University of Oxford
University of Oxford
In company with the other twelfth-century universities of Paris and Bologna, Oxford can claim to be among the oldest of the European universities. Its foundation date, often a matter of fantastic speculation, remains unclear. All that can be said is that Oxford recognizably became a university between 1192 and 1200. Located in a river valley fed by tributaries of the Thames River, the town and the university were named for the river crossing (oxen-ford). Since no new university was established in England (although four or five in Scotland) until the formation of the University of London in the 1820s, Oxford and Cambridge (collectively termed Oxbridge or less frequently Camford) long held a duopoly on the education and training of leading politicians, Roman Catholic and afterward Church of England clergy and bishops, civil service administrators at home and abroad, and representatives of the arts and sciences. Even the Scots, with their own fine university traditions, attended the ancient universities in order to take advantage of their connections and networks.
Oxford in the twenty-first century remains one of a handful of world universities correctly described as collegiate. It is a federation of some seven permanent private halls and thirty-nine self-governing and endowed colleges scattered about the city of Oxford. A good number of these are twentieth-century foundations, updating ancient traditions to take advantage of new subjects and new kinds of students. The first colleges appeared in the thirteenth century, but most were founded later. Historically associated with teaching and student residence, the first college to actually admit undergraduates was New College in the fourteenth century. Women’s colleges date from the 1860s. Infamously, however, women did not receive degrees until 1920 (or 1948 at Cambridge). Only Saint Hilda’s College, founded in 1893, is restricted to women.
Responsibility for teaching and scholarship is divided between colleges and the university, between tutors (called dons from the Latin dominum or master) and professors, but from the sixteenth century (the early modern period) until recently the colleges were dominant. That was mainly, if not entirely, a consequence of the Protestant Reformation, expanded royal government, and international trade and rivalry. Loyal and well-educated administrators were required for service in church and state. The small size of the colleges and their systems of personal instruction and discipline in a residential setting were well suited for the education of potential leaders. The new elites were heavily drawn from established families. The collegiate university primarily bestowed its blessings on those already favored; in particular, the scions of landed society influenced the tone of the university by their often careless but also glamorous habits well into the nineteenth century.
In recent decades, considerable scholarly attention has been directed to the social composition of Oxford through the ages, a reflection of current concerns about access to higher education. However, owing to the absence of university matriculation records, estimates of the social composition of Oxford are harder to provide for the period before 1565. Entries afterward are listed by hierarchical status rankings, rather than by social or occupational groupings, as is present practice, and historians disagree on how to interpret them. The earlier records kept by colleges are often incomplete or confusing.
In the broadest terms, it can be said that until very recently wealth and privilege were always accorded a warm reception at Oxford. The numbers of recruits from the poorer sections of English society, meaning the children of farm laborers in the earliest centuries or industrial workers in the later ones, were generally in short supply. To give an example from Lincoln College from 1680 to 1799, of 972 admits, over half came from landed or gentlemanly families and another 266 from clergy, to include the higher ranks. Only 155 were listed as plebeian, a catchall category difficult to refine. A more complete analysis of the entire university for the 1901–1975 period, comprising 3,512 entries, more clearly indicates the changes. Professional families accounted for 1,564 admits; 1,059 were from commerce, finance, and industry, and 217 from white-collar families. Only 182 can be called skilled workers, and only several dozen fit the description of unskilled or manual workers.
As a generalization, it can be ventured that Oxford’s social transformation from a university serving mainly the sons of landed and clerical families began to shift from about 1850, when professional and business families started to become dominant. This was the pattern that could be expected of most elite institutions. Gradually but firmly Oxford ceased to be a university of the traditionally privileged and became instead the destination of new generations of outstanding undergraduates from middleincome families, befitting the economic transformations that had occurred as a result of industrialism and the expansion of the urban professions.
