Exeter College
University of Oxford
Arms: Argent, two bends nebuly sable (arms of Stapledon) within a bordure of the last charged with eight pairs of keys, addorsed and interlaced in the rings, the wards upwards, or.
LocationTurl Street, Oxford OX1 3DP
Coordinates51°45′14″N 1°15′22″W / 51.753871°N 1.256046°W / 51.753871; -1.256046
Full nameThe Rector and Scholars of Exeter College in the University of Oxford
Latin nameCollegium Exoniense
MottoLatin: Floreat Exon (Let Exeter Flourish)
Established1314; 710 years ago (1314)
Named forWalter de Stapledon, Bishop of Exeter
Previous namesStapeldon Hall
Sister collegeEmmanuel College, Cambridge
RectorSir Richard Trainor
Undergraduates375[1] (2021/2022)
Postgraduates275[1] (2021/2022)
Visiting students25[1] (2021/2022)
Fellows56[2] (2022/2023)
Endowment£86.7 million (2022)[3]
Boat clubExeter College Boat Club
Exeter College, Oxford is located in Oxford city centre
Exeter College, Oxford
Location in Oxford city centre

Exeter College (in full: The Rector and Scholars of Exeter College in the University of Oxford) is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford[4] in England, and the fourth-oldest college of the university.

The college was founded in 1314 by two brothers from Devon, Bishop Walter Stapledon and Sir Richard Stapledon, as an institution to educate clergy, and has been located on Turl Street since 1315.[5] At its foundation Exeter was popular with sons of the Devon gentry, though it has since become associated with a much broader range of notable alumni, including Raymond Raikes, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, Richard Burton, Roger Bannister, Alan Bennett, and Philip Pullman.


Exeter College's Broad Street frontage

Exeter College was founded in 1314 by Walter Stapledon, Bishop of Exeter and later treasurer to Edward II, and his brother, Sir Richard Stapledon, judge and politician,[6][7][8] as a school to educate clergy.[9] The college initially used Hart Hall, now Hertford College, and moved to Turl Street in 1315.[9] During its first century, it was known as Stapledon Hall and was significantly smaller, with just twelve to fourteen students.[9] The college grew significantly from the 15th century onward, and began offering rooms to its students. The college motto is "Floreat Exon.", meaning "Let Exeter Flourish".[10]

In the 16th century, donations from Sir William Petre, assumed to be an Exeter graduate, whose daughter Dorothy Wadham (1534–1618) was a co-founder with her husband Nicholas Wadham (1531–1609) of Wadham College, created the eight Petrean Fellowships, and further contributions from his son John Petre, 1st Baron Petre (1549–1613) helped to expand and transform the college.[9]

Sir John Acland (died 1620), a Devonshire gentleman, donated £800, which largely financed the building of a new dining hall, and also established two scholarships for poor students, the first to be created at the college.[11] In a clever move by the bursar to fill the new buildings as they were completed, a significant number of noble Roman Catholic students were invited to enrol and take classes at the enlarged college; however, they were not allowed to matriculate. As a result, over time, Exeter College became one of the leading colleges in the university.[citation needed]

In the 18th century the college experienced declining popularity, as did all of Oxford's other colleges. University reforms in the 1850s helped to end this period of stagnation.[citation needed]

Women at Exeter

For over six centuries after its founding, women were not permitted to study at Exeter, but in 1979 it joined many other men's colleges in admitting its first female students.[12] Today it admits men and women in roughly equal numbers.[4] In 1993, Exeter College became the first of the former all-male colleges to elect a woman, Marilyn Butler, as its rector.[13][14] When Butler's tenure expired in October 2004, the college elected another woman—Frances Cairncross, former senior editor of The Economist—as rector.[15]

In 2014, the author J. K. Rowling was elected an honorary fellow of the college for the "extraordinary contribution she has made to the field of literature, and in particular to children's reading and literacy".[16][17]

Adelphi Wine Club

Formed in the 1850s, the Adelphi Wine Club is reputed to be one of the oldest three wine clubs in Oxford. The club draws its membership from undergraduates studying at Exeter College. It has been forcibly closed down by college authorities several times throughout its tumultuous existence and is currently believed to be dormant. The club was renowned for its extravagant dinners, and for excessive gambling after each meeting. One black ball was sufficient to exclude an undergraduate from membership. Beginning in 1923, the college forbade any student holding an exhibition to join the club.[18]

Notable members include Sir Martin Le Quesne,[19] and J.P.V.D. Balsdon.[18]


