A view of the quadrangle. The library and the modernist sculpture are visible.

Somerville College is diverse, international and open-minded. Famously, we are the Oxford college where you can walk on the grass and you are almost never required to wear a gown.

Somerville College is a trailblazer. Founded in 1879, we were one of the first women's colleges at the University of Oxford. We now admit both women and men.

Our alumni include Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi and Dorothy Hodgkin, the first and so far only British woman to have won a Nobel Prize for science.

Somerville is a lively and close-knit academic community with around 600 undergraduate and postgraduate students, 32 tutorial fellows, and around 100 other junior academic staff, all dedicated to world-class teaching and research.

Want to know what it's really like to study at Oxford? Download our prospectus here.

Why is Somerville Great?
Our History

The college was founded as Somerville Hall in 1879 with just 12 students. By adopting the name of Scottish scientist and polymath Mary Somerville, our founders signalled their lofty ambitions for their students. Mary Somerville was also a strong supporter of women's suffrage and an advocate of women's education.

Somerville was the first Oxford college to be non-denominational, which meant that it was open to all students regardless of religious affiliation. We were home to some of the first Indian students at Oxford, including the pioneering lawyer Cornelia Sorabji, marking the beginning of a link with India that flourishes to the present day.

Our students work hard and many have gone on to achieve great things in science, literature, politics, philosophy and other fields: Vera Brittain, Dorothy Sayers, Dorothy Hodgkin, Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher all studied at Somerville.

Male students have been accepted at the college since 1994. Our undergraduate body is now evenly split between men and women.

The Principal

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon is the current Principal of Somerville College. She has had a distinguished career in politics, including being Leader of the Lords and a member of cabinet. She was educated at Westfield College, University of London, where she gained a BA in French and Spanish. She was a special adviser to Neil Kinnock, leader of the Labour Party, in the 1980s.

Notable Alumni

Although Somerville now admits both sexes, its history as a women's college means its alumni include many female pioneers. Margaret Thatcher was Britain's first female prime minister while Indira Gandhi was India's first female PM. Dorothy Hodgkin was the first British woman to win a Nobel Prize in science.


From law to biochemistry and classics to experimental psychology, find out about the courses we offer here.

Somerville at 140
College principal Jan Royall
Jan Royall, Somerville Principal
"We believe that no-one should be deterred from studying here for financial reasons. One in five of our undergraduate students receives a bursary."