VERSA | VERSA’s A-Z of Oxford: guide to bops, sconces & more

I don’t care about the Bursar, what’s ‘Bop’? Don’t define OUP, who’s OMB?  Don’t tell me about the SCR, what’s  ‘Sconcing’?

Incoming Freshers, forget about the University of Oxford’s official Glossary and turn to VERSA’s A-Z, for a need-to-know guide on student life in Ox.


One of the finest museums in the world, brimming with fascinating artefacts and magnificent works of art… What a shame your time at Oxford will probably go by without even one visit. The crew-dating (see C below) haven of Arzoo will see you far more than the poor old Ashmo.


The iconic Bodleian, one of the oldest libraries in Europe, home to over 11 million items. What an honour to be permitted to peruse and borrow its fine contents, eh?

Alas, the initial novelty of entering the RadCam will soon wear off, and you’ll come to dread the moment when most of your reading list lies not in your college library or online, but on the Bod’s shelves. Confined books and the Gladstone Link (see G), it’s a no from me.


This guy’s Bop game is strong.

Essentially a Year 9 disco + vodka. Fancy dress optional. Heavy pre-drinking, advisable necessary.


A welcome-back treat upon returning to Ox. An attempt to test your knowledge of last term’s modules/your ability to look at last year’s exam paper and prep essay plans.


A far more important part of your Oxford experience than the former. A rendevous of two societies or sports teams at a restaurant (probs Arzoo) to enjoy good food, sip fine wine, and make sparkling conversation with your new acquaintances, all rounded off by a nightcap at the college bar. Okay, keep the first bit, but substitute in overpriced curry, the downing of Tesco £2.99 white wine following avid pennying, the revelation of one’s companions’ vulgar escapades via sconcing (see S), and an ill-advised trip to Bridge for yet more boozing. Jolly good fun.

VERSA Tip – We recommend Wok ‘n Roll, a little Chinese restaurant we’ve had some crackin’ crewdates at.


The Fellow in College in charge of disciplining the students. Try not to get ‘deaned’ for being too drunk and disorderly.

Eights Week

A week of sun, BBQs and egregious quantities of alcohol… Oh, and a bit of rowing. No need for non-rowers to be clued up on the rules or the lingo – who cares who ‘bumped’ Magdalen, just pour me another Pimm’s.

Fifth Week Blues

With 4 weeks done, and 4 weeks to go, those eternal lab hours or never-ending readings lists might be getting you down. Oh well, have a drink, try and forget about the 9am starts or encroaching deadlines for one night, and just remember: whatever your sorrows, at least you’re not at Cambridge.

Gladstone Link

A miserable underground maze of sliding shelves, devoid of natural light and happiness.

Editor’s note – I often describe it as having the feeling of an SS bunker, which is perversely motivating


Something Oxford has plenty of, in various varieties from OUSU & the Union (see below) to journalistic. They usually want something from you, often a vote. Sometimes useful when you can manipulate their connections for a favour, but that usually comes at a price…


Oxford’s river, home of rowing and punting. Rowing may look slick, but let’s not forget the 5am starts and incessant erg sessions. For the sake of your physical and emotional wellbeing, I’d limit your time on the Isis to the occasional punt.


A.k.a Junior Common Room. Has three meanings, a literal common room (N.B. quality varies college to college; St John’s has a famously poor one), the whole undergrad student body, and the committee that represents students to the uni/OUSU/whoever else. They hold meetings to decide stuff. Generally, meetings are good for free food but bad for fun. Alcohol is advised.

Kebab Vans

Whether Ahmed’s or Mohammed’s, Hassan’s or Houssein’s, your local kebab vendor will come to hold a special place in your heart. You’ve been warned about the “Freshers’ 15” but you’ll still seek post-night-out refuge at one of Oxford’s cheesy chip-filled havens more times than you’ll care to admit.

Lola Lo’s

An attempt at Tiki paradise on Magdalen street. Home of £1 jaeger bombs and all those Tuesday-night clubbers who can’t face the sweat of Cellar/just aren’t edgy enough.


‘Matricu’-please stop.

The ceremony in which you officially become a member of the University of Oxford. A chance for pics in Subfusc, without an exam in sight. Usually followed by copious drinking. Freshers have been known to become intoxicated by midday.

N.B. Brace yourself for the inundation of cover photos with the captions ‘matriculash’, ‘matriculegend’, ‘matriculad/lass’ etc.

May Day

The 500-year-old tradition of May Morning sees Magdalen College Choir sing the Hymnus Eucharisticus from the top of Magdalen Tower at 6am on 1st May. A fair number of the thousands who crowd below look pretty worse for wear, having come directly from one of the many pubs and clubs that stay open all night in honour of the tradition. Despite your best intentions there’s a strong chance that most of you will end up missing the event of which all the May Day celebrations were in honour, having found the phenomenon of Park End or Bridge past 3am not as amazing as first thought, and crashing long before the singing commences.