As a center of learning and scholarship, Oxford’s reputation declined in the Age of the Enlightenment. Enrollments fell, teaching was neglected, and one famous undergraduate, the future historian Edward Gibbon (1737–1794), characterized the dons of his day as addicted to “port and prejudice.” More recently, historians have uncovered evidence for greater intellectual vitality than previously supposed. Yet it is the case that a serious and almost total educational transformation of the university and its colleges did not occur until the next century. The first step around 1800 was a demanding and subsequently famous honors examination in the subject of literae humaniores (called “Greats”). Composed of classical languages, philosophy, and history, it became the prototype of later competitive examinations. For a long while, “Greats” was regarded as the leading subject, attracting the best and most success-minded students. To begin with, improvements in teaching and examining were internal reforms, but criticisms persisted that the university and its colleges tolerated weak students, gave scholarships to the unworthy, failed to impose needed discipline, were slow in furthering the advance of modern and scientific subjects, and misused plentiful endowments. Oligopoly control of the colleges and central administration was attacked. By the middle of the nineteenth century, public opinion demanded radical reforms. For some twenty years thereafter, royal and other commissions recommended, and Parliament introduced, changes affecting all aspects of governance, financing, and the curriculum. Research was added to teaching as an academic mission, and professorial chairs were created in new subjects. If Cambridge led the way in the mathematical sciences, Oxford excelled in classical languages, ethical philosophy, and medieval history. At present, Oxford is well represented in all fields of intellectual inquiry.
Repeal of two inherited restrictions in the Victorian period furthered the process of renewal and scholarly excellence. Celibacy was abolished as a condition of holding college teaching appointments, a major step in the formation of professional academic careers; and non-Anglican undergraduates were admitted without being required to take an oath of allegiance to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. Since half the kingdom adhered to other denominations, the pool of worthy candidates widened. However, a certain element of snobbery persisted well into the Edwardian period, not only toward the few working-class undergraduates in attendance but also toward students of Jewish origin or from India and Africa.
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Oxford was also renowned as the training ground of proconsuls, the distinguished imperial administrators in the heyday of the British Empire. Under Benjamin Jowett (1817–1893), its legendary master, Victorian Balliol College acquired a reputation as the nursery of prime ministers, but the great William Gladstone (1809–1898), who became prime minister in 1868, had studied at Christ Church, the most aristocratic of the colleges, although he was not descended from landed gentlemen.
Protesting a growing secularism and religious tolerance, John Henry Newman (1801–1890), a fellow of Oriel College, left Oxford in 1842 and converted to Roman Catholicism. His subsequent reflections and lectures, published under the heading of The Idea of a University (1853), became among the most influential and lasting books ever written on the purpose of a liberal education. But Newman was right. Oxford had indeed changed. Once described as the “home of lost causes,” a reference to the university’s sometime attachments to deposed monarchs and High Church principles, or, romantically, as a place of “dreaming spires,” an allusion to its distance from social realities, Oxford was once again at the center of the transformed educational and intellectual life of a modern Britain. Oxford dons helped establish new universities, such as Bristol, and fully participated in outreach or extension movements. Rhodes Scholarships, a bequest by the imperialist Cecil Rhodes (1853–1902) at the turn of the twentieth century, brought overseas students to the university, as did the introduction of advanced research degrees. Oxford’s influence spread throughout the English-speaking world, indeed, everywhere.
The list of distinguished men and women who studied or taught at Oxford is endless. In the fourteenth century, William of Ockham (c. 1285–1349) added to the luster of the university’s fame in logic. In the same century, John Wycliffe (c. 1330–1384), master of Balliol, challenged the papacy by advocating a Bible in the vernacular. The seminal philosopher John Locke (1632–1704) was at Oxford in the late seventeenth century. In the following century, Edmund Halley (1656–1742) gave his name to a comet, and starting in 1729 John Wesley (1703–1791) and Charles Wesley (1707–1788) initiated practices that resulted in the birth of Methodism. Romantic poets like Percy B. Shelley (1792–1822, expelled for atheism) and Matthew Arnold (1822–1888) were at Oxford in the nineteenth century. Two celebrated twentieth-century graduates were Lord Curzon (1859–1925), viceroy of India and chancellor of the university, and Vera Brittain (1893–1970), who studied at Somerville College (founded in 1879) and became a leader of the women’s emancipation movement. Closer to the present, A. H. Halsey put sociology on the Oxford map. The political philosopher Isaiah Berlin (1909–1997) was one of the most respected and admired Oxford personalities of the twentieth century.
The British Isles (to include Ulster) currently possess well over a hundred institutions denominated universities and numerous polytechnics, specialized schools, and further education colleges. Yet despite competition, Oxford’s superior reputation remains. Its long history, endowments, magnificent libraries and collections of art, exquisite gardens, splendid architecture, and distinguished graduates at home and abroad provide advantages that guarantee its continued presence among the top five or ten research universities in the world as measured by peer approval.
