Why Choose Oxford?
Oxford is home to one of the most ancient and famous universities in the English-speaking world. It has both extraordinary academic assets and a wealth of cultural activities that are open to M-CMRS students. There is so much to do in Oxford that it is hard to be bored.
Museums & Galleries
There are several world-famous museums and art galleries in Oxford, such as the Ashmolean, Pitt Rivers, the Natural History Museum and Museum of the History of Science. In addition there are extensive offerings of music and drama, not least in the two professional theatres, the Playhouse and the New Theatre.
Oxford has a truly remarkable concentration of museums and galleries, covering pretty much every form of art, and the whole range of human history and endeavour. Just as in other parts of Oxford cultural life, there really is much more here than anyone could reasonably expect in a city this size.
Most famous is the Ashmolean Museum, whose history goes back to 1620, but which was thoroughly modernised in 2009. The collection includes antiquities and art from East and West, as well as the unique Cast Gallery.
Another venerable, but innovative University museum is the Museum of the History of Science, which is housed in ‘the oldest surviving purpose-built museum building in the world’, and is renowned for its imaginative table talks and pioneering online exhibitions.
The Pitt Rivers Museum contains the archaeological and anthropological collections of the University of Oxford, and is inside the Museum of Natural History, just across the road from Keble College. The Museum of Modern Art is a few steps away from M-CMRS and hosts contemporary art exhibitions, as well as boasting an excellent bookshop and spacious café. Christ Church Picture Gallery has an outstanding collection of old masters, housed within a modernist building in the grounds of Christ Church College, and the Bates Collection of musical instruments features over 2000 examples that date from the Renaissance to today. Finally, the Weston Library regularly hosts fascinating exhibitions that highlight treasures from the Bodleian Library collection. This is all without venturing more than three quarters of a mile from M-CMRS!
Students should note that the majority of museums and galleries in the UK are free to enter, with admission generally being charged only for exhibitions or special events. M-CMRS regularly organises tours of Oxford libraries and special collections, and students are also encouraged to explore the university botanical gardens, as well as the beautiful gardens and buildings of the numerous Oxford colleges.
Music, Drama & Cinema
The musical and dramatic life of Oxford is truly dizzying. Whatever your tastes, you can find something to enjoy or to join in pretty much every day of the week. Perhaps the best way of sampling the diversity is to look through a term-time week of performances listed in Daily Information the indispensable guide to Oxford life.
Venues include two professional theatres, the Playhouse and the New Theatre; a huge selection of nightclubs; several small theatres including the university-based Burton Taylor Studio; the oldest custom-built concert hall in Europe; College Theatres; at least one huge indie band venue; Sir Christopher Wren’s Sheldonian Theatre; college chapels and any number of churches.
There are choirs, orchestras, bands, chamber music groups, improv and theatre clubs, open-mic nights, gigs, recitals, comedy, and concerts to suit all audiences and tastes.
We also have quite a selection of cinemas ranging from the artsy, independent UPP to the Vue corporate multiplex in the outskirts of town. The Odeon in Magdalen Street and George Street show a good range of films on general release, as does the Curzon in the Westgate Centre. All of these are within five minutes’ walk of St Michael’s Hall and offer student discounts.
So, if music or drama, live or celluloid, moves you, there is really very little excuse for being bored in Oxford.
Virtually every major world religion has a worshipping community in Oxford. M-CMRS students have regular opportunities for worship at Keble and within their own tradition.
Keble College Chapel is open every day to all for personal prayer and meditation. There are also daily services to which all members of the College (including M-CMRS students) are warmly invited. Although the services are those of the Church of England, all baptized persons who have communicant status in their own denomination are welcome to receive Holy Communion. The Chapel community has a lively social life with many opportunities for fellowship and fun.
There are also a number of student-led religious societies within the College and University. The Catholic Chaplaincy and Catholic Society organizes social events, and coordinates theological study, charity and social work. The Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union arranges a lively programme of meetings and worship. The University Jewish Society is flourishing, holding daily meals and frequent events. The University Islamic Society also thrives, with a full programme of religious and social activities.
Other societies cater for, amongst others, Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Taoist and secular students.
A wide variety of religious services is available in the centre of Oxford every week. Several mosques including the new Oxford Central Mosque serve various Islamic communities. The Oxford Jewish Centre maintains three different streams of prayer; Orthodox, Masorti and Progressive. Several branches of Buddhism have places of worship or monasteries. Plans are afoot to build a gurdwara for Oxford Sikhs; meanwhile, they meet every Sunday in a local school. Baha’is meet together frequently to study, pray and enjoy fellowship. Roman Catholic students tend to go to the nearby chaplaincy, to the Dominicans at Blackfriars or to the Oxford Oratory. Many Protestants favour St Aldate’s and St Ebbe’s, major centres of evangelical Christianity within the Church of England. Depending on their churchmanship, Episcopalians go to the Cathedral, the University Church, St Mary Magdalen’s or Pusey House. Russian and Greek Orthodox celebrate the Divine Liturgy in English, Slavonic, Greek and a little Romanian at the pan-Orthodox church on Canterbury Road and at St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church.
Through their status as associate members of Keble College, M-CMRS semester students are entitled to join College clubs as well as a huge variety of University clubs and societies. The range of University clubs and societies is impressive, covering music, drama, politics, religion, sport, and many other subject areas and fields of interest. Membership of most clubs is free or relatively cheap and can be an excellent way of meeting people outside M-CMRS and Keble.
Oxford is renowned for its variety of excellent shops and people travel from miles around to use them. M-CMRS’ city centre location gives you the ultimate Oxford shopping experience on your doorstep and it is located a few steps away from the Westgate Shopping Mall. With designer to chain stores, new to second-hand shops, open and covered markets, in Oxford you can shop till you drop! Experience Oxfordshire, In Oxford Mag and Daily Info, Oxford will take you to some of the delights Oxford has to offer.
Easy to Escape
And if you need a break or want to explore, Oxford is ideally placed for easy access to London and to airports, rail and coach stations for weekend visits to continental Europe, Ireland or other parts of the United Kingdom.
Oxford has excellent transport links both by rail and road. It is possible to get to London by train in an hour, or by coach in an hour and a half. If you plan to use the trains regularly, it is well worth investing in a young person’s railcard which will give you a third off the usual prices. For longer journeys you should book in advance to get discounted rates.
The Oxford Tube is the best way to get to London by coach and there are concessionary rates for students. The Mega Bus is also a cheap way of travelling around the country. The Airline Bus to Heathrow Airport takes about 90 minutes, and Gatwick Airport takes about two and two-and-a-half hours.
M-CMRS students manage to fit a startling amount into their time in Oxford. Many of them find time for day trips, theatre outings or weekends on the continent. It is sensible, though, not to make too many travel arrangements until you get into the swing of things and know your academic schedule.