All students at Oxford belong to a college, which provides an academic and social base. This collegiate system brings great advantages. Colleges are small communities where you can get to know other students easily and where you will receive personal attention from your tutors. All colleges offer the same sort of facilities – accommodation, meals, libraries, computing – but there are differences. The following pages aim to tell you what is distinctive about Balliol.

Balliol is one of the larger colleges – in total we have about 400 undergraduates (and a nearly equal number of graduates) – and one of the most lively and stimulating. We take academic work very seriously, but visitors are generally struck by the informal and friendly feel of the place. We have a diverse and international body of students, with an unusually high proportion from Europe or beyond. In the 19th century, Balliol led the way in turning Oxford from the preserve of the upper classes into a place of high academic standards open to all on merit. We are very proud of that tradition and remain committed to attracting the best students regardless of their social or educational background.

Student life

Balliol is not just a place where students learn. It is also a place where students live. Balliol is right in the middle of Oxford, close to laboratories, lecture theatres, libraries, and shops. The atmosphere is informal and relaxed. In the summer, tutors and students sit out in the Garden Quad, having a drink and a chat, sometimes having a tutorial.

Balliol is a small but heterogeneous community. We have students from all over the world, from all kinds of background, studying a wide range of subjects. They pursue a variety of extracurricular interests – theatre, sport, journalism, ecology, politics, debating, music. Many are actively involved in these activities beyond the College, at University level. We take pride in our diversity, and in the high level of commitment and achievement of our students. But above all we are pleased that, in Balliol, these different kinds of people get on so well.

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The JCR (Junior Common Room) is the name given to both the body of students as a whole and to an actual room. The room is the focus of student life, consisting of a TV area and photocopier at one end, the justly famous Pantry at the other, and a mass of newspaper-strewn seating and a bank of computers in between. Downstairs is the bar and games room, and a well equipped gym. Balliol’s JCR plays a special role in the life of the College. Whereas in many colleges it is relatively small and formal (and usually empty), in Balliol it is the place where students get together – for breakfast, for coffee, for lunch, for tea, for supper, to gossip, to read the papers, to share tips on the latest essay, or to conduct a post mortem on a just-finished tutorial.

Balliol is unique in the level of input its students make to College life. Each year, there are elections to jobs covering different areas of operation (Treasurer, Bar, Welfare, Entertainments, and so on). The student-run JCR Committee administers a substantial budget, liaises with the College regarding students’ needs and interests, and has a voice on key College committees. It is a friendly and expert source of information about student welfare and organises a constant round of social activities, including our annual Summer Event.