Famous for its university, Oxford is an iconic English city. Although small, it’s packed with amenities and offers plenty to recommend it when making a home in the UK. Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire and is the most diverse city in the county. Known as “City of Dreaming Spires”, Oxford has a unique combination of historic beauty and modern economic development.
Is Oxford a good place to live? Oxford is claimed to offer the best overall quality of life in the UK, according to several newspaper surveys. It has a good rate of employment, a strong economy, low crime, high average wages and is a very appealing location for aesthetic reasons.
Whether you’re lucky enough to have been accepted into Oxford University, you’ve been offered a job at one of the many businesses that are headquartered in the city, or you’re simply looking for a desirable UK location where you can settle down, you’ve landed on this page because you have many questions about Oxford. What kinds of career can you pursue in Oxford? Which are the best neighbourhoods? What are the house prices like? Read on to find out more.
Is Oxford a good place to live?
By several important metrics, Oxford is one of the best places to live in the UK — if you can afford it. Relocating to Oxford isn’t cheap but with a high employment rate, high wages, incredible scenery and excellent amenities, it’s certainly worthwhile.
Compared to the national average, Oxford has a low crime rate overall. (The one type of crime that is higher than usual is listed as “bicycle theft”.) It’s a very safe city to live in with no real crime hot spots or dangerous neighbourhoods.
The most desirable neighbourhoods includes areas along the Thames, where you can enjoy the romance of a riverfront property. Grandpont and Summertown are two of the more prosperous neighbourhoods; the city centre is generally seen as a very desirable place to live.
The less affluent districts in Oxford are regarded as “cool” rather than unpleasant or risky to live in. These include Jericho, located ten minutes’ walk from the city centre; and Cowley Road, with its quirky shops and cafes.
Transport is generally good, with a network of local buses connecting the outlying suburban areas with the city centre. Cycling is a very popular way to get around the city; Oxford has the second-highest percentage of people who use this mode of transport to get to and from work out of any UK city.
Oxford is well connected with the rest of the county as well as London, Newcastle and other major British cities. Bus services to and from Oxford are excellent; one popular route is the Oxford Tube, a coach service running from Oxford to London Victoria.
As you’d expect from a city that’s a by-word for education, the school system in Oxford is very good. There are several primary schools and a number of good secondary schools; Oxford is also well-equipped with alternative education and special schools.
The University of Oxford is the most famous university, but there’s also another: Oxford Brookes University. Oxford is also home to Ruskin College, a specialist further education institution catering for students with non-standard educational backgrounds.
The social scene in Oxford is vibrant and diverse. There are the obvious student-oriented bard and clubs; however, there’s plenty for the more mature Oxford-dweller. Enjoying a pint at the Eagle and Child (the pub once patronised by JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis) is a popular activity but there are also plenty of literary and cultural activities. Oxford also has a lively music scene with plenty of variety. Sports are a major feature of social life in Oxford, with football (soccer), rugby and rowing being the best-known.
Is Oxford a good place to work?
Oxford is a very pleasant place to work. It’s a busy university city with a very broad economic base, taking in everything from motor manufacture to education to financial services.
Unemployment and underemployment are both very low and wages are significantly higher than the national average, with employees in Oxford earning an average salary of over £29,500.
A great many different sectors are represented in the city’s employment statistics; education is huge, as you might expect, but competes for candidates with a number of others. Publishing looms large on the economic landscape of Oxford, as the Oxford University Press is based in the city (along with Wiley-Blackwell and some small but important publishing firms).
Software development is a major sector, in part due to the presence of RELX. Science and technology is a big sector economically, although it doesn’t employ as many people.
Much of the workforce in Oxford is involved in some way with car manufacture. Many of the jobs for less skilled or qualified candidates are in manufacturing but there are also some highly attractive positions in the sector for those with good qualifications and experience.
In general, it’s not hard to find an excellent position in the city. There are plenty of jobs at all levels and a lot of opportunity for advancement.
Is Oxford a good place to buy a house?
There’s no way around it: house prices in Oxford are dramatically higher than in the rest of the country. High wages plus a steady influx of new denizens flocking to the city have tended to push prices upwards. While some neighbourhoods are less expensive than others, there’s really no such thing as a cheap place to buy a home in the city of Oxford.
The average price stands at an eye-watering £495,000, as compared with a national average of around £312,000. The good news is that Oxford is probably a safe bet if you’re planning to sell your property on in a few years, as house prices look set to trend upwards for the foreseeable future. The large number of students every year makes Oxford a good choice if you’re considering buying to let.
If you’re looking for a single-bedroom house in Oxford, the average price is a little over £271,000. Three-bedroom homes go for around £421,000 and you can expect to pay something in the region of £1,042,000.
Rents, as you would expect from a busy university city, are very high. The city’s average rent payment is around £1,850 pcm. One-bedroom homes rent for around £700 pcm. Three bedroom properties stands at over £1,560 pcm and a five-bedroom house is £2,760 pcm.
Is Oxford a good place to retire?
Oxford ranks fairly highly in surveys as a good place to retire. It offers a very high standard of living and boasts among the longest disability-free life expectancy ratings in the UK. On the downside, Oxford is a very young city overall. The high student population lowers the overall age and might leave seniors craving more mature company.
There’s also the high cost of moving to Oxford to consider: property in and around the city is not cheap, even if you factor in attractive discounts for older residents offered by some sellers. Summertown and Headington are two popular areas with retirees, thanks to the presence of purpose-built retirement properties and an older demographic.
You can expect to pay £85,000 for a one-bedroomed flat in a purpose-built retirement development, although properties can cost much more. Three-bedroom properties are uncommon but not too scarce, with £287,000 being a rough average. Larger retirement properties tend to be at the luxury end of the market and are seldom found more cheaply than £1,000,000.
The relative dearth of retirement properties inside the city pushes rents up significantly; it’s hard to find a one-bedroom flat in a retirement complex to rent for less than £900 pcm.
Two-bedroom flats are available but you’re unlikely to find anything larger in the purpose-built retirement market. You can rent a standard three-bedroom flat for £1,560 pcm or a standard five-bedroom house for £2,760 pcm. In some instances, rents may be a little cheaper for seniors.
Is Oxford a good place to visit?
Oxford is a wonderful place for a leisure break. You really can’t cover everything the city has to offer in a day trip so it’s well worth staying for at least a couple of nights. There are lots of great options for accommodation, ranging from youth hostels and B&Bs to luxury hotels. If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, there are camping and caravanning parks very close to the city.
There are plenty of things to do in the city. While you could spend days exploring the city’s architecture, a good place to start is with Oxford University itself — beginning with the amazing buildings that surround Radcliffe Square.
Of course, touring the famous university is at the top of many visitors’ lists; in particular, many people visit Christ Church, the largest college and the place where Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll and the author of Alice in Wonderland) taught mathematics.
The cathedral is another historic must-see. If you’re intrigued by the quirky and curious side of history, a stop at the Pitt Rivers Museum is unmissable. For lovers of horticulture and nature, the Oxford Botanic Garden & Arboretum is a wonderful place to while away the afternoon. The city also has plenty of charming walks, especially through the city centre and along the Thames. The local pubs and restaurants are also top class.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.