Student Advice

What is a Collegiate University?

Ben Maples  · Aug 25th 2023  · 13 min

Collegiate universities are hugely popular for students looking to go to university. Colleges are an excellent way for universities to make students feel more at home, and are a great way to make friends easily.


Collegiate universities have been a part of the UK education system for as long as you can imagine. The famous colleges of Oxbridge have inspired other universities to introduce the system themselves.

For many universities, this is done for administration purposes. Some colleges may be independent educational institutions on their own, while others can be as old as the buildings they are found in!

What is a Collegiate University?

What is a Collegiate University?

A collegiate university is a university that has a central administration and several constituent colleges. The colleges within the university form much of the makeup of the university.

Colleges are not all-powerful but do hold considerable sway within certain institutions. Colleges can also be residential and includecafeterias, dormitories, showers, libraries and common rooms.

Oxbridge are the best examples of collegiate universities. Of course, anyone who has read the infamous Harry Potter series will be familiar with Hogwarts, which has its own four colleges (or houses, as they are referred to in the book) with Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin, so maybe the school that doesn’t even exist is more famous than the real thing?

Which universities use the collegiate system?

There are several universities in the UK that use the collegiate system. Not all will be residential colleges, however.

The collegiate universities of the UK are:

Some of the colleges at these universities have degree-awarding powers. All colleges at London universities are considered to be “recognised bodies” and will have the power to award degrees from the University of London.

What are the colleges that universities have in the UK?

Strap in, because there are a lot! Oxford and Cambridge have their own way of doing things and have 30 colleges apiece. In fact, their college system is so advanced that it even has its own ranking system, similar to Uni Compare’s own uni rankings system!

Some universities will allow you to choose which college you join, while others will not. Some may be determined by the course you are studying, while others may be determined by the accommodation you are staying in. For the most part, you will find that you will probably have a say one way or another.

What is a UCAS Collegiate University?

Durham University

Durham University has 17 colleges in total. Most of these are for undergraduate and postgraduate students, except for one reserved specifically for postgraduate studies.

The colleges at Durham University are:

  • College of St. Hild & St. Bede
  • Collingwood College
  • Grey College
  • Hatfield College
  • John Snow College
  • Josephine Butler College
  • South College
  • St. Aidan’s College
  • St. Chad’s College
  • St. Cuthbert’s Society
  • St. John’s College
  • St. Mary’s College
  • Stephenson College
  • Trevelyan College
  • University College (Castle)
  • Ustinov College (postgraduate only)
  • Van Mildert College

Durham does allow you to choose your college. However, your choice may not be final, and the university can allocate you to a different college under certain circumstances. You can usually look around the different colleges at Durham on a university open day and can make your selection from there.

Lancaster University

Lancaster University has 9 different colleges. Eight of the nine are primarily for undergraduate study, while the 9th is only for postgraduate study. Students who are studying an integrated master’s degree are still considered to be undergraduate students by the university.

The colleges at Lancaster University are:

  • Bowland College
  • Cartmel College
  • County College
  • Furness College
  • Fylde College
  • Graduate College (postgraduate only)
  • Grizedale College
  • Lonsdale College
  • Pendle College

The university exercises more control over these colleges than they previously did. Before the university’s intervention, were considered to be their own entities. All the colleges are named after regions in Lancashire, barring County College, which is named after the Lancashire County Council, the college’s financial benefactor and founders.

Queen’s University Belfast

Queen’s University Belfast has only two colleges in the university. These colleges are called St. Mary’s University College and Stranmills University College.

The university has a similar relationship with its colleges as Oxbridge, Durham and the University of the Highlands and Islands. Both colleges are financially and organisationally independent of the main university. Queen’s is a member of the coveted Russell Group of Universities.

What are Collegiate Universities?

University of Cambridge

Oxbridge’s college system is perhaps the most well-known in the UK. Both Oxford and Cambridge’s colleges are so well-established that many even have to pay corporation tax!

Cambridge has 31 colleges on its own, with many dating back as far as the 14th century. Some of the colleges are co-ed (allowing males and females), but some are single-sex.

The colleges of the University of Cambridge are:

  • Christ's College
  • Churchill College
  • Clare College
  • Clare Hall College (postgraduate only)
  • Corpus Christi College
  • Darwin College (postgraduate only)
  • Downing College
  • Emmanuel College
  • Fitzwilliam College
  • Girton College
  • Gonville and Caius College
  • Homerton College
  • Hughes Hall College (mature students only)
  • Jesus College
  • King's College
  • Lucy Cavendish College
  • Magdalene College
  • Murray Edwards College (female only)
  • Newnham College (female only)
  • Pembroke College
  • Peterhouse College
  • Queens' College
  • Robinson College
  • Selwyn College
  • Sidney Sussex College
  • St. Catharine's College
  • St. Edmund's College (mature students only)
  • St. John's College
  • Trinity College
  • Trinity Hall College
  • Wolfson College (mature students only)

Some of the colleges have changed their entry requirements over the years. Until 1865, King’s would only allow students who have studied at Eton College; while Lucy Cavendish College admitted only women until 2021. Magdalene College was an all-male college, but became co-ed in 1988; while Huges Hall College, at the time a female-only college, began accepting men in 1973, with Girton College following suit in 1979.

