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Coordinates: 51°45′40″N 1°15′12″W / 51.7611°N 1.2534°W / 51.7611; -1.2534

University of Oxford

University of Oxford seal
Latin: Universitas Oxoniensis
Motto Dominus Illuminatio Mea (Latin)
Motto in English The Lord is my Light
Established Unknown, teaching existed since 1096[1]
Type Public
Endowment £3.4 billion (inc. colleges); £5.5 billion (inc. trusts and foundations) [2]
Chancellor The Rt. Hon. Lord Patten of Barnes
Vice-Chancellor Andrew Hamilton
Students 20,330[3]
Undergraduates 11,734[3][4]
Postgraduates 8,101[3][4]
Other students 495[3]
Location Oxford, England, UK
Colours      Oxford Blue[5]
Affiliations IARU
Russell Group
Coimbra Group
Website Official Website

The University of Oxford (informally Oxford University, or simply Oxford), located in the English city of Oxford, is the oldest surviving university in the English-speaking world[6] and is regarded as one of the world's leading academic institutions. Although the exact date of foundation remains unclear, there is evidence of teaching there as far back as the 11th century.[7] The University grew rapidly from 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris.[8] In post-nominals the University of Oxford is typically abbreviated as Oxon. (from the Latin Oxoniensis), although Oxf is sometimes used in official publications.

After disputes between students and Oxford townsfolk in 1209, some academics fled north-east to Cambridge, where they established what became the University of Cambridge. The two "ancient universities" have many common features and are often jointly referred to as Oxbridge. In addition to cultural and practical associations as a historic part of British society, the two universities have a long history of rivalry with each other.

Most undergraduate teaching at Oxford is organised around weekly essay-based tutorials at self-governing colleges and halls, supported by lectures and laboratory classes organised by University faculties and departments. League tables consistently list Oxford as one of the UK's best universities,[9][10][11] and Oxford consistently ranks in the world's top 10.[12][13] The University is a member of the Russell Group of research-led British universities, the Coimbra Group, the League of European Research Universities, International Alliance of Research Universities and is also a core member of the Europaeum. For more than a century, it has served as the home of the Rhodes Scholarship, which brings students from a number of countries to study at Oxford as postgraduates.



The coat of arms of the University of Oxford.

The University of Oxford does not have a clear date of foundation. Teaching at Oxford existed in some form in 1096.[8]

The expulsion of foreigners from the University of Paris in 1167 caused many English scholars to return from France and settle in Oxford. The historian Gerald of Wales lectured to the scholars in 1188, and the first known foreign scholar, Emo of Friesland, arrived in 1190. The head of the University was named a chancellor from 1201, and the masters were recognised as a universitas or corporation in 1231. The students associated together, on the basis of geographical origins, into two “nations”, representing the North (including the Scots) and the South (including the Irish and the Welsh). In later centuries, geographical origins continued to influence many students' affiliations when membership of a college or hall became customary in Oxford. Members of many religious orders, including Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, and Augustinians, settled in Oxford in the mid-13th century, gained influence, and maintained houses for students. At about the same time, private benefactors established colleges to serve as self-contained scholarly communities. Among the earliest were William of Durham, who in 1249 endowed University College, and John I de Balliol, father of the future King of Scots: Balliol College bears his name. Another founder, Walter de Merton, a chancellor of England and afterwards Bishop of Rochester, devised a series of regulations for college life; Merton College thereby became the model for such establishments at Oxford as well as at the University of Cambridge. Thereafter, an increasing number of students forsook living in halls and religious houses in favour of living at colleges.

The new learning of the Renaissance greatly influenced Oxford from the late 15th century onward. Among University scholars of the period were William Grocyn, who contributed to the revival of the Greek language, and John Colet, the noted biblical scholar. With the Reformation and the breaking of ties with the Roman Catholic Church, the method of teaching at the university was transformed from the medieval Scholastic method to Renaissance education, although institutions associated with the university suffered loss of land and revenues. In 1636, Chancellor William Laud, archbishop of Canterbury, codified the university statutes; these to a large extent remained the university's governing regulations until the mid-19th century. Laud was also responsible for the granting of a charter securing privileges for the university press, and he made significant contributions to the Bodleian Library, the main library of the university.

In 1605 Oxford was still a walled city, but several colleges had been built outside the city walls. (North is at the bottom on this map.)

The university was a centre of the Royalist Party during the English Civil War (1642–1649), while the town favoured the opposing Parliamentarian cause. From the mid-18th century onward, however, the University of Oxford took little part in political conflicts.

An engraving of Christ Church, Oxford, 1742.

The mid nineteenth century saw the impact of the Oxford Movement (1833-1845), led among others by the future Cardinal Newman. The influence of the reformed model of German university reached Oxford via key scholars such as Benjamin Jowett and Max Muller.

