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St Catherine's College, Oxford: Wikis


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Colleges and halls of the University of Oxford

St Catherine's College

A view of the gardens around staircases 12-9
College name St Catherine's College
Motto Nova et Vetera (The New and the Old)
Named after St Catherine of Alexandria
Previously named St Catharine's Club, St Catherine's Club, St Catherine's Society
Established 1963
Sister college Robinson College, Cambridge
Master Prof. Roger Ainsworth
JCR president Santhosh Thomas
Undergraduates 450
MCR president Christina Fuhr and Ben Britton (co-presidents)
Graduates 160
Location Manor Road

St Catherine's College, Oxford is located in Oxford (central)

Location of St Catherine's College within central OxfordCoordinates: 51°45′25″N 1°14′42″W / 51.757066°N 1.245098°W / 51.757066; -1.245098
Boat Club
St Catherine's College coat of arms

St Catherine's College, often called St Catz or simply Catz, is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. It is one of the largest colleges of the University and its motto is Nova et Vetera ("the new and the old"). As of 2006, the college had an estimated financial endowment of £53m.[1]



St Catherine's College was founded in 1962 by the distinguished historian Alan Bullock, who went on to become the first Master of the college, and later Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University. However, the college's roots lie in the previous century.

St Catherine's traces its descent from the Delegacy of Non-Collegiate Students, founded in 1868 to offer university education at Oxford without the costs of college membership. Nonetheless, the social role of a college was re-established by the Delegacy's students, meeting as St Catherine's Club (originally St Catharine's Club), which was named after its meeting place in a hall on Catte Street.[2] The Club was officially recognised by the University in 1931 as St Catherine's Society. It was thus developing the characteristics of a college, and in 1956 the Delegates decided to formalise this change in status.[3]

After acquiring 8 acres (32,000 m2) from Merton College, Oxford on part of Holywell Great Meadow for £57,690, monies were sought from the University Grants Committee who also agreed to supply £250,000 towards the building, and additional funds up to £400,000 for all facilities. By 1960 Sir Alan Bullock raised a further £1,000,000 with invaluable assistance from two industrial notables, Sir Alan Wilson (met by chance on the RMS Queen Mary) and Sir Hugh Beaver. After a total cost of £2.5 million, the college opened in 1962 to male students. St Catherine's admitted women from 1974, becoming one of the first five co-educational non-graduate colleges in the university (Nuffield College, a graduate college, was the first in 1937).


The college is situated towards the east of Oxford, on the bank of the Cherwell river. Its striking buildings in glass and concrete by the Danish architect Arne Jacobsen marry modern materials with a traditional layout around a quadrangle. Jacobsen's designs went further than just the fabric of the buildings, with cutlery, furniture, and lampshades being of his own idiosyncratic design. The dining hall is notable for its Cumberland slate floor. The original college buildings received a Grade I listing on 30 March 1993.[4] Jacobsen's plans for the college did not include a chapel: St Cross church on the corner of Manor Road and Longwall Street used to serve this purpose when required before its decommission in the Autumn of 2008. The St Catherine's Christmas carol concert (2008) was held in Harris Manchester College's chapel. The college has a bell tower however; it is particularly visible since no college building is more than three storeys high. An extra floor was reputedly planned for most accommodation blocks, but due to regulations concerning safe building on marshland, this was removed from the final design.

College life

A view of the quad at night

St Catherine's (commonly known as Catz or St Catz) claims a reputation for having a less formal and more relaxed atmosphere than many other colleges. It aims to give a feeling of space and light and peace; it backs onto Merton College's playing fields and the University Parks. The college has a reputation for apathy when it comes to Oxford Union and OUSU student politics[citation needed], although Benazir Bhutto became Oxford Union President while at St Catz.[5] However, there is a high level of involvement amongst the student body in JCR politics, both during elections and at regular meetings.

The College celebrates its patron saint each year with a special Catz Night dinner, attended by junior and senior members of the College. Every three years the college also holds a ball, usually off site due to the limitations of the size of college facilities. The last ball was held on February 9, 2008 at Heythrop Park.[6]

As well as the usual college facilities, St Catherine's has a number of lecture theatres and seminar rooms, a music house, two student computer rooms, a small gym, squash courts, a punt house, and among the most spacious common rooms in Oxford. There are also additional purpose-built conference facilities with lecture theatres, meeting rooms and bar, and car parking available for non-students. The dining hall, which seats 350 diners, has the largest capacity of any Oxford college.

St Catherine's has recently completed the construction of seven new accommodation staircases with en suite rooms, which means that most undergraduates are able to live on the main College site for the duration of their course. These new staircases effectively form a second quad, which is largely used to provide accommodation for conferences during the breaks between academic terms.

The majority of St Catherines' buildings are in the form of 'staircases' that open directly onto the quad(s) outside; these are filled with student rooms and the occasional office space. Unlike many colleges, St Catherines is no labyrinth of corridors and passages; apart from the uncarpeted JCR, SCR and the office spaces in between, there is little indoor space in the college. Unlike many older colleges in which conference and common rooms alike are filled with plush, comfy chairs, cozy fireplaces and intricate artwork, St Catherines favours a minimalist, rather austere environment, though still comfortable. Student rooms are exceptionally light (Venetian blinds integrated into the window provide privacy but do not shut out light) and quite spacious, with Jacobsen's furniture holding up tolerably well, while the many office rooms are furnished to individual tastes, from modern white furniture to overstuffed sofas.

More images

Notable alumni

Note that some of these alumni were associated with the St Catherine's Society prior to the official founding of the College.

See also Alumni of St Catherine's College.


  • Davies, M. & D. Creating St Catherine's College. Oxford: St Catherine's College, 1997. ISBN 0-9531279-0-7.


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