Cambridge works a little differently to most universities with their colleges. While their colleges will offer accommodation, common rooms, libraries, meals, sporting and social facilities as any other college would, their colleges also offer tutorials or supervisions for students.

Fellows or tutors (academic staff employed by the university working for a college) are prominent. The tutors and fellows will help students with work and will provide additional support for any degrees that are being studied.

Cambridge’s colleges are fully independent legal entities. They carry great sway within the university, and, unusually for a collegiate system, the colleges own all the buildings they lay claim to. To show how powerful the colleges of the university are, as of 2023, of the £4.3bn endowment of the university, 66% of it belong to the colleges themselves, leaving the remaining 33% to the university.

Cambridge also has two college ranking tables. These rankings are called the Tompkins Table and the Baxter Table, both of which use mathematical modelling methods, weighted against the degrees achieved by specific colleges, to give them an overall score. Unsurprisingly, neither table was completed for 2020 or 2021, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

University of Kent

The University of Kent has seven colleges in total. Of the seven colleges, six are named after distinguished scholars, while the seventh college is named after a town. Each of these colleges is managed by a Master.

The colleges at the University of Kent are:

  • Darwin College (named after Charles Darwin)
  • Eliot College (named after T.S. Eliot)
  • Keynes College (named after John Maynard Keynes)
  • Medway College
  • Rutherford College (named after Ernest Rutherford)
  • Turing College (named after Alan Turing)
  • Woolf College (named after Virginia Woolf)

The colleges at the University of Kent are considered to be academic communities, rather than just halls of residence. Though not on the same level as Oxbridge in terms of its structure, Kent still has computer rooms, social areas, lecture theatres, residential rooms and study rooms, with all except Woolf College also having their own bar.

Though still considered to be a collegiate university, the emphasis on the idea has died down. Funding is not as prevalent as it once was and the various academic departments have little to no connection to the colleges anymore.

What are UCAS Collegiate Universities?

University of London

The University of London is a little different from most of the others listed. While the University of London is a recognised university in its own right, as of 1900, the university has its own federal structure with constituent colleges.

The colleges are often referred to as member institutions. That is to say that these are, technically speaking, colleges, but who are also treated as individual universities, rather than colleges themselves.

The member institutions of the University of London are:

Many former colleges have amalgamated into a larger college or are no longer part of the University of London. Other universities in the UK began at the University of London, before off-shooting into their own institutions elsewhere.

University of Oxford

There are 39 colleges at the University of Oxford. The university has five permanently private halls of residence (PPHs).

The University of Oxford has a similar college system to the University of Cambridge. As with Cambridge, the colleges of the university play a huge part in how the university is run and have a very large amount of sway when it comes to decisions being made.

The colleges at the University of Oxford are:

  • All Souls College (fellows only)
  • Balliol College
  • Brasenose College
  • Christ Church College
  • Corpus Christi College
  • Exeter College
  • Green Templeton College
  • Harris Manchester College (mature students only)
  • Hertford College
  • Jesus College
  • Keble College
  • Kellogg College (postgraduate only)
  • Lady Margaret Hall College
  • Linacre College (postgraduate only)
  • Lincoln College
  • Magdalen College
  • Mansfield College
  • Merton College
  • New College
  • Nuffield College (postgraduate only)
  • Oriel College
  • Pembroke College
  • Queen's College
  • Reuben College
  • Somerville College
  • St. Anne's College
  • St. Antony's College (postgraduate only)
  • St. Catherine's College
  • St. Cross College (postgraduate only)
  • St. Edmund Hall College
  • St. Hilda's College
  • St. Hugh's College
  • St. John's College
  • St. Peter's College
  • Trinity College
  • University College
  • Wadham College
  • Wolfson College (postgraduate only)
  • Worcester College

These colleges function in much the same way as they do for the University of Cambridge. Your tutorials and lectures as well as one-to-one sessions are held as part of your college, as well as part of the main university. There are no single-sex colleges at Oxford.

While Cambridge have two ranking tables for their colleges, Oxford has just the one. The performance by each college in the annual Final Honour Schools examinations is ranked and then totalled up with a weighted score in the Norrington Table, which is published annually.

Though Oxford primarily competes against Cambridge for sport and academic performance, there are also inter-college rivalries. The rivalries are often friendly and will usually be over their place in the Norrington table, their athletic performance and their overall academic performance.

