Life as a member of the Balliol MCR includes much more than just academic work. A rich array of events and activities are available to add flavor and color to your Oxford experience. There are also many resources available to assist students in times of need, be it physical, emotional, or financial.
The Balliol MCR prides itself on being one of the most active MCRs at Oxford. The MCR Social Secretaries organise a wide range of social events throughout the year, such as:
To welcome Freshers to the MCR and to break the ice, the MCR Committee organises a week full of social activities, for example, welcome drinks, music evenings, tours of Oxford, punting, Manorlympics, meet-your-floor dinners, a barbecue, game show and movie nights. The highlights of the week are the Freshers' and Stalers' Dinner and the Freshers' Week BOP (a big themed party) followed by a welfare brunch the next day.
International and National Festivals
The MCR is lucky to have a very diverse and international community and it regularly celebrates cultural festivals such as Diwali, Thanksgiving and St Patrick's Day. Often, we celebrate with a big dinner - members of the community volunteer to cook for the MCR and introduce others to the traditions of the festival.
The Social Secretaries organise three BOPs per year. BOPs (Big Open Parties) are themed costume parties, open to everyone in the University. Balliol BOPs are famous in Oxford, and the Manor is a great space for dancing, chatting, and, if you're lucky, a karaoke sing-along!
Special Formal Dinners in Hall
We host one big formal dinner in the Hall each term, followed by entertainment in Holywell Manor. In Michaelmas, we have Christmas dinner with Christmassy food, balloons, crackers, and the annual MCR pantomime. Burns' Night in Hilary is one of the most exciting events of the year, and also a celebration of the Scottish roots of Balliol. Manor residents and guests get the opportunity to enjoy haggis, whiskey, bagpipes, Scottish music, Robert Burns' poetry and Ceilidh dancing until midnight. Last but not least, we host the May Dinner in Trinity, our big celebration of the arrival of May.
MCR Garden Party
The Balliol MCR Garden Party is a classy, sumptuous all-inclusive, black-tie evening full of good food and drinks, music, dancing and entertainment. Like a ball, but a bit smaller and less expensive. Usually organised by a committee of freshers, it's a great way to end Trinity Term and the year!
Trips out of Oxford
Various trips are organised by the Social Secretaries throughout the year, for example trips to the West End in London, a Christmas market trip to Bath, Point-to Point Racing or even a trip abroad.
Exchange dinners with other Colleges are a great opportunity to meet new people and to try out all the different dining halls at Oxford. Usually, there are two College exchanges per term, each with one leg at Balliol and one leg at another College. Balliol also organises an exchange with its sister College in Cambridge, St John's College.
And don't forget the super-fun extras:
Like punting, picnics, ice skating, barbecues, games nights, bar exchanges, wine and whiskey tastings!
Clubs and Societies
The Prafectus hosts seminars, with outside speakers, once a term at 8.00 pm in the Common Room or his study. The Seminars are preceded by a special dinner with the speaker, which you can sign up for. From time to time other lectures and seminars are held in the Manor. Suggestions for seminar speakers are always welcome. Please write to the Praefectus or his secretary if you wish to nominate a possible seminar speaker.
There is a Left Caucus Society (Balliol is traditionally a left wing College). It also has Cerberus, a society for students of philosophy, politics and economics, and anybody else interested. They get in high profile speakers. The Arnold and Brackenbury Society is a silly debating society (that is, a society that holds silly debates).
Every Thursday during term Douglas hosts informal lunches with an invited speaker. Free sandwich lunch is provided and all are welcome. These will be advertised on the Maillist. Douglas also holds careers evenings, where old members come back to speak and answer questions about their work over free dinner.
There are loads of opportunities to join in with sport in Balliol, either with graduate teams or in teams mixed with the JCR. In particular, football, rugby, and cricket teams are all available, and generally cater for most (if not all) levels of ability. How many teams of each sport exist from year to year varies depending on the level of ability/interest shown by Balliol Members.
The one sport that attracts the most participants in Balliol is Rowing. Again, there will almost certainly be a rowing team available to suit your needs and general ability. (Indeed, most people are usually novices when they arrive.) The Boat House is located on the Isis, on Christ Church Meadow.
The University also has a club for pretty much every sport you can think of. Some compete at a very high level and others take all comers. There is a University Freshers' Fair in the Examination Schools during 0th week and a Balliol Freshers' Fair at main site where you will find all the sports clubs represented.
Balliol has an active non-audition choir that sings Evensong in the chapel at 5.30pm every Sunday during termtime. They rehearse 5.30-6.30pm on Fridays and from 4pm on Sundays. The choir is very sociable, and choristers get free dinner in Hall after each service and free drinks in the Buttery after practise on Fridays. They go on tour in alternate years (most recently, to Venice) and often perform for special events in the college. Email the Senior Organ Scholar, if you are interested in joining.
Balliol Musical Society
Balliol has a well-endowed Music Society which puts on free chamber music concerts in Hall at 8.30pm on Sundays in even weeks. These are usually open to all and feature outstanding musicians including, recently, Andras Schiff, the Vienna Piano Trio, and Anne Schwanewilms.
The Music Society also organises outings to concerts in Oxford and London (often with subsidized tickets) and arranges small chamber ensembles to perform at the biannual members' concerts. See their website for more information about past and future concerts or to contact the General Secretary about joining.
University Music Ensembles
There are many university Music Societies and Ensembles that recruit heavily during Freshers' Fair. Most of the larger ensembles and the chamber music society are run under the auspices of the Oxford University Music Society, whose website also includes listings of non-affiliated musical ensembles in the Oxford area.
