University of Oxford

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University of Oxford
Latin: Universitas Oxoniensis
Motto Dominus Illuminatio Mea
"The Lord is my Light"
(Psalm 27)
Established 1117
Type Public
Chancellor The Rt Hon. Lord Patten of Barnes
Vice-Chancellor Dr John Hood
Students 17,000 total
Postgraduates 5,600 graduate
Location Oxford, England
Colours Oxford (dark) blue
Affiliations Russell Group, Coimbra Group, Europaeum,
EUA, LERU, 'Golden Triangle'

The University of Oxford, located in the city of Oxford, England, is the oldest university in the English-speaking world.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

The university traces its roots back to at least the end of the 11th century, although the exact date of foundation remains unclear. This dating would make its duration now equal to 900 years, like Plato's Academy (400s BC to AD 500s). According to legend, after riots between students and townsfolk broke out in 1209, some of the academics at Oxford fled north-east to the town of Cambridge, where the University of Cambridge was founded. The two universities have since had a long history of competition with each other, and are the most selective universities in the UK. (See Oxbridge rivalry.)

Oxford is a member of the Russell Group of research-led British universities, the Coimbra Group (a network of leading European universities), the League of European Research Universities, and is also a core member of the Europaeum. Oxford is ranked among the world's best universities. It is ranked 3rd in the latest edition (2006) of the Times Higher World University Rankings.


[edit] History

Coat of arms of the University of Oxford

The town of Oxford was already an important centre of learning by the end of the 12th century. Teachers from mainland Europe and other scholars settled there, and lectures are known to have been delivered by as early as 1096. 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 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 John de Balliol, father of the future King of Scotland; 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.

The university was a centre of the Royalist Party during the English Civil War (1642-1649), while the town favoured the opposing Parliamentarian cause. Soldier-statesman Oliver Cromwell, chancellor of the university from 1650 to 1657, was responsible for preventing both Oxford and Cambridge from being closed down by the Puritans, who viewed university education as dangerous to religious beliefs. From the mid-18th century onward, however, the University of Oxford took little part in political conflicts.

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 have been entitled to take degrees since 1920. Although Oxford's emphasis traditionally had been on classical knowledge, its curriculum expanded in the course of the 19th century and now attaches equal importance to scientific and medical studies.

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, and literature. Since its founding in 1823, the Oxford Union, a private club devoted to formal debating and other social activities, has numbered among its members many of Britain's most noted political leaders.

[edit] Organisation

There are 39 colleges of Oxford University, each with its own internal structure and activities. The university's formal head is the chancellor, usually a distinguished politician, elected for life by the members of Convocation, a body comprising all graduates of the university. The vice-chancellor, who holds office for four years, is the head of the university's executive. In addition to Convocation, the other bodies that conduct university business are the Ancient House of Congregation, which confers degrees; the Hebdomadal Council, which formulates university policy; and the Congregation of the University, which discusses and pronounces on policies proposed by the Hebdomadal Council.

The university itself conducts examinations and confers degrees. The passing of two sets of examinations is a prerequisite for a first degree. The first, called either Honour Moderations ("Mods") or Preliminary Examinations ("Prelims"), are usually held after the first (or sometimes second) year. The second, the Honour School, is held at the end of the undergraduate course. Successful candidates receive first-, second-, or third-class honors based on their performance in these examinations. Research degrees at the master's and doctoral level are conferred in all subjects studied at graduate level at the university.

The heads of Oxford colleges are known by various titles, according to the college, including warden, provost, principal, president, rector or master. Undergraduate discipline is supervised by two university proctors, elected annually on a rotating basis from two of the colleges. 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.

Formal instruction is available for undergraduates in the form of lectures organised on a departmental basis. In addition, each undergraduate works with one or more college tutors, who are responsible for overseeing the student's academic progress. Since 1902, students from the Commonwealth of Nations countries and from certain other overseas countries have been able to study at Oxford under Rhodes Scholarships, established by the British colonial statesman Cecil John Rhodes.

[edit] Governance and administration

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. Convocation also elects the Professor of Poetry.

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. Until 1969, the statutes also provided for an Ancient House of Congregation, which somehow survived the university reforms in the 19th century and was summoned for the sole purpose of granting degrees. Since then degrees have been granted by Congregation, but as late as 1994 these were still being announced in the Gazette as meetings of the Ancient House.

[edit] Academic year

The academic year is divided into three terms, known as Full Terms, each of eight weeks' duration. Michaelmas Term lasts from October to December; Hilary Term from January till March; and Trinity Term Term from April till 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 three vacations (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 term, thus the first week of any term is called '1st week' and the last is '8th week'. Since most post-grad students stay in college over the vacations, the numbering of the weeks continues into the holidays up to '14th week', also called '0th week' of the new term.

[edit] Admission

Admission to the University of Oxford is based wholly on academic merit and potential. The admission process 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 they are accepted by their preferred college. The colleges have recently signed up to a Common Framework which lays down the principles and procedures which they all observe. Selection is based on achieved and predicted exam results, written work, the interviews which are held between applicants and college tutors, and, in some subjects, written admission tests prior to interview. Personal statements and school references are also considered. 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.

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). Entrance examinations were abolished in 1996.

In recent years, Oxford has made great efforts to attract applicants from state schools, though admission to Oxford and Cambridge remains on academic merit and potential. Around half of the students in Oxford come from state school backgrounds (roughly proportional to the number that apply from state school backgrounds); for comparison, approximately 93% of students in the UK study at state schools. 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. Individual colleges also offer some financial support.

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: many 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.

[edit] Degrees

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. Notably, the initials for the Doctor of Philosophy degree are DPhil rather than PhD.

