Oxford has a distinctive collegiate structure. Students and academics benefit from belonging both to the University, a large, internationally-renowned institution, and to a college or hall, a small, interdisciplinary academic community.
The colleges and halls
There are 38 Oxford colleges, which are financially independent and self-governing, but relate to the central University in a kind of federal system. There are also six permanent private halls, which are similar to colleges except that they tend to be smaller, and were founded by particular Christian denominations. The colleges and halls are close academic communities, which bring together students and researchers from different disciplines, cultures and countries. This helps to foster the outstanding research achievement that has made Oxford a leader in so many fields.
The colleges and the University work together to organise teaching and research, and many staff at Oxford will hold both a college and a University post.
If you are interested in undergraduate study at Oxford, please consult our information on colleges for prospective undergraduates.
The central University
The central University is made up of many different sections, including academic and administrative departments, libraries and museums.
There are roughly 100 major academic departments, which are overseen by the four academic divisions: Medical Sciences; Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences; Humanities and Social Sciences.
Each department organises teaching and research in a different subject area, from Anthropology to Zoology. There are also many smaller, specialist research centres and sub-departments.
The Department for Continuing Education offers part-time, flexible courses and programmes for adult learners. It offers more than 1,000 courses each year, including weekly classes, online courses, day, weekend and summer schools, undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications, and continuing professional development courses.
The role of the colleges and halls and the University in student life
Almost every student at Oxford is a member of a college. Most colleges admit both graduate and undergraduate students.
The undergraduate admissions process is co-ordinated by the University, but colleges are ultimately responsible for selecting and admitting their undergraduate students.
The University admits graduate students, but once they have been offered a place by the University, graduate students are also selected by a college.
Facilities and resources
Colleges provide accommodation, catering, social spaces, pastoral care and other facilities for their students.
The University provides centralised student services, including careers and counselling, as well as resources such as libraries, laboratories and museums.
Colleges organise tutorial teaching for undergraduates. Tutorials are central to studying at Oxford, giving students an opportunity to discuss and explore their subject in small groups with an expert in the field.
The University supervises graduate students and examines graduate theses.
The University determines the content of degree courses, and organises lectures, seminars and lab work for both undergraduate and graduate students.
The University sets and marks examinations, and awards degrees to students.