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St Antony's College, Oxford

Colleges and halls of the University of Oxford

St Antony's College

St Antony's College, Oxford
College name St Antony's College
Latin name Collegium Sancti Antonii
Motto Plus est en vous
Named after St Antony of Egypt
Established 1950
Sister college Wolfson College, Cambridge
Warden Margaret MacMillan
Undergraduates None
Graduates 400
Location Between Woodstock Road, Bevington Road and Winchester Road

St Antony's College, Oxford is located in Oxford city centre

Location of St Antony's College within central Oxford

Boat Club
Blazon Or on a chevron between three tau crosses gules as many pierced mullets of the field.

St Antony's College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. Founded in 1950 as the result of the gift of French merchant Sir Antonin Besse of Aden, St Antony's is one of the most cosmopolitan of the University of Oxford's colleges and is considered to be a centre of excellence for study and research in the fields of international relations, economics, politics, and area studies.[1] The college's areas of specialist study include Europe, Russia and the former Soviet states, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Japan, China, and South and South East Asia.

The College is located in leafy North Oxford with Woodstock Road to the west, Bevington Road to the south and Winchester Road to the east. As of 2012, St Antony's had an estimated financial endowment of £30m.[2]


  • History 1
  • Buildings and grounds 2
  • Student life and study 3
    • Libraries and publications 3.1
    • Sports and societies 3.2
    • Rankings 3.3
  • Traditions and attributes 4
    • Coat of arms 4.1
    • Grace 4.2
  • People associated with St Antony's 5
    • Wardens 5.1
    • Former students 5.2
    • Academics 5.3
    • Former fellows 5.4
  • Gallery 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


St Antony's was founded in 1950 as the result of the gift of Sir Antonin Besse of Aden, a merchant of French descent.

Besse had been considering giving around two million pounds to the University of Oxford for the foundation of a new college since 1947. Ultimately, on the advice of his solicitor, R Clyde, who had attended New College, Besse decided to go ahead with the plan and permitted Clyde to approach the university with the offer. The university was initially unreceptive of the offer and instead recommended that Besse devote his funds to improving the finances of some of the poorer existing colleges. Eventually Besse acquiesced, contributing a total of £250,000 in varied amounts to the following colleges: Keble, Worcester, St Peter's, Wadham, Exeter, Pembroke, Lincoln and St Edmund Hall. In the wake of this large contribution, the university decided to reconsider Besse's offer to help found a new college and, recognising the need to provide for the ever growing number of postgraduate students coming to Oxford, gave the venture their blessing. It was thus that, in 1948, Besse signed a deed of trust appointing the college's first trustees.

Sir Antonin Besse, whose gift enabled the college's foundation.

The attentions of the university then turned to providing the new college, by then being called St Antony's, with a permanent home. Ripon Hall was initially considered as a good option for a building in which to house the college, however its owners refused to sell, forcing the university to reconsider its position and continue the search in the hope of finding alternative premises. The university then looked at a number of properties in quick succession, including, amongst others, Youlbury, the Wytham Abbey estate, and Manchester College, which was known to be in dire straits and which might thus consider the sale of its 19th century Mansfield Road buildings. Ultimately, when none of the aforementioned options proved tenable, the college began to look elsewhere. It is said that Besse became very frustrated with the university and its apparent disinterest in his project at this point, and almost gave up any hope for its completion. However, after much delay, the college finally acquired its current premises at 62 Woodstock Road in 1950.

The College first admitted students in Michaelmas term 1950 and received its Royal Charter in 1953. A supplementary charter was granted in 1962 to allow the College to admit women as well as men, and in 1963 the College was made a full member of the University of Oxford. By 1952 the number of students at St Antony's had increased to 27 and by the end of the decade that number had risen to 260, amongst whom 34 different nationalities were represented. The college initially struggled due to a lack of appropriate funding, and in the late 1960s there was serious consideration given to the prospect of unifying St Antony's with All Souls College when that institution announced its intention to take a more active role in the education of graduate students. Ultimately this plan did not come to fruition because All Souls rejected the federal nature of the proposed institution, with the college's fellows saying they would consider nothing less than a full merger, a proposal which St Antony's governing body was not supportive of. The issue of funding and the constraints it put on St Antony's growth and development was, however, partly solved under the wardenship of William Deakin, who devoted himself to fund-raising on the college's behalf and ultimately secured a number of generous loans from the Ford and Volkswagen foundations. Over the decades since, St Antony's has had to deal with an almost constant lack of financial security - a reality which led to the cancellation of a number of potential developments intended to expand the college's physical presence at its site on Woodstock Road. Not until the 1990s was it really feasible for the college to embark upon a new building programme; however, since that date St Antony's has continued to expand and open new specialist centres for the pursuit of area studies; the college is now recognised as one of the world's foremost centres for such study.[1]

Saint Anthony the Great, for whom the college is named.