Administrative reforms during the 19th century included the replacement of oral examinations with written entrance tests, greater tolerance for religious dissent, and the establishment of four colleges for women. Women have been eligible to be full members of the university and entitled to take degrees since 7 October 1920.[14] Twentieth century Privy Council decisions (such as the abolition of compulsory daily worship, dissociation of the Regius professorship of Hebrew from clerical status, diversion of theological bequests to colleges to other purposes) loosened the link with traditional belief and practice. Although the University's emphasis traditionally had been on classical knowledge, its curriculum expanded in the course of the 19th century to encompass scientific and medical studies.

The mid twentieth century saw many distinguished continental scholars displaced by Nazism and Communism relocating to Oxford.

The list of distinguished scholars at the University of Oxford is long and includes many who have made major contributions to British politics, the sciences, medicine, and literature. More than forty Nobel laureates and more than fifty world leaders have been affiliated with the University of Oxford.[15]


As a collegiate university, Oxford's structure can be confusing to those unfamiliar with it. The university is a federation: it comprises over forty self-governing colleges and halls, along with a central administration headed by the Vice-Chancellor. The academic departments are located centrally within this structure; they are not affiliated with any particular college. Departments provide facilities for teaching and research, determine the syllabi and guidelines for the teaching of students, perform research, and deliver lectures and seminars. Colleges arrange the tutorial teaching for their undergraduates. The members of an academic department are spread around many colleges; though certain colleges do have subject alignments (e.g. Nuffield College as a centre for the social sciences), these are exceptions, and most colleges will have a broad mix of academics and students from a diverse range of subjects. Facilities such as libraries are provided on all these levels: by the central university (the Bodleian), by the departments (individual departmental libraries, such as the English Faculty Library), and by colleges (each of which maintains a multi-discipline library for the use of its members).

The Sheldonian Theatre, built by Sir Christopher Wren between 1664 and 1668, hosts the University's Congregation, as well as concerts and degree ceremonies.

Central governance

The university's formal head is the Chancellor (currently Lord Patten of Barnes), though as with most British universities, the Chancellor is a titular figure, rather than someone involved with the day-to-day running of the university. The Chancellor is elected by the members of Convocation, a body comprising all graduates of the university, and holds office until death.

The Vice-Chancellor, currently Andrew Hamilton, is the "de facto" head of the University. Five Pro-Vice-Chancellors have specific responsibilities for Education; Research; Planning and Resources; Development and External Affairs; and Personnel and Equal Opportunities. The University Council is the executive policy-forming body, which consists of the Vice-Chancellor as well as heads of departments and other members elected by Congregation, in addition to observers from the Student Union. Congregation, the "parliament of the dons", comprises over 3,700 members of the University’s academic and administrative staff, and has ultimate responsibility for legislative matters: it discusses and pronounces on policies proposed by the University Council. Oxford and Cambridge (which is similarly structured) are unique for this democratic form of governance.

Two university proctors, who are elected annually on a rotating basis from two of the colleges, are the internal ombudsmen who make sure that the university and its members adhere to its statutes. This role incorporates student welfare and discipline, as well as oversight of the university's proceedings. The collection of University Professors is called the Statutory Professors of the University of Oxford. They are particularly influential in the running of the graduate programmes within the University. Examples of Statutory Professors are the Chichele Professorships and the Drummond Professor of Political Economy. The various academic faculties, departments, and institutes are organised into four divisions, each with their own Head and elected board. They are the Humanities Division; the Social Sciences Division; the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division; and the Medical Sciences Division.


Keble College, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford

There are 38 colleges of the University of Oxford and 6 Permanent Private Halls, each with its own internal structure and activities.[16] All resident students, and most academic staff, must be members both of a college or hall, and of the university. The heads of Oxford colleges are known by various titles, according to the college, including warden, provost, principal, president, rector, master or dean. The colleges join together as the Conference of Colleges to discuss policy and to deal with the central University administration. Teaching members of the colleges (fellows and tutors) are collectively and familiarly known as dons (though the term is rarely used by members of the university itself). In addition to residential and dining facilities, the colleges provide social, cultural, and recreational activities for their members. Colleges have responsibility for admitting undergraduates and organising their tuition; for graduates, this responsibility falls upon the departments.

Teaching and degrees

Undergraduate teaching is centered on the tutorial, where 1-4 students spend an hour with an academic discussing their week’s work, usually an essay (humanities, most social sciences, some mathematical, physical, and life sciences) or problem sheet (most mathematical, physical, and life sciences, and some social sciences). Students usually have one or two tutorials a week, and can be taught by academics at any other college - not just their own - as expertise and personnel requires. These tutorials are complemented by lectures, classes and seminars, which are organised on a departmental basis. Graduate students undertaking taught degrees are usually instructed through classes and seminars, though there is more focus upon individual research.