Ninth Week

A.ka. sleep. Thank fuck / Soz to those with Mods or Prelims.

Old Man Bridge

The silver fox with two fawning vixens.

A renowned club-goer who proves that you can never be too old to live the fresher lifestyle. No longer sighted in his original habitat, the Thursday-night hangout Bridge, this infamous silver fox is now more regularly spotted at the VK watering hole of Wahoo (see W) or in the Hawaiian tropics of Lola’s – or, on a Sunday, at the renowned Port and Policy (Oxford Uni Conservative Society’s weekly drinks event). His past is shrouded in mystery and must never, under any circumstances, be interrogated.


Our beloved student union (not to be confused with the Union – see below). Nobody is sure how much it does, but it passes some ‘fun’ motions and has opinions on everything. Usually populated with (hard) lefties; Tories and austerity are unpopular. Not our biggest fan either. VERSA will be bringing an OUSU council drinking game to you soon (watch this space). Trust us, you’ll need it.

Prelims (or Mods)

Looking and feeling oh so smart.

You’ll hear this time and time again, but your first year exams really really don’t matter. Effectively Collections in Subfusc and at Exam Schools, just without knowing the questions beforehand. Just relax, do a bit of revision, snapchat story a pic of your carnations, and look forward to trashings (see T).


An invaluable presence in college, they sort your post, lend you spare keys, keep the college secure, and rush to your assistance when their CCTV cameras show you drunkenly collapse by the late-gate. So, whether maxin’ n’ relaxin’ in the Porters Lodge (Plodge) or patrollin’ the quads, you’ll soon come to find these chillers are the true Oxford dons.


Face paint on fleek.

The finale of Wadham’s annual Queer Week, Oxford’s largest celebration of LGBTQ culture. QueerFest promises live music, food, drink, a Plush after-party, and lots and lots of glitter.

R&B floor, Park End (it’s been renamed Lava Ignite, but never call it this. Just don’t.)

Forget the Cheese floor, the Dance room and the weird VIP cave, the only place to be in Parkerz is on the R&B floor. Expect bangerz including TLC’s “Waterfalls”, Punjabi MC’s “Mundian To Bach Ke” and J-Kwon’s “Tipsy”.


A drinking game used at crew dates, essentially along the lines of ‘Never Have I Ever’.

N.B. It can get pretty weird – I’ll remain forever baffled by the guy who drank to “I sconce anyone who gave a homeless man a lift whom they then got with because they felt bad for him.”


The kind soul that braves your messy room, empties your bins, vacuums your floor and cleans your toilet. Oxford may provide you with a fine education, but it definitely doesn’t prepare you for the real world.


Back in the day, after finishing your final Final you’d be sprayed with champagne and then head to the pub.

Overtime, this tradition has become increasingly more extreme. Trashers now bring along copious amounts of shaving foam, silly string, confetti, garlands, party hats and plastic tiaras (and unsavoury foodstuffs by the less kind participants), and the trashees round off the post-exam celebration with a jump in the river.

Never wanting to miss out on a prime profile picture opportunity, freshers completing Mods/Prelims have now hijacked this messy tradition.


What people mean when they say the Union is the Oxford Union, our debating society and ‘the world’s last bastion of free speech‘. Hosts some great speakers (i.e. Morgan Freeman, Anna Wintour) and is pretty much always mired in some sort of controversy that VERSA can write about. Membership fee is steep, but the events are decent, the buildings are pretty, and it’s hidden gem is a much underused (but well stocked) library.


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FriCam has had its day, may Wahoo Fridays long reign supreme. Its name may exaggerate the jubilation you’ll feel there, and its newly revamped smoking area may still fail to match that of Bridge’s excellence, but with its VKs for days and £2.50 doubles, Wahoo is nonetheless a solid way to end the week. And never forget WahPlush: after a few hours at this estimable venue, why not head down the road to Oxford’s best-loved, cheapest, cheesiest LGBTQ club?


With Michaelmas ending in early December, Oxford’s Christmas festivities all get pushed forward a month. Your dinner hall will look cuter and you’ll probably have a Christmas themed Bop, but apart from that oXmas really isn’t a major event in anyone’s calendar. It does provide an excuse for secret Santa on November 25th though.

Yik Yak

A few general facts you’ll gather from Oxford’s Yik Yak:

Our tutors really appreciate the hard work we do for them…

We’re pretty up-beat…

And we’re all in happy relationships…

Zebra Crossings

There’s fuck all of them in Ox so prepare to see your life flash before your eyes on numerous road crossing occasions.

So we’ve reached the end of VERSA’s A-Z, and have only one final entry to go. Sorry we couldn’t leave you on a more positive note, but VERSA, ever the realist, promises never to mislead you…


The enthusiasm you’ll have for your degree by the end of Michaelmas.

That should be enough to get you through Fresher’s week without getting too confused. We take fanmail by pigeon post.