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University of Oxford
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University of Oxford

University of Oxford
Motto Dominus Illuminatio Mea
"The Lord is my Light"
(Psalm 27)
Established c. 1096
Location Oxford, United Kingdom
Enrolment 17,000 total (5,600 graduate)
Chancellor The Right Hon. Chris Patten
Vice-Chancellor Sir Colin Lucas
Homepage http://www.ox.ac.uk
Member of Russell Group, Coimbra Group,
please add

The University of Oxford, situated in the city of Oxford, England, is the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

The universities of Oxford and the Cambridge 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 and most famous universities in England (see Oxbridge rivalry).

Oxford is a member of the Russell Group of research-led British Universities. It has recently come top of some league tables which rank universities in Britain. Oxford is, like Cambridge and others, a member of the Coimbra Group, a network of leading European universities, and the LERU (League of European Research Universities).

Table of contents
1 History
2 Organisation
3 Admission to the University
4 Degree names
5 Famous Oxonians
6 The "other" Oxford students
7 Institutions
8 Oxford in literature and the media
9 See also
10 External link


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 and later. 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 and one college does not accept students at all. 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 the major research councils; while colleges have an interest in research, most are not subject specialist in organisation.

The main legislative body of the university is Congregation, the assembly of all academics who teach in the university. Another body, Convocation, encompasses all graduates of the university, 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, chief of which is to elect the (largely symbolic) Chancellor of the University, most recently in 2003 with the election of Chris Patten. The executive body of the university is the Hebdomadal Council, which consists of the Vice-Chancellor, Sir Colin Lucas, heads of departments and other members elected by Congregation. 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 normally from January until before Easter; and Trinity normally from after Easter until June. These terms are among the shortest of any British university, and the workload is intense.

Admission to the University

Admission to the University of Oxford is entirely on academic merit and potential.

Admission for undergraduates is undertaken by individual colleges working together to ensure that the very best students gain a place in the university. Selection is based on school references, personal statements, achieved results, predicted results, written work, written tests and interviews.

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 this is today 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 schoolss 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.

Unlike the most selective American universities, Oxford (and Cambridge) are public institutions seeking only the best students, and do not practise "legacy preference": where for example children of affluent parents who attended Harvard are far more likely to be successful in the applications process than those who have no previous link with the university.

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 by 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.

The requirement that undergraduates belong to the Church of England was abolished in 1871. Knowledge of Ancient Greek was required until 1920, and Latin until 1960. Women were admitted to degrees in 1920.

Degree names

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 due to the fact that in recent years many changes have been haphazardly introduced. See also Degrees of Oxford University.

Famous Oxonians

Oxford has produced four British and two foreign Kings, 46 Nobel prize-winners, 25 British Prime Ministers, six saints, 86 Archbishops and 18 Cardinals. More complete information on famous senior and junior members of the University can be found in the individual college articles. Note that 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.

The "other" Oxford students

There is a second university at Oxford - Oxford Brookes University [1], formerly known as Oxford Polytechnic, whose entrance requirements are less stringent. It is located on a campus in the eastern suburbs of the city. There are also a number of independent "colleges" which have nothing to do with the 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 connected with the university include:

See also: Academic dress of Oxford University

Oxford in literature and the media

Oxford University is the setting for numerous works of fiction, including:

Fictional universities based on Oxford include Unseen University and the Invisible College

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

Many poets have been inspired by the university:

Films set in the university include:

This does not include movies that used the University as a set but were not depicted as Oxford University, such as the Harry Potter movies.

See also

External link

Colleges of the University of Oxford
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 leading European universities
Aarhus | Bergen | Bologna | Bristol | Budapest | Cambridge | Coimbra | Dublin | Edinburgh | Galway | Geneva | Göttingen | Granada | Graz | Groningen | Heidelberg | Jena | Kraków | Leiden | Leuven | Louvain | Lyon | Montpellier | Oxford | Padua | Pavia | Poitiers | Prague | Salamanca | Siena | Tartu | Thessaloniki | Turku I | Turku II | Uppsala | Würzburg