University of Oxford

University of Oxford

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 (age 914–915)[1]
Endowment £3.3 billion (inc. colleges)[2]
Chancellor The Rt. Hon. Lord Patten of Barnes
Vice-Chancellor Andrew Hamilton
Students 21,000+[3]
Undergraduates 11,723[3]
Postgraduates 9,327[3]
Other students 461[4]
Location Oxford, England, UK
Colours      Oxford Blue[5]
Affiliations IARU
Russell Group
Coimbra Group
University of Oxford.svg

The University of Oxford (informally Oxford University, or simply Oxford) is a university in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world.[1][6] Although the exact date of its foundation remains unclear, there is evidence of teaching there as far back as 1096.[1] The University grew rapidly from 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris.[1] In post-nominals, the University of Oxford was historically abbreviated as Oxon. (from the Latin Oxoniensis), although Oxf is nowadays used in official university 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 English universities have many common features and are often jointly referred to as Oxbridge. In addition to their cultural and practical associations, as a historic part of British society, they have a long history of rivalry with each other.

Most undergraduate teaching at Oxford is organised around weekly 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; the university regularly contends with Cambridge for first place in the tables.[7][8][9] Oxford consistently ranks in the world's top 10.[10][11] 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 or for a second bachelor's degree.[12]

Oxford is a member of the Russell Group of research-led British universities, the Coimbra Group, the G5, the League of European Research Universities, and the International Alliance of Research Universities. It is also a core member of the Europaeum and forms part of the 'Golden Triangle' of British universities.[13]



The coat of arms of the University of Oxford.

The University of Oxford has no known foundation date. Teaching at Oxford existed in some form in 1096, but it is unclear at what point a university came into being.[1]

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 such 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 at least 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 such founders were William of Durham, who in 1249 endowed University College, and John Balliol, father of a 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 in colleges.

The new learning of the Renaissance greatly influenced Oxford from the late 15th century onwards. 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, Recusant scholars from Oxford fled to continental Europe, settling especially at the University of Douai. The method of teaching at Oxford was transformed from the medieval Scholastic method to Renaissance education, although institutions associated with the university suffered losses of land and revenues. In 1636, Chancellor William Laud, archbishop of Canterbury, codified the university's statutes; these to a large extent remained its 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 onwards, 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 Edward Bouverie Pusey, Benjamin Jowett and Max Müller.

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 women's colleges. 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.[14]

Women's education

The University passed a Statute in 1875 allowing its delegates to create preliminary and final examinations at roughly undergraduate level.[15] The first four women's' colleges were established thanks to the activism of the Association for Promoting the Higher Education of Women (AEW). Lady Margaret Hall (1878[16]) was followed by Somerville College in 1879;[17] the first 21 students from Somerville and LMH attended lectures in rooms above an Oxford baker's shop.[15] The first two colleges for women were followed by St Hugh's (1886[18]), St Hilda's (1893[19]) and St Anne's College (1952[20]). Oxford was long considered a bastion of male privilege,[21] and it was not until 7 October 1920 that women became eligible for admission as full members of the university and were given the right to take degrees .[22] In 1927 a quota of female students was instituted by the University's dons, a ruling not abolished until 1957.[15] However, until the 1970s all Oxford colleges were for men or women only, so that the number of women was effectively limited by the capacity of the women's colleges to admit students. It was not until 1959 that the women's colleges were given full collegiate status.

In 1974, five previously all-male colleges became co-educational. In 2008, St Hilda's became the last of the women's colleges to admit men also, so that all of the Oxford colleges are now co-educational.[23] By 1988, 40% of undergraduates at Oxford were female;[24] the ratio is now about 48:52 in men's favour.

The detective novel Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers – herself one of the first women to get an academic degree at Oxford – takes place in a (fictional) women's college at Oxford, and the issue of women's education is central to its plot.


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.

The University of Oxford is a "public university" in the sense that it receives a large amount of public money from the government and from local authorities, but it is a "private university" in the sense that it is entirely self-governing and could choose to become entirely private by rejecting public funds.