Exeter College Chapel

Front Quadrangle

The Front Quadrangle sits on roughly the site of the medieval college, although of the earliest buildings, only Palmer's Tower in the north-eastern corner remains.[9] Constructed in 1432, the tower, which was once the primary entrance to the college, now houses various offices and lodgings for fellows, and at its base is a memorial to members who were killed in the Second World War. The quadrangle is dominated by the chapel, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and constructed in 1854–1860,[9] which was heavily inspired by the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. On the opposite side stands the hall, constructed in 1618,[9] notable for its vaulted ceilings and numerous fine portraits, underneath which is the college bar. Building work over the following century resulted in the quadrangle taking on its current appearance in 1710.[citation needed] The Front Quadrangle also houses the Junior, Middle and Senior Common Rooms, as well as lodgings for fellows and undergraduates.[citation needed]

Margary quadrangle

The Margary quadrangle was completed in 1964 with the construction of the Thomas Wood building to commemorate the 650th anniversary of the college and named for Ivan Margary, who paid for its restoration.[20] The quadrangle also incorporates the rector's lodgings, designed by Gilbert Scott and constructed in 1857, and staircases nine, ten and eleven, also erected during the 19th century.[9]

Fellows' Garden

The Fellows' Garden, looking toward Radcliffe Square

A passageway from the Front Quadrangle leads through to the college's Fellows' Garden, in which stands the library, designed by Gilbert Scott in the 13th-century style. The area is also bounded on the left hand side by Convocation House, the Divinity School and the Bodleian Library, and on the right by Brasenose Lane. The Mound, situated at the end of the Garden, offers views over Radcliffe Square, including All Souls' College and the Radcliffe Camera.

Cohen Quad

In 2007–2008, the college purchased the main site of Ruskin College on Walton Street for £7 million. The buildings were redeveloped to designs by Alison Brooks Architects to provide a range of student bedrooms, teaching rooms, and study space. In 2017 Cohen Quad was formally opened, named for the parents of Sir Ronald Cohen.[21] The premises represent the college's largest physical expansion since the 14th century.[citation needed] The Cohen Quad won an RIBA South Award as well as Regional Building of the Year.[22]

In literature and films

Exeter College is the basis for the fictional Jordan College in Philip Pullman's novel trilogy His Dark Materials. The 2007 film version of the first novel, The Golden Compass (originally Northern Lights), used the college for location filming.[23] The final episode of Inspector Morse, based on the novel The Remorseful Day, was filmed in the college chapel and Front Quadrangle, where Morse has a heart attack.[citation needed]

Student life

Dining hall

Exeter has a reputation for having a close-knit student body. First-year undergraduates are housed on the college's Turl Street site, and there is dedicated graduate accommodation for the college on Iffley Road.[24]

As the university's fourth oldest college,[25] a certain emphasis is placed on tradition, especially during special occasions such as the annual Burns Night, a dinner in honour of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, when a traditional meal of haggis is served. The college's ties with Williams College in the United States, as well as the generally international composition of the MCR, makes the annual Thanksgiving dinner a popular occasion.[26][27]


Exeter has a mixed-voice choir, made up of 24 singers, which is administered, conducted and accompanied solely by the Organ Scholars. It is the only college in either Oxford or Cambridge where a choir, run entirely by the Organ Scholar, sings three services a week, and has been heard recently on a number of broadcasts for BBC Radio 4's The Daily Service. The college offers Choral and Parry–Wood Organ Scholarships, and former Organ Scholars include Robert Sharpe (Director of Music, York Minster), Christopher Herrick (International Concert Organist and former Organist, Westminster Abbey), and David Trendell (Director of Music, King's College London), as well as Directors of Music at Rugby, Charterhouse, Sherborne, and Latymer Upper Schools.[28]


See also: Exeter College Boat Club

Exeter Recreation Ground buildings

Sports at Exeter College are not headed[clarification needed][organised?] by the school[college authorities/] itself[clarification needed] but rather by student-run clubs. There are sports grounds, which can be reserved with the campus[clarification needed] groundsman.[citation needed] The sports that have active student run clubs as of October 2023 are: boating, netball, football, cricket, badminton, hockey, rugby, ice hockey, pool, darts, croquet, and lacrosse.[citation needed]

In March 2014 Exeter College Association Football Club defeated St Catherine's College 2–1 in the final of the Cuppers tournament to lift the trophy for the first time in over 40 years.[29] In May 2019 Turl Street Rugby, made up of students from Exeter College, Jesus College and Lincoln College, won Oxford's inaugural 15-a-side Women's Rugby Union Cuppers tournament.[30]

People associated with Exeter

Former students

Main article: List of alumni of Exeter College, Oxford

Amongst Exeter's alumni are many writers, including J. R. R. Tolkien, Alan Bennett, Martin Amis and Philip Pullman; Roger Bannister, the first man to run a mile in under four minutes; the actors Richard Burton and Imogen Stubbs; Liaquat Ali Khan, the first prime minister of Pakistan, John Kufuor, the former President of Ghana and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, former president of Peru.

