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THE UK: Destination Guides

The ultimate student guide to Oxford

Studying in one of the world's top university cities is a dream. If you'd like to make it come true, our Oxford international student guide is here to help.

Multi-coloured composite illustration of some of Oxford's historic buildings

Come to study in Oxford, and you'll soon see why it is known as 'The City of Dreaming Spires'. Its historic architecture and natural beauty have inspired students for centuries. Known best for the world-leading Oxford University, the city has educated some of the most famous names in art and science, from Stephen Hawking to J. R. R. Tolkien. If you're keen to walk in their footsteps, start with our Oxford international student guide.

What is Oxford like?

Location and demographics

Situated in the heart of southern England, Oxford is ideally placed among beautiful countryside, while being only around 60-80 miles from the major cities of Birmingham, Bristol and London. Oxford itself is much smaller than these places, with a population of around 150,000, so you may have a more relaxed experience here than elsewhere. Nonetheless, in a city built around students, you will never be short of things to do.

The strong student presence also ensures that the people of Oxford have a wide range of backgrounds. Although the city is a long way from being as diverse as somewhere like London, people come here from all over the world. Around 45 per cent of students at Oxford University are international students, while people from around 140 countries attend neighbouring Oxford Brookes.

Of course, Oxford is far from the only great place to study in Britain. Find out about some of the country’s other top university destinations with our guide to the best student cities in the UK.


Culture and history

Oxford is an immensely historic city which has welcomed students for almost 1,000 years. As such, its culture has been heavily shaped by education. Many of the buildings you will see as you walk around would not exist without its university heritage, and that includes places that are not directly connected to it. Oxford would not be the same if it had never become a centre of academic excellence.

Nevertheless, not everything in Oxford is university-focused. Indeed, in previous centuries, disagreements between local residents and students led to full-scale battles. Such conflict was even responsible for the founding of the University of Cambridge, which happened after Oxford scholars fled there in fear. Of course, that kind of problem is a thing of the past, but even today you should be mindful that there is life beyond studying in Oxford.


What universities are in Oxford?

When you think of studying in Oxford, you probably think of Oxford University. The renowned institution has placed top of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings every year since 2017, and has been regarded as one of the most prestigious of all universities for centuries.

However, if prestige is not your number one concern, you should not overlook Oxford Brookes University. While it does not have the same elite reputation as its famous neighbour, that means that your chances of studying there are greater. It is still a well-regarded university, and above all it gives you the same opportunity to enjoy the legendary Oxford student experience.

Alternatively, there are many other places to go for the pleasure of studying in a historic English university city. For some inspiration, try our ultimate student guide to Cambridge.


What does Oxford offer students?

What is transport like in Oxford?

Oxford is well connected to other major UK destinations such as Birmingham and London, which are just an hour away by train. In addition, the Oxford Tube is a coach that runs between the city and London every 10-20 minutes, almost 24 hours a day. A return ticket costs GBP 16 for students.

Within Oxford, coaches and buses run regularly, connecting you to the whole of the city. However, if you enjoy travelling on foot, you may not need them - much of the area is very walkable. You could also keep fit by cycling, which is another popular mode of transport in the area.


What are the entertainment and food like in Oxford?

Having fun in Oxford is easy. With so many students around, you will always find good company, and together you can enjoy its many great things to see and do. Overall, the city is geared towards a slower pace of life than some others, but that shouldn't stop you having an exciting time.

For a night of top comedy, music or even contemporary dance, the New Theatre Oxford is the place to go, while you can catch some less mainstream performances at the North Wall Arts Centre. In the daytime, you can get in touch with the history of the city at fascinating visitor attractions such as Oxford Castle & Prison, or take in some of Oxford University's own grand properties. The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford Botanic Garden and Pitt Rivers Museum are just a few of the remarkable places run by the university.


The manicured lawns, verdant greenery, and clear paths and ponds of Oxford Botanic Garden under cloudy blue skies, with a historic building in the distance.


Once you've worked up an appetite, you'll be glad to find that Oxford has plenty to offer in terms of restaurants and cafes. For example, the Rickety Press in the cool area of Jericho is a regular spot for students. Similarly priced is the city centre's White Rabbit, which offers a range of tasty pizzas. Oxford is also home to an array of quaint and quirky cafes such as Thirsty Meeples, where you can happily play board games to pass the time on a rainy afternoon. At the Grand Café, meanwhile, you can enjoy a classic British cream tea by day and a range of cocktails by night.

Looking for more excitement? The cities near Oxford can provide it. Take a trip to the southwest of the UK with our student guide to Bristol.


What is the accommodation like in Oxford?

Arranging where to live as a student in Oxford should not be too difficult, as there are good options to suit various budgets and preferences.

As with most cities, living in the centre is more expensive than the suburbs, but does mean that you will be close to everything you need. However, there are a few areas which are especially student-friendly and more affordable. For example, Jericho is known for being a cosmopolitan area, with student housing, cafes, restaurants and bars.

Alternatively, Headington is another prime location. Oxford Brookes students in particular love the area, as it is close to their main campus. It is also a place with a good amount of large Victorian homes, which are ideal for house sharing.

For some more advice on where to live, read our guide to student accommodation in the UK.


Are there public services for students in Oxford?

The public services offered to international students in Oxford are not always the same as those which can be used by permanent UK residents.

Healthcare is an important example of this. Beyond times when it is is considered to be “medically necessary”, such as in emergencies, treatment is not free for international students. Using the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) requires payment of the mandatory immigration healthcare surcharge. For students, this costs GBP 470 each year, but once that is paid, you can access the NHS whenever you need it.

Thinking about this kind of issue is clearly important, and so it is understandable if you have more questions and concerns about your rights as an international student. For some of our most important advice, read our guide on how to apply for a student visa in the UK.


How much does it cost to live in Oxford?

The general cost of Oxford

Studying in Oxford means studying in one of the UK's more expensive cities. You should therefore think carefully about how you will manage your money before you make plans, and be just as careful after you arrive.

Student budget in Oxford

While the cost of being a student in Oxford will vary depending on factors including the part of it in which you decide to live, your total monthly budget should fall somewhere between GBP 1,200 and 1,900.

In some cases, you may also need to give proof that your budget will be sufficient before you can receive a UK student visa. Whether you have to do this will depend on which country you are from. Students from India, Pakistan, Nigeria and many others must show that they will have a budget of at least GBP 1,023 a month while they study in Oxford.

For some more detailed advice on budgeting, read our guide to the cost of studying in the UK.


What are the main attractions in Oxford?

Seven million visitors come to Oxford each year, with many arriving just for its iconic architecture and top attractions.

Undoubtedly, a trip to the city would not be complete without visiting Oxford University's Christ Church college, which was the inspiration for the Great Hall in Harry Potter. Similarly, you can't miss the Bodleian Library, which is one of the oldest libraries in Europe and argued by some to be the most beautiful. Another famous building is the Ashmolean, Britain’s oldest public museum, which gives visitors the chance to enjoy fantastic art and archaeology exhibits for free in the heart of Oxford.

With that said, there is more to Oxford than spires, museums and colleges. Explore the Covered Market in the city centre, where you'll find everything from fruit to jewellery and local crafts. Afterwards, hire a boat from Magdalen Bridge Boathouse and prepare to immerse yourself in the relaxing natural surroundings of the area. A day of punting on the canals will be a day well spent.


Several wooden punt boats rest on the water beside a smooth path, low bridge and tall trees in Oxford. A historic building is to their left.


Inspired by our international student guide to Oxford? Now that you have an idea of what to expect from studying in the city, use our course matcher tool to see how you could make it happen.

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