The university itself is responsible for conducting examinations and conferring degrees. The passing of two sets of examinations is a prerequisite for a first degree. The first set of examinations, called either Honour Moderations ("Mods" and "Honour Mods") or Preliminary Examinations ("Prelims"), are usually held at the end of the first year (after two terms for those studying Law, Theology, Philosophy and Theology, Experimental Psychology or Psychology, Philosophy and Physiology or after five terms in the case of Classics). The second set of examinations, the Final Honour School ("Finals"), is held at the end of the undergraduate course. Successful candidates receive first-, upper or lower second-, or third-class honours based on their performance in Finals. An upper second is the most usual result, and a first is generally prerequisite for graduate study. A "double first" reflects first class results in both Honour Mods. and Finals. Research degrees at the master's and doctoral level are conferred in all subjects studied at graduate level at the university. As a matter of tradition, bachelor's degree graduates are eligible, after seven years from matriculation and without additional study, to purchase for a nominal fee an upgrade of their bachelor's degree to a "MA" or Master of Arts. All MAs were members of Convocation and until 1913 all resident members of Convocation were members of Congregation.[17] MAs, as members of Convocation, elected the Chancellor and Professor of Poetry, but recently Convocation has been widened to consist of all graduates.[18][19]

Tom Quad, Christ Church in the snow.

Academic year

The academic year is divided into three terms, determined by Regulations.[20] Michaelmas Term lasts from October to December; Hilary Term from January to March; and Trinity Term from April to June.

Within these terms, Council determines for each year eight-week periods called Full Terms, during which undergraduate teaching takes place. These terms are shorter than those of many other British universities.[21] Undergraduates are also expected to prepare heavily in the three holidays (known as the Christmas, Easter and Long Vacations).

Internally at least, the dates in the term are often referred to by a number in reference to the start of each full term, thus the first week of any full term is called "1st week" and the last is "8th week". The numbering of the weeks continues up to the end of the term, and begins again with negative numbering from the beginning of the succeeding term, through "minus first week" and "noughth week", which precedes "1st week". Weeks begin on a Sunday. Undergraduates must be in residence from Thursday of 0th week.


In 2005/06 the University had income of £608m, and the colleges £237m (of which £41m is a flow-through from the University). For the University, key sources were HEFCE (£166m) and research grants (£213m). For the colleges, the largest single source was endowments and interest (£82m) and residential charges (£47m). While the University has the larger operating budget, the colleges have a far larger aggregate endowment, at around £2.7bn compared to the University's £900m.[22]



The admission process for undergraduates is undertaken by the individual colleges, working with each other to ensure that the best students gain a place at the University whichever college they choose.[23] Selection is based on achieved and predicted exam results; candidate-submitted written work; school references; interviews, which are held between applicants and college tutors; and, in some subjects, written admission tests prior to interview. Prospective students apply through the UCAS application system, in common with all British universities, but (along with applicants for Cambridge) must observe an earlier deadline.[24] Because of the high volume of applications and the direct involvement of the faculty in admissions, students are not permitted to apply to both Oxford and Cambridge in the same year, with the exception of applicants for Organ Scholarships[25] and those applying to read for a second undergraduate degree.[26]

The decentralised, college-based nature of the admissions procedure necessitates a number of mechanisms to ensure that the best students are offered admission to the University, regardless of whether the college they originally applied to can accommodate them. As such, colleges can 'pool' candidates to other colleges, whereby candidates can be interviewed at and/or offered admission to another college. Some courses may make "open offers" to some candidates, which do not carry an attachment to a particular college until A Level results day in August.[27][28] Since 2007 the colleges, faculties and departments have published a "common framework" outlining the principles and procedures they observe.[29]

Undergraduate and graduate students may name preferred colleges in their applications. For undergraduate students, an increasing number of departments practice college reallocation to ensure that the ratio between potential students and subject places available at all colleges are as uniform as possible. Students who named colleges which are over-subscribed are reallocated to under-subscribed colleges for their subjects. Generally, students from all backgrounds are encouraged to apply as many factors besides academic performance are taken into account during the Stringent Admission Procedure.[30]

For the Department of Physics, college reallocation is done on a random basis after a shortlist of candidates is drawn up and before candidates are invited for interviews at the university.[31] As a result of this, the college eventually offering a candidate a place to read a subject may not be the one he/she originally applied to.

For graduate student admissions, many colleges express a preference for candidates who will be undertaking research in an area of interest of one of its fellows. St Hugh's College, for example, states that it accepts graduate students in most subjects, principally those in the fields of interest of the Fellows of the college.[32] Perhaps as a consequence of this, it is not uncommon for a graduate student to be a member of his/her supervisor's college, although this is not an official university requirement. For graduate students, admission is first handled by the relevant department, and then by a college.