From the beginning Besse had expressed his hope that the new college, which he intended to open to men 'irrespective of origin, race or creed', would prove instrumental in improving international cooperation and intercultural understanding. It was thus that, only shortly thereafter, the college announced its primary role as such: 'to be a centre of advanced study and research in the fields of modern international history, philosophy, economics and politics and to provide an international centre within the University where graduate students from all over the world can live and work together in close contact with senior members of the University who are specialists in their fields'. The college is still true to its founding principle to this day, remaining one of the most international colleges of the university, and the home to many of Oxford's region-specific study departments. It was this latter feature, combined with the wardenship of William Deakin and St Antony's reputation as a key centre for the study of Soviet affairs during the Cold War period, which led to rumours of links between the college and the British intelligence services; the author Leslie Woodhead wrote to this effect, describing the college as:[3]

Lord Dahrendorf presided over much of the college's expansion in the 1990s.

Moreover, the annals of the university's authorised history make the point that St Antony's was one of four colleges at the University, along with All Souls, Nuffield and Christ Church, which made a concerted effort to establish outside links. In St Antony's case, the college established wide-ranging connections with diplomats and foreign visitors, a feature which is further commented on as having made the college 'perhaps more significant than any other single development in Oxford's adjustment to the contemporary international academic environment'.[4]

It is interesting to note that whilst the college was named St Antony's to allude to its founder, whose name, Antonin Besse, is derived from the same linguistic root, for a long time it was not made clear whether Anthony the Great or Anthony of Padua was the intended namesake. The matter was finally settled in 1961, when the college finally deemed Antony the Great to be more the appropriate choice due to his links to one of the college's prime areas of specialisation - the Middle and Near East. Despite this, the college's banner is flown each year on both saints' days as a matter of tradition and a statue of the 'wrong' Antony, Antony of Padua (distinguished by his holding of the Christ child), stands in the college's Hilda Besse Building.

Buildings and grounds

The college's main building was built in the early Victorian era for the Sisters of Mercy at the behest of Marian Rebecca Hughes, the first woman to take monastic vows within the Church of England since the reformation. The order commissioned Charles Buckeridge, a local architect of some renown, to design the convent buildings. After initially proposing a circular design based on the symbolism of the holy trinity, Buckeridge took to a more traditional approach and drew up the plans for what is now St Antony's main building some time before 1865. Whilst initially there were plans to enlarge the convent with a northerly extension, for which place was made in the building's design, further building never took place. The convent finally opened in November 1868.

St Antony's is characterised by its eclectic mix of old and new buildings.

The total cost of the initial build came to eight thousand pounds, a considerable sum at that time. It is said that upon first seeing the convent's new premises, the architect William Butterfield commented that it was the 'best modern building in Oxford after my college', by which he meant Keble. St Antony's acquired the former convent in 1950 after it had been vacated by the Sisters of Mercy and Halifax House, which had occupied the premises in the immediate post war period. The building's chapel, which was never consecrated and now houses the main college library, was built in the years 1891-4 to Buckeridge's original design. The main building's undercroft, now the Gulbenkian Reading Room, was initially used by the nuns as a refectory, a role it continued to play until the completion of the Hilda Besse building in 1970.[5]

The college's main library is housed in the old building.

After a number of ambitious schemes, one of which had been designed by the famed Oscar Niemeyer, to enlarge the college in the 1960s fell through due to lack of funds, the college decided to concentrate its efforts in providing for the construction of a small extension and acquisition of neighbouring properties. The Hilda Besse building, or 'New Building' as it was then known, was opened in 1970; it is interesting to note that this building still serves its original purpose to this day in housing the college's dining hall and graduate common room as well as a great number of ancillary meeting rooms. The next major expansion of the college came in 1993 with the completion of a new building to house the Nissan Institute for Japanese Studies and the Bodleian Japanese Library, whilst additional accommodation was not supplied until the Founder's Building was opened to mark the millennium in the year 2000.

In recent years not much development has taken place until completion of the college's new Gateway Buildings in 2013, which have greatly altered the estate and provided new world class facilities to staff and students alike.[6] The buildings provide a new main entrance to the college and form the east, and final, side of the college's first quadrangle. Furthermore, as part of its ongoing development program, St Antony's has commissioned the construction of a new centre for Middle Eastern Studies. The Middle East Centre, or Softbridge Building, has been designed by the renowned Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid; it broke ground on January 30, 2013[7] and was opened as the Investcorp Building on May 26, 2015.[8]

Student life and study

The college's dining hall is located in the award-winning Hilda Besse building.

St Antony's College has some 400 students from over 67 countries; about half of the students have a first language other than English. Student interests are represented by an elected body, the Graduate Common Room (GCR) Executive,[9] which is elected on an annual basis at the end of Michaelmas Term.

