Academic life

Did you know? Clocks at Christ Church run five minutes behind the rest of the country. In the 19th century, when Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) became the standard in the UK, Christ Church decided to stay 300 seconds behind. The bells of Christ Church ring 101 times every night at 9:05pm GMT as the college gates close. 

Academic year and terms 

The Oxford academic year is divided into three eight-week terms according to the Anglican ecclesiastical calendar:

  • Michaelmas (Winter term) is named after the Feast of Saint Michael, which begins at the end of September
  • Hilary (Spring term) is named  the Feast of Saint Hilary, which takes place the week before the first Sunday of this term
  • Trinity (Summer term) is named after Trinity Sunday, celebrated the first Sunday after the Feast of Pentecost.

Each week in 'full term' runs from Sunday to Saturday, from weeks 1 to 8, and many committees will meet in a particular week of term. It is worth marking your calendar until you become used to the system: see the dates of term listings. The weeks before and after full term can also be numbered, particularly for graduates and staff who continue to work outside of term time. Therefore do not be surprised by references to 'weeks -1, 9, 10 or 11' or even 'noughth week'! 

Academic dress 

Like most universities, some members of the University wear academic gowns at graduation ceremonies, however, they may also need to be worn at formal occasions, such as Encaenia (the ceremony when honorary degrees are given), and special college dinners. 

University guidance on full academic dress, when to wear it, and stockists from whom to buy or rent is here

The language of Oxford

One of the first things you will notice when you come to Oxford is that the University has its own peculiar vocabulary. For a list of the most common Oxford terms you can familiarise yourself with the Oxford Glossary

And the carnations? During exam periods, you may see students walking around Oxford with white, pink or red carnations pinned to their gowns. The colour symbolises the blood from a scholar’s heart as they 'bleed' knowledge onto the exam paper; the darker the carnation, the closer to the final exam.