Definitions

middle common room

Common Room (university)

In some universities in the United Kingdom — particularly collegiate universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Durham— the academic body is organised into one or more of the following:

  • A Junior Common Room (JCR)
  • A Middle Common Room (MCR)
  • A Senior Common Room (SCR)

In addition to this, each of the above phrases may also refer to an actual room designated for the use of these groups. At the University of Cambridge the term combination room (e.g. "Junior Combination Room") is also used, with the same acronyms. As a generalisation, JCRs are associations of undergraduates and SCRs an association of tutors and academics associated with a college. Postgraduates are sometimes given their own MCR, or placed in with either of the other groups. This terminology has, in addition, been taken up in some universities in other English speaking nations.

Examples

The terms JCR, MCR and SCR originated from the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. The terms are now used at ten British universities as well as Harvard College in the United States of America and at the University of Trinity College in the University of Toronto, Canada. Due to the way that the terms have evolved over time and the idiosyncratic nature of university structure, the use of the three terms varies considerably from institution to institution. The main variations involve terminology, mature students and postgraduate students.

In addition to this, the terms may be used to refer to the elected groups that run the common rooms. Other names such as "Exec" may exist for these.

United Kingdom

Bristol

Halls of the University of Bristol cater mostly for first year undergraduate students, though there is a sizable undergraduate and postgraduate community who choose to stay on, either in the capacity as Tutors or as full paying borders. The term JCR refers to the entire undergraduate population, but more specifically and commonly to the elected body of students who run the JCR for one academic year. Though most Bristol Hall JCRs are made up of first years, it is custom in Goldney Hall, Wills Hall and Manor Hall to elect returning students to the majority of positions, including JCR President.

There is no MCR, but SCR includes Warden, Vice Warden, Tutors and honourable guests at Formal Hall. Hall Bars physically house the JCR, with a separate and publicly inaccessible SCR room reserved elsewhere in Hall.

Cambridge

At the University of Cambridge, colleges often do not have common rooms, as in other universities, but combination rooms. The same abbreviations are used. JCR Presidents and External Officers in Cambridge are ex officio council members of the Cambridge University Students' Union (CUSU). The JCR represents undergraduates, with postgraduate students being members of the Middle Combination Room. In some colleges, postgraduates are members of both the MCR and JCR: for example, at St John's, where the MCR is known as the Samuel Butler Room. Most colleges also have an SCR.

Durham

At Durham, the majority of the seventeen colleges divide their members into:

In addition, there may be one or more rooms set aside for the use of these bodies referred to as 'the JCR' or 'the MCR' etc. The committee that runs the JCR is called the Executive Committee or "Exec". Membership of the JCR is not obligatory to students.

There are some exceptions to this. The College of St Hild and St Bede has a "Students Representative Council", which includes both undergraduates and postgraduates at the college. Ustinov College is a postgraduate only college and its student organisation is labeled the Graduate Common Room or GCR. The other college to not have a JCR is Ushaw College, a Roman Catholic seminary which operates as a college of the university.

Although the Durham Students' Union is independent from the college JCRs, each JCR has a representative to the union.

Kent

At Kent each of the colleges was initially built with one or more "Junior Common Room" social spaces, however over the passage of time a number of the common rooms have been transformed into eateries and more formalised social areas. Each college has a "Student Committee" (formerly "Junior College Committee" and before that, "Junior Common Room Committee") which acts to represent the students of each college to the student's union and organise social events.

The Rooms and Committees have traditionally been open to both undergraduates and postgraduates, with the Senior Common Rooms provided for staff.

Lancaster

At Lancaster, undergraduates are members of one of eight colleges (with a further college for postgraduate students). Each undergraduate college is a quasi-autonomous body within the university, and each divides its members into Junior and Senior Common Rooms. These terms are more indicative of the collective student/staff bodies than actual space, although each college has actual common rooms set aside for Junior members. Senior members are less fortunate due to a current policy by the university's estates department of removing Senior Common Room space from college control- refurbishing these as teaching rooms or putting them on the central booking system, so SCR members cannot just "drop in". The term "JCR", although intended to refer to all junior members of a college, is often used to refer to elected members of each college's JCR Executive. Each JCR Executive organises a range of social and sporting activities for its college while also offering welfare support for its junior members. The President and Vice President represent their college at the Student Union Council and on a range of University Committees, and many JCR Executive members sit with SCR members on the College Syndicate – the governing body of each college.

Within the Graduate College, the Graduate Students Association (GSA) takes on the role of an "MCR". Lancaster has a Students' Union which co-ordinates activities between the different colleges, and the JCR and GSA executives are considered to be standing committees of the Union Council.

Nottingham

At Nottingham, the majority of the Halls of Residence predominantly house undergraduates, with a small number of postgraduates living in hall as part of the pastoral and disciplinary system; in this instance, the JCR refers to the undergraduate members of the hall. Postgraduates, along with a Warden, comprise the SCR (Senior Common Room). The Hall Warden is an academic member of staff who usually lives either in a special residence within the hall, or in a nearby house.

