Kit Villiers, one of OISE Oxford's most experienced teachers and a specialist in legal English tuition, offers his opinion on the question: What is the biggest Oxford College?
As they potter off to see the Cathedral and the 'Harry Potter' Hall, tourists are told that Christ Church is the biggest college in the university, but the reality isn't quite so straightforward. Christ Church with its royal history, Eton and government connections may be in some sense the grandest, but it is not even the richest college. If one equates money with size, Christ Church is pipped by St John's, whose landholdings throughout the UK are massive, and which once owned almost all of North Oxford. (Christ Church is second on this measure).
How about physical size? This is very difficult to measure: should it include only the area covered by the original city centre buildings? Buildings for the accommodation of undergraduates (and increasingly graduates) are sprouting up all over the city, e.g. Hertford by the Thames and Lincoln near the 'Bear'. One wouldn't normally consider these modern buildings as part of a college, and certainly no tourists can or would bother to gain access to them. Perhaps the area should be contiguous: here Magdalen scores well as it claims to stretch a mile back from the High St. But a lot of this is gardens, deer parks, etc., and it seems odd to count this in the size of a college. Christ Church Meadow is contiguous but hardly part of the college. On the other hand it would be difficult to exclude all bits of green: New College for example has buildings beyond its lovely gardens, which are surely part of the college.
On the basis of core size (i.e.that clearly for college use, as opposed to commercial use such as Corpus's Old Bank Building, and contiguous) frankly I'm not sure which is the biggest in area, but I would suspect it might be St John's, which seems to be expanding ever northwards along St Giles after swallowing up the Lamb and Flag, and creating a new quad. The new quad would seem to put St John's up there also if we rate by numbers of quads, although Wadham has quite a few too.
As to number of students, this also is subject to fluctuation and to a lot of unverifiable boasting too. Does one count only undergraduates? Since postgraduates now number almost half the student population and are increasingly accommodated in college, this measure would seem to be a little outdated. The boasters are often a trifle vague as to whom they are actually counting. Having said this, Teddy Hall packs an awful lot of students into a small area, and recently I heard that St Catherine's now claims to be the biggest college by student numbers. Meanwhile St John's thinks it's the biggest, having allegedly passed Christ Church a few years back.
And the final answer? Kellogg, of course: even though it has no undergraduates and no sportsground, and most students live out, this college along the Banbury Road now has more students than any other.
Written by Laurence Clayton-Trotman, Community Manager.