University of Oxford

Template:Infobox British University The University of Oxford, located in the city of Oxford in England, is the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

Oxford University and Cambridge University (which was founded by scholars who left Oxford) are sometimes referred to collectively as Oxbridge. The two universities have a long history of competition with each other, as they are the two oldest universities in the United Kingdom and rival each other in prestige (see Oxbridge rivalry).

Oxford has recently topped two university-ranking league tables, including that of The Guardian and, for the fourth consecutive year, The Times. Although widely contested (as with most league tables) on the basis of its ranking criteria, a recent international table produced by the Times Higher Education Supplement rated Oxford second in the world for both science and the arts and humanities, as well as fifth in the world overall.

Oxford is a member of the Russell Group of research-led British universities, the Coimbra Group (a network of leading European universities) and the LERU (League of European Research Universities). Oxford is also a core member of the Europaeum.



The date of the University's foundation is unknown, and indeed it may not have been a single event, but there is evidence of teaching there as early as 1096. When Henry II of England forbade English students to study at the University of Paris in 1167, Oxford began to grow very quickly. The foundation of the first halls of residence, which later became colleges, dates from this period. Following the murder of two students accused of rape in 1209, the University was disbanded (leading to the foundation of the University of Cambridge). On June 20 1214, the University returned to Oxford with a charter negotiated by Nicholas de Romanis, a papal legate. The University's status was formally confirmed by an Act for the Incorporation of Both Universities in 1571, in which the University's formal title is given as The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford.


Oxford is a collegiate university, consisting of the University's central facilities, such as departments and faculties, libraries and science facilities, and 39 colleges and 7 permanent private halls (PPHs). All teaching staff and degree students must belong to one of the colleges (or PPHs). These colleges are not only houses of residence, but have substantial responsibility for the teaching of undergraduates and postgraduates. Some colleges only accept postgraduate students. Only one of the colleges, St Hilda's, remains single-sex, accepting only women (though several of the religious PPHs are male-only).

Oxford's collegiate system springs from the fact that the University came into existence through the gradual agglomeration of independent institutions in the city of Oxford.

See also Colleges of Oxford University, and a list of Cambridge sister colleges.

Brasenose College in the 1670s

As well as the collegiate level of organisation, the University is subdivided into departments on a subject basis, much like most other universities. Departments take a major role in graduate education and an increasing role in undergraduate education, providing lectures and classes and organising examinations. Departments are also a centre of research, funded by outside bodies including major research councils; while colleges have an interest in research, few are subject-specialized in organisation.

The main legislative body of the University is Congregation, the assembly of all academics who teach in the University. Another body, Convocation, encompassing all the graduates of Oxford, was formerly the main legislative body of the University, and until 1949 elected the two Members of Parliament for the University. Convocation now has very limited functions: the main one is to elect the (largely symbolic) Chancellor of the University, most recently in 2003 with the election of Christopher Patten. The executive body of the University is the University Council, which consists of the Vice-Chancellor, Dr John Hood (succeeding Sir Colin Lucas), heads of departments and other members elected by Congregation in addition to observers from the Student Union. Apart from the present House of Congregation, there is also an Ancient House of Congregation, which somehow survived the university reforms in the 19th century and is summoned today for the sole purpose of granting degrees.

The academic year is divided into three terms, each of eight weeks' duration. Michaelmas Term lasts from early October to early December; Hilary Term (named after St Hilary of Poitiers whose feast day is 13 January) normally from January until before Easter; and Trinity Term normally from after Easter until June. These terms are amongst the shortest of any British university, and the workload during each term is therefore intense. Students are also expected to prepare heavily in the weeks between terms and during the long summer break.


Admission to the University of Oxford is based on academic merit and potential. Admissions for undergraduates is undertaken by individual colleges, working with each other to ensure that the best students gain a place at the University regardless of whether or not they are accepted by their preferred choice. This has resulted in a greater balancing of academic strength across the various constituent colleges than was historically typical of the University. Selection is based on school references, personal statements, achieved results, predicted results, written work, written tests and the interviews which are held directly between applicants and faculty members.

For graduate students, admission is firstly by the University department in which each will study, and then secondarily with the college with which they are associated.

