Merton College – the place where fun goes to die…or at least to those who have never been. In reality, Merton is a beautiful old college with a welcoming atmosphere where people feel free to get involved with what they want. Whatever your goals at Oxford, in drama, music, sport, or indeed work, at Merton there’ll always be a tight-knit community supporting you. It’s true that Merton’s exam results are consistently strong, but that need not be a source of fear so much as of encouragement. Should you ever visit Merton, ask about the backwards-walking, port-drinking antics of the annual Time Ceremony.
Everyone at Merton has access to kitchens. First years are assigned one of the three kitchens on the main college site; everyone can use the kitchen adjacent to the JCR and all Holywell Street houses have their own kitchen. For those who don’t want to cook, hall food is excellent and very well priced: around £1.90 for breakfast and £3.40 for lunch which includes a main meal, soup, salad bar and dessert. Dinner is around £4.20 and formal, which is served every day except Saturday, is the same price! There are always meat, fish and vegetarian options and a wide range of dietary requirements are happily catered for. The dress code for formal is relatively relaxed but smart, and gowns are required. Every term there is a black tie formal and a charity formal, and both JCR and MCR guest nights are hosted frequently. Meals in hall are paid for using your Bodcard, which you can top up online.
Accommodation is offered at Merton for every year of your degree - even the six for medicine! First year students are randomly allocated rooms before arrival; these are all the same price and located on or adjacent to the main college site, which also has two sets of laundry facilities and a gym free for members of college to use. There are several rooms around college with accessibility adjustments including wheelchair access, flashing fire alarms for those with hearing impairments and adjacent rooms for the use of a carer if necessary. For second year, rooms are allocated using a ballot system which you can enter with up to 6 people; in third year the ballot is reversed so those with worse rooms in second year have the better rooms for third year. Second and fourth years live on Holywell street in college-owned houses of 6-14 people, which all have kitchens. Third years, and fourth years returning from a year abroad, return and live in one of the historic quads on the main college site. All these rooms are en suite and many are sets, with a bedroom and separate study room. All undergraduate students are required to move out fully at the end of each term, however over the Christmas and Easter vacations storage is provided by college. International students have access to a larger amount of storage and are also able to leave belongings over the summer vac. Undergraduate students may stay in the vacation and 30 days of free accommodation over the course of your studies are provided, to fund early return/late stays for study reasons, e.g. exams.
Merton has a really broad range of societies and sports teams, from one of Oxford’s most famous choirs to the water polo team which competed in 2018 Cuppers. Merton’s drama society, The Merton Floats, put on a very successful performance of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost in 2018, and as well as the excellent chapel choir we have the non-auditioning Kodály choir, and the Fidelio orchestra. There are several brand-new music rooms available for students to book, and we also have the use of football, rugby and cricket pitches, four tennis courts, two squash courts and a Real Tennis court. Merton College Boat Club has a huge selection of boats and is very welcoming to novices and old hands alike. The college gym is small but perfectly formed, conveniently located on the college site and free to all members of the college. Students have the opportunity to join a wide range of college sports teams, including rugby, football, cricket and netball, and a huge variety of societies including The Neave Society for debating and The Bodley Club, a speaker society.
Welfare provision is excellent at Merton with two JCR Welfare reps and 6-8 Peer Support trained members of the JCR Committee each year. The Welfare reps hold welfare tea in the JCR every Sunday, which is a great excuse to escape the library and have a chat over a slice of pizza or cup of tea. There are also around 6 Peer Support trained MCR members each year. In addition there are three welfare deans who all live on the main college site and are contactable 24/7 for anyone who may need them. The head of welfare at the college is the chaplain Simon Jones, who is lovely and friendly and can give confidential support to all members of college. There is also the college nurse who is on site every weekday and runs a drop-in style clinic.
Contrary to popular belief, Entz at Merton does exist! The JCR is a large and well-used room in the centre of college, with table tennis, comfy sofas and displays of student art. Just downstairs is the characterful college bar, with a jukebox, cheap drinks and snacks, and home to the iconic Merton drink: the bright blue Power Pint. The bar is always well-populated after formal or before a night out, as is the adjacent games room with pool, table football and air hockey. BOPs occur every two weeks (far more than many other colleges!!), with pre-BOP held in the JCR and the BOP itself in the Merton sports pavilion just a 10 minute walk from college, by St. Catz. Pre-BOP has a plentiful supply of free drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, and the pavilion allows BOPs to go on until 2am, later than at many other colleges! A huge range of other events are held in the JCR from wine and cheese nights to team socials, as well as the weekly bar quiz. For graduate students there are two MCR spaces: one on the central college site where an array of talks and social events are held, and one in the Holywell graduate accommodation block.
From beautiful gardens to stunning buildings, music rooms to sports fields, wild bops to wholesome welfare tea; Merton is a welcoming friendly community that really does have something for everyone
For me the greatest surprise about arriving at Merton was the unwavering warmth of the college community, which made the college such a wonderful home from home. That, and the impossibility or finding any fault with the place! I could not be more content with my choice of Merton