Many collegiate universities like Oxford have common rooms or groups in which students are organised. These are commonly the Junior Common Room (or JCR), Middle Common Room (or MCR), and Senior Common Room (or SCR). These rooms or groups exist to represent members of the university and to operate services like recreation, laundry, etc.
What is a Common Room?
A common room is a group that organises students and the academic bodies. Many universities in the UK and Ireland (in particular collegiate universities like Cambridge, Bristol, King’s College, Dublin, Durham, York, Kent, Lancaster, and Oxford) have common rooms. They are sometimes also referred to as “combination rooms”. The terms are sometimes used by Harvard, Yale and Princeton University, and the University of Toronto.
What are the Different Common Rooms?
There are three groups or common rooms. These might or might not have actual rooms designated for their use!
- The junior common room (JCR) for undergraduate junior members.
- The middle common room (MCR) for graduate junior members. And
- The senior common room (SCR) for senior members (fellows, etc.)
Common Rooms the University of Oxford
The different colleges of the University of Oxford usually have a JCR for undergraduates, an MCR for graduates, and an SCR for fellows. JCRs and MCRs usually have a committee to represent the student body to college authorities.
Not all Oxford colleges have common rooms – at least not in their typical form. There are some exceptions to the system. For example, St Benet’s Hall has a Joint Common Room representing both undergraduate and graduate students, and Wadham College maintains a combined students’ union or SU.
Some colleges also use alternative names, especially for their MCRs. For instance, Brasenose College has the “Hulme Common Room”, and University College the “Weir Common Room”. At Christ Church, St Antony’s and Green Templeton the representative bodies for postgraduate students are called “graduate common rooms” instead, or “GCRs”. Colleges have additional common rooms too, sometimes, such as the “Summer Common Room” at Magdalen College, or the “Alumni Common Room” at St John’s College.
Oxford Common Rooms and the OUSU
The JCR and MCR presidents of all affiliated Oxford common rooms are automatically voting members of the OUSU, or the Oxford University Student Union. The government council meets fortnightly during term to decide on all aspects of policy.
Does Oxford have Common Rooms like Harry Potter Hogwarts'?
We wish! Not all common rooms have actual physical rooms. And from those that do, not all look like Hogwarts’. However, there are similarities with the Harry Potter world, because collegiate life served as a big inspiration for the books.
Oxford does have a Gryffindor Common Room. Yes, you read that right. Magdalen College actually named their Junior Common Room ‘Gryffindor’ after the popular Hogwarts house. This was the first time the name had changed in 550 years! But Magdalen felt it represented the college’s values of courage, daring, nerve and chivalry. Similar campaigns are now considered for renaming other common rooms, too.