Oxford, like Cambridge, has traditionally been perceived to be a preserve of the wealthy, although today this is not the case. The cost of taking a course, in the days before student grants were available, was prohibitive unless one was a scholar (or in even earlier times, a servitor — one who had to serve his fellow undergraduates in exchange for tuition). Public schools and grammar schools prepared their pupils more specifically for the entrance examination, some even going so far as to encourage applicants to spend an extra year in the sixth form in order to study for it: pupils from other state schools rarely had this luxury.

In recent years, Oxford has made greater efforts to attract pupils from state schools, and admission to Oxford and Cambridge remains on academic merit and potential. Around half of the students in Oxford come from state school backgrounds. There is still much public debate in Britain about whether more could be done to attract those from poorer social backgrounds. Responding to these criticisms, Oxford has introduced a university-wide means-tested bursary scheme effective from 2006, the Oxford Opportunity Bursaries, to offer financial support to those in need.

Students successful in early examinations are rewarded with scholarships and exhibitions, normally the result of a long-standing endowment, although when tuition fees were first abolished the amounts of money available became purely nominal: much larger funded bursaries are available on the basis of need for current and prospective students. "Closed" scholarships, which were accessible only to candidates from specific schools, exist now only in name. Scholars, and exhibitioners in some colleges, are entitled to wear a more voluminous undergraduate gown; "commoners" (i.e. those who had to pay for their "commons", or food and lodging) being restricted to a short sleeveless garment. The term "scholar" in relation to Oxbridge, therefore, has a specific meaning as well as the more general meaning of someone of outstanding academic ability. In previous times, there were "noblemen commoners" and "gentlemen commoners", but these ranks were abolished in the 19th century.

Until 1866 one had to belong to the Church of England to receive the BA degree from Oxford, and "dissenters" were only permitted to receive the MA in 1871. Knowledge of Ancient Greek was required until 1920, and Latin until 1960. Women were admitted to degrees in 1920.


The system of academic degrees in the University is very confusing to those not familiar with it. This is not merely due to the fact that many degree titles date from the Middle Ages, but also because, in recent years, many changes have been haphazardly introduced. See also Degrees of Oxford University.

Famous Oxonians

Oxford has produced four British and at least eight foreign kings, 47 Nobel prize-winners, three Fields medallists, 25 British Prime Ministers, 28 foreign presidents and prime ministers, seven saints, 86 archbishops, 18 cardinals, and one pope. Seven of the last eleven British Prime Ministers have been Oxford graduates. Amongst the University's old members are many widely influential scientists, artists and other prominent figures. Several contemporary scientists include Nobel prize-winners Stephen Hawking and Anthony James Leggett, and Tim Berners Lee, co-inventor of the world wide web; actors Hugh Grant, Kate Beckinsale, Dudley Moore and Richard Burton studied at the University; Evelyn Waugh, Lewis Carroll, Aldous Huxley, Oscar Wilde, Vikram Seth and the poets Shelley, Donne, Auden and Philip Larkin are amongst the long list of writers associated with Oxford. Explorers such as Lawrence of Arabia and Walter Raleigh, along with modern media magnate Rupert Murdoch were also former students. More complete information on famous senior and junior members of the University can be found in the individual college articles (an individual may be associated with two or more colleges, as an undergraduate, postgraduate, and/or member of staff).

See also: List of notable Oxford students.

Other students in Oxford

There is a second university in Oxford - Oxford Brookes University [1] (, formerly known as Oxford Polytechnic - whose entrance requirements are less stringent than Oxford University's. Brookes is located on campuses largely in the eastern suburbs of the city. There are also a number of independent "colleges" which have nothing to do with either university but are popular, particularly with overseas students, perhaps because they allow their students to state truthfully that they have studied at Oxford; these institutions vary considerably in the standard of teaching they provide.

Ruskin College, Oxford, an adult education college, though not part of the University, has close links with it.


Events and organisations officially connected with the University include:

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University Church of St Mary the Virgin

Also associated with the University:

Oxford in literature and other media

Oxford University is the setting for numerous works of fiction. As of 1989, more than 533 Oxford-based novels had been identified, and the number has steadily risen ever since. Fictional works include:

Fictional universities based on Oxford include Terry Pratchett's Unseen University and "Christminster" in Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure.

For a list of fictional colleges of Oxford University, see fictional Oxford colleges.