Students who live in (in college accommodation) are accommodated in a number of buildings of various eras. Most college accommodation is located on site, with around 104 en-suite bedrooms provided in the Gateway and Founder's buildings. Further rooms are to be found in converted Victorian houses both on site or very close by. This expansion in the provision of rooms for students is a recent development at St Antony's, which until recently (up until the construction of the Founder's Building at the turn of the millennium) was one of the few Oxford colleges characterised by a chronic lack of student rooms. As a result of this development, the college is now able to provide some of the highest quality postgraduate accommodation in the city.

The college is host to the St Antony's Late Bar, located on the ground floor of the award-winning[10] Hilda Besse building and serving students throughout the academic year. In addition to operating as a regular bar, it hosts numerous themed bops, culture/region/country nights, live music events (guest concerts, open-mic nights, Battle of the Bands), welfare/charity functions, various tastings and launch parties, among others. Popular recurring events include Halloqueen, USA Night, Latin Bop, Balkan Night, and the thrice-annual Drink the Bar Dry.[11]

Libraries and publications

The Gateway Building, completed in 2013, provides around fifty en-suite study bedrooms.

The Main Building - the former Holy Trinity Convent[12] which was built in the 1860s, houses the college's main library, Gulbenkian Reading Room, and the Russian and East European Study Centre. The collective holdings of the main library and various centre libraries comprise over 110,000 volumes, whilst subscriptions to current periodicals number about 300. The main library itself holds over 60,000 volumes and subscribes to over 100 current periodicals with the general collections in modern history, politics, international relations and economics, the collections on Europe, Asia, and the non-Slavonic collections on Russia, the former USSR and Eastern Europe. It also houses some 20th-century archive collections, including the Wheeler-Bennett papers. St Antony's is associated with the Oxford Libraries Information System (OLIS), and has been a contributor to the university's online union library catalogue since 1990.

The main building and college library.

The other libraries on the College site are the Middle East Centre Library, the Latin American Centre Library, the Bodleian Japanese Library and the Russian and Eurasian Studies Centre Library, the last of which was recently refurbished as part of the college's rolling construction and rejuvenation program. The College also holds an extensive collection of archival material relating to the Middle East at the Middle East Centre Archive, the premises of which are soon to be greatly expanded with the completion of Zaha Hadid's Softbridge building in mid-2014. The university's area studies libraries are unique within the university and thus generally open to all its students, regardless of college affiliation; they typically hold a wide collection of primary language sources and further Anglophone texts - an abundance of specialist material and unique expertise which prompted Leslie Woodhead to comment as follows:[13]

The college's Graduate Common Room has, since 2005, published a biannual academic journal entitled the 'St Antony's International Review', which is more commonly known by its acronym - STAIR. The journal represents a medium through which aspiring young academics can publish their work alongside their established policy-makers and their peers. Furthermore, the college publishes a termly newsletter, the Antonian, and a college record - an annual report on college affairs.

Sports and societies

A women's eight. St Antony's Boat Club has seen much success in recent years.

This cosmopolitan cultural environment is further fostered by a communal dining hall and active sports clubs for football, cricket, and rowing, in which sport the college club won the Nephthys and Christ Church Regattas in 2011.[14] The college also has an active European Film Society and a choir. The college's major academic and sporting rival is considered to be Nuffield College.


As a postgraduate only college, St Antony's does not appear in the university's annual Norrington Table.

Traditions and attributes

St Antony's students are not required to wear formal academic dress (sub-fusc) to any meal although may choose to do so if they wish. What is more, the college does not maintain a permanent high table, instead choosing to serve high table meals on a number of occasions each week for the college's fellows and visiting academics. It is customary for students to be invited to dine at high table in the event that they have done the college proud through their own personal achievements or sporting prowess. Students do, however, often attend high table at the invitation of their supervisors or in the event that a visiting personage of academic interest to the student is being hosted by the college.

Despite the above, St Antony's remains a largely informal college, mandating the wearing of academic dress only for the university's matriculation and graduation ceremonies. As a graduate college, St Antony's students play an important role in the day-to-day business of running the college through their elected body of representatives - the Graduate Common Room or GCR.

Coat of arms

The college's arms, granted in 1952, were designed in such a way so as to reflect the college's namesake - Anthony 'the Great' of Egypt. The red represents the Red Sea, whilst the gold was chosen to reflect desert sands. The mullets were borrowed from the founder's trade mark, whilst the T-shaped elements are traditional crosses of St Antony. The heraldic blazon for these arms is as follows:

Or on a chevron between three tau crosses gules as many pierced mullets of the field.

