinterested in college choice that they simply submit an ‘open application’ (‘send me to whatever college, I don’t mind’). As already stated, your odds of admission to the university do not change.
If you are interested in learning more about each college and understanding the differences, however, you may discover that you have at least a small preference for some over others – this article outlines a range of factors which you could consider.
One of the most important, and yet overlooked, factors differentiating Oxford colleges is the cost. The university does not standardise the prices across each college for expenses such as accommodation and food. As a result, some colleges will be charging almost twice as much for rent as others – this could be a huge difference for some students, and so is worth looking into in detail.
Linked to this point is the idea of college budgets – some are far wealthier than others (look at their ‘endowments’ online for a starting point), and the wealthier colleges (e.g. Christ Church, St John’s, Magdalen, etc.) tend to subsidise the costs above more heavily. Aside from minimising those outgoings, wealthy colleges will often provide more generous financial support for underrepresented students (for example bursary schemes, although some, such as Crankstart, are standardised by the university as a whole).
Each college has their own unique setup for accommodation. There are two key points to consider here. First, what is the accommodation like in terms of quality? En-suites? Room sizes? These factors may be important to some students.
Second, you might want to consider whether the college you are looking at offers accommodation for all years of your degree, or whether they will require you to move off-site and source private accommodation in Oxford at some point (as is common with many colleges, often during your second year). Some students prefer the independence of moving out for a year, but most generally consider it an (expensive) inconvenience to arrange.
This is an important factor for many students. While Oxford is generally a very walkable city, and most colleges are very close to the city centre (for example Jesus or Exeter), other colleges are actually some distance out (for example St Hugh’s or Lady Margaret Hall).
There are pros and cons here – although Hugh’s students might need a bike to get into the city centre, for example, these ‘further out’ colleges tend to have larger, natural grounds around their buildings, which some students are attracted to.
Different colleges at Oxford have very different student population sizes. For example, Regent’s Park has 166 undergraduates in the last data – St Edmund Hall (‘Teddy Hall’) has 414. Think about whether you want a very tight-knit college community, or whether you would prefer somewhere with a large number of students.
Leading on from our last point, different colleges simply ‘look’ very different. If you’re going to Oxford with the dream of dark, gothic academia, you might want to consider places like Christ Church or New College – whereas those seeking something more modern might be interested in alternatives such as St Catherine’s (commonly referred to as ‘Catz’). This is ultimately a very personal choice.
While your teaching is generally standardised and run by the Faculty (for example the Faculty of Law) rather than your college, your tutorials (as opposed to your lectures) will often take place in your college – with the tutors from the Faculty who happen to be based at your college.
As a result, if you have a particular tutor in mind that you would really like to work with closely, it might be worth considering which college they teach at (though you may well end up encountering them at lectures either way).
For students from underrepresented backgrounds in particular, it can be important to maintain a sense of belonging at a place like Oxford – one which has typically been associated with a lack of diversity.
Each year, the university publicly publishes a huge amount of data which prospective students might be interested to read. This includes statistics on which colleges have the most BAME students, for example, or which colleges tend to represent students from working class backgrounds the best.
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