Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The best housing choices for an Oxford Said Business School MBA

Exactly 2 years ago from this day I stepped foot into the UK to begin my MBA studies.  One of the most nerve wracking things was finding a place to live.  Endless nights on google maps, trying to see what it was close to on street view, and browsing any crappy reviews I could find.  They all sucked didn't really help much, as it just seemed like a blackbox.  So I figured today I'd write one so future SBSers don't need to repeat the same agony. 

Fortunately for me, I had a sibling that had attended the program before me, and was able to say- "live here", or "here".  "Knowing you that's where you want to be."  So I followed the advice, and had probably the best place- close enough for a 5 min walk to campus, and close enough to Oxford so that I could walk anywhere.  I loved it, an had an awesome time (It was so sad to leave the place).

***As a sidenote, this post isn't for those who are looking for college accommodation.  See my guide to colleges in another post here.  College accommodation in general tends to be much cheaper, so if you want to save on costs, I'd consider looking into college accommodation first.  However, if your college doesn't have space (you can go to others by the way!), if you have a family and need an apartment, or if you are use to a nice place and just can't live in a dorm anymore, or other reasons, then read on.

All the following below are first class accommodations- clean, new (relative to Oxford!), and all very close to Said Business School. 

1. Rowland Hill Court, Osney Lane:
Really great enclosed area that's minutes away from Said Business School.  It's very affordable by Oxford standards, and if you share with someone in a two bedroom the cost is really great.  It also has space for parking if you have a car.

Downside: I skipped this place because it was too close to a cemetery.  Cemetery?  Yuk I don't want to be anywhere near there.  However, now that I've been to Oxford, and visited friends there, I'd actually recommend the place.  Why?  Because of it, the prices are much lower, and contrary to Google maps you actually don't see it  (the entire complex faces into the courtyard), and you can go on the street where you don't walk past it at all on the way to school.  A couple of my classmates lived there and absolutely loved it. 

2. The Stream Edge, Fisher Row:
This place is in an excellent location, as it is close to SBS, but has a view of one of the rivers running through Oxford.  I don't know much about it haven't never seen the place, but it certainly got some good reviews from my classmates.

3. The Oxford Castle, Oxford Castle:
The place to be.  If you're a former New Yorker/Londoner/Hong Konger or any big city person like me, chances are you'll love Oxford Castle.  Modern, beautiful accommodations, right next to the actual historical Oxford Castle, and you've got many hip restaurants right at your doorstep.

Downside: This is also the most expensive place to live that's close to SBS, but if you've got cash to spend...

4. The Chilterns, Gloucester Green:
This is where I lived during my Oxford days.  It's 5 min away from SBS, and 5 min away (more like 3) from the city centre.  On Wed/Thurs there is the market that fills middle square (think Union Square market in NYC or Borough Market in London) selling fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat from farms nearby (some organic some not) and other random items- watches, trinkets, kitchen goods, etc.  Having fresh food right at your doorstep is the most awesome thing, and it the overall perfect location right next to the bus stop.

Depending on where you are facing, you may hear a lot of noisy undergrads at night at the kebab stand in the square.  So if you don't want that, aim for a floor higher up (I was on the first floor but would have preferred the second), or perhaps an apartment not facing the square (Some clasmates faced away from the square overlooking a carpark- not as great of a view but very, very quiet!).  Obviously you might not have that choice- if you can get an apartment there just take it.

So there you have it, the top places to live as an MBA student at Oxford.  The problem is getting these flats- in the UK you have to physically be present (or have a friend be there) to actually see the flat and sign the lease.  So I'd recommend getting to Oxford early.  However, if you get here later there's still hope- (one classmate tried the dorms for a day and then decided to move out ASAP) there will be some places available, just more expensive options (he had to get a two bedroom instead of 1, which was OK for him).


  1. This is a really helpful post. Could you elaborate a bit on what the approximate rents are in the locations that you have recommended?

  2. When I was there, for a 1 bedroom it was £895 per month in Gloucester Green, with The Stream Edge probably about the same and Rowland Hill Court a bit lower. Oxford Castle was the highest at £995.

    That was back in 2010, so might be a bit more now. Do note that a two bedroom (assuming you can find someone to share with) is a much better deal- a similar 2 bedroom in Gloucester Green goes for £1,100, or £550 per person. Hope that helps!

  3. Hi,
    I'm an MBA candidate joining St Hugh's this year. Thank you very much for your post, it was really helpful.

    I'm thinking of living outside college but in that case I wonder how much I can connect with other college members. Did you feel any disadvantages about this point? Other than cost, what is the benefit of staying inside college?

    Also, how many percentage of MBA students live in college accommodation?

  4. Hi there,

    Obviously its easier to connect with college members (e.g. these are members in your college, which may or may not be MBAs) when you live in your college and are just down the hall, but of course you can meet up with them during events that the college organizes. I did not feel any disadvantages, though I do like to have my own place, which can get quiet at times, which some may not like.

    Staying in a college means you will never be bored (unless you lock yourself in the room) although it means you don't get to see those in the college as often. However if you keep yourself busy, by doing activities within your college (especially rowing) you'll connect with your college just fine.

    As for % I don't have an exact figure, but I'd say the majority did live in college accommodation. Note that college accommodation does not always mean student dorms (e.g. one room), as many can get apartment style accommodations within the college (though might be off campus).

  5. Hi Kent,

    Could I just check which property agents/website you used to secure your housing in Oxford?

  6. Hi there,

    The agent I used was Breckon & Breckon, on 13 Beaumont st. I did feel a bit nervous giving them several thousand GBP (for X months deposit) up front, but this is standard practice for many international students, and as long as you have met the representative that's fine. I would definitely make sure that the company you choose has an Oxford local office. Also you'll probably have to visit the places yourself (or someone else for you in person).

    I used several websites, including Globrix, which is now part of Zoopla.

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