Despite the University's claims that its admissions policies avoid bias against candidates of certain socioeconomic or educational backgrounds,[33] the fairness of Oxford admissions have continued to attract considerable public controversy through episodes such as the Laura Spence Affair in 2000.[34] Oxbridge entrance remains a central focus for many private and selective-state schools, and the lack of a more representative social mix at the university remains a point of national controversy.[35] In 2007, the University refined its admissions procedure to take into account the academic performance of applicants' schools.[36] A study showed that "[a] student in a state school is as likely to go on to a leading university as a student from the independent sector who gets two grades lower at A-level".[37]

Students who apply from state schools and colleges have a comparable acceptance rate to those from independent schools (25% and 32% of applicants accepted respectively, 2006). However, most pupils who are accepted from state schools come from 'elite' grammar and selective schools, rather than comprehensives.[38] About half of applications come from the state sector,[38] and the University of Oxford funds many initiatives to attract applicants from this sector, including the new UNIQ Summer Schools, Oxford Young Ambassadors, Target Schools, and the FE Access Initiative.[33] Most colleges also run their own access schemes and initiatives.

The Ashmolean is the oldest museum in Britain.

Mature and part-time students are supported by the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education.

Scholarships and financial support

There are many opportunities for students at Oxford to receive financial help during their studies. The Oxford Opportunity Bursaries, introduced in 2006, are university-wide means-based bursaries available to any British undergraduate. With a total possible grant of £10,235 over a 3-year degree, it is the most generous bursary scheme offered by any British university.[39] In addition, individual colleges also offer bursaries and funds to help their students. For graduate study, there are many scholarships attached to the University, available to students from all sorts of backgrounds, from Rhodes Scholarships to the new Weidenfeld Scholarships.[40] In October 2007, it was announced that Oxford would be launching a fund-raising campaign with a goal in excess of £1 billion. Of the money raised, approximately one quarter is expected to go towards student financial support.[41]

Students successful in early examinations are rewarded by their colleges 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. Scholars, and exhibitioners in some colleges, are entitled to wear a more voluminous undergraduate gown; "commoners" (originally 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, had 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. "Closed" scholarships, available only to candidates who fitted specific conditions such as coming from specific schools, exist now only in name.

From the inception of the Church of England until 1866 membership of the church was a requirement 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 Radcliffe Camera, built 1737-1749, holds books from the Bodleian Library's English, History, and Theology collections.


All Saints Church, now Lincoln College's library, on the High Street.

Oxford's central research library is the Bodleian, founded by Sir Thomas Bodley in 1598 and opened in 1602.[42] With over 8 million volumes housed on 117 miles (188 km) of shelving, it is the second-largest library in the UK, after the British Library. It is a legal deposit library, which means that it is entitled to request a free copy of every book published in the UK. As such, its collection is growing at a rate of over three miles (five kilometres) of shelving every year.[43] Its main central site consists of the Radcliffe Camera, the Old Schools Quadrangle, the Clarendon Building, and the New Bodleian Building. A tunnel underneath Broad Street connects the buildings. There are plans to build a new book depository in Osney Mead,[44] and to remodel the New Bodleian building [45] to better showcase the library’s various treasures (which include a Shakespeare First Folio and a Gutenberg Bible) as well as temporary exhibitions. Several other libraries, such as the Bodleian Law Library, Indian Institute Library, Radcliffe Science Library and the Oriental Institute Library, also fall within the Bodleian’s remit.

As well as the Bodleian, there are a number of other specialised libraries in Oxford, such as the Sackler Library which holds classical collections. In addition, most academic departments maintain their own library, as do all colleges. The University’s entire collection is catalogued by the Oxford Libraries Information System, though with such a huge collection, this is an ongoing task.[46] Oxford University Library Services, the head of which is Bodley’s Librarian, is the governing administrative body responsible for libraries in Oxford. The Bodleian is currently engaged in a mass-digitisation project with Google.[47][48]

The interior of the Pitt Rivers Museum.


Oxford maintains a number of museums and galleries in addition to its libraries. The Ashmolean Museum, founded in 1683, is the oldest museum in the UK, and the oldest university museum in the world.[49] It holds significant collections of art and archaeology, including works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Turner, and Picasso, as well as treasures such as the Scorpion Macehead, the Parian Marble and the Alfred Jewel. It also contains "The Messiah", a pristine Stradivarius violin, regarded by some as one of the finest examples in existence. The Ashmolean reopened in November 2009, after a £49m redevelopment,[50] doubling the display space as well as providing new facilities.

The Museum of Natural History holds the University’s anatomical and natural history specimens. It is housed in a large neo-Gothic building on Parks Road, in the University’s Science Area.[51][52] Among its collection are the skeletons of a Tyrannosaurus rex and triceratops, and the most complete remains of a dodo found anywhere in the world. It also hosts the Simonyi Professorship of the Public Understanding of Science, currently held by Marcus du Sautoy.

Autumn in the Walled Garden of the Botanic Garden.

Adjoining the Museum of Natural History is the Pitt Rivers Museum, founded in 1884, which displays the University’s archaeological and anthropological collections, currently holding over 500,000 items. It recently built a new research annexe; its staff have been involved with the teaching of anthropology at Oxford since its foundation, when as part of his donation General Augustus Pitt Rivers stipulated that the University establish a lectureship in anthropology.

