Oxford has two large universities – the University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University – whose students tend not to live in Oxford all year round but migrate in and out according to the university term times. The city also has students studying at other institutions and a number of short-term students who visit the universities and language schools.
There are four main sources of information about students in the city.
The 2021 Census gives us information about full-time students who lived in Oxford in 2021. Information about the type of courses being studied by full-time students was not collected in the 2021 Census, so this data includes students from universities, schools, colleges and other educational establishments who were 16+ years old. The size of the two universities (see below) means that the majority of full-time adult students recorded in the Census would have been studying at one of them.
- At the 2021 Census, 26.5% of the city's adult population was a full-time student (36,217 people) – the highest proportion in England and Wales.
- Over one-third (35%) of full-time students were born outside the UK.
- Oxford's student population is so large that its out of term population (where students and school children are at their 'home' address) is 10% below its usual resident population.
Of the 36,217 full-time adult students who lived in Oxford at the time of the 2021 Census, just over half (18,702) lived in communal establishments such as halls of residence. 10,613 lived in all-student households, whilst the rest lived alone, with their parents, or with other non-students. Between 2011 and 2021 the number of full-time students increased by 6,217, and the majority of this increase was accommodated in halls of residence.
According to Census 2021 alternative population data
- All local authorities with the smallest out-of-term populations compared with their usual resident populations contained universities; Oxford’s out-of-term population was 11.0% smaller than the usual resident population.
- Oxford’s decrease in population out of term is largely concentrated in ages 18 to 22 years because of Oxford’s large number of undergraduate students who are likely to have an out-of-term address. The largest percentage decrease was for females aged 19 years, which was 67.7% fewer during out-of-term time. For males, it was 62.3% fewer.
Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)
HESA provides information about students who are enrolled for study at Oxford's universities. It doesn't tell us whether the students study or live in the city – they may be studying at another location, or living outside the city (Oxford Brookes has three campuses outside the city boundary):
- In 2021/22, there were 34,945 students enrolled for full-time study at the two universities (Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University). 23,985 were undergraduates (split almost equally between the two universities); 10,965 were postgraduates (the majority at the University of Oxford).
- In addition, there were 9,815 students enrolled for part-time study, with over two thirds of these at the University of Oxford.
Annual Monitoring Report
The City Council's Annual Monitoring Report is used to monitor the implementation of a variety of planning policies. As part of this, the two universities submit student statistics in order to monitor the number of full-time students living in Oxford outside of university-provided accommodation. The latest figures (2021-22) report that Oxford Brookes University has 7,794 full-time students needing accommodation in Oxford in any given academic year (who weren't previously resident anyway) and the University of Oxford has 14,873. Around 4,000 Oxford Brookes University and 2,500 University of Oxford students live outside of university-provided accommodations.
Universities UK Accommodation Code of Practice
There are three codes of practice for the higher education sector, one of which is the Universities UK Code of Practice for University Managed Student Accommodation. The University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University are registered with Universities UK, which provides a list of buildings used by the two universities for the purpose of providing student accommodations. Based on the 2023 dataset, 19,997 students are housed in a variety of university-owned buildings between the two universities.