Making and sharing food is a significant and distinctive part of the social experience at Holywell Manor. At several of the largest MCR events, members of all skill levels and talents come together to plan and prepare a shared meal, sometimes for more than 100 people. These events are key fixtures of the MCR social calendar, and include the Stalers' Dinner, the Welfare brunches, barbecues, international potlucks and events showcasing national cuisines (such as our Mexican dinner), as well as various national festivals like North American Thanksgiving and Diwali, reflecting the diverse culture in our MCR.
We strongly believe in the use of products that are "ethically sourced", those which come from facilities where the treatment of workers, animals, and plants is ethical and environmentally responsible. Additionally, in February 2013, the Balliol MCR approved a motion to work closely with the Domestic Bursar to provide only ethically-sourced meals in the Balliol Hall. Efforts are also underway to improve the quality and proportion of vegetarian options that are served in Hall.
The MCR has an elected committee. The MCR Committee represents the interests of Balliol College graduate students. It lobbies on your behalf vis-a-vis the College administration. It endeavours to make Holywell Manor a lively and friendly place by organising social events and generating community spirit. For the names and contact details of the current officers, please see the MCR website. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to ask any of the committee members.
The positions are listed below:
The President chairs both MCR Committee Meetings and General Meetings, represents the MCR to the College and ensures that all officers and representatives of the MCR Committee fulfil their constitutional and mandated duties. The President takes ultimate responsibility for the administration of the MCR. Feel free to contact the MCR President at any time.
Together with the President the VP represents the MCR to the College. Further, the VP is responsible for concerns/suggestions to domestic matters, such as cleaning, food in hall. The VP also arranges the supply of newspapers and periodicals to which the MCR subscribes. The VP may make executive decisions for the MCR when the President is incapacitated.
The Treasurer is responsible for all financial transactions of the MCR.
The Secretary prepares and distributes the agenda and minutes for all MCR Committee Meetings, and tabulates the results of all MCR elections. The Secretary keeps an up-to-date copy of the Constitution and distributes it to MCR Members.
The Social Secretaries co-ordinate the organisation of MCR social events. New residents are encouraged to help with the implementation of these activities.
Living Out Rep
The Living Out Rep. ensures that the interests of graduates living outside of the Manor are taken into account by the MCR Committee.
The Women's Officer ensures that women feel comfortable at the Manor and are represented adequately on the MCR Committee.
The Affiliations Officer represents the MCR on the JCR Committee and on OUSU.
The Welfare Officer is there to act in a welfare supporting role for any MCR member. Although they are not necessarily professionally trained, they should be able to suggest which services you could contact. They provide delicious post-bop brunches and keep the welfare cupboard stocked.
The Environment Officer
The Environment Officer is in charge of recycling and endeavours to make the College as environmentally friendly as possible.
The Sports Officer
The Sports Officer organises all informal sporting activities that take place at Holywell Manor, and keeps the MCR equipped with rackets, balls and tools.
The Bar Managers are in charge of the bar and of the purchase of alcohol for social events. He or she is assisted by the bar committee.
The IT Officer is responsible for maintaining the MCR webpage and mail list, and liaising with College on computing related issues. Note that this is not the same as the Graduate Computing Officer who is appointed by College to help you set up your network connection etc.
Meetings and Elections
The sovereign body of the MCR is the General Meeting (in other words all Balliol graduate students as a body). There are at least two General Meetings (GM) a year and sometimes Extraordinary General Meetings to deal with urgent issues. All MCR members are entitled to submit motions, to speak and to vote on issues that can be hotly debated.
Are open to all, and are usually held on a bi-weekly schedule in the MCR. These are an excellent forum for bringing up any issues relating to Balliol graduate life. Usually matters are discussed and no voting is required. In the event that a vote is taken, although only committee members may vote, they should vote in accordance with their perceived view of the opinion of the MCR.
The full MCR Constitution is posted permanently on the MCR website and on the notice board near the communal Lodge telephone. The Constitution and its attached standing orders govern how the MCR Committee operates so as to render its functioning efficient and to prevent any abuse of power.
The President, Treasurer, Secretary and Social Secretaries form the executive committee of the MCR and are elected in the 7th Week of Trinity Term. MCR elections for non-executive committee posts (all other posts) take place in 5th week of Michaelmas Term, with the exception of the Bar Managers and Welfare Rep. who are elected at the same time as the executive committee. First years often constitute the backbone of the MCR committee. Many of those presently on the MCR Committee were elected while in their first year.
Follow this link to the Financial Aid section of the Balliol College website for a detailed listing of grants, scholarships and other financial aid available to Balliol Students. In addition to grants given on the basis of financial need, College has many awards, prizes and grants to give out, including travel grants.
If you are experiencing cash flow problems, College is often able to provide a short term loan to help tide you over. You can contact the Dean about this if necessary.
You may also consider the following examples of ways to earn some extra cash:
- The Experimental Psychology Mailing List: quick and easy money for participating in experiments
- Library Shifts at College: Enquire within how to put your name down on the list.
- The Development Office often needs people to stuff envelopes or help at alumni days. You can let them know that you would be interested.
- The Holywell Manor Lodge or Praefectus' Secretary occasionally advertise for help.
The Balliol MCR should be a safe space where people can freely express themselves and feel relaxed without fear of being discriminated against on a micro- or macro-level on the account of their biological sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental ability, race, ethnicity, cultural background or religion.
The goal of the three Equality Officers (Ethnic Minorities, LGBTQ+, and Disabilities) is not only to make the postgraduate experience in our college more inclusive, but also to make Balliol a radically progressive and safe space for all without exception, setting an example for other MCRs in Oxford.
This will include training workshops on the safe space concept for MCR committee members and members at large so that we can create and maintain a space where alienating assumptions, divisive statements, and racial micro-aggressions are avoided and where they can be openly and seriously discussed when reported, and where rules guard each person's self-respect and dignity and encourage everyone to respect others.