The Museum of the History of Science is housed on Broad St in the world’s oldest-surviving purpose-built museum building.[53] It contains 15,000 artifacts, from antiquity to the 20th century, representing almost all aspects of the history of science. In the Faculty of Music on St Aldate's is the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, a collection mostly comprising of instruments from Western classical music, from the medieval period onwards. The Botanic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in the UK, and the third-oldest scientific garden in the world. It contains representatives from over 90% of the world’s higher plant families. Christ Church Picture Gallery holds a collection of over 200 old master paintings.


In the subject tables of the Times Good University Guide 2008, Oxford is ranked as the top university in the UK with Cambridge as the second.[54] Oxford is ranked first in Politics, Physiological Sciences, English, Fine Art, Business Studies, Materials technology, Middle Eastern and African Studies, Music, Philosophy, and also Education and Linguistics which it shares first with Cambridge. Oxford comes second after Cambridge in a further seventeen subjects. The University then takes three third-places and an equal-third, as well as a fourth, fifth, and equal-sixth place in one subject each.[55]

In the Guardian's subject tables for institutions in tariff-band 6 (universities whose prospective students are expected to score 400 or more tariff points) Oxford took first place for Anatomy and Physiology, Anthropology, Biosciences, Business and Management Studies, Earth and Marine Sciences, Economics, English, Law, Materials and Mineral Engineering, Modern Languages, Music, Politics, Psychology, and Sociology. Oxford came second to Cambridge in Geography, Archaeology, Classics, History, History of Art, Mathematics, Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies. Oxford came second in General Engineering, and third in Fine Art, General Engineering and Physics; fourth place in Chemistry and Medicine; first place in Computer Science and IT.[56]

According to the 2008 THES - QS World University Rankings Oxford is rated 4th in the world, behind Harvard, Yale and Cambridge, making it the 2nd best university in Europe. In the 2009 rankings, however, Oxford had slipped to joint 5th place with Imperial College London, while University College London took 4th place.[57]

Oxford is one of four UK universities that belong to the Coimbra Group, one of four UK universities that belong to the League of European Research Universities, and one of three UK universities that belong to both. It is the only UK university to belong to the Europaeum group.

League table rankings

UK University Rankings
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993
Times Good University Guide 1st[9] 1st[9] 1st[58] 1st[59] 1st 1st[60] 1st 1st[61] 2nd 3rd 3rd 3rd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd
Guardian University Guide 1st[11] 1st[62] 1st[63] 1st 2nd[64] 1st[65] 2nd[66] 2nd[67] 2nd[61]
Sunday Times University Guide 1st[68] 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd[69] 2nd[69] 2nd[70] 2nd[70] 2nd[70] 2nd[70] 2nd[70] 2nd[70] 2nd[70]
Complete University Guide
supported by
1st[10] 1st[71] 2nd[71]
Daily Telegraph 2nd[72] 4th 4th[61]
FT 2nd[73] 2nd[61][74] 2nd[75] 2nd[76] 3rd[77] 3rd[78]
World Universities
2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003
THES - QS World University Rankings =5th[57] 4th[79] =2nd[80] 3rd[81] 4th[82] 5th N/A
Academic Ranking of World Universities 10th[83] 10th 10th[84] 10th[85] 10th[86] 8th[87] 9th[88]

Notable alumni and academics

There are many notable Oxonians (as alumni of the University are known):

Twenty-five British prime ministers have attended Oxford (including William Gladstone, Herbert Asquith, Clement Attlee, Harold Macmillan, Harold Wilson, Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair).[89]

At least thirty other international leaders have been educated at Oxford.[15] This number includes Harald V of Norway,[90] Abdullah II of Jordan,[15] three Prime Ministers of Australia (John Gorton, Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke),[91][92][93] two Prime Ministers of Canada (Lester B. Pearson, and John Turner),[15][94] two Prime Ministers of India (Manmohan Singh and Indira Gandhi),[15][95] four Prime Ministers of Pakistan (Liaquat Ali Khan, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and Benazir Bhutto),[15] S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, Norman Washington Manley of Jamaica[96], Eric Williams (Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago), Álvaro Uribe (Colombia's President), Abhisit Vejjajiva (Prime Minister of Thailand) and Bill Clinton (the first President of the United States to have attended Oxford; he attended as a Rhodes Scholar).[15][97] The Burmese democracy activist and Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, was a student of St. Hugh's College.[98] Including Aung San Suu Kyi, forty-seven Nobel prize-winners have studied or taught at Oxford.[15]

Oxford has also produced at least twelve saints, and twenty Archbishops of Canterbury, including the current incumbent, Rowan Williams, (who studied at Wadham College and was later a Canon Professor at Christ Church).[15][99] Another religious figure was Shoghi Effendi, one of the appointed leaders of the Baha'i faith. Some fifty Olympic medal-winners have academic connections with the university, including Sir Matthew Pinsent, quadruple gold-medallist rower.[15][100] T. E. Lawrence was a student at Jesus College,[101] while other illustrious students include the explorer, courtier, and man of letters, Sir Walter Raleigh, (who attended Oriel College but left without taking a degree)[102] to the Australian media oligarch, Rupert Murdoch[103]. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, studied at Christ Church and was elected a fellow of Lincoln College.[104]

