As an association for the Oxford Colleges, the Conference is made up of
different committees that convene meetings attended by representatives
from each College.
The Conference has two main functions. It enables the Colleges, as self-governing
and financially independent institutions, to act collectively on issues
that matter to them. This may range from sharing information and good practice
to acting together to procure expert advice or services.
The Conference also acts as a voice for college interests within the University community. It enables Colleges to debate and act upon the key issues of the day. Shared views and policies are developed, and decisions are made. This enables a collective college perspective to be communicated widely and to influence University decision-making.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon
Principal, Somerville College
In the twenty-first century, Oxford's greatest strength is still the fact
that we are a collegiate university. Our 39 colleges and 6 private permanent
halls are vibrant academic centres situated in a world-leading university,
which nonetheless provide something unique: a caring and inclusive scholarly
Each college and hall has its own individual history and character. Some colleges trace their origins as far back as the 11th Century, while others draw from much more modern foundations. They vary in their architecture, in their traditions, and in the range of subjects they offer. One thing they all share, however, is a common belief in the importance of welcoming all students to Oxford who have passion for their subjects and intellectual curiosity, whatever their background or country of origin, and enabling them to flourish.
To make that happen, we have a responsibility to ensure that the opportunity of an Oxford education is truly open to those who have historically been under-represented here. That means making sure the University which new students find waiting for them is not only a world-leading centre of academic thought and research, but an open and supportive community, too: one that celebrates diversity, promotes resilience and free thinking, and champions the potential of its students.
The Conference of Colleges provides a forum in which to fulfil this and many other shared priorities. We are an association, without any legal status in itself, that provides a valuable means of sharing experience and expertise across our different college communities. As independently governed institutions, Oxford’s Colleges and Halls face similar challenges as we engage with our students, with each other and the non-collegiate University, and with the wonderful city and local communities of Oxford, with whom we are so interdependent. We all benefit greatly from these collaborations - more so with each passing year.
By coming together, we are able to share expertise and find joint solutions to the challenges we face for the benefit of all. The coronavirus pandemic has illustrated just how valuable collaboration can be. It will be even more important in the coming years as we work to confront the climate crisis together as a collegiate university.
I hope very much that you find the information on these webpages useful, and that colleagues, students, prospective students and members of the public will find us a gateway both into the colleges and the wider university of Oxford. At a personal level, both I, and my colleagues, are available should you have any issue, concern or suggestion you would like to make to us.
Baroness Jan Royall
Principal of Somerville College, Chair of Conference of Colleges
The work of the Conference takes place through the instrument of its different committees, which comprise members from each college. Learn about the committees and their different functions.
Conference and its main committees include representatives from each college.
Committees normally have smaller ‘standing committees’ and are empowered
to set up their own or joint ad hoc or standing working groups.
Conference is the senior decision-making body of the Conference of Colleges, attended by by one representative from each college’s governing body (usually the Head of House) and meets twice a term. It has a binding vote mechanism. It takes decisions on behalf of Colleges collectively, gathers the views of colleges and represents them in discussions with the University, helps to formulate a majority view among colleges, and facilitates informed and transparent debate over collegiate issues.
Steering Committee advises and provides strategic direction to Conference. It considers and reflects on the key issues affecting the collegiate University. It advises Conference on actions to address these, including setting up working groups, facilitating Conference input to University groups, and taking some decisions on behalf of Conference.
Admissions Committee works extensively through the Admissions Executive (ADEX) to develop and agree policy in relation to undergraduate admissions and access.
The Domestic Bursars' Committee considers and advises colleges on matters relating to the management of colleges’ non-academic activities. The issues considered by the DBC and its five sub-committees are wide-ranging and include accommodation, catering and hospitality; commercial business (e.g. conferences, purchasing and procurement); facilities; employment of non-academic staff; and statutory and regulatory compliance, among others.
The Estates Bursars' Committee considers financial matters that may affect colleges collectively, and advises them on these issues. It advises colleges on levels of fees and charges for academic provision; represents colleges in financial discussions with the University; commissions external advice from time to time; shares information on income and costs; and generally advises colleges on the financial impacts of academic and other proposals.
The Graduate Committee considers the interests of colleges in relation to graduate studies, and also represents the interests of graduate students to relevant bodies. It disseminates information to Tutors for Graduates and discusses issues of common interest, agreeing common policy were helpful. It also encourages and publicises good practice in graduate academic provision in colleges (see QAWG)
The Senior Tutors’ Committeepromotes excellence in undergraduate education in colleges. It encourages good practice and evenness in academic (and related) provision (see QAWG); develops guidance for colleges on academic and related policy and procedures; contributes to policy development by the University/Divisions/Departments; and supports the provision of appropriate teaching resource in colleges.
Development Panel advises Conference on matters relating to fundraising, in particular relating to collaboration with the University.
The Forum enables matters of equality and diversity to be discussed, and good practice shared, between colleges. It is not a decision-making body, but may recommend follow-up through relevant committees, or contribute to consultations. The Forum supports one sub-group, on Disability.
The ICTSC considers and advises colleges on key developments, opportunities and risks in order to help them deliver cost effective and efficient ICT services and systems. The Committee works closely with the Colleges’ IT Managers Committee.
The ISAG provides advice and guidance to colleges in implementing their Information Security Strategy and Policy Frameworks; supports the identification and oversight of strategic and tactical improvement; and provides advice to colleges on assurance of information security.
Legal Panel identifies and discusses legal issues affecting the colleges. It liaises with the University on legal matters of shared concern. It does not provide legal advice.
MMB uses the Collegiate Funding Formula to allocate funds between colleges for each financial year, subject to the approval of Conference. It monitors the effects of the formula and may moderate the sums allocated if this is agreed by Conference.
The QAWG is a joint sub-committee of the STC and Graduate Committee. It oversees and develops the annual quality assurance exercise by which colleges report on their undergraduate and graduate academic provision, and which enables the documentation and sharing of good practice.
Welfare Forum provides a network of support for welfare practitioners in colleges. It is not a decision-making body but may recommend follow-up through relevant committees or contribute to consultations. It develops and shares information on practical advice and approaches, promotes good practice and enables confidential debate and discussion of common welfare issues.
A full alphabetical list of each of the committees, working groups, and
fora of Conference is available in the Members' Area of this site and by
clicking the button below.