Balliol College is a thriving academic community in the heart of Oxford. With around 370 undergraduate students and a nearly equal number of graduates, it is one of the largest colleges of the University of Oxford. It’s known for its relaxed atmosphere, active participation, and students who achieve outstanding academic results.

Life at Balliol is busy, fun, and rewarding. There are lots of things going on and whatever your interest you will be able to get involved in some aspect of College life.

In addition to the students there are 65 Fellows and about 120 staff who help to make the College a beautiful, safe, and interesting place in which to live and work.

Academic work

The academic system is both challenging and stimulating. There is a diversity of people and views, which promotes discussion, and you will be encouraged to think knowledgeably and independently.

Extra-curricular activities

Aside from work, there are Hall dinners, Chapel services, special lectures, speaker lunches, debates, concerts, plays, sports fixtures, society meetings, and more.


Whether you are at work or at play, the historic buildings and landscaped gardens of the main College site provide an atmospheric location. The College also has a graduate centre about five minutes’ walk away, based around Holywell Manor, a beautiful medieval house.


College business is governed by a system of committees, composed of students, Fellows, and staff. There is a thriving Junior Common Room (for undergraduates), Middle Common Room (for graduates), and Senior Common Room (for Fellows).

Some famous alumni

  • Prime ministers: Herbert Asquith, Harold Macmillan, Edward Heath
  • Literary figures: Robert Southey, Matthew Arnold, Robert Browning, Algernon Swinburne, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Hilaire Belloc, Aldous Huxley, Nevil Shute, Anthony Powell, Graham Greene, Robertson Davies
  • Nobel-prize-winning scientists: Oliver Smithies, C N Hinshelwood, Baruch Blumberg, Anthony Leggett
  • Other historic figures: John Wycliffe, who inspired the first translations of the Latin Bible into English, was one of the College's Masters in the 14th century; James Bradley, who entered Balliol in 1711 and served as Astronomer Royal from 1742, made discoveries that were fundamental to modern astronomy; Adam Smith, of The Wealth of Nations fame, was here from 1740 to 1746; in the 20th century Balliol man William Beveridge led the development of modern social welfare
  • Recent alumni: Richard Dawkins, Peter Snow, Bill Drayton, Christopher Hitchens, Cressida Dick, Nicola Horlick, Robert Peston, Boris Johnson, Yvette Cooper, Stephanie Flanders, Amit Chaudhuri, Rana Dasgupta, Dan Snow