In the twenty-first century Oxford recruits more broadly than ever before. The collegiate system is intact but less dominant. High technology, laboratory science, medicine, and postgraduate research are more closely associated with the professors than with the tutors, and with the university more than with the colleges. New marketbased initiatives for financing have enhanced the importance of the central administration. However, as the bulk of Oxford’s income is derived from the government, institutional independence and academic freedom are serious issues for the twenty-first century. Universities everywhere are being called upon to address multiple social problems, generate wealth, and improve national efficiency in a global environment. However challenging these conditions, it is abundantly clear that contemporary Oxford has little interest in becoming a home for lost causes.
SEE ALSO Cambridge University; University, The
Adams, Pauline. 1996. Somerville for Women: An Oxford College, 1879–1993. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Aston, T. H., ed. 1984–2000. The History of the University of Oxford. 8 vols. Oxford: Clarendon.
Cobban, Alan B. 1988. The Medieval English Universities: Oxford and Cambridge to c. 1500. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Halsey, A. H. 1992. Decline of Donnish Dominion : The British Academic Professions in the Twentieth Century. Oxford: Clarendon.
Newman, John Henry, ed.  1976. The Idea of a University: Defined and Illustrated, ed. I. T. Ker. Oxford: Clarendon.
Pantin, W. A. 1972. Oxford Life in Oxford Archives. Oxford: Clarendon.
Shattock, Michael. 1994. The UGC and the Management of British Universities. Buckingham, U.K.: Open University Press and the Society for Research into Higher Education.
Symonds, Richard. 1986. Oxford and Empire: The Last Lost Cause? New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Oxford, University of
OXFORD, UNIVERSITY OF
One of two ancient English universities, in Oxford, the county seat of Oxfordshire, England.
City of Oxford. Situated between the upper Thames and the Cherwell, this ancient "ford of oxen" was fortified against the Danes in 912 by Edward the Elder, King of the West Saxons. By 1000, Oxenford was one of the principal towns of the country. After the Conquest, Norman earls built a massive castle, city walls, and many churches. In the 12th century the ancient nunnery of St. Frideswide was given to the Austin Canons. The growth of the University in the 13th century brought Dominicans (1221), Franciscans (1224), Carmelites (1256), Friars of the Sack (c. 1262), Cistercians (1280), Benedictines (1283), Trinitarians (1293), and other religious orders. From the 13th to the 16th century the privileged position of the University repressed growth of the town, particularly after the riots of St. Scholastica's Day, 1355. Formerly a township in the Diocese of Lincoln, it became a cathedral city under Henry VIII. During the Reformation religious houses were suppressed or turned into secular colleges. National divisions of sympathy were reflected in the perennial feud between city and University, which was not reconciled until the visit of George III in 1785. The 20th century brought great growth and change. Many ancient religious orders have returned, and some newer congregations share in the activity of the city and the University. Since the reestablishment of the Catholic hierarchy, Oxford has been in the Diocese of Birmingham.
University. The origin of this oldest university in England is lost in obscurity, even after all legend has been discounted. Individual masters, like Theobald of Étampes, are known to have taught clerks (clerics) in Oxford before 1117; around 1150 some masters held their own schools there. It was not until Henry II checked the flow of English scholars to Paris, however, that English masters and students flocked to Oxford. By 1180 "a large number of scholars" from different faculties resided there (gerard of cambrai), but probably without much formal organization until the legatine ordinance of 1214. robert grosseteste was appointed chancellor (c. 1215–21), representing the bishop of Lincoln; curricula in theology, law, medicine, and arts were modeled on University of Paris practice. The arrival of mendicant orders proved beneficial. In 1254 Innocent IV confirmed all immunities, liberties, and customs of the University and as at Paris, no clerk could enroll in theology unless he had first been a regent master in arts. The congregation of regents and nonregents of all faculties (congregatio magna ), later called the convocation, was the supreme governing body; the congregation of all regent masters of all faculties (congregatio minor ) governed ordinary affairs. To govern the arts faculty, regent masters in arts formed their own congregation (congregatio nigra ), presided over by two proctors, one Australis and the other Borealis, who were the original University executives. Lectures were always given in the schools, and scholars lived wherever they could. Riots and disorders between "town and gown" induced Bp. Walter de Merton in 1264 to found a residence for secular students of theology, mainly his relatives, similar to the college founded by Robert de sorbon in Paris. Two earlier residential halls, University College (1249) and Balliol (1263), were soon reorganized to conform to Merton's statutes. Originally these colleges merely provided good lodging and company for a select group of fellows. Only later did the colleges become the self-contained, autonomous units that, grouped together, make up the University of Oxford as it exists today.