Academics and tutors

See also: Category:Fellows of Exeter College, Oxford and List of Honorary Fellows of Exeter College, Oxford


Main article: List of Rectors of Exeter College, Oxford

In June 2023, Andrew Roe was announced as the next rector of the college, starting in October 2024.[31]


  1. ^ a b c "Student statistics". University of Oxford. 2021. Retrieved 11 April 2023.
  2. ^ "Fellow numbers". Exeter College, Oxford. 2022. Retrieved 11 April 2023.
  3. ^ "Exeter College : Annual Report and Financial Statements : Year ended 31 July 2022" (PDF). ox.ac.uk. p. 32. Retrieved 11 April 2023.
  4. ^ a b "Exeter College | University of Oxford". www.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 1 November 2022.
  5. ^ "Exeter College | University of Oxford". www.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 13 March 2024.
  6. ^ Hingeston-Randolph, Francis Charles (1898). "Stapeldon, Walter de" . Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 54. pp. 92–93. in 1314, in conjunction with his brother, Sir Richard, he founded Stapeldon Hall in Oxford (now known as Exeter College)
  7. ^ "Stapledon, Walter de" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 25 (11th ed.). 1911. p. 784. Stapledon is famous as the founder of Exeter College, Oxford, which originated in Stapledon Hall, established in 1314 by the bishop and his elder brother, Sir Richard Stapledon, a judge of the King's Bench.
  8. ^ Rev. Francis Charles Hingeston-Randolph, ed. (1892). The Register of Walter de Stapledon, Bishop of Exeter (A.D. 1307-1326). London and Exeter. p. xvii. Retrieved 14 October 2023.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) “Meanwhile, in conjunction with his brother. Sir Richard, our Bishop was engaged on another undertaking of the first importance, for which he will be had in everlasting remembrance — the foundation, in the University of Oxford, of the Hall which for a while bore his own name, and subsequentlv that of his Diocese — Exeter College.”
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h "Exeter College | British History Online". www.british-history.ac.uk. Retrieved 20 April 2023.
  10. ^ "Exeter College". OxfordVisit. 18 February 2022. Retrieved 20 April 2023.
  11. ^ Acland, Anne. A Devon Family: The Story of the Aclands. London and Chichester: Phillimore, 1981, p.4
  12. ^ "Exeter College History". Exeter College, Oxford. Retrieved 11 April 2023.
  13. ^ "Who's Who, Butler, Prof. Marilyn Speers, (Lady Butler)". Who's Who. 1 December 2016. Retrieved 20 April 2023.
  14. ^ "The sociable revolutionary". Times Higher Education (THE). 15 September 1995. Retrieved 20 April 2023.
  15. ^ "Who's Who, Cairncross, Dame Frances (Anne), (Dame Frances McRae)". Who's Who. Retrieved 20 April 2023.
  16. ^ "J K Rowling elected to an Honorary Fellowship of Exeter College". Exeter College. 12 May 2014. Retrieved 22 May 2023.
  17. ^ Brewster, Ellen (15 May 2014). "Honorary fellowship for J.K. Rowling". Cherwell. Retrieved 20 April 2023.
  18. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 February 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2014.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 November 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2014.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ "Ivan D Margary" (PDF). rh7.org. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  21. ^ Enderby, Lucy (20 March 2017). "Exeter College's Cohen Quad formally opened". Cherwell. Retrieved 20 April 2023.
  22. ^ "RIBA South Award winners". www.architecture.com. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  23. ^ "Filming locations for His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass". IMDb locations page. Retrieved 26 April 2007.
  24. ^ "Accommodation". Exeter College. Retrieved 20 April 2023.
  25. ^ "About". Exeter College. Retrieved 13 March 2024.
  26. ^ "Exeter College Oxford". ox.ac.uk.
  27. ^ "Exeter College Oxford". ox.ac.uk.
  28. ^ "Past Organists and Organ Scholars". Exeter College, Oxford. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  29. ^ "Exeter College Oxford". ox.ac.uk. 10 March 2014.
  30. ^ "Exeter students win first ever women's rugby cuppers". Exeter College. 13 May 2019. Retrieved 20 April 2023.
  31. ^ "Exeter College announces its next Rector". Exeter College. 27 June 2023. Retrieved 27 June 2023.