Oxford has a distinctive collegiate structure. Students and academics benefit from belonging both to the University, a large, internationally-renowned institution, and to a college or hall, a small, interdisciplinary academic community.
There are 38 Oxford colleges, which are financially independent and self-governing, but relate to the central University in a kind of federal system. There are also six permanent private halls, which are similar to colleges except that they tend to be smaller, and were founded by particular Christian denominations. The colleges and halls are close academic communities, which bring together students and researchers from different disciplines, cultures and countries. This helps to foster the outstanding research achievement that has made Oxford a leader in so many fields.
The colleges and the University work together to organise teaching and research, and many staff at Oxford will hold both a college and a University post. Being a city university, it does not have a main campus and instead its buildings and facilities are scattered throughout the city centre. Most undergraduate teaching at Oxford is organised around weekly tutorials at the colleges and halls, supported by classes, lectures, seminars, and laboratory work provided by university faculties and departments.
The central University is made up of many different sections, including academic and administrative departments, libraries and museums. There are roughly 100 major academic departments, which are overseen by the four academic divisions: Medical Sciences; Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences; Humanities and Social Sciences. Each department organises teaching and research in a different subject area, from Anthropology to Zoology. There are also many smaller, specialist research centres and sub-departments.
Colleges provide accommodation, catering, social spaces, pastoral care and other facilities for their students. The University provides centralised student services, including careers and counselling, as well as resources such as libraries, laboratories and museums.
The university operates the world's oldest university museum, as well as the largest university press in the world and the largest academic library system in Britain.
Iconic university buildings include the Radcliffe Camera, the Sheldonian Theatre used for music concerts, lectures, and university ceremonies, and the Examination Schools, where examinations and some lectures take place. The University Church of St Mary the Virgin was used for university ceremonies before the construction of the Sheldonian. Christ Church Cathedral uniquely serves as both a college chapel and as a cathedral.
The University Parks are a 70-acre (28 ha) parkland area in the northeast of the city, near Keble College, Somerville College and Lady Margaret Hall.
The university maintains the largest university library system in the UK22] and, with over 11 million volumes housed on 120 miles of shelving, the Bodleian group is the second-largest library in the UK, after the British Library. The Bodleian is a legal deposit library, which means that it is entitled to request a free copy of every book published in the UK. As such, its collection is growing at a rate of over three miles of shelving every year.
Oxford maintains a number of museums and galleries, open for free to the public. The Ashmolean Museum, founded in 1683, is the oldest museum in the UK, and the oldest university museum in the world. It holds significant collections of art and archaeology, including works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Turner, and Picasso, as well as treasures such as the Scorpion Macehead, the Parian Marble and the Alfred Jewel.
The Oxford University Press is the world's second oldest and currently the largest university press by the number of publications. More than 6,000 new books are published annually, including many reference, professional, and academic works.
Sport is played between college teams, in tournaments known as cuppers. In addition to these there are higher standard university wide groups. Significant focus is given to annual varsity matches played against Cambridge, the most famous of which is The Boat Race, watched by a TV audience of between five and ten million viewers.
There are two weekly student newspapers: the independent Cherwell and OUSU's The Oxford Student. Other publications include the The Owl Journal, the satirical Oxymoron, and the graduate Oxonian Review. The student radio station is Oxide Radio.
Most academic areas have student societies of some form which are open to students studying all courses, for example the Scientific Society. There are groups for almost all faiths, political parties, countries and cultures.
The Oxford University Student Union, better known by its acronym OUSU, exists to represent students in the university's decision-making, to act as the voice for students in the national higher education policy debate, and to provide direct services to the student body.