Many poets have also been inspired by the University:

  • The Oxford Sausage was an anthology published in 1764 and edited by Thomas Warton. More recent anthologies include Oxford and Oxfordshire in Verse (1983) and Oxford in Verse (1999) (see 'Further Reading').
  • 'Duns Scotus' Oxford' is one of Gerard Manley Hopkins' better-known poems.

Films set in the University include:

This list does not include movies wherein university buildings appeared as a backdrop but were not depicted as Oxford University, such as the Harry Potter movies and the earlier Young Sherlock Holmes.

See also

Further reading

  • Batson, Judy G., Oxford in Fiction, Garland (New York, 1989).
  • Betjeman, John, An Oxford University Chest, Miles (London, 1938).
  • Brooke, Christopher and Roger Highfield, Oxford and Cambridge, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, 1988).
  • Casson, Hugh, Hugh Casson's Oxford, Phaidon (London, 1988).
  • Catto, J. (ed.), The History of the University of Oxford, Oxford University Press (Oxford, 1994).
  • De-la-Noy, Michael, Exploring Oxford, Headline (London, 1991).
  • Dougill, John, Oxford in English Literature, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, 1998).
  • Feiler, Bruce, Looking for Class: Days and Nights at Oxford and Cambridge, Perennial (New York, 2004).
  • Fraser, Antonia (ed.), Oxford and Oxfordshire in Verse, Penguin (London, 1983).
  • Pursglove, Glyn and Alistair Ricketts (eds.), Oxford in Verse, Perpetua (Oxford, 1999).
  • Hibbert, Christopher, The Encyclopaedia of Oxford, Macmillan (Basingstoke, 1988).
  • Horan, David, Cities of the Imagination: Oxford, Signal (Oxford, 2002).
  • Miles, Jebb, The Colleges of Oxford, Constable (London, 1992).
  • Morris, Jan, Oxford, Faber and Faber/OUP (London, 1965/2001).
  • Morris, Jan, The Oxford Book of Oxford, Oxford Univ. Press (Oxford, 2002).
  • Pursglove, G. and A. Ricketts (eds.), Oxford in Verse, Perpetua (Oxford, 1999).
  • Snow, Peter, Oxford Observed, John Murray (London, 1991).
  • Tames, Richard, A Traveller's History of Oxford, Interlink (New York, 2002).
  • Thomas, Edward, Oxford, Black (London, 1902).
  • Tyack, Geoffrey, Blue Guide: Oxford and Cambridge, Black (New York, 2004).
  • Tyack, Geoffrey, Oxford: An Architectural Guide, Oxford Univ. Press (Oxford, 1998).

External links

Colleges of the University of Oxford

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Arms of the University

All Souls | Balliol | Brasenose | Christ Church | Corpus Christi | Exeter | Green | Harris Manchester | Hertford | Jesus | Keble | Kellogg | Lady Margaret Hall | Linacre | Lincoln | Magdalen | Mansfield | Merton | New College | Nuffield | Oriel | Pembroke | Queen's | St Anne's | St Antony's | St Catherine's | St Cross | St Edmund Hall | St Hilda's | St Hugh's | St John's | St Peter's | Somerville | Templeton | Trinity | University | Wadham | Wolfson | Worcester

Permanent Private Halls at the University of Oxford

Blackfriars | Campion Hall | Greyfriars | Regent's Park College | St Benet's Hall | St Stephen's House | Wycliffe Hall

Coimbra Group
(of European research universities)
Coimbra Group
Aarhus | Barcelona | Bergen | Bologna | Bristol | Budapest | Cambridge | Coimbra | Dublin | Edinburgh | Galway | Geneva | Gttingen | Granada | Graz | Groningen | Heidelberg | Jena | Krakw | Leiden | Leuven | Louvain | Lyon | Montpellier | Oxford | Padua | Pavia | Poitiers | Prague | Salamanca | Siena | Tartu | Thessaloniki | Turku I | Turku II | Uppsala | Wrzburg

Template:Europaeum Template:LERUbg:Оксфордски университет de:Universitt Oxford es:Universidad de Oxford eo:Universitato de Oksfordo fr:Universit d'Oxford it:Universit di Oxford he:אוניברסיטת אוקספורד hu:Oxfordi Egyetem nl:Oxford University no:Universitetet i Oxford ja:オックスフォード大学 pl:Uniwersytet w Oxford pt:Universidade de Oxford fi:Oxfordin yliopisto sv:Universitetet i Oxford



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