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

There are thirty-eight colleges of the University of Oxford and six Permanent Private Halls, each controlling its membership and with its own internal structure and activities.[25] 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 and 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, although the term is rarely used by 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 centred 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.[26] MAs, as members of Convocation, elected the Chancellor and Professor of Poetry, but recently Convocation has been widened to consist of all graduates.[27][28]

Tom Quad, Christ Church in the snow.

Academic year

The academic year is divided into three terms, determined by Regulations.[29] 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.[30] 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.


Academic dress is still commonly seen at Oxford; until the 1960s students wore it at all times.[citation needed] It is required for examinations and when visiting university officers. Other traditions and customs vary by college, one of the most common being the requirement to wear gowns for dinner in hall.


In 2005/06 the University had an 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.[31] The Central University's endowment, along with that of many of the colleges, is managed by the University's wholly owned endowment management office, Oxford University Endowment Management, formed in 2007.

The University also launched a fundraising campaign in May 2008, called Oxford Thinking – The Campaign for the University of Oxford.[32] With a minimum goal of £1.25 billion, the Campaign is looking to support three areas: academic posts and programmes, student support, and buildings and infrastructure.[33]



Oxford has no upper or lower limit on the age of those admitted as undergraduates. Historically, it was common for boys to become members of the university between the ages of fourteen and nineteen.[34] Jeremy Bentham matriculated in 1761 at the age of thirteen, which was unusually young.[35] At the present time, the usual age range of those admitted to study for first degrees begins at about seventeen, although the majority are eighteen or nineteen.[clarification needed] Mature students, while not in great numbers in all colleges, are a higher proportion of those at Ruskin. Harris Manchester caters only to mature students above 21. In theory, much younger people can still be admitted to the university if they meet the entrance standard, and Ruth Lawrence matriculated at Oxford in 1983 at the age of twelve.


Prospective students apply through the UCAS application system, in common with most British universities, but (along with applicants for Medicine, Dentistry and Cambridge applicants) must observe an earlier deadline of 15 October.[36] To allow a more personalised judgement of students, who might otherwise apply for both, undergraduate applicants are not permitted to apply to both Oxford and Cambridge in the same year. The only exceptions are applicants for Organ Scholarships[37] and those applying to read for a second undergraduate degree.[38] Students from all backgrounds are encouraged to apply, with "contextual data" (factors that may have influenced prior exam performance) taken into account during the admission procedure. The university believes that there are many potential students from less well off backgrounds who they can't admit, simply because they don't apply.[39]

Most applicants choose to apply to one of the individual colleges, which work with each other to ensure that the best students gain a place somewhere at the University whichever college they choose.[40] Shortlisting is based on achieved and predicted exam results; school references and, in some subjects, written admission tests or candidate-submitted written work. Approximately 60% of applicants are shortlisted, although this varies by subject. If a large number of shortlisted applicants for a subject choose one college, then students who named that college may be reallocated randomly to under-subscribed colleges for the subject. The colleges then invite shortlisted candidates for interview, where they are provided with food and accommodation for at least three days in December. Most applicants will be individually interviewed by academics at more than one college, however some are interviewed at more colleges than this. In 2007 the colleges, faculties and departments published a "common framework" outlining the principles and procedures they observe.[41]

Offers are sent out shortly before Christmas, with an offer usually being from a specific college. One in four successful candidates receive offers from a college that they did not apply to. 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.[42][43]

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.[44] 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.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History.


The University states that its admissions policies avoid bias against candidates of certain socio-economic or educational backgrounds.[45] However, the fairness of Oxford admissions has attracted public controversy through episodes such as the Laura Spence Affair in 2000.[46] Gaining places at Oxford and Cambridge remains a central focus for many private and selective state schools, and the lack of a social mix at the university representing society at large remains a point of controversy.[47] Veiled accusations of racism, however, have been refuted by comparison of A-level results with successful applications.[48] In 2007, the University refined its admissions procedure to take into account the academic performance of its applicants' schools.[49]

Students who apply from state schools and colleges have a broadly comparable acceptance rate to those from independent schools (19% and 24% of applicants accepted respectively, 2010).[50] However, most pupils who are accepted from state schools come from 'elite' grammar and selective schools, rather than comprehensives.[50] More than half of applications come from the state sector,[50] and the University of Oxford funds many initiatives to attract applicants from this sector, including the UNIQ Summer Schools, Oxford Young Ambassadors, Target Schools, and the FE Access Initiative.[45] Regarding the UNIQ Summer School, of all the UNIQ students who went on to make applications in autumn 2010 to enter the University in 2011/12, 39 per cent ended up with places. The overall success rate for Oxford applicants overall is around 20 per cent.

