Exeter College has a unique relationship with Williams College, Massachusetts, one of America’s top liberal-arts colleges. The Williams at Exeter Programme in Oxford (WEPO) was established in 1985 when the then President of Williams, Francis Oakley, initiated a year-long programme of study in Oxford – at Exeter College. It has been running ever since. Today, Williams College sends 26 students each year to Exeter College as full members of College.
This programme is one of Exeter’s greatest strengths. It gives Exeter students the opportunity to meet some of America’s brightest undergraduates in both a social and an academic environment.
The Williams students arrive with Exeter College’s undergraduate Freshers in October, although they themselves are going into their third (Junior) year. The Rector hosts a welcome event to allow them to meet Exeter’s own second- and third-year students.
As visiting students at Exeter College, Williams students on the programme are full undergraduate members of Oxford University, eligible for access to virtually all of its facilities, libraries, and resources. They are a valued part of the Exeter College community, integrating into the student body and contributing enormously to academic and non-academic life. The Williams-Exeter Programme provides students with a unique opportunity to participate fully in the intellectual and social life of one of the world’s great international universities.
The Williams students live at the Ephraim Williams House on Banbury Road (just south of Summertown in North Oxford), as do several Exeter College students. They very quickly make friends with Exeter undergraduates from all year groups. They enhance the interest that Exeter students take in American life: the College always has an enthusiastic response to the annual Thanksgiving Dinner (open to all students), to the annual North American Travel Scholarship, and to the all-night sessions in Hall with a big-screen television which have allowed students to follow the outcome of the American presidential elections since 2004.
In 2017 the first cohort of Exeter College undergraduates visited Williams College to spend two weeks studying Williams College’s winter study programme. The six Exonians were welcomed, shown around and mentored by Williams students who had taken part in the WEPO programme at Exeter College in the 2016-17 academic year, further strengthening the bonds between Exeter and Williams students.