As a corporate body, the University dates only from the reign of Elizabeth I, when an act of Parliament, passed in 1571, incorporated "the chancellor, masters and scholars" of Oxford, and imposed the oath of supremacy and the 39 Articles. In 1634 the ancient, scattered statutes of the University were codified by Abp. William Laud and ratified by royal charter. The Laudian Code is still the basis of the existing statutes, although many modern provisions have been added. In 1850 the first royal commission was appointed to reform and modernize
the University. Since 1854 continued organizational reform has been accompanied by the introduction of modern subjects: natural science, economics, modern and Oriental languages, social studies, fine arts, agriculture and forestry. In 1920 women were admitted to full membership in the University.
Organization. The chancellor, masters, and scholars form a corporate body within which the colleges are individual corporations. The highest officer is the chancellor, usually a man of distinction, elected by convocation. In practice the head is the vice-chancellor, a head of one of the colleges, who is nominated annually by the chancellor for a total of three years. Two proctors are appointed annually by two of the colleges in rotation. University business is initiated by the Hebdomadal council and decided upon by the congregation (all resident M.A.'s). The council consists of five ex officio members (chancellor, vice-chancellor, two proctors, and either the outgoing or incoming vice-chancellor) and 18 M.A.'s elected by the congregation. Since 1926 the power of convocation (resident and nonresident M.A.'s) has become nominal. The administrative work is delegated to academic bodies, supervised by the general board of faculties, and nonacademic bodies, such as curators.
No one can study for a degree or be a member of the University unless he is a member of one of the 26 colleges for men: University (founded 1249), Balliol (1263), Merton (1264), St. Edmund's Hall (c. 1278), Exeter (1314), Oriel (1326), Queen's (1340), New College (1379), Lincoln (1427), All Souls (1438, no undergraduates), Magdalen (1458), Brasenose (1509), Corpus Christi (1517), Christ Church (1546), Trinity (1554, formerly Benedictine, Durham), St. John's (1555, formerly Cistercian, St. Bernard), Jesus (1571), Wadham (1612), Pembroke (1624), Worcester (1714, formerly OSB, Gloucester), Keble (1870, only for Anglicans), Hertford (1874), St. Antony's (1951), Nuffield (1958, for doctorate candidates), St. Catherine's (1868, reorganized 1962), and St. Peter's (1929, reorganized 1962); or the five colleges for women: Lady Margaret Hall (1878), Somerville (1879), St. Hugh's (1886), St. Hilda's (1893), and St. Anne's (1952). Besides innumerable authorized lodgings, there are five permanent private halls: Mansfield College, Campion Hall (Jesuit), St. Benet's Hall (Benedictine), Regent's Park College, and Greyfriars (Franciscan). Since 1954 Queen Elizabeth House has been a center for commonwealth studies.
Studies for degrees are of three kinds: (1) the normal undergraduate studies for the B.A. in any set subject; (2) undergraduate studies in one of the higher faculties, normally taken after the B.A., for the B.D., in theology, B.C.L. in law, the B.M. and B.Ch. (Surgery) in medicine, and B.Mus. in music; (3) original research under a supervisor for the degrees of B.Litt., B.Sc., B. Phil., and D.Phil. Higher doctorates are awarded for published work containing an original contribution to the advancement of learning.
There are 16 faculties and one department in which one may study: theology, law, medicine, litterae humaniores ("greats," the ancient arts faculty), modern history, English, modern European languages, Oriental studies, physical science (including mathematics), biological sciences, social studies (philosophy, politics, and economics, or "modern greats"), anthropology and geography, music, agriculture and forestry, psychology, fine arts, and a department of education.