The college's motto 'plus est en vous' is sometimes added in complement to its arms. When this is the case, they are typically placed upon a scroll beneath the escutcheon (shield); this version of the arms is most commonly found on the cover of St Antony's Papers issues. The motto itself can be translated literally as 'there is more in you', although it is commonly taken to imply the following English expression: 'There is more to you than meets the eye'.


St Antony's is one of nine colleges at the university to employ the 'two-word' Latin grace. This is statistically the most popular form of grace said at hall in Oxford and also in Cambridge, where it used by five colleges. The grace is read out in two parts at the college's formal meals, which take place twice each term. The first half of the grace or 'ante cibum' is said prior to the start of the meal and the second, the post cibum, once the meal has ended. It is read as follows:

Benedictus benedictat - May the Blessed One give a blessing
Benedicto benedicatur - Let praise be given to the Blessed One

The grace is said in keeping with tradition, however, unlike at most Oxford colleges, St Antony's does not require its students to stand and acknowledge the saying of grace. Interestingly, the second half of the grace or 'post cibum' can also be alternatively translated as 'Let a blessing be given by the Blessed One'.

People associated with St Antony's


The first Warden of the College was Sir William Deakin (1950–1968), a young Oxford academic who in the Second World War became an adventurous soldier and aide to Winston Churchill. He won Antonin Besse's confidence and played the key role in turning his vision into the centre of excellence that St Antony's has become. Sir Raymond Carr (1968–1987), a distinguished historian of Spain, expanded the College and its regional coverage and opened its doors to visiting scholars from all over the world.

Sir Ralf Dahrendorf (later Lord Dahrendorf) (1987–1997) came to St Antony's after a distinguished career as a social theorist and politician in Germany, a European Commissioner and Director of the London School of Economics. He further enlarged the College and developed its role as a source of policy advice. The previous Warden, Sir Marrack Goulding (1997–2006), served in the British Diplomatic Service for 26 years before becoming an Under Secretary-General at the United Nations. His appointment underlined the international nature of the College and its links with government and business. In July 2007 the fifth Warden of the College, Margaret MacMillan took up her position.

Former students

St Antony's alumni (Antonians) have achieved success in a wide variety of careers; these include writers, politicians, academics and a large number of civil servants, diplomats and representatives of international organisations.

Former students with careers as politicians and civil servants include Álvaro Uribe, who was President of Colombia from 2002 to 2010 and his Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaime Bermúdez, Yigal Allon, deputy and acting Prime Minister of Israel, the present European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro and vice president of the European Commission Olli Rehn, the former Secretary of State for Wales John Redwood, former EU Commissioner Jean Dondelinger, the Canadian politician John Godfrey, and Gary Hart, a former US Senator and presidential candidate. Diplomats Joseph A. Presel, Gustavo Bell and Shlomo Ben-Ami are also Antonians. Furthermore, Minouche Shafik, deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, is an Antonian, as are three-time Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Thomas Friedman and Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Dexter Filkins.

Further Antonians include Lyudmila Zhivkova, and Rhodes scholar Chrystia Freeland, a director at Thomson Reuters.

In academia, Sir Christopher Bayly is the current president of St Catharine's College, Cambridge, whilst William Roger Louis is Kerr Chair in English History and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin, Frances Lannon is the principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Richard J. Evans is the Regis professor of Modern History at Cambridge, Anthony Venables holds Oxford's BP professorship in Economics and held the position of Chief Economist at the UK Department for International Development; Paul Kennedy is the Dilworth professor of British History at Yale, Rashid Khalidi a professor at Columbia and Michael T. Benson is the president of Southern Utah University.

The college also counts the Olympic gold medal winning swimmer Davis Tarwater, the talented screenwriter Julian Mitchell and its own current warden, Margaret MacMillan, amongst its alumni.


Former fellows


Old main entrance 
Old college building 
New main entrance 
Hilda Besse building 
Nissan Institute 
Founder's Building 


  1. ^ a b Nicholls, C S. The History of St Antony's College, Oxford, 1950-2000. Palgrave Macmillan. 2000. p. 1-31.
  2. ^ "Financial Statements of the Oxford Colleges (2011-12)".  (updated January 2014)
  3. ^ Woodhead, L. My Life As a Spy. Macmillan. 2005. p. 220.
  4. ^ Harrison, B. The History of the University of Oxford VIII The Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press. 1994. p. 625.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "The Gateway Campaign". 
  7. ^ "Work starts on futuristic Oxford University building".  
  8. ^  
  9. ^ "St Antony's GCR". St Antony's GCR. 
  10. ^ Davidjgill. "The Modern Buildings of St Athony's College". 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "St. Antony's College Oxford - a history of its buildings and site"
  13. ^ Woodhead, L. My Life As a Spy. Macmillan. 2005. p. 221.
  14. ^ "St Antony's GCR". St Antony's GCR. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Graduate Common Room website
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