Frequently Asked Questions

This page contains miscellaneous information that we hope will be of use to Newcomers to Oxford. The list is not intended to be exhaustive and other sources of useful information such as Oxford Daily Info may provide answers to your questions. If you have suggestions about any information that you have found helpful, please, let us know by emailing newcomers@ox.ac.uk.

The Oxford University Newcomers' Club is not responsible for the contents of any websites to which it has links.


This link takes you to useful advice on what to do before you arrive in Oxford, what to do on first arrival in Oxford, general advice on living in Oxford, childcare and schools.

There are many institutions in and around Oxford that offer day time or evening English courses. You will find plenty of information about local English language schools on the internet. It is also a good idea to ask fellow Newcomers about their experience in choosing a good English course.

The Oxford University Language Centre runs a course for teaching English for Spouses and Partners of University Members. This course is intended for any spouses or partners (male or female) of an intermediate level or above. In order to benefit from the course, you should be able to express opinions on a variety of topics and understand standard spoken English reasonably well, although every encouragement will be given to those who are not accustomed to participating in discussions in English. The class concentrates on improving fluency through discussion of social issues. Participants are welcome to use the Language Centre library to supplement work in the class.

If you would like to improve your basic English before starting the courses at the Language Centre, the British Council Website has online resources which may help. The British Council also provides a list of accredited English language centres here in Oxford that offer English courses for beginners.

The University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education offers many classes that Newcomers have taken and enjoyed. The Oxford and Cherwell Valley College runs a variety of part time and evening courses for adults that cover arts and crafts but also English as a foreign language.

If you are a resident in the UK you are entitled to receive free NHS treatment. Please visit the NHS Website: www.nhs.uk for further details. Information is available for overseas visitors who wish to use the NHS. You can search for a particular service (doctor, dentist, hospital) by entering your postcode on the Services near you page.

Fact sheets about the NHS have been translated into a variety of languages and can be viewed here.

The Oxford University Graduate Accommodation Office website provides useful information about renting accommodation in Oxford.

Adverts are placed in the local newspaper (Oxford Mail) or on Daily Info. There are also quite a number of property or letting agencies in Oxford. Several advertise on internet sites such as Rightmove and Zoopla. You can then google the individual agencies that have the type of flat you are looking for and sign up for e-mail notification when new choices come in. Most agencies will charge a fee for their services and you usually have to pay a one month deposit and the first month's rent before moving in.

There are various internet hotspots around Oxford, some of which are free. Information can be found in the Oxford City Guide.

The Oxford Public Library has a main branch at Westgate Shopping Centre on Queen St. There is also a popular branch of the library in Summertown on South Parade. To get a library card just go to the membership desk and fill out a form. The only identification you need to get a library card is something with your name on it like a passport or a bank card or a student ID.

The Bodleian Library is open to 'the whole community of the learned' which seems to mean anyone doing serious research at the graduate level. If you want to access the Bodleian resources you will need to apply for a Readers' Card.

Full-time compulsory education in UK applies for children age 5 – 16. You will find practical information about schooling and pre-school childcare available at the Oxford University International Staff website.

The Oxford County Council website provides guidelines on how-to-choose a school, finding your catchment school, as well as many useful links and tools related to starting school.

It is advised that you apply for a school in your catchment area. If the school is over-subscribed (more applications than places available), priority will be given according to the published admission rules of the school. Applying for a school place early will not affect your chances for a placement.

For children under 5, the Newcomers' Club runs a toddler playgroup every Friday morning at the University Club. There are also several children's centres throughout Oxford which provide early education for parents with pre-school children. You can locate your local children’s centre here.

This section lists a selection of shops selling the main items you will need during your stay in Oxford. You will find that several shops sell a broad range of items and could be listed under more than one category. Here, we have concentrated on their main specialism. Hopefully you will find the list useful but you may find alternative convenient but equally good shops nearer your accommodation.

Groceries can be bought at supermarkets such as Sainsbury's, Tesco, The Co-Operative, Aldi, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose.

