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Mistakes not to make when you visit Oxford

1  Don’t ask where ‘the university’ is. Oxford University doesn’t have a single campus – it’s spread all over the city and consists of 38 separate independent colleges and hundreds of faculty and department buildings. This is one of the things that makes Oxford – and Cambridge – so special.


2  Following on from the point above, don’t confuse University College with Oxford University. University College is just one of the 38 Oxford colleges although it is one of the oldest, dating back to 1249. It’s well worth visiting, located on the High Street near the Examination Schools.


3  Still on the subject of colleges, don’t assume that New College is one of the more recent colleges. Although it was new when it was founded, that was back in 1379 and it’s another of the university’s most ancient colleges. It’s famous for its beautiful cloisters and chapel and because it incorporates part of the old city wall.


4  Don’t make the faux pas of pronouncing Magdalen College ‘Mag-de-len College’. It’s pronounced ‘Maudlin College’. Just to make things more confusing, Magdalen Street in the centre of Oxford IS pronounced ‘Mag-de-len’ but lively Magdelen Road in East Oxford is pronounced ‘Maudlin’ like the college. Got it?!


5  Don’t refer to the college and university staff who teach the undergraduate students as ‘Oxford teachers’ or ‘Oxford professors’. ‘Teachers’ is only used for school teachers  and there are only a few Professors at Oxford, it’s a very prestigious position. The correct general term is ‘Oxford dons’, although you may also hear the term ‘Oxford Fellow’ for a don who is a Fellow (or member) of a college, ‘Oxford lecturer’ for someone  appointed by a Faculty to give lectures, or ‘Oxford tutor’ for someone who gives tutorials but is not necessarily a permanent member of a college or a lecturer.


6  Don’t believe any naughty people who tell you that the spire-shaped stone monument, the Martyrs’ Memorial, located at the bottom of St Giles in central Oxford, is actually the spire of an underground sunken cathedral and that the nearby public toilets are the cathedral crypt. This joke is often played on unsuspecting tourists, usually by students.


7  If you go punting on the river in the summer, don’t stand at the ‘Cambridge end’ of the punt to do your punting.  Punts have a flat raised end like a platform at one end, and the other end there is no platform, you stand in a hollow on wooden slats. The platform end is the Cambridge end, and the hollow end is the Oxford end. Actually, the Oxford end is much safer for novices as it is easier to slip off the flat Cambridge end.