Oxford Glossary

As the second oldest university in the world, Oxford has some pretty bizarre relics from its past – probably the most obvious ones are its strange rituals and the fact that it insists on calling things by peculiar names. Here’s a handy glossary to guide you through the ins and outs of university tradition.

  • Battels
    Not in fact a battle, but something similarly horrible. Battels are college bills for rent and other costs, for instance food at some colleges.
  • Blue
    An award given to Varsity sports players (those who make it into the university level squads and play against Cambridge. It also used to describe the players themselves e.g. “I wish I were a Blue.”
  • Bodleian
    The collective name for the University library service.
  • Bop
    Essentially a party organised by students, usually with a theme and fancy dress. Each college has between two and four of these each term. Some colleges host them internally whilst others will rent clubs.
  • Collections
    Mock-style exams set by college tutors at the beginning of term.
  • Entz
    So this basically stands for fun events – like bops – organised by student reps but no one is quite sure whether the word itself is an abbreviation of "entertainment", "events" or "entertainment events"
  • Fellow
    A senior member of a college – usually a tutor.
  • Finals
    Exams that count towards your degree. They're not necessarily all taken at the end of your course.
  • Formal Hall
    A formal dinner at college, takes place between one and six times a week depending on your college. Three courses, usually delicious, and very good value.
  • JCR
    Junior Common Room: (1) The undergraduate student body at your college; (2) The physical room in which members of the JCR hang out, pre-drink, have sleepovers, play FIFA and accidentally fall asleep. Sometimes in that order.
  • MCR
    Middle Common Room. Like the JCR, but for graduate students.
  • Matriculation
    A ceremony at the beginning of your first term in which you are formally inducted into the University. It involves getting dressed up (see sub-fusc), listening to some Latin, and then celebratory drinking.
  • Michaelmas/Hilary/Trinity
    Autumn term/Spring term/Summer term. No clue why they’re called this.
  • Mods
    First-year exams for some subjects (e.g. Law) and second-year exams for certain other subjects (like Classics) which have no first-year exams. See prelims.
  • Porter
    The college gatekeeper/security guard/personal counsellor/kebab sharer depending on college and individual disposition. They may look intimidating, but tell them you’re a prospective applicant and they’ll let you in to look round colleges.
  • Prelims
    First-year exams for most subjects.
  • Quad
    ‘Quadrangle’. The central square bit of a college. Usually grassy and surrounded by buildings.
  • Sub-fusc
    It may sound like a sneeze, but sub-fusc is the costume you'll need to don for matriculation and exams. It basically consists of a dark suit, white bow tie or black ribbon, gown and mortarboard (a funny hat which you carry around but don't wear).
  • Tute
    Short for tutorial. Small group teaching sessions, usually weekly session, with a given tutor. Can be a bit scary at first but generally acknowledged to be one of the best things about Oxford when you get into the swing of things.
  • Vacation
    Oxford's word for the holidays (Christmas, Easter and Summer respectively, as you'd expect). Often abbreviated to 'vac'.