With over 100 libraries, and climactic personal tutorials every week during Full Term, students spend a lot of their time reading, writing, and walking the local ponder their reading and writing. If working at one of the best research establishments in the world excites you, then this is the program for you. But there's far more to Oxford than the books.

The main difference between U.S. and Oxford academics is Oxford's acclaimed tutorial system: a series of hour-long sessions in which you and your tutor, one-on-one, will focus with undivided attention on your response to a single, daunting prompt. This is the system students often describe as the most intimidating and satisfying academic experience of their lives. It will change the way you read books, write sentences, and think - and students will often return home feeling like athletes who have trained at high altitude.


SCIO has negotiated a bike rental system that is available without charge for all students housed at the Vines. If there are enough bikes, students living in the North Wing may also opt into this scheme at a subsidized cost on a first-come first-served basis. There are three different models from which to choose. You will receive more information about the bicycles upon acceptance to the program.

Spiritual Life

SCIO's spiritual mission is first to demonstrate that personal faith in Christ can flourish within an academically rigorous environment; can operate in a public university; and interacts with scholarship but not necessarily in ways that are obvious and easily labelled. Second, to help students acquire the maturity, vision, confidence, and skills to study in the public, research university and to encourage scholarly reflection in religious contexts and in a public, non-religious environment.

Learning to study alongside and under those of different religious beliefs (or, in many cases, none) is challenging. We encourage this by offering ourselves as a mentors/example, creating an atmosphere of independence in which students can develop such a vision and ability, and offering nurture by staff who are engaged and committed.

All students are encouraged to find a church home in Oxford. Apart from the spiritual nourishment that comes from remaining involved in regular worship, church is a great place to meet other students and residents of the town, and creates opportunities for you to get to know the people in your community. Many students on the program make a point of attending a church whose style is markedly different from that which they usually attend at home, while other students find it a great comfort to attend a service whose style is more familiar, and all students should think about what might best suit them while they are here. 

Residence Options

SCIO has two Oxford residences: the North Wing of Wycliffe Hall, a large college residence north of the centre of town; and The Vines, a late-Victorian mansion on Headington Hill overlooking Oxford's ‘dreaming spires'.

Both residences have large common spaces where students can work, study, laugh, and just chill out. Both properties have substantial gardens where, when the weather is accommodating, students can relax and read, and, at The Vines, play football, croquet or ultimate frisbee.

SCIO places great significance on nurturing the student community that develops over the course of the semester. The program is academically demanding, and the support network that develops between all the students is essential in helping everyone feel that they are staying on top of things! Every semester many students have shared that over their time in Oxford they have formed some of their strongest ever friendships.  The opportunity to live with like-minded people in one of the most beautiful cities in the world is exciting, profound, and fun.

Students applying to SSO will complete a rooming preference questionnaire that helps SCIO place students in the most suitable room available. There are several single rooms (mostly in the North Wing) but many are shared with between one to three other people.

North Wing, Wycliffe Hall

The North Wing is part of the main building of Wycliffe Hall, situated a 10-minute walk away from the centre of town. The North Wing is spread over four floors; each floor has its own bathroom facilities. There is also a large common room that is accessible to all Wycliffe and SCIO students, and there are laundry facilities, a kitchen and a dining room in the basement of an adjacent building. The entire building is wirelessly networked, and there is a garden at the back.

  • Laundry facilities
  • Printing facilities
  • Large common room with TV
  • Large kitchen with dining area, plus a dining hall with kitchen staff (you are charged separately for each meal at the dining hall)
The Vines and the Lodge

The Vines is a modest mansion on the crest of Headington Hill, situated on 1.5 acres of garden with stunning views of Oxford's spires. Running parallel to the path of C.S. Lewis's former commute, The Vines is a 35-minute walk into Oxford city centre, a 10-minute cycle ride, or a 5-minute walk to the nearest bus stop (with busses passing by every 67 minutes). It has a large kitchen, laundry facilities, a well-appointed common room and bathrooms for every 2-3 rooms.