The main college rivalries are:

  • Balliol College and Trinity College
  • Brasenose College and Lincoln College
  • Christ Church College and Pembroke College
  • Jesus College and Exeter College
  • Keble College and St. John’s College
  • St. Catherine’s College and Magdalen College
  • St. Hugh’s College and St. Anne’s College

The assets of the colleges at Oxford total as much as £6.6bn! As with Cambridge, the colleges own all the buildings they lay claim to, as well as many unvalued assets such as art, heritage sites and libraries. Only Kellog College, Reuben College and St. Cross College are not independent entities on their own and are the only universities that do not have a Royal Charter, as they form part of the overall university.

Collegiate university

University of Roehampton

There are four colleges at the University of Roehampton. All of these colleges were, at one point, separate educational entities but became a more centralised organisation in 1976 to form the Roehampton Institute of Higher Education, before gaining university status in 2004.

The colleges at the University of Roehampton are:

  • Digby Stuart College
  • Froebel College
  • Southlands College
  • Whitelands College

The four colleges had very humble beginnings. Initially, all four of the colleges at the university were established as women’s teacher training courses in the 19th century. As of 2012, the colleges have all been merged with the university to bring them under one management structure.

University of South Wales

The University of South Wales is a collegiate college with over 106 partnered colleges and more. While these colleges do not work in the same way as some of the others on this list, they do still form the basis of the university’s collegiate status.

The colleges at the University of South Wales are:

The colleges are under the University of South Wales umbrella. In this instance, the university functions similar to the University of London, wherein there are no actual colleges in the style of Oxbridge and Durham etc, but who are still considered to be part of the university.

University of Wales

The University of Wales has three colleges. These colleges, much like the University of South Wales and the University of London, are not considered to be general colleges that students enrol to be a part of when starting at the university; rather, they are other educational institutions (colleges or universities) that come under the University of Wales umbrella.

The three constituent colleges at the University of Wales are:

  • Aberystwyth
  • Bangor
  • Cardiff
  • The university has had several universities under its umbrella over the years. Many of these are now defunct institutions or have branched off to form their own independent university away from the University of Wales.

    Collegiate universities

    University of York

    The University of York has 11 colleges. The college does not run individual seminars and lectures as Oxbridge does, however, they do offer accommodation for students. Each college is given equal status by the university, though each has their own constitution that governs the college overall.

    The colleges at the University of York are:

    • Alcuin College
    • Anne Lister College
    • Constantine College
    • David Kato College
    • Derwent College
    • Goodricke College
    • Halifax College
    • James College
    • Langwith College
    • Vanbrugh College
    • Wentworth College (postgraduate only)

    Each of York’s colleges are named after famous scholars and places. The namesakes of each college include Alcuin of York; Anne Lister; Constantine the Great; David Kato; the River Derwent; John Goodricke; E.F.L. Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax; Lord James of Rusholme; Langwith Common; Sir John Vanbrugh; and Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford.

    Although they do not carry the same power or weight as Oxbridge colleges, York’s colleges still have considerable influence. Each college has a college council, which has a Head of College, a Deputy Head of College, and student population representatives.

    The University of York also competes against Durham University for the College Varsity. As well as university rivalries (such as The Roses rivalry with Lancaster), there are also intercollegiate sports, with 21 leagues currently in operation at the university and weekly fixtures. There is also the College Cup, which is held annually.

    University of the Arts London

    The University of the Arts London has six constituent colleges. Like the University of London and others in that area, the university does not have colleges on-site, rather they have educational institutions that come under the university’s umbrella.

    The six colleges at the University of the Arts London are:

    • Camberwell College of Arts
    • Central Saint Martins
    • Chelsea College of Arts
    • London College of Communication
    • London College of Fashion
    • Wimbledon College of Arts

    The colleges are all internationally recognised in their own right. The university also had seven other independent art, design, fashion and media colleges in the past, though these are no longer part of the University of the Arts London.

    UCAS Collegiate university

    University of the Highlands and Islands

    The University of the Highlands and Islands has 12 colleges. As the University of the Highlands and Islands is a fairly recent university (it was officially founded under its university status in 2011), many of the colleges under the university’s name are actually older than the university itself.

    The colleges that are under the University of the Highlands and Islands umbrella are:

    • Highland Theological College
    • Orkney College UHI
    • SAMS
    • Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
    • UHI Argyll
    • UHI Inverness
    • UHI Moray
    • UHI North Highland
    • UHI Outer Hebrides
    • UHI Perth
    • UHI Shetland
    • UHI West Highland

    Not all of these colleges have accommodation on-site. There are also some courses that are not available at one campus but are available at another, even if the course is offered by the college itself.

    What are the advantages of going to a collegiate university?

    Students mainly want to attend collegiate universities because of the sense of camaraderie. It is often easier to make friends at university in a college, as you will spend a large amount of your time with the students who are also part of it!

    Many students have often spoken of a sense of belonging due t o joining a college. Many feel greater respect and affiliation with their college than with the university.

    It must be said that other universities, who do not have a college system, are equally worthwhile. Many universities have closed the gap on collegiate universities when it comes to offering a wider variety of activities for students to take part in, be it a drama society, participation in the BUCS league or other weird and wacky student societies.

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