Which is the Oldest Oxford College?

The University of Oxford is famous around the world and has a reputation for first-class facilities and excellent teaching standards. From 2017 to 2021, the University of Oxford was ranked the number one university in the world by Times Higher Education, a respected British magazine that reports on issues concerning higher education. The university has also been ranked second in the 2022 QS World University Rankings.

As Oxford University is one of the most highly prestigious universities in the world, the admissions process is extremely competitive. There are multiple requirements for students to be accepted into one of the colleges, including exceptional grades, enthusiasm and commitment.

The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world and has been at the forefront of many innovative schemes and discoveries. Famous academics have studied at the Oxford colleges for centuries, including a number of prime ministers, Nobel Prize winners and scientists.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at Balliol College, the oldest college in Oxford, and find out how it has endured and thrived over the years. We’ll explore what it takes to be accepted into this college, and the facilities it has to offer.

Which is the oldest Oxford college?

39 colleges form the University of Oxford. The oldest college is often cited as being Balliol. This college was formed in 1263 by John de Balliol, as a result of a punishment from King Henry III. As the story goes, Balliol and the Bishop of Durham got into a physical altercation in 1260. The King ordered that Balliol be whipped, and then that he should perform a substantial act of charity.

Following the order by the King, Balliol bought a house and allowed scholars to stay in it. Over the next couple of decades, this arrangement developed to become the Balliol College that we recognise today. At the start of term in October 2021, there were 366 undergraduates at the college, and 346 postgraduates.

Continue reading to find out more about Balliol College, how much it costs to study there, and its alumni.

What facilities does Balliol College have?

The college is formed by the Front Quad, which consists of the library and chapel and other buildings. Some of the oldest buildings were built in the 15th century, whilst the dining hall was built in the 19th century.

Lunch and dinner are served seven days a week in the permanent private hall and there is also a bar and cafe for students to use.

During the academic year, students can play on the football and cricket pitches. There are also basketball and netball courts on-site, as well as two squash courts.

Other facilities on-site include a purpose-built studio theatre, called the Michael Pilch Studio. Productions are performed at the theatre on a regular basis and the college has a dramatic society.

Students can also make use of the boathouse, music room and gym, all of which are on site. For studying, there is a 24/7 library and computer rooms for academic and personal study.

Balliol College is located on Broad Street in the centre of Oxford, near The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford Playhouse and Bodleian Library. Oxford University Press, the largest university press in the world, is also located nearby. The university press is the second oldest in the world, after the one run by Cambridge University.

Is there student accommodation at Balliol College?

Students in all years of study are encouraged to stay in the on-site accommodation at Balliol College. Undergraduates are guaranteed accommodation at the college throughout their years of study. Students that are taking part in one of our summer schools are also eligible to stay in Balliol College’s single rooms throughout their course.

After a student’s first year of study, they can choose to stay at the Broad Street site or move to either the Jowett Walk or Master’s Field sites.  Whilst the Broad Street accommodation is made up of single rooms with shared bathrooms, Jowett Walk and Master’s Field offer self-contained flats with en-suite rooms. Master’s Field also boasts tennis and squash courts, along with sports fields.

Many postgraduate students also seek accommodation at the desirable Holywell Manor. The manor is a 1930s annexe that is connected to a medieval house. The main building dates from 1516 and features maintained gardens, a common room and a gym.

As with other premises of Balliol College, the grounds of Holywell Manor are sometimes open to the public.

How much does it cost to study at Balliol College?

UK undergraduate courses cost £9,250 each year of study on a three-year course and studying at Balliol is no different. Students on such courses receive a tuition and maintenance loan from the UK government. Students that have previously completed an undergraduate course are not eligible for financial support from the UK government or from any of Oxford’s colleges.

However, overseas students are not eligible for a student loan from the UK government. The course fees will also be considerably more expensive, somewhere between £27,840 and £39,010 per year.

The cost of studying for a Masters degree will vary depending on the length of the course and the subject. Postgraduate students are also eligible for tuition and living cost loans from the UK government, as long as they are a home student.

The standard contract length for renting a room as a graduate at Balliol College is 44 weeks. The rents of the rooms vary according to which band the room falls into. For example, the cost of an A* room (the best) is £2758.34 per term, whilst a G rated room is £1762.33 per term.