  • Laundry facilities
  • IT and study room with work stations and printing facilities
  • Large common room
  • Dining room
  • Large kitchen
  • Wheelchair access and disability accommodation
  • Prayer room
  • Wireless network

The Lodge is a small cottage directly alongside the main building.  It sleeps up to four people, and has its own bathroom and kitchen.  All students in the Lodge are part of The Vines community, and share all the same common rooms.  Students in the lodge often prefer to cook in the communal kitchen, and get cupboard space in the main building to store their food if they prefer.  If you would like to be part of a big community but at the same time have a quieter space of your own, consider putting the Lodge on your room request form when you apply.


Alongside the field trips organized as part of the program, Oxford staff arrange optional field trips that you can join if you want. These trips change from semester to semester, but in the past have included visits to London, Blenheim Palace, Snowdonia and the castles of Wales, and the Lake District and the Lake poets, as well as places further afield including Rome and Auschwitz. These trips are charged at cost, and are very competitively priced.

  • Oxford
  • Around Oxford
  • London
  • United Kingdom
  • Europe


The JCR committee is a distinctly Oxford institution and stands for the Junior Common Room. The JCR committee for the SSO program is a group of five to seven students from the programme who are voted by you once you have arrived, and is there to help run fun events for all the SSO students. It is always great fun to be part of the JCR committee, as you get a chance to make things happen the way you would like! The JCR committee has a sizable budget to help fund its various activities. Every JCR committee has its own way of running things, but usually every semester we have a variety / open mic night which showcases your talent. The JCR committee can also help organize activities that give you a chance to give something back to the community by helping in various charitable ways.


Every Semester SSO students enjoy competing alongside their fellow Oxford students in the various sports that take place while they are here.

Most students who choose to join a team play other colleges in Oxford, but we have had many SSO students represent Oxford and play against other universities around the country.

Sports that you can play include basketball, volleyball, football (soccer), archery, fencing, rowing, and table tennis. Nearly any sport that you enjoy is represented at Oxford.

Clubs and Societies

Oxford University has a club or society that covers almost any activity you can think of. There are several orchestras of varying standards and many choirs (some you have to audition for and some you do not). If you enjoy acting why not audition for a role in a play? One semester both lead roles in a dramatic production were filled with SSO students, and students have also helped with set design and lighting. Juggling, beagling, hiking, caving, movies, politics, debating ... you name it, there is a club somewhere in Oxford where you can meet other students from the University with similar interests.

There are numerous Christian activities going on during Full Term, and you will find that you are always welcome to participate while you are here. The CS Lewis Appreciation Society is also popular!


Be prepared for all types of weather over your semester in Oxford.  There will be sunny stretches when you can read and study outside in the sleepy warm sunshine, and other times when you can have a snow fight in the University parks!

Whatever happens, you can can guarentee that it will rain, so pack waterproof clothing!

Tea (and Food)


Drinking tea is a vital element in the rhythm of the English person's day, and all students are encouraged to discover this for themselves.  Its popularity is perhaps explained in part by the cakes and biscuits that traditionally accompany this drink.  Students will be invited to tea at regular times during the week, and it is an important time to relax, catch up with each other, and recharge for the rest of the day!


Apart from some lunches organized as part of the program, all students will need to prepare their own meals while in Oxford.  This means shopping at one of the main supermarkets, going to the weekly fresh farmer's market, or visiting the Covered Market, established in 1774.  All students accepted on the program receive an up-to-date price list of various foods to help work out a budget.

Many students form food groups that take turns to cook for each other and eat together at the end of each day.  It is a great way to share with others what they have discovered that day, and also to hear what everyone else has been doing! 

There are plenty of places to eat out in Oxford, ranging from the affordable to the expensive.  The cafe in St Mary's Church is a fun place to visit, as the cafe itself is in the Old Congregation House, and was the University's first 'official' building.  It dates from the 14th century and was built a couple of hundred years after the colleges first started taking in students.