[edit] Reputation

For the fifth consecutive year Oxford has been placed first in the United Kingdom in the Times Good University Guide (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 (sic)), while the Sunday Times has placed the University of Cambridge first from 1997-2005.

In the subject tables, Oxford is ranked first for Anatomy and physiology, Art and design, Business studies, Materials technology, Middle Eastern and African studies, Music, Philosophy, and Politics, as well as equal-first with Cambridge for Education and Linguistics. Oxford comes second after Cambridge in a further seventeen subjects, and second after Durham in English. 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.<ref name = "Times Good University Guide">Template:Cite web </ref>

Oxford topped the Guardian league table in 2005 <ref name = "EducationGuardian 2005">Template:Cite web </ref> and 2006.<ref name = "EducationGuardian 2006">Template:Cite web </ref> In the 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, Law, Materials and mineral engineering, Modern languages, Music, Politics, Psychology, and Sociology. Oxford took second place to Cambridge in Archaeology, Classics, English, History and history of art, Mathematics, Philosophy, and Theology and religious studies, and second to Aberdeen in General engineering, as well as third place in Art and design, General engineering, and Physics, fourth place in Chemistry and Medicine, and finally sixth place in Computer sciences and IT.<ref name = "EducationGuardian 2006 Subject Tables">Template:Cite web </ref>

Internationally, Oxford was rated third (after Harvard and Cambridge) in the Times Higher Education Supplement World University Rankings (2006). In the Academic Ranking of World Universities Oxford achieved ninth place in 2003, eighth in 2004, and tenth in 2005 and 2006.<ref name = "Academic Ranking of World Universities">Template:Cite web </ref>

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.

[edit] Notable alumni

Oxford's 'dreaming spires' at sunset

There are many famous Oxonians, as alumni of the University are known.

Oxford has had a role in educating 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. Contemporary scientists include Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins and Nobel prize-winner Anthony James Leggett, and Tim Berners Lee, co-inventor of the world wide web. Actors Hugh Grant, Kate Beckinsale, Dudley Moore, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Richard Burton studied at the University, as did film-maker Ken Loach. Amongst the long list of writers associated with Oxford are Evelyn Waugh, Lewis Carroll, Aldous Huxley, Oscar Wilde, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Phillip Pullman and Vikram Seth, the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Donne, A. E. Housman, W. H. Auden, and Philip Larkin, and Poets Laureate Thomas Warton, Henry James Pye, Robert Southey, Robert Bridges, Cecil Day-Lewis, Sir John Betjeman, and Andrew Motion. Lawrence of Arabia was both a student and a don at Oxford, while other illustrious members have ranged from the explorer, courtier, and man of letters Sir Walter Raleigh to the media magnate Rupert Murdoch. 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: University of Oxford People.

[edit] Other students in Oxford

Many University of Oxford colleges host overseas students (primarily from American universities) enrolled in study abroad programmes during the summer months.

Oxford's other principal higher education institutions are Ruskin College, Oxford, an adult education college, which, although not part of the University of Oxford, has close links with it, and Oxford's second university, Oxford Brookes University, the former Oxford Polytechnic.

There are other higher and further education institutions in Oxford, including various independent "colleges", not associated with either of the universities. These institutions vary considerably in the standard of teaching they provide.

[edit] Institutions

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

University Church of St Mary the Virgin
Image:Hertford BridgeSunsetSmall.jpg
Hertford Bridge ('Bridge of Sighs') with the Christopher Wren-designed Sheldonian Theatre in the background
Image:Worc College - MKung Personal.jpg
Worcester College, Backs of medieval cottages

[edit] Libraries

See also: Category:Libraries in Oxford

[edit] Museums

See also: Category:Museums in Oxford

[edit] Constituent colleges and halls

See: Colleges of the University of Oxford

[edit] Departments

See: Category:Departments of the University of Oxford

[edit] Clubs and societies

See also:

[edit] Media

[edit] Buildings and parks

See also:

[edit] Oxford in literature and other media

Oxford University is the setting for numerous works of fiction. Quickly becoming part of the cultural imagination, 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, more than 533 Oxford-based novels had been identified, and the number continues to rise. Literary 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. The Glamour of Oxford (1911) is a collection of verse and prose edited by William Knight, and another anthology — Seccombe and Scott's In Praise of Oxford (1912) — spans two volumes. More recent compilations 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.

For a more exhaustive list, see: Books associated with Oxford.

[edit] Further reading

A chained book in the Bodleian Library; few ancient manuscripts remain chained today.
  • 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).
  • 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).
  • Knight, William (ed.), The Glamour of Oxford, Blackwell (New York, 1911).
  • 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).
  • Seccombe, Thomas and H. Scott (eds.), In Praise of Oxford (2 vols.), Constable (London, 1912).
  • 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).

[edit] See also

Also associated with the University:

[edit] External links

Wikisource has original text related to this article:

[edit] References

<references />

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

Universities in South East England

Brighton | Buckingham | Chichester | Canterbury | Kent | Oxford | Oxford Brookes | Portsmouth | Reading | Southampton | Southampton Solent | Surrey | Sussex | Thames Valley | Winchester

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


Bologna | Bonn | HEI, Geneva | Helsinki | Kraków (Jagiellonian) | Leiden | Madrid (Complutense) | Oxford | Paris I: Panthéon-Sorbonne | Prague

Russell Group
(of British research universities)
Birmingham | Bristol | Cambridge | Cardiff | Edinburgh | Glasgow | Imperial College London | King's College London | Leeds | Liverpool | London School of Economics | Manchester | Newcastle | Nottingham | Oxford | Queen's | Sheffield | Southampton | University College London | Warwick
ar:جامعة أوكسفورد

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University of Oxford

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