Most colleges also run their own access schemes and initiatives.

The Ashmolean is the oldest museum in Britain.

In 2002, the University of Oxford commissioned a research project[51] under the auspices of Professor Anthony Heath.[52] Almost 2,000 applicants for admission participated in the project; about one third of them were admitted.[53] The project found that, if anything, admissions tutors treat applicants from state schools more favourably than applicants from private schools with the same attainment.[54] The research also suggested that this discounting was justified as private school students need higher grades at entry to do as well as their state school educated peers in final university examinations.[55] Finally, the study found that applicants to arts subjects had an advantage in admission when they displayed high levels of cultural capital.[56]

Mature and part-time students are supported by the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. Most part-time students will belong to Kellogg College, although a small number of other colleges also accept admissions.

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.[57] 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.[58]

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 as Oxford's science library, now holds books from the English, History, and Theology collections.


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

Oxford has 102 libraries,[59] of which 30[60] belong to the Bodleian Library group, Oxford's central research library. With over 11 million volumes housed on 120 miles (190 km) of shelving, the Bodleian group 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.[61] Its main central site consists of the original Bodleian Library in the Old Schools Quadrangle, founded by Sir Thomas Bodley in 1598 and opened in 1602,[62] the Radcliffe Camera, the Clarendon Building, and the New Bodleian Building. A tunnel underneath Broad Street connects these buildings. Other libraries within the Bodleian’s remit include the Bodleian Law Library, Indian Institute Library, Radcliffe Science Library, the Oriental Institute Library and the Vere Harmsworth US History Library.[60]

A new book depository opened in South Marston, Swindon in October 2010,[63] and current building projects include the remodelling of the New Bodleian building, which will be renamed the Weston Library when it reopens in 2014-15[64]. The renovation is designed to better showcase the library’s various treasures (which include a Shakespeare First Folio and a Gutenberg Bible) as well as temporary exhibitions.

Other specialised libraries in Oxford include the Sackler Library, which holds classical collections, and the libraries maintained by academic departments and colleges.[59] Almost all of Oxford's libraries share a common catalogue, the Oxford Libraries Information System,[65] though with such a huge collection, this is an ongoing task.[66] 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.[67][68]

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.[69] 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,[70] 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.[71][72] 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.[73] It contains 15,000 artefacts, 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 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.


(2011/12, national)
(2011/12, world)
(2011/12, national)
(2011/12, world)
(2011/12, national)
(2011/12, world)
Complete/The Independent[77]
(2012, national)
The Guardian[78]
(2012, national)
The Sunday Times[79]
(2012, national)
The Times[80]
(2012, national)

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.[81] Oxford is ranked first in Politics, Physiological Sciences, English, Fine Art, Business Studies, 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.[82]

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, Medicine, 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; second place in Computer Science and IT.[83]

In the 2010 Academic Ranking of World Universities, Oxford was ranked 10th in the world and second in Europe.[84]

In the 2011 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Oxford placed fourth in the world (Caltech placed first while Harvard and Stanford tied for second) and first in Europe.[85] In the 2011 QS World University Rankings[86] Oxford University placed fifth in the world (while Cambridge University came first), rising from sixth in the 2010 rankings. With the exception of 2010, it has been consistently in the top five since the THE – QS World University Rankings began in 2004 (in 2010 Times Higher Education World University Rankings and QS World University Rankings parted ways to produce separate rankings).

