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Balliol has a long history of being open to all on merit: in the 19th century it was a Balliol Master who led the reforms that resulted in Oxford University selecting students solely on academic ability. That principle remains fundamental to the University’s admissions policy today. If you’re someone who aspires to academic excellence, I hope you’ll consider applying to Balliol, whatever school, country or culture you come from. We’d like to hear from you. Sir Drummond Bone Master of Balliol College

‘I was welcomed with open arms, and my closest friends span a huge number of subjects and backgrounds.’ Tara Heuze Oriental Studies

B A LLI O L COLLEGE Balliol is one of the oldest colleges in the University of Oxford. In 1263, John de Balliol set up a ‘house of scholars’ and after his death, his widow, Lady Dervorguilla of Galloway, gave it a permanent endowment and statutes. So came into being this academic community, which exists to promote excellence in learning and to encourage scholarship and research at the very highest levels. Many famous people have studied at Balliol across the centuries, including founder of the Royal Society John Evelyn, political economist Adam Smith, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and writer Graham Greene. Come to Balliol and you might, as did some of our students recently, find yourself writing a prize-winning essay on ethics or presenting an engineering project to CERN. You will belong to a college where one Fellow has discovered the oldest surviving non-biblical manuscript from Scotland, and others are involved in the Quantum Technology Hubs. You will join a network of roughly 8,000 Balliol alumni, of whom one heads the NHS, while others are helping to build effective government in South Sudan. You will have the chance to be a part of stories such as these – just a few, from one year in the life of the College, but which may serve to illustrate Balliol’s social and intellectual reach.




Junior Common Room (JCR)




Lindsay Bar


Garden Quad


Porters’ Lodge






Student room






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ACADEMIC LIFE Balliol admits people of exceptional POTENTIAL , regardless of their background, and undergraduates can study here in a wide range of disciplines: our students come from all school types from across the UK and countries worldwide, and currently we offer 32 undergraduate courses. There is, consequently, a diversity in the College which promotes discussion. As a student at Balliol you would engage directly with academics who are experts in their fields; students and tutors get to know each other and develop connections that yield real intellectual growth. Encouraged to think knowledgeably and independently, our undergraduates find academic life here challenging and stimulating. We reward academic merit by giving numerous prizes. Those who perform exceptionally well are awarded exhibitions and then, with continuing excellent performance, scholarships. Many of our students achieve outstanding academic results. In 2015, for instance, 41 per cent of undergraduates were awarded Firsts in their final examinations.

‘My experience at Balliol has been fantastic: hard work, but then who doesn’t like a challenge?’ Emily Clark Medical Sciences

‘My time at Balliol was enhanced immeasurably by the other students. Balliol has a stimulating culture of intellectual debate, and this greatly improves the overall learning experience.’ Samuel Bumby HISTORY AND POLITICS

INTELLECTUAL ENVIRONMENT The intellectual hub of the College is the Library. If you come to Balliol, you will have 24/7 access to 70,000 books and other academic resources. Two inspiring, medieval reading rooms and the more intimate law library offer excellent study space. Our friendly, professional librarians are on hand to answer enquiries. They also regularly provide squash and biscuits. Throughout the term there are academic events – talks, poetry readings or seminars. At the weekly Bruce’s Brunch, interesting speakers make all kinds of subjects accessible to a general audience, from ‘Nuclear Responsibility’ to ‘The Evolution of the English Language in WWI’. Subject societies – such as BUMS, the Balliol Undergraduate Maths Society, Burps, for Balliol physicists, or Cerberus, Balliol’s PPE society – bring together students and Fellows for an opportunity to share ideas, often over a meal or drinks.

COURSES Ancient & Modern History • Biological Sciences Biomedical Sciences • Chemistry Classical Archaeology & Ancient History • Classics Classics & Modern Languages • Classics with Oriental Studies Computer Science • Computer Science and Philosophy Economics & Management • Engineering Science • English English & Modern Languages • History • History & Economics History & English • History & Modern Languages History & Politics • Law • Law with Law Studies in Europe Mathematics • Mathematics & Computer Science Mathematics & Philosophy • Medical Sciences Modern Languages • Modern Languages & Linguistics Oriental Studies • Philosophy & Modern Languages Philosophy, Politics & Economics (PPE) • Physics Physics & Philosophy

