I've just realised since the 'Testing' fiasco, this is my second 100th opinion! Since I’m now in the last week of my 38-week lease, I thought I’d take my last opportunity to write about my Halls of Residence. Now is neither the time nor the place to explain the finer details of Jesus College accommodation policy. To fill you in on the basics though: Jesus virtually guarantees accommodation to all undergraduates for the duration of their course. First years live actually in college in the city centre; second years move out to either Herberts Close down Cowley (known as ‘Barts’ for some reason) or Stevens Close in the Jericho region of north Oxford. After this, a few people opt to return to college (usually for their final year) but most third (and, if applicable, fourth) years continue to live in either Stevens or Barts (movement between the two is rare). Flat allocation is done by ballot, but with priority given to finalists (so everyone has to wait their turn for the best flats). Speaking of which, adjacent to the Stevens block there’s a converted house, 121 Woodstock Road, which consists of eight three-bedroom flats. These have a different layout, with much larger living spaces, but smaller bedrooms. Except for the two basement flats, these are usually the first to go. The Flats (description) The main Stevens block, however, consists of three adjoining towers, totalling 36 three-bedroom flats (35 for students, one houses the caretaker Chris and his wife Karen). The flats seem impossible to find on maps, but as you head up Woodstock Road they’re on your left, on the corner with Farndon Road. There’s a locked gate onto Woodstock Road (requiring a college late key), but you can drive a car in from Farndon Road so it’s not the most effective security measure ;) The flats are quite recent (dating from the 1970s I think) and certainly of an unusual design. The three
‘towers’ (yellow 1-12, red 13-24 and blue 25-36) are each arranged in a triangular pattern. The ground flats (1, 13 and 25) are actually on the ground, but the next flat (rather than being level) is next to it and up a bit (about five stairs). The next flat (eg. 3) is up and round a bit more, and then the fourth is directly above the first, if you see what I mean. It’s a sensible, space-economical layout, but it does seem pretty odd! Also the flats aren’t necessarily in line, so from the outside bits jut in and out strangely (but they’re all the same inside). The flats themselves are, as you would expect, reasonably homogeneous. You enter the front door into the hall. There’ll be a separate toilet and bathroom or shower on your left or right, and living room/kitchen on the other side. Ahead is a firedoor beyond which are the three bedrooms. The bedrooms are fairly large, competing with the best rooms in college. Each room offers a bed, desk and chair, not very comfy ‘easy’ chair, bookshelves and three wardrobe/cupboards (apart from one room per flat only gets two because the boiler takes up the third). All bedrooms also have ethernet connection to the college LAN. If you get to pick one, look at the one on the end because some of those have windows on two sides (which provides better light). The picture above is quite a nice shot of a bedroom, though obviously far tidier than most I’ve seen (don’t you hate attractive photos in prospectuses/brochures? At least this is recognisable compared to reality). The lounge area contains a sideboard, two-seater settee, two arm chairs, a table with four chairs and the kitchen, which has a fridge-freezer and electric grill/oven/hob. Some kitchens are laid out in the ‘open’ format, basically taking a corner/side of the lounge, but not really separate. Others are ‘boxed’ off in an L shape. We’ve got a box kitchen, as
we thought that would mean more cupboard space, but I don’t think there’s much in it; in hindsight I’d have gone for an open kitchen. Although the flats seem generally homogeneous in terms of style/decoration, there are actually plenty of these small variations. The result is flats are different, but none clearly better or worse. For example, a third of them (I think, maybe 2/9ths) have baths and showers, but those also have immersion heaters and the others have power showers that automatically heat water. There’s a small secluded garden and conservatory everyone can use in summer (or winter if they wish!) Some technical details Rent is approximately £45/week or £640/term per person (this is for 2001-2, and due to go up around 6-7% next year). The lease is 38 weeks, running from the start of October to first week in July. You must pay electricity (quite expensive since the flats are poorly insulated – our first quarterly bill was £230) and (if you have a phone) the phone bill. You do not have to pay for water, and the flats do not have gas. According to the lease, underfloor heating will be provided, but the landlords (college) are not responsible if it isn’t – and it hasn’t been for years! Each flat is allowed one parking permit, and room for three bikes in the bike shed. So the good and bad points: Good Well, it’s only 20 minutes brisk walk from town (which is quite a bit closer than Barts) and even nearer to the science labs (hence you tend to get most scientists here). For Oxford prices, it’s very affordable. You have your own cooking facilities. You’re living with other people from college you’re likely to know, which can feel more secure and sociable. It’s fairly basic, but modern and has all the essentials. Bad Insulation is really poor. The windows
don’t all shut properly, and there are gaps of up to half and inch under doors. It can get cold and draughty. It’s not in as nice an area as Cowley from the point of view of bars and clubs (although Cowley is a ‘rougher’ area of Oxford; Jericho is more a middle class suburb). It can feel quite insular. You have to do your cooking (unless you go to college) and cleaning. You may not get on with your flatmates (which is quite awkward in a three person flat – although at least bedrooms are lockable). Conclusion: Well, next year I’m going back to college. Given the choice again, I would still pick Stevens over Barts because of the people and location. Hardly anyone from Jesus lives privately, mainly because of the cost and it separates you from everyone else. Stevens is, in fairness, good for student accommodation; but then, it’s not like we have much choice. If you're interested in seeing more; try the 'tour' at the above official website link.