Nasim Haque









By Nasim Haque

Oxford Colleges from a Potterhead’s Perspective

If you think of Oxford as the next best thing to Hogwarts (perhaps an even better version of it), and you’re something of a Potterhead (a Harry Potter fan if you’re not familiar with this term), then you will love the concept of colleges. The college system in Oxford, in Potterhead terms, is similar to the House system in Harry Potter, and an experience you will not find anywhere else.

What are “Colleges”

The College system is at the heart of education in Oxford. Except for very few circumstances, every student of Oxford University is a member of a college. In Harry Potter terms, Oxford University is your “Hogwarts”, and the colleges are your “Houses”. It is a vital part of one’s academic identity and in many cases, a place where someone lives during their studies.

This means all Oxford students have the benefits of belonging to both a large, world-class university and to a small and friendly academic community. The University has 38 colleges, some dedicated to graduates only and others accepting both undergraduates and graduates. There are also 6 permanent private halls.

Merton College, Oxford.

Merton college, Oxford.

How Do I Become a Member of a College?

Just like the Houses in Harry Potter, the college selection follows a “Sorting Hat” process.

As a student you can research about different colleges and apply to the college you feel most attracted to. You may also wish to allow the “Sorting Hat” to decide your fate, i.e., you may not specify which college you prefer and let the University decide which you one you should be admitted to.

Once you apply (or not) to a specific college, the college will then decide whether to extend its membership offer to you. Sometimes, because of unforeseen circumstances, it is unable to extend an offer. Then other colleges will have the opportunity to include you as a member.

Brasenose College, Oxford

Brasenose College, Oxford

Some Personal Recommendations

From my own personal experiences with my own college (a proud St Hilda’s member) and many others, I have gather the following insights:

  • All Colleges are Created Equal: Just like the “Houses” of “Hogwarts”, all the colleges of University of Oxford have their own unique strengths and beauties. No matter what college you eventually end up in, you won’t regret it.
  • Apply to the College that Best Represents You: Along with membership and accommodation, colleges offer many other tertiary opportunities. Some offer research grants while others provide travel allowances. Look into the core values and opportunities of each colleges and pick the one that you align with most.
  • Get to Know Your College (and Others): Because of the nature of graduate studies, sometimes it is difficult to find time to explore the colleges. In my view, colleges are one the best things Oxford has to offer, and you will never regret spending time in different colleges. Go for formal dinners, go with friends, or even go alone just to visit the college grounds. It takes only a few hours (sometimes less) to do a good tour of a college and you will never regret visiting

What is your favourite college? Or favourite thing about your college? Let me know in the comments below!

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