The smaller city centre branches of Tesco and Sainsbury's only sell groceries and smaller household items but they both have superstores situated outside the Oxford ring road where they sell a wider variety of household goods and also clothing. Many of these supermarkets sell groceries online and you can have the shopping delivered to your doorstep for a small added cost. Ocado is an online-only supermarket that has been gaining popularity in the UK in the last few years.

The Covered Market in the city centre contains a variety of small shops selling a wider range of items including fresh meat and vegetables.

The Monday Shop in Cowley is a friendly local co-op where you can buy locally produced goods and pay what you feel they are worth.

For specialist foods, including Asian, Middle Eastern, Organic, Free Range, Farmers' Markets and Farm shops the Oxford Daily Info guide and the Oxford City Council website have detailed lists.

Shops specialising in soft furnishings including bedding, curtains, cushions: Dunelm, Debenhams, Wilko.

Household hardware and electrical items : Robert Dyas, Extra Hardware, Currys. Basic kitchen appliances such as kettles, toasters, microwaves etc. can also be found in Tesco Direct and Argos* .

Electronic equipment: PC World.

General household items: Argos, Robert Dyas, Wilko, George at Asda, B&M, Savers, the 99p Store. If you are hoping to buy in the cheaper price range, generally speaking, a good place to start is the Templars Square Shopping Centre in Cowley.

Shops that specialise in clothes for pregnancy, equipment for babies and toys include Mothercare and Toys R Us. However, baby clothes and toys can also be bought at a variety of other shops such as Boots, Boswells, George at Asda.

Creative crafts and hobby shops include Hobbicraft, and The Oxford Yarn Store. In Headington there is a charity scrap shop called Orinoco where you can pick up free paint and buy scrap for craft and DIY projects.

Dispensing pharmacies (to buy prescription medicines) in the centre of Oxford include Boots and Boswells but there are other pharmacies situated in most regions of the city. Superdrug in the centre of Oxford sells non-dispensing medicines.

Stationary: Staples, Poundland and Ryman.

Furniture within Oxford can be bought as self-assembly packs from Argos and B&M.

In addition, there is a large number of charity shops throughout the city. These sell second-hand items donated to the charities which include clothes, household items, toys, books and sometimes, furniture and small electrical items. The Emmaus charity superstore in Westlands Drive has a big range of donated furniture.

Online sites where you can look for second hand items for sale include Gumtree and ebay. Other sites where you can find items given away free include Freegle and Freecycle. Freecycle also allows you to advertise for items that you are looking for.

*Argos is a catalogue retailer where customers browse through the Argos catalogue, select items to purchase, pay for the items, and then collect the items from the in-store collection desk or have the item delivered to their home. It’s not a traditional shop in the sense that you can’t see the actual items for sale on display.

Walking is probably the best way to get around in Oxford. Excellent pocket sized maps are available at all the local bookshops including Blackwells and Waterstones, both located on Broad Street.

Bicyles are also a common form of transportation. The Tourist Information Centre on Broad Street has maps of cycle routes. Information for cyclists, including cycle safety, can also be found here from the website of the Oxfordshire City Council.

Advice on hiring, maintaining and repairing bicycles can be found on the Useful Links page.

Oxford has two bus companies Stagecoach and Oxford Bus Company. Both of them are privately owned and compete on routes and schedules. Anyone over age 63 is eligible for a free Bus Pass provided by the Oxford City Council.

The Oxford Tube and the Oxford-London X90 both provide direct coach service from Oxford to the city centre of London. They depart from Oxford Gloucester Green bus station up to every 10-15 minutes during daytime. There is also a train service from Oxford rail station to London Paddington Station operated by First Great Western. If you do not plan to go during rush hour and are able to book well in advance, you will be able to get very good deals on your train tickets.

The Oxford Bus Company Airline goes to Heathrow, Gatwick and Birmingham Airports. Coaches from Oxford to Stansted and Luton Airports are operated by National Express. Times and fares are availbalbe on their websites.

For general travel information see www.traveline.info and in particular http://www.travelinesoutheast

Many Newcomers find the time to volunteer while in Oxford. Here are a few sites that list volunteer opportunities: Do-it, OxNet, and CSV.