Examinations for the B.A., the basic Oxford degree, are: (1) responsions—entrance examination taken before coming up to the University or its equivalent; (2) first public examination, which may be an honors examination (moderations), taken between the 3d and 6th term after matriculation, in Greek and Latin, mathematics, natural science or law, or a pass examination designed as a preliminary to one of the final honor schools; (3) final schools examination, generally an honors examination, in a single subject or in two or three closely related subjects, taken between the 8th and 12th term after matriculation. Having passed the final schools examination, a B.A. graduate may retain his name on the books of his college for a total of 21 terms (seven years) and supplicate for the degree of M.A. without any further examination, and thus become a member of the convocation.
Oxford uses two educational systems: the university lecture system, which centers on the lecturer's current interest or university needs, and the tutorial system, which centers on the needs of the undergraduate. The under-graduate is not obliged to attend any lectures, but he usually attends those pertinent to the final schools examination or those recommended by his tutor. The tutorial system, perfected in the 19th century, is the basic educational technique at Oxford. A freshman on his arrival at the beginning of his first term is introduced to the college tutor in charge of the subject that he intends to study. This college tutor determines the immediate needs of the individual and assigns one or more tutors who will be responsible for the intellectual development of the undergraduate. The precise form of the tutorial, or weekly session with the tutor, varies with the subject. Basically it is the presentation of some exercise, essay, or experiment, read or performed, singly or in small groups, for the tutor to criticize, query, or explain. The weekly tutorial is based on a heavy reading course, including the list published by the board of faculty concerned. The tutor's primary function is to instruct and to develop the critical abilities of the undergraduate.
The academic year at Oxford consists of three full terms of eight weeks each, fixed by the Hebdomadal council: Michaelmas, beginning on the second Sunday in October; Hilary, beginning on the first Sunday after January 14; and Trinity, beginning on the last or next to last Sunday in April, depending on the date of Easter. Specified terms of residence, usually nine and never less than six, are a condition of admission to any degree. These terms, each of which must be at least 42 days long, must be kept by residence within the walls of a college, hall, or in licensed lodgings. During the two short vacations of six weeks each and during the long summer vacation the student is expected to complete the heavy reading program set by the board of faculty and his tutor.
Strictly speaking, Oxford offers no graduate courses. Since 1895, however, certain faculties have established research degrees, particularly for graduates of other universities. The first research degree established was the B.Litt. The candidate must be accepted by a college or society, and through the college by the appropriate board of faculty for the area of research. The subject proposed for a thesis must be approved and a supervisor appointed. The examination for the degree is based solely on the written dissertation, which can be submitted after one year (if he is a graduate of Oxford) or two years of research, but not later than the third.
Application for admission as an advanced student in the technical sense for the D.Phil. degree is similar to the B.Litt. and B.Phil. However, much more is expected and a longer time is allowed (between two and five years, with possible extensions). A successful dissertation for the D.Phil. degree is "an original contribution to knowledge set forth in such a manner as to be fit for publication." When the original statute establishing the degree of D.Phil. was passed in 1917, advanced studies at Oxford secured a definite position subject to systematic control by the University.
In recent decades, through the work of the royal commission the University has come to assume a greater responsibility in the advancement of learning. Nuffield College, founded in 1937, was unique in being a University institution and not an independent corporation. It is a postgraduate college intended "to encourage research especially but not exclusively in the field of social studies." St. Catherine's was reconstituted as a full college in 1962 to promote study of the technological sciences. The University museum, the University laboratory of physical chemistry, erected in 1939–40, the Clarendon laboratory, completed in 1940, and more recent science buildings are under the direct control of the University and not of any particular college, although many of the colleges have their own laboratories.
Oxford is particularly blessed with good libraries. Besides college libraries, there is a central University library consisting of more than six separate collections in various buildings. The most famous is the Bodleian, founded in 1602 by Thomas Bodley, and its extensions, the Radcliffe Camera and the New Library, opened in 1946. The Bodleian is particularly rich in manuscripts and books. The Radcliffe science library contains the scientific section of the University library. The library of Rhodes House specializes in African and colonial history; the Indian Institute contains books dealing with India and Pakistan; Taylor Institute specializes in modern European languages and literature; and the Ashmolean Museum contains a number of specialist libraries in fine arts, archeology, antiquities, classics, and papyrology. Besides these there are smaller faculty libraries specializing in English, modern history, China and Chinese books, geography, and mathematics.
