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Visiting St. Catherine's College, Oxford, England: a modern college set in lush vegetation, complete with 'moat'

Updated on October 25, 2011
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
The water garden (or 'moat') at St Catherine's College, Oxford
The water garden (or 'moat') at St Catherine's College, Oxford | Source
Map location of Oxford, in Oxfordshire
Map location of Oxford, in Oxfordshire | Source

'Catz' or 'St. CathErines', but NOT 'St. CathArine's'!

First things first: spell it correctly! St Catherine's College, Oxford should be written: 'St. CathErine's'. There is also a College of the same name at Cambridge, (crucially!) it is spelt 'St CathArine's'.

So now you know. Having established this vital fact, prepare to be deflated somewhat: among students this modern Oxford College is widely referred to simply as 'Catz'. While a number of the Oxford and Cambridge Colleges share the same name, a shared name may well mask very considerable differences between them. In the case of St Catharine's College, Cambridge, its Medieval foundation and traditional architecture otherwise leave little room for confusion with St Catherine's College, Oxford.

Some history and features

Founded formally as a College in 1963, the College has its origins in the Delegacy of Non-collegiate Students, formed in the 19th century for students of limited means who were academically suited to study at Oxford but lacked the funds to meet College, as well as University, fees.

Its buildings designed by Arne Jacobson follow the traditional quadrangle pattern, but in glass and concrete, in a style of reductive essentiality. The College's dining hall has the largest seating capacity of any Oxford College. Some modern Colleges have chapels (e.g., Churchill College, Cambridge and Robinson College, Cambridge were endowed with chapel buildings).

In the case of Danish architect Arne Jacobson and the sponsoring College founders, it was seen fit to exclude a chapel from the design of the building. But in the nature of things, members of the College have wished to hold concert commemoration for Christmas, and have thus decamped to the Chapel at Harris Manchester College. (However 'modern' the College founders may have perceived themselves to be, it may yet be said that, clearly, older traditions have proved to endure. This would possibly be borne out by the College Latin motto: Nova et vetera — The new and the old.)

The College is located on Manor Road, on the banks of the Cherwell River. A water garden (or 'moat') contains several species of aquatic plants.

Some prominent individuals

The College's first Master, instrumental in its founding, was historian Sir Alan Bullock (1914-2004), who was known for his biographical studies of Hitler and Stalin, and also served as Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford (1).

Among scholars who are prominent alumni of the College are included the following Nobel prizewinners: Sir John Cornforth (Economics, 1975); Sir John Vane (Medicine, 1992); John E. Walker (Chemistry, 1997).

Heads of government and a head of state are also counted among College alumni: Benazir Bhutto (Prime Minister of Pakistan); Husayn S. Suhrawardy (Prime Minister of Pakistan); Eric Williams (Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago); Farooq Leghari (President of Pakistan).


(1) Sir Alan Bullock was created Baron Bullock of Leafield in 1976, and he later served on the Front Bench for the Social Democratic Party in the House of Lords, having previously relinquished membership of the Labour Party.

Also worth seeing

Oxford has numerous visitor attractions, a few of these being the Bridge of Sighs, the Bodleian Library, the Radcliffe Camera, the Sheldonian Theatre, Blackwell's bookstore, Keble College Chapel, and many others.

Bladon (distance: 14 kilometres) has the grave-site of Sir Winston Churchill.


How to get there : Continental Airlines flies from New York Newark to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Distance from Heathrow Airport to Oxford : 77 kilometres. Oxford links by rail with London Paddington station. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information,

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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