The long list of writers associated with Oxford includes John Fowles, Theodor Geisel, Thomas Middleton, Samuel Johnson, Robert Graves, Evelyn Waugh,[105] Lewis Carroll,[106] Aldous Huxley,[107] Oscar Wilde,[108] C. S. Lewis,[109] J. R. R. Tolkien,[110] Graham Greene,[111] Phillip Pullman,[15] Joseph Heller,[112] Vikram Seth[15] and Plum Sykes,[113] the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley,[114] John Donne,[115] A. E. Housman,[116] W. H. Auden,[117] T. S. Eliot, Wendy Perriam and Philip Larkin,[118] and seven poets laureate (Thomas Warton,[119] Henry James Pye,[120] Robert Southey,[121] Robert Bridges,[122] Cecil Day-Lewis,[123] Sir John Betjeman,[124] and Andrew Motion).[125]

Economists, Adam Smith, Alfred Marshall, E. F. Schumacher and Amartya Sen, and philosophers, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes and Jeremy Bentham, have all spent time at Oxford, as have major scientific pioneers such as Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger. Some pioneers of the scientific revolution, such as Robert Hooke and Robert Boyle, either studied at Oxford or were otherwise associated with the university.

Some contemporary scientists include Stephen Hawking,[15] Richard Dawkins,[126] Nobel prize-winner Anthony James Leggett,[127] and Tim Berners-Lee,[15] co-inventor of the World Wide Web.

Composers Sir Hubert Parry, George Butterworth, John Taverner and Andrew Lloyd-Webber have all been involved with the university.

Actors Hugh Grant,[128] Kate Beckinsale,[128] Dudley Moore,[129] Michael Palin,[15] and Terry Jones[130] were undergraduates at the University, as were Oscar-winner Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck[15] and film-makers Ken Loach[131] and Richard Curtis. Sportspeople who have attended the university include Imran Khan.[15]

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).

Affiliates and other institutions

Well-known organisations and institutions officially connected with the University include:

University Church of St Mary the Virgin.
Worcester College, backs of medieval cottages.
Pembroke College, Chapel Quad.


See: Departments of the University of Oxford

Clubs and societies


Buildings and parks

Other institutions

There are other higher and further education institutions in Oxford, including various independent "colleges", not associated with the University. These include Oxford Brookes University; Ruskin College, Oxford - an adult education college - which, although not part of the University of Oxford, has close links with it; and the former Lady Spencer Churchill teaching college (now the Wheatley campus of Oxford Brookes).

The University of Oxford is an Educational Alliance Partner of the Meade 4M Community which supports the University's 'Project Jetwatch' program.

Oxford in literature and other media

Oxford University is the setting for numerous works of fiction. Oxford was mentioned in fiction as early as 1400 when Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales referred to a "Clerk [student] of Oxenford": "For him was levere have at his beddes heed/ Twenty bookes, clad in blak or reed,/ of Aristotle and his philosophie/ Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrie". As of 1989, 533 Oxford-based novels had been identified, and the number continues to rise.[132] Famous literary works range from Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh, to the trilogy His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, which features an alternate-reality version of the University. Sir Humphrey Appleby, GCB, KBE, MVO, MA (Oxon) attended the fictional Baillie College in Yes Minister, and The Complete Yes Minister book's introduction, dated September 1919, was written from the equally fictitious Hacker College, presumably named for Sir James (or Lady) Hacker, Minister for Administrative Affairs in Yes Minister and Prime Minister in Yes, Prime Minister, MP for Birmingham South-East.

See also



  • Annan, Noel, The Dons: Mentors, Eccentrics and Geniuses HarperCollins (London, 1999)
  • 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, Jeremy (ed.), The History of the University of Oxford, Oxford University Press (Oxford, 1994).
  • Clark, Andrew (ed.), The colleges of Oxford: their history and traditions, Methuen & C. (London, 1891).
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External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Examination Schools Oxford University

The University of Oxford (informally "Oxford University", or simply "Oxford"), located in the English city of Oxford, is the oldest surviving university in the English-speaking world and is regarded as one of the world's leading academic institutions. Although the exact date of foundation remains unclear, there is evidence of teaching there as far back as the 11th century. The university grew rapidly from 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. After disputes between students and Oxford townsfolk in 1209, some academics fled north-east to Cambridge, where they established what became the University of Cambridge. The two "ancient universities" have many common features and are nowadays known as "Oxbridge". Most undergraduate teaching at Oxford is organised around weekly essay-based tutorials at self-governing colleges and halls, supported by lectures and laboratory classes organised by University faculties and departments.