In 2009 it had been ranked second in the world for arts and humanities, third in life sciences and biomedicine, third in social sciences, and fifth in natural sciences. Oxford also came second in the world in terms of graduate employability. According to the 2011 Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings[87] – based on a survey of 13,388 academics over 131 countries which is the largest evaluation of academic reputation to date[88] – Oxford belongs to the elite group of six universities touted as the 'globally recognised super brands'.[89] 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
2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993
Times Good University Guide 1st 1st[90] 1st[7] 1st[91] 1st[92] 1st[93] 1st 1st[94] 1st 1st[95] 2nd 3rd 3rd 3rd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd
Guardian University Guide 2nd[96] 1st[97] 1st[9] 1st[98] 1st[99] 1st 2nd[100] 1st[101] 2nd[102] 2nd[103] 2nd[95]
Sunday Times University Guide 1st 1st[104] 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd[105] 2nd[105] 2nd[106] 2nd[106] 2nd[106] 2nd[106] 2nd[106] 2nd[106] 2nd[106]
Complete University Guide
supported by
2nd 1st[107] 1st[8] 1st[108] 2nd[108]
Daily Telegraph 2nd[109] 4th 4th[95]
FT 2nd[110] 2nd[95][111] 2nd[112] 2nd[113] 3rd[114] 3rd[115]

Notable alumni and academics

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

Twenty-six British prime ministers have attended Oxford, including William Gladstone, Herbert Asquith, Clement Attlee, Harold Macmillan, Harold Wilson, Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair[116] and most recently David Cameron.[117]

At least thirty other international leaders have been educated at Oxford.[14] This number includes Harald V of Norway,[118] Abdullah II of Jordan,[14] three Prime Ministers of Australia (John Gorton, Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke),[119][120][121] two Prime Ministers of Canada (Lester B. Pearson, and John Turner),[14][122] two Prime Ministers of India (Manmohan Singh and Indira Gandhi),[14][123] four Prime Ministers of Pakistan (Liaquat Ali Khan, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and Benazir Bhutto),[14] S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, Norman Washington Manley of Jamaica,[124] Eric Williams (Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago), Álvaro Uribe (Colombia's former President), Abhisit Vejjajiva (former Prime Minister of Thailand) and Bill Clinton (the first President of the United States to have attended Oxford; he attended as a Rhodes Scholar).[14][125] Arthur Mutambara (Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe ),was a Rhodes Scholar in 1991. The Burmese democracy activist and Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, was a student of St. Hugh's College.[126] Including Aung San Suu Kyi, forty-seven Nobel prize-winners have studied or taught at Oxford.[14]

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).[14][127] Another religious figure was Mirza Nasir Ahmad, the third Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and 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.[14][128] T. E. Lawrence was a student at Jesus College,[129] 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)[130] to the Australian media mogul, Rupert Murdoch.[131] The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, studied at Christ Church and was elected a fellow of Lincoln College.[132]

The long list of writers associated with Oxford includes John Fowles, Theodor Geisel, Thomas Middleton, Samuel Johnson, Robert Graves, Evelyn Waugh,[133] Lewis Carroll,[134] Aldous Huxley,[135] Oscar Wilde,[136] C. S. Lewis,[137] J. R. R. Tolkien,[138] Graham Greene,[139] V.S.Naipaul, Phillip Pullman,[14] Joseph Heller,[140] Vikram Seth,[14] the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley,[141] John Donne,[142] A. E. Housman,[143] W. H. Auden,[144] T. S. Eliot, Wendy Perriam and Philip Larkin,[145] and seven poets laureate (Thomas Warton,[146] Henry James Pye,[147] Robert Southey,[148] Robert Bridges,[149] Cecil Day-Lewis,[150] Sir John Betjeman,[151] and Andrew Motion).[152]

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.

Some notable scientists include Robert Hooke,[14] Stephen Hawking,[14] Richard Dawkins,[153] Frederick Soddy,[154], Tim Berners-Lee,[14] co-inventor of the World Wide Web, and Dorothy Hodgkin.[155] Robert Boyle, Albert Einstein, Edwin Hubble,[14] Erwin Schrödinger also spent time at the university.

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

Actors Hugh Grant,[156] Kate Beckinsale,[156] Dudley Moore,[157] Michael Palin,[14] and Terry Jones[158] were undergraduates at the University, as were Oscar-winner Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck[14] and film-makers Ken Loach[159] and Richard Curtis. Sportspeople who have attended the university include Imran Khan.[14]

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

Notable 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.

Faculties and Departments

See: Departments of the University of Oxford

Clubs and societies

Some of the most well-known and oldest societies of the university include:


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.[160] 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 2019, was written from the equally fictitious Hacker College.

See also



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