Details of the various fees, grants, prizes, and scholarships, notably the Rhodes scholarship, are given in Handbook to the University of Oxford, published and revised periodically by the Oxford University Press. The Rhodes scholarships, established under the last will (1899–1901) of the South African statesman, Cecil Rhodes, are for students from the British Empire, the U.S., and Germany. The great majority of American Oxonians have been Rhodes scholars.
Bibliography: a. g. little, The Grey Friars in Oxford (Oxford 1892). c. e. mallet, A History of the University of Oxford, 3.v. (London 1924–27). j. wells, Oxford and Its Colleges (9th ed. London 1910). s. gibson, ed., Statuta antiqua universitatis Oxoniensis (Oxford 1931). a. g. little and f. pelster, Oxford Theology and Theologians, c. A.D. 1282–1302 (Oxford 1935). h. rashdall, The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages, ed. f. m. powicke and a. b. emden, 3 v. (new ed. Oxford 1936). d. a. callus, "Introduction of Aristotelian Learning to Oxford," Proceedings of the British Academy 29 (1943) 229–281. w. a. hinnebusch, The Early English Friars Preachers (Rome 1951). e. craster, History of the Bodleian Library, 1845–1945 (Oxford 1952). a. b. emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500, 3 v. (Oxford 1957–59). m. h. curtis, Oxford and Cambridge in Transition, 1558–1642 (Oxford 1959). f. pelster and d. a. callus, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 7:1320–23. Publications. Oxford University Calendar (1810–) yearly. University of Oxford Examination Statutes (1883–) yearly. Oxford University Gazette (1870–), regularly. Oxford Historical Society Publications (1884–1936; N.S. 1939–). Handbook to the University of Oxford (1932–) esp. 1962 and periodic revisions. Oxford Studies Presented to Daniel Callus (Oxford 1960).
[j. a. weisheipl/eds.]
Dominican friars established their main house of study there on arrival in England in 1221 and were followed in 1224 by the Franciscans. Divinity was constituted as a superior faculty and students were admitted who already possessed an arts degree. Until the dissolution of the monasteries, Oxford came within the diocese of Lincoln, with the chancellor appointed by the bishop. The first recorded chancellor was the great scholar Robert Grosseteste.
University colleges, endowed by patrons, were gradually formed where students resided during their long courses of study. Though the claim that University College was founded by Alfred the Great is no longer seriously entertained, the donation by William of Durham on which it was founded came in 1249. John Balliol left money which his widow applied to founding Balliol College in 1282. Earlier, in 1264, Walter de Merton, chancellor of England, devoted most of his fortune to establishing Merton College. Clerical patrons were particularly prominent and included William of Wykeham, who founded New College (1379), Richard Foxe, who founded Corpus Christi College (1517), and Cardinal Wolsey, whose great college became Christ Church in 1546. Undergraduates were admitted for the first time about 1500. By Elizabeth's reign, there were fifteen colleges, including Oriel (1324), All Souls (1438), and Brasenose, refounded 1502 by William Smyth, bishop of Lincoln. As at Cambridge, they increasingly attracted the sons of wealthy or aristocratic families rather than poor scholars.
The Oxford statutes were revised in 1636 by Archbishop Laud, a great benefactor to the university. Oxford became associated with high-church views, reinforced after the 1640s when the city was the headquarters of the royalist army during the Civil War. In the early Hanoverian period it was reputed a nest of Jacobitism, though such disloyalty as there was caused the authorities little more than momentary irritation. More than two-thirds of its graduates entered the Church of England, and the Oxford movement in the 19th cent. reflected their concerns about priesthood.
The 19th cent. saw the beginnings of change. Degrees were no longer awarded without written examination. Honours degrees in both classics and mathematics were introduced in 1801, creating the ‘double first’, and a similar provision was made for science and law in 1890. Further reforms followed the Oxford University Act of 1854, pushed through by Gladstone and instituting a new and less oligarchical constitution, and in 1871 the requirement that dons should be in holy orders was abandoned.
From the last quarter of the 19th cent. the number of Oxford colleges began to increase. The first two colleges for women were Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville (1879), and since 1937 colleges for postgraduate study, such as Nuffield, St Antony's, Linacre, and Wolfson, have been founded.
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. A large sum was left for scholarships for foreign students by 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).