  • The Griffine, Bustard, Turkey & Capon
Lett other hungry Mortalls gape on
And on theire bones with Stomacks fall hard,
But lett All Souls' Men have ye Mallard.
Hough the bloud of King Edward,
By ye bloud of King Edward,
It was a swapping, swapping mallard!
  • And that sweet City with her dreaming spires
She needs not June for beauty's heightening
[Describing the view of Oxford from Boars Hill]
  • Matthew Arnold, Thyrsis (1866) l. 19. Ratcliffe, Susan, ed (2008). "Arnold, Matthew". Concise Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Oxford University Press. [2]. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  • Home of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs, and unpopular names, and impossible loyalties!
    • Matthew Arnold, Essays in Criticism, First Series, Preface, 1865. Bloomsbury Thematic Dictionary of Quotations. Bloomsbury Publishing. 1997. [3]. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
  • Oxford is on the whole more attractive than Cambridge to the ordinary visitor; and the traveller is therefore recommended to visit Cambridge first, or to omit it altogether if he cannot visit both.
    • Karl Baedeker, Great Britain (1887) Route 30 "From London to Oxford". Knowles, Elizabeth. "Karl Baedeker". Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Oxford University Press. [4]. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  • The nonsense which was knocked out of [undergraduates] at school is all put gently back at Oxford or Cambridge.
    • Max Beerbohm, More (1899) "Going Back to School". Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. 1991. p. 37. ISBN 019211560X.
  • I was not unpopular [at school]... It is Oxford that has made me insufferable.
    • Max Beerbohm, More (1899) "Going Back to School". Knowles, Elizabeth. "Max Beerbohm". Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Oxford University Press. [5]. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  • The King to Oxford sent a troop of horse,
For Tories own no argument but force:
With equal skill to Cambridge books he sent,
For Whigs admit no force but argument.
  • William Browne, Literary Anecdotes Vol. III. (Lines written on George I's donation of the Bishop of Ely's Library to the University of Cambridge, in reply to Joseph Trapp, below.) Bloomsbury Thematic Dictionary of Quotations. Bloomsbury Publishing. 1997. [6]. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
  • If I had to do literary work of an absorbing character, Oxford is the last place in which I should attempt to do it.
    • Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, Letter to William Sanday, 30 May 1900; Brock and Curthoys (ed.) History of the University of Oxford (2000) vol. 7, pt. 2, ch. 25. Knowles, Elizabeth. "Lord Salisbury". Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Oxford University Press. [7]. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  • I speak not of this college or of that, but of the University as a whole; and, gentlemen, what a whole Oxford is!
    • John Coleridge, 1st Baron Coleridge, G. W. E. Russell, "Collections and Recollections", chapter 29. Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. 1991. p. 155. ISBN 019211560X.
  • [Blackadder is proving that Nurse Mary is a German spy]
Captain Blackadder: And then the final irrefutable proof. Remember you mentioned a clever boyfriend?
Nurse Mary: Yes?
Blackadder: Well, I leapt on the opportunity to test you. I asked you whether he had been to one of the great universities, Oxford, Cambridge, Hull.
Mary: Well?
Blackadder: What you didn't spot is that only two of those are great universities.
Mary: You swine!
General Melchett: That's right. Oxford's a complete dump!
  • Richard Curtis and Ben Elton, "General Hospital" from Blackadder Goes Forth. "Blackadder: The Whole Damn Dynasty" (1998) Michael Joseph. p. 433. ISBN 0718143728.
  • I'm privileg'd to be very impertinent, being an Oxonian.
    • George Farquhar, Sir Harry Wildair, Act II scene I. Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. 1991. p. 210. ISBN 019211560X.
  • To the University of Oxford I acknowledge no obligation; and she will as cheerfully renounce me for a son, as I am willing to disclaim her for a mother. I spent fourteen months at Magdalen College: they proved the fourteen months the most idle and unprofitable of my whole life.
    • Edward Gibbon, Memoirs of My Life (1796) ch. 3. Knowles, Elizabeth. "Edward Gibbon". Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Oxford University Press. [8]. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  • The clever men at Oxford
Know all that there is to be knowed.
But they none of them know one half as much
As intelligent Mr Toad!
  • Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows (1908) Chapter 10. Ratcliffe, Susan, ed (2008). "Grahame, Kenneth". Concise Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Oxford University Press. [9]. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  • You will hear more good things on the outside of a stagecoach from London to Oxford than if you were to pass a twelvemonth with the undergraduates, or heads of colleges, of that famous university.
    • William Hazlitt, Table Talk vol. 1 (1821) "The Ignorance of the Learned". Knowles, Elizabeth. "William Hazlitt". Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Oxford University Press. [10]. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  • Sir, if a man has a mind to prance, he must study at Christ Church and All Souls.
    • Samuel Johnson, Life of Johnson, volume 2 p. 68 (Autumn, 1769). Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. 1991. p. 275. ISBN 019211560X.
  • At Oxford, as you know, we follow the Cambridge lead, sometimes with uncertain steps.
    • Benjamin Jowett, Letter to Professor Marshall, 5 January 1886. Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. 1991. p. 285. ISBN 019211560X.
  • I saw the spires of Oxford
As I was passing by,
The grey spires of Oxford
Against a pearl-grey sky;
My heart was with the Oxford men
Who went abroad to die.
  • Winifred Mary Letts, The Spires of Oxford (1916). Knowles, Elizabeth. "Winifred Mary Letts". Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Oxford University Press. [11]. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  • I remember an acquaintance saying to me that "the Oriel Common Room stank of logic".
    • Cardinal Newman, History of My Religious Opinions from 1841 to 1845. Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. 1991. p. 361. ISBN 019211560X.
  • Very nice sort of place, Oxford, I should think, for people that like that sort of place. They teach you to be a gentleman there. In the polytechnic they teach you to be an engineer or such like. See?
    • George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903), Act 2, p.50. Bynum, W. F.; Porter, Roy, eds (2006). "Shaw, George Bernard". The Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations. Oxford University Press. [12]. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  • I can't see who's in the lead but it's either Oxford or Cambridge. [Commentary on the 1949 Boat Race, between Oxford and Cambridge...]
    • John Snagge. C. Dodd "Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race" (1983). Knowles, Elizabeth, ed (2008). "Snagge, John". Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations. Oxford University Press. [13]. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  • A self-made man is one who believes in luck and sends his son to Oxford.
    • Christina Stead, House of All Nations (1938) "Credo". Knowles, Elizabeth. "Christina Stead". Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Oxford University Press. [14]. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  • The King, observing with judicious eyes
The state of both his universities,
To Oxford sent a troop of horse, and why?
That learned body wanted loyalty;
To Cambridge books, as very well discerning
How much that loyal body wanted learning.
  • Joseph Trapp, lines written on George I's donation of the Bishop of Ely's Library to the University of Cambridge. (See above, under William Browne, for a reply). Knowles, Elizabeth. "Joseph Trapp". Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Oxford University Press. [15]. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  • Oxford is, and always has been, full of cliques, full of factions, and full of a particular non-social snobbiness.
    • Mary Warnock, Baroness Warnock, The Observer, 2 November 1980. Bloomsbury Thematic Dictionary of Quotations. Bloomsbury Publishing. 1997. [16]. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
  • Being published by the Oxford University Press is rather like being married to a duchess: the honour is almost greater than the pleasure.
    • G. M. Young. Rupert Hart-Davis, letter to George Lyttelton, 29 April 1956. Knowles, Elizabeth, ed (2008). "Young, G. M.". Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations. Oxford University Press. [17]. Retrieved 2 December 2009.