STUDENT LIFE BALLIOL STUDENTS study hard, but they also enjoy life to the full. There is something here for everyone. Among the many things going on are the Balliol Drama Society, which fosters dramatic talent, and the annual Charity Musical; Scrawl, Balliol’s creative writing magazine; the Left Caucus, for informal discussion of left-wing issues; and the Arnold and Brackenbury Society, a not-too-serious debating society. The Balliol Musical Society organises free Sunday evening concerts, and there is an active, non-auditioning College Choir. The Junior Common Room (the undergraduate body) organises entertainments and offers its members opportunities to get involved in issues that matter to them. Football, rugby and cricket are notably strong sports and we have a long history of rowing success for both the men’s and women’s crews. Athletics, hockey, squash, netball and bar sports, mixed lacrosse and ultimate frisbee are some of the other sporting opportunities available, at all levels of ability. Most of the Balliol teams compete in inter-college leagues weekly throughout the first two terms of the year, and in Cuppers, the knockout competitions for each sport.

‘The College is incredibly friendly and tends to embrace people’s quirks and strange interests – meaning Balliol is always a fun and lively place to be.’ Anna Hufton Mathematics

COLLEGE COMMUNITY Eating together in the magnificent Hall or the more informal Pantry is a big part of College life, as is relaxing on the lawn in the Garden Quad. Another is the Lindsay Bar, a lively gathering place which is largely run by students. The Chapel offers weekly services and a place for reflection to all. The activities of the College are supported by around 120 staff, from lodge porters and gardeners to kitchen supervisors and maintenance men. If you need help or advice, there are trained people to turn to, including the Wellbeing and Welfare Officer, the College Nurse, the Academic Work Counsellor, and student peer supporters, who will listen to anyone who needs to discuss a problem or simply wants to chat. Financial support is available for those students who need it. Altogether, Balliol provides within a large city university a smaller environment where you are known, valued, and supported as an individual – in short, a place in which to thrive.

‘If you are ever feeling down or stressed by work there are always people to talk to.’ Steven Robinson Mathematics and Philosophy

Boris Johnson Member of Parliament

Stephanie Flanders ECONOMIST AND broadcastER

Robert Peston journalist AND BROADCASTER

Lord Patten Chancellor of Oxford University


Yvette Cooper Member of Parliament

Atul Gawande surgeon, writer AND public health researcher

Dan Snow television presenter

Simon Stevens Chief Executive of NHS England

BEYOND BALLIOL Balliol is not just about thinking: it is also about seeking to connect thinking to actions that make the world a better place in which to live. The Balliol JCR, arguably one of the most active JCRs in Oxford, has a history of lively debate, and a reputation for political and altruistic activism, as exemplified by the students who in 2006 founded the Oxford Living Wage Campaign. Past students have achieved success in many walks of life (besides of course being parents and citizens) – as prime ministers, Nobel Prize winners, ambassadors, judges, vice-chancellors, researchers, scientists, philosophers, film-makers, composers, actors, entrepreneurs, journalists, writers, teachers and church leaders, and in business, finance, and the armed forces. Social responsibility has been a theme in the careers of many: for example, the alumni who work internationally in NGOs, development agencies, and the United Nations, or who established the charity Toynbee Hall, or the Make Poverty History campaign, or the Paralympic Games. The Workers’ Educational Association, the National Trust, Amnesty International, the social entrepreneur group Ashoka and the online advocacy group Avaaz were all established by Balliol people.

‘Being a Balliol graduate gave me the confidence to say yes to a lot of opportunities.’ Hannah Robertson Engineering Science

APPLY TO BALLIOL Balliol’s top priority is the pursuit and sharing of knowledge through the highest standards of learning and teaching. We are committed to enabling our students to realise their potential, and we offer them the opportunity to acquire skills and experiences which can be applied in the world beyond our walls. We welcome applications: whatever your educational, social or cultural background, if you are hard-working, passionate about your subject, and ambitious to excel you will find like-minded people here. We hope you will want to join us and become one of the next generation of Balliol men and women. If you would like to find out more about the admissions process and the courses we offer, or to come and see us, please visit our website:

Kate Kettle The David Freeman Outreach and Student Support Officer 01865 277752

Victoria Holt Admissions Administrator 01865 277748

Balliol College Oxford OX1 3BJ

Photographs by: Ian Taylor, Rob Judges, Kate Raworth, Nick Cistone, Jeremy Coleman, Margot Schulman, Andrew Parsons, Brian Minkoff/ London Pixels, Financial Times, Chatham House, Matt Stuart/copyright Š Oxford University Images


Balliol College undergraduate prospectus  
Balliol College undergraduate prospectus  

An overview of Balliol for prospective applicants