Arriving at Oxford, you will likely find yourself immersed in an entirely unique and remote culture that has acquired its own vocabulary over a very long period of time (several hundred years, in fact). As this shibboleth system and preference for acronyms can prove somewhat alienating or daunting at first, we aim to provide some of the keys to your linguistic success. Here are some words you can get to know before you arrive. You will soon become accustomed to using them before you even notice it (much to the chagrin of folks back home).
Adviser (n): a Senior Member of the college assigned to you by the college who is responsible for your pastoral care whilst at St Anne’s and is generally in your field of study. Advisors/advisees typically meet once per term to discuss academic progress and non-academic issues. In addition to the Tutor for Graduates, your advisor is one of the first people you should talk to about any difficulties you may be experiencing.
Battels (n): your termly bill from college, including fees for tuition, accommodation (if you live in RSH or EPH), MCR levies (such as punting fees), and any other charges you might incur (this includes printing from the Library as well as the EPH and RSH computer rooms). Battels are payable in the Accounts Office, located on the ground floor of Hartland House.
Blue (n): Award given to sporty types who’ve represented the University in a Varsity match.
The Bod (n): short for the Bodleian library, which refers both to the building erected in 1602 by Sir Thomas Bodley (a fellow of Merton College and diplomat to Queen Elizabeth) in 1602 to house the books donated by Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester, in the mid-1400s and to many library sites that have been erected since then. The Bod is a copyright deposit library (which means you cannot borrow books) and its collections are used by scholars from around the world. Its resources may be precisely what brought you here in the first place. While the central library, the Old Bod, is located at the east end of Broad Street, the New Bod (across the street), has been reopened in 2015.
Bod Card (n): a commonly used alternate for your university student card. Your Bod Card gets you access to the Bodleian Library, can be used as a photocopy card, to get discounts around town, and to purchase meals in the dining hall or in STACS.
Bop (n): A themed party at a College. Bops are not commonly held at St Anne’s, so we usually drop by our neighbours St Antony’s and Green Templeton if they have one on.
Confirmation (v): Similar to Transfer, another bout of writing with a viva at the end. Happens towards the end of a DPhil, usually at the end of second year or beginning of third.
Dean (n): A College Fellow responsible for supervising the conduct and discipline of the Junior Members (i.e. undergraduate and graduate students) of the College.
DPhil (n): Doctor of Philosophy degree. Outside of Oxford and St Andrew’s, it’s called a PhD.
EPH (n): Eleanor Plumer House, the site of the MCR common room, computer room, kitchen, and some graduate accommodations. Named after Eleanor Plumer, the Principal of the Society of Oxford Home Students (now St Anne’s) from 1940 to 1953. By her gracious permission, we have the Plumer family’s shield as our college’s coat of arms.
Fellows (n): the college’s trustees. They are the Governing Body of the college and manage and plan the college’s activities. They may be academics or non-academic officers of the College.
Formal Hall (n): A formal meal held in the College Dining Hall a couple of times a term. Tickets can be purchased online through the St Anne’s weblearn portal. These dinners are open to both undergraduates and graduates. If you haven’t already, read up on how to dress for special occasions at St Anne’s above.
Fresher (n): a first year (graduate or undergraduate) student of the college.
Hilary (n): is the second academic term. It runs from January to March and is so named because the feast day of St Hilary of Poitiers, 14 January, falls near the start this term.
JCR (n): the Junior Common Room – its body of undergraduates and a room for their use in Hartland House.
Lodge (n): the building on Woodstock Road (main college entrance) where the porters work and where mail and visitors arrive. If you are having guests, it’s a good idea to have them meet you here.
Matriculation (n): a formal ceremony held a couple weeks after coming up (regardless of geography, you always ‘come up’ to Oxford) for the first time, admitting freshers as students of the University. Sub fusc is required, a dress code that includes gown and mortar board. This is the official moment of induction to the University.
Magdalen College (n): we draw this to your attention because of its unique pronunciation: try “maud-lin” or “mawd-len” instead of “mag- da-len.”
Michaelmas (n): the first term of the academic year. This term derives its name from the Feast of St Michael and All Angels, which falls on 29 September. The term runs from September or October to Christmas.
MOLT (n): Mary Ogilvie Lecture Theatre, were many of your induction events will be held. Also the location of the JCR weekly film night, special lectures, and termly music recitals. Lady Mary Ogilvie was the Principal of St Anne’s from 1954-1966 and, in addition to Oxford’s first ever nursery for the children of staff, she also secured the funding to build our Dining Hall (recently renovated in 2012). It is shortly referred to as ‘Molt’, as nobody really knows how to pronounce Lady Ogilvie’s name.
OUSU (n): Oxford University Students’ Union, or OUSU (pronounced ‘Ow-zoo’), is Oxford’s central student union. It represents the students of the University on University committees, and provides a number of services to students. MCR members are automatically members of OUSU. See www.ousu.org for more information.
