Oxford University

Oxford, University of

University of Oxford, at Oxford, England, one of the oldest English-language universities in the world. The university was a leading center of learning throughout the Middle Ages; such scholars as Roger Bacon, Duns Scotus, John Wyclif, and Bishop Grosseteste were associated with it. It has maintained an outstanding reputation, especially in the classics, theology, and political science.


Oxford has its beginnings in the early 12th cent. in groups of young scholars who gathered around the learned monks and teachers of the town. The system of residential colleges began with Merton College (1264), although University College and Balliol had been founded earlier. Consisting of a corporation of scholars and masters, having its own statutes, property, buildings, and customs, the medieval college maintained almost complete autonomy within the university, as it does today.

The present colleges, with their dates of founding, include University (1249), Balliol (1263), Merton (1264, for men), St. Edmund Hall (1269), Exeter (1314), Oriel (1326, for men), Queen's (1340), New (1379), Lincoln (1427), All Souls (1438, for male fellows), Magdalen (1458; pronounced môd´lĬn), Brasenose (1509; pronounced brāz´nōz), Corpus Christi (1516), Christ Church (1546, for men), Trinity (1554), St. John's (1555), Jesus (1571), Wadham (1610, charter received 1612), Pembroke (1624), Worcester (1714), Keble (1871), Hertford (1874), Lady Margaret Hall (1878, charter received 1926), Somerville (1879, charter received 1926, for women), St. Hugh's (1886, charter received 1926, for women), St. Hilda's (1893, charter received 1926, for women), St. Anne's (1893, charter received 1952), St. Peter's (1929, charter received 1961), St. Catherine's (1962), and Rewley House (1990). Nuffield (1937, charter received 1958), St. Antony's (1948, charter received 1953), Linacre (1962), St. Cross (1965), Wolfson (1965), and Green (1979) are postgraduate colleges of men and women. Most of the undergraduate colleges were founded as either men's or women's colleges and later became coeducational.

Faculties, Instruction, and Facilities

Oxford's faculties include theology, law, medicine, literae humaniores, modern history, English language and literature, modern languages, Oriental studies, Japanese studies, modern Middle Eastern studies, Slavonic and East European Studies, mathematics, physical sciences, biological sciences, physiological sciences, psychological studies, social studies, music, fine arts, archaeology and the history of art, and anthropology and geography.

Instruction at Oxford is by lectures and the tutorial system, by which each student writes a weekly paper on a prescribed subject and discusses it with his tutor. Women first received degrees in 1920, but they were not admitted to full university status until 1959. Oxford's Rhodes scholarships, originally for certain foreign students, were initially financed by a gift from Cecil Rhodes.

The Ashmolean Museum (see under Ashmole, Elias) and the Bodleian Library are notable features of the university. Oxford Univ. Press was established by 1478, and the Oxford Union is a world-famous debating society. Until 1948 the university had two representatives in Parliament.


See C. E. Mallet, History of the University of Oxford (3 vol., 1924–27, repr. 1968); F. Markham, Oxford (1967); J. P. V. D. Balsdon, Oxford Now and Then (1970).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Oxford University: Selected full-text books and articles

The History of the University of Oxford By Nicholas Tyacke Clarendon Press, vol.4, 1997
The History of the University of Oxford By T. H. Aston Clarendon Press, vol.5, 1986
Nineteenth-Century Oxford By M. G. Brock; M. C. Curthoys Clarendon Press, 1997
The History of the University of Oxford By Brian Harrison Clarendon, vol.8, 1994
Protestant Reformers in Elizabethan Oxford By C. M. Dent Oxford University Press, 1983
Oxford: An Architectural Guide By Geoffrey Tyack Oxford University, 1998
Oxford Life By Dacre Balsdon Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1957
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