Undergraduates, on the other hand, have a tenancy contract of 189 days, which cover three nine-week terms. The average cost of an undergraduate room is £26.00 per day. The additional cost of electricity and laundry can vary, although it can cost approximately £74.00 per term.

How hard is it to get into the University of Oxford?

Getting into the University of Oxford is very competitive. In 2020, 23,000 undergraduate applicants applied to 3,300 places. In the same year, 34,000 people applied to graduate courses, although there were only 5,500 places.

Students’ grades must meet the stringent entry requirements, but the applicants should also show initiative through extracurricular activities. They will be asked to complete a test and attend an interview during the application process. Tests usually take place from August, whilst interviews start from December. Some students may also be asked to perform a written task.

Applicants will find out whether they have been successful or not in January. Unlike other universities, Oxford does not offer spaces through clearing.

Traditionally, the University of Oxford only accepted male students. However, in the 1970s, Balliol College finally allowed female students to study at the college. During the academic year of 2019-2020, 49.1% of postgraduate students were female.

The University of Oxford has also become more inclusive in other areas. 68.6% of students in 2020 were from state schools, whilst 23.6% of students were of an ethnic minority. In addition, 45% of students were international.

Who has studied at Balliol College?

Many famous people have studied at Balliol College since it was formed in the 1200s. Its most famous alumni include the current British prime minister, Boris Johnson. The founder of the National Trust, H.D. Rawnsley, as well as the founder of the Paralympic Games, Ludwig Guttmann were also former students at Balliol College.

Until 1979, only men were allowed to attend Balliol. But since then, Balliol has produced a range of successful and respected “alumnae”. These include Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and Stephanie Flanders, Senior Executive Editor at Bloomberg.

Can I look around Balliol College?

Visitors are allowed to look around the buildings and grounds of Balliol College from 10.00 am until 5:00 pm (or until dusk). The chapel and hall are also included in the college tours. Admission for adults costs £3.00 each, whilst concessions and students only have to pay £1.00 each. Potential applicants and members of Oxford University are allowed to look around Balliol College for free. The cost of admission includes a map showing the route that visitors should follow.

Large groups are encouraged to contact the college before they visit to make sure that the college can accommodate their numbers.

There are certain periods of time throughout the year when the number of visitors is limited. During the summer exam period, tour groups are limited to eight people, which includes the tour guide. The same limitations apply during the admission period. However, those who hold a blue or green badge are allowed to visit with a maximum group size of eight people.

Members of the university (including staff) are usually allowed to enter The Buttery in the Garden Quad from 7:00 pm each evening. However, this area isn’t currently accessible to visitors.

It’s worth checking on the college website to see if it is currently open to the public. Sometimes the college may close to host events, although this will be announced in advance.

Disabled visitors can access the college via ramps located around the site. A ramp from the Porters’ Lodge leads to the Front Quad, whilst the Chapel Passage allows access from the Front Quad to the Fellows’ Garden. There is also access to the hall via a lift.

There are various other worthwhile sites that visitors can look around near Balliol College, aside from the other colleges. For example, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History is only a couple of minutes away. Blenheim Palace, which is noted for being a UNESCO World Heritage site, is also located a few miles away.


Oxford is one of the oldest universities in the world. The University of Oxford’s oldest college is believed to be Balliol, which was built in 1263. The college consists of various buildings, including some that were built in the 15th century. Students are able to use the sports facilities on-site, which include football pitches, basketball courts and squash courts. A purpose-built theatre at the college also showcases a variety of plays and performances throughout the year, as well as acting as a base for the college’s dramatic society.

Balliol College’s accommodation is spread over four sites: Broad Street, Jowett Walk, Master’s Field and Holywell Manor. Undergraduate students are guaranteed a place to stay over their time at the college, although postgraduate students are also able to apply to live there too. There is also Holywell Manor, a medieval house, which is popular with Masters students.

Gaining acceptance to the university is very competitive, as thousands of students apply to limited spaces each year. Balliol College is one of the largest colleges and therefore accepts a higher number of applicants.

Visitors can look around Balliol College, which is famed for its historic buildings and beautiful gardens. Students from other colleges in the university also have free access to the college and its facilities.

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