Oxford Union (n): The Oxford Union is a private members’ club founded in 1823 as a debating society. Past speakers have included Ronald Reagan to Her Majesty the Queen, from Michael Jackson to Johnny Depp, from Imran Khan to Sir Steve Redgrave and from the Dalai Lama to Desmond Tutu. While the membership fee can seem a bit steep at first, the Union explains that, “it works out at just over £1 a week throughout your time at Oxford, and crucially it is a life-long membership.” See www.oxford-union.org for more information.
Pigeon Hole (Pidge) (n): your college mailbox. You can find yours in EPH. Pigeon-post in an inter-/intra- college mail delivery scheme. You can pigeon-post items at the lodge and expect the items to arrive by the next day (or so).
Porter (n): those lovely individuals who work at the Porters’ Lodge, direct visitors, sort mail, answer questions, and give out keys and codes for college rooms. Make sure you mention you are a member of the MCR when asking for room codes.
Proctor (n): two fellows appointed yearly to oversee student discipline and welfare across the whole University.
RDB (n): the Ruth Deech Building, which houses extensive conference facilities (a lecture theatre, seminar rooms, and dining facilities) on the lower ground floor, in addition to the new College Lodge on the upper ground floor, and 113 en-suite student rooms. Erected in 2005, it won an award for environmental sustainability. This is where the MCR wine tastings, and the MCR End of Year Formals take place. Baroneess Ruth Deech was Principal of St Anne’s from 1991-2004. When asked, at the 2012 Royal Charter Event, how she felt about the Facebook group called “I want to live in Ruth Deech,” she famously said, “Oh, well, I hope they realise the irony.”
RSH (n): Robert Saunders House, the principle graduate accommodation site. RSH provides 80 rooms for post-graduate students in Summertown. It was named after a former bursar of the college, who did much to strengthen its finances.
Rusticated/Sent down (n): being made to leave the University as a punishment. Rustication is a suspension; being sent down means expulsion.
Scouts (n): those employed by the college to clean its buildings. They generally operate from 6am and noon. Scouts clean your room in college every week, emptying your rubbish bin and providing you with clean bed linen (if you use the linen provided by the college). Scouts do not do the washing up, nor will they tidy students’ rooms.
SCR (n): the Senior Common room, the body for St. Anne’s fellows and lecturers.
Shibboleth (n): in common parlance, the term is a Biblical reference that refers to features of language, and particularly to a word whose pronunciation identifies its speaker as being a member or not a member of a particular group. At Oxford, the Shibboleth system is the cross-domain username and password that allows you access to your e-mail, your library account, Weblearn and other integrated resources.
Sub fusc (n): the formal academic dress of the university and undergraduate and graduate students alike are required to wear it for University exams, matriculation, and graduation.
Submission (n): For DPhils, the final bit of writing and a chat. The writing has to be 100,000 words this time, and the viva is in sub fusc and open to the public
Supervisor (n): the academic assigned to you by the University or by your department who is responsible for planning with you your course of study and for keeping an eye on your overall progress, as well as for giving supervision on different aspects of the course.
Term Card (n): the list of events that the MCR puts on during term. You will be e-mailed the term card in the weeks before each term. Term cards are also available on the MCR website.
Transfer (v): The process DPhil students have to go through in order to become proper DPhil students. Usually happens at the end of first year and involves writing a report and a viva. You don’t have to do it if you’ve done an MPhil!
Trashing (v): a term used to describe the chaotic practice of students when contemporaries complete their exams. This involves throwing items such as confetti, champagne, flour, eggs, shaving foam, “silly string,” raw meat and sea creatures at those emerging from the exam schools. This is a relatively recently adopted tradition originating in the 1990s and proctors invigilating exams will find students from inappropriate “trashings.” In a 2012 Message from the Proctors, they advise that “safety and public order are our core concerns” and indicate that while “closed champagne bottles, flowers and balloons are all fine,” there should be “NO FOOD ITEMS or GLITTER or SILLY STRING!”
Trinity (n): is the name of the third and final term of the academic year. It runs from about mid- April to about the end of June and is named after Trinity Sunday, which falls eight weeks after Easter, in May or June.
Tute/Tutor (n): the term “tute” is short for a tutorial, which is the period of instruction given to you by your college tutor as either an individual or in a very small group. Tutorials are typically held once a week or every second week during term. In tutorials, you are likely read and discuss a paper you have previously prepared and submitted to your tutor. While this is primarily an undergraduate phenomenon, some taught masters programs employ this system. If this is the case, you will be assigned a tutor in college (or at another college, in exceptional cases).
Viva (n): an oral exam or interview sat by DPhil students after the submission of their Transfer paper (beginning-ish), their Confirmation paper (middle-ish), and their Dissertation (end).
Week n (n): At Oxford, terms (Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity) are divided into eight weeks, referred to as first week through eighth week. The weeks preceding and succeeding terms are 0th (noughth) week and 9th week, respectively. In this system -1 week and tenth week also exist.