JCR activities include organising social events and sports teams that compete in the Athletic Union's Inter-mural sports competitions. Since most students move out of halls after their first year, it is common for students to retain a sense of affiliation to their hall while living 'off-campus'. Many JCRs include former residents of the hall in their sports teams.

Most of the JCRs at Nottingham are not part of the Students' Union; however, Cavendish Hall, Nightingale Hall, Raleigh Park and St Peter's Court JCRs are. St Peter's Court is a recently established residence that the Students' Union was involved in establishing the community of from the outset.

Melton Hall houses only postgraduates, and the student organisation there forms the university's only MCR.

Oxford

At Oxford, a typical college has a Junior Common Room (JCR) for undergraduates, a Middle Common Room (MCR) for graduates and a Senior Common Room (SCR) for its fellows. JCRs and MCRs have a committee, with a president and so on, that represent their students to college authorities, Oxford University Student Union (OUSU), etc., in addition to being an actual room for the use of members.

Wadham College is a notable exception: although it maintains an MCR, its entire student population is represented by a combined Students' Union (SU).

The JCR presidents of all Oxford colleges are automatically members of OUSU's governing Council, which meets fortnightly during term to decide on virtually all aspects of OUSU's policy. OUSU Council meetings take place in odd-numbered weeks of the University term but JCR Presidents also get together in even-numbered weeks for meetings of Presidents' Committee (popularly known as Prescom).

Alternative names are sometimes used for college MCRs. Brasenose College has the "Hulme Common Room" (HCR) and University College has the "Weir Common Room", named in honour of college alumni. At Christ Church and Templeton the representative bodies for postgraduate students are called "Graduate Common Rooms" or "GCRs".

Reading

Reading JCRs are setup in a very similar way to their Oxford counterparts, as the University was founded as University College Reading, as part of Christ Church, Oxford. The JCRs at Reading are some of the oldest outside Oxbridge with some such as Wantage JCR founded in 1908 and Wessex JCR later in 1915. Today there are thirteen JCRs operating independently of each other, although they do work with the Students' Union. JCRs represent all Students in a particular Hall as well as having a large number of attached members living in houses.

Each year a new committee is elected in each halls.

Southampton

JCRs at the University of Southampton exist in each of the different halls of residences, such as Glen Eyre Halls, Chamberlain, Archers Road and Small Halls and Montefiore. The JCRs provide a welfare and support role to new students, and coordinate social and sports activities around the halls. Yearly elections are held, usually around Easter time, with members serving one or more yearly terms. The university has a students' union that represents the students on a wider basis, and is generally separate from the JCRs.

York

All but one of the colleges at the University of York have a JCR and SCR in a similar way to the colleges at the University of Oxford. The postgraduate only Wentworth College is the exception, having no JCR. York does not have any MCRs.

Halifax College students are represented by a Students' Association, which represents both undergraduate and postgraduate students of the College. However, in recent years it has seen its' membership drop significantly and this change to a Students' Association is unpopular within the college and it is rumoured the incoming 2007 'President' will revert back to a JCRC.

The junior common rooms are run by a "JCRC" (Junior Common Room Committee). Annual elections are held in November with people coming forward to stand for the various positions. Following a hustings night the other student members of each college then vote for who they want in each position. The successful candidates are then elected for a whole year. At York, the JCRCs are mainly involved in organising any major social events a college has, such as Christmas Balls, or events like Playboy Mansion in Goodricke College or Planet V in Vanbrugh College. They also offer welfare help to students in the form of welfare reps who can offer advice or give contact details of other groups to students through informal drop-in sessions.

United States

Harvard

At Harvard College, the term "Junior Common Room" officially refers to the collection of undergraduates affiliated with one of Harvard's 13 houses. Every undergraduate is assigned to a house in the spring of his or her freshman year and thereafter is a member of that house's Junior Common Room, including students who have chosen to reside off campus.

In everyday usage, however, "Junior Common Room" almost always refers to a large common room in an undergraduate house by the same name, or simply "JCR" for short. JCRs are generally available for undergraduates to study or watch television, and student groups often reserve the space for meetings. This is in contrast to a "Senior Common Room," or SCR, which is for exclusive use of members of the houses' Senior Common Room members, which includes the House Masters and other accomplished academics in the community.

Canada

Trinity College, University of Toronto

The University of Trinity College in the University of Toronto has adopted many of the traditions of Oxbridge, including the wearing of academic gowns and several common rooms, including a Junior Common Room, Divinity Common Room, and Senior Common Room, which are all communities within the college as well as physical rooms. All undergraduate students registered in the college are members of the Junior Common Room, which hosts a variety of lively social activities, as well as serving as a comfortable student lounge with newspapers from around the world. The Divinity Common Room is available to students in Trinity's Faculty of Divinity, the oldest Anglican theological faculty in Canada. The Senior Common Room consists of college fellows with teaching appointments in the University of Toronto, teaching staff in the Faculty of Divinity, senior college administrators, postgraduate students who serve as academic dons, and divinity graduate students with fellowships. Other select members of the wider academic, social, and ecclesiastical community are also included. The SCR hosts a number of social and educational events and weekly high table dinners in Strachan Hall. The physical space is a gracious room overlooking the college quadrangle and is a faculty lounge hosting daily tea and weekly wine receptions.

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