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

University of Oxford
Motto Latin: Dominus illuminatio mea
"The Lord is my light"
Established 1167
Type Public
Endowment £3.6 billion (2007)
Chancellor Chris Patten
Vice-Chancellor Andrew Hamilton
Students 19,486 (2007)
Undergraduates 12,106
Postgraduates 7,380
Place Oxford, United Kingdom
Campus Urban
Sports BUSA
Colours Dark blue
Memberships Coimbra Group, Europaeum, "Golden Triangle", IARU, EUA, LERU, Russell Group

The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford in the United Kingdom. It is the oldest university in countries where English is the people's first language.

The university consists of 38 colleges and another 6 "private halls". All of these colleges have their own buildings and their own staff, making Oxford quite different from most modern universities where all the students live on a "campus". Oxford does not have a campus, although it does have some central places where students from different colleges can come together either to study (for example, libraries) or to enjoy themselves (for example, the Oxford Union).



Many people who study history think that there was a university in Oxford in the 11th century, and the University of Oxford grew bigger in 1167, after English students studying in Paris, France were not allowed to continue studying after the murder of St Thomas Becket by King Henry II of England. There were fights between the students in Oxford and the people who lived there in the early 13th century. Some students and teachers left the university in 1209, and made a new university in Cambridge. These two universities are now great rivals, and together are sometimes known as "Oxbridge".

Until 1920, women were not allowed to take degrees at Oxford, although some women studied at Oxford before that time. Nowadays all the colleges allow both men and women as students, and the number of male and female students is roughly equal.

One of the most famous teachers at the university was Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, nonsense stories for children.

Colleges and Halls

There are 38 colleges at Oxford and 6 'permanent private halls'.

A college will normally offer the students accommodation (a room to sleep and study in) for the first and last years of their time at University. Many also offer accommodation for other years. A college will also have space for teaching and socializing. When most of the older colleges started they were only for people of one sex, but St Hilda's College, the last college to allow only women to study there, recently allowed men as well.

A permanent private hall is slightly different to a college. They were normally started by religious groups to educate their members in philosophy and theology, but some have since grown and offer a broader range of subjects. Some halls are run by monks and will only accept male students.

Most colleges will teach at both undergraduate (the more basic first degree that a student takes) and postgraduate (a higher level of study) level. There are also some special colleges who are more restrictive. Five college only offer space to postgraduate students. Harris Manchester college is only for 'Mature Students' (those who are over 21 when they start their degree). All Souls college does not take students - all of its members teach students or do research.

Getting into Oxford

Oxford, like Cambridge, is very popular with students, and therefore it is harder for students to get into these universities. The colleges look for the students with the best school results in the subjects for which they are applying.

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