University of Oxford

Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world, Oxford. There is no clear date of foundation, but teaching existed at Oxford in some form in 1096 and developed rapidly from 1167, when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris.
In 1188, the historian, Gerald of Wales, gave a public reading to the assembled Oxford dons and in around 1190 the arrival of Emo of Friesland, the first known overseas student, set in motion the University's tradition of international scholarly links. By 1201, the University was headed by a magister scolarum Oxonie, on whom the title of Chancellor was conferred in 1214, and in 1231 the masters were recognised as a universitas or corporation.
In the 13th century, rioting between town and gown (townspeople and students) hastened the establishment of primitive halls of residence. These were succeeded by the first of Oxford's colleges, which began as medieval 'halls of residence' or endowed houses under the supervision of a Master. University, Balliol and Merton Colleges, which were established between 1249 and 1264, are the oldest.
Less than a century later, Oxford had achieved eminence above every other seat of learning, and won the praises of popes, kings and sages by virtue of its antiquity, curriculum, doctrine and privileges. In 1355, Edward III paid tribute to the University for its invaluable contribution to learning; he also commented on the services rendered to the state by distinguished Oxford graduates.
From its early days, Oxford was a centre for lively controversy, with scholars involved in religious and political disputes. John Wyclif, a 14th-century Master of Balliol, campaigned for a Bible in the vernacular, against the wishes of the papacy. In 1530, Henry VIII forced the University to accept his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and during the Reformation in the 16th century, the Anglican churchmen Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley were tried for heresy and burnt at the stake in Oxford.
The University was Royalist in the Civil War, and Charles I held a counter-Parliament in Convocation House. In the late 17th century, the Oxford philosopher John Locke, suspected of treason, was forced to flee the country.
The 18th century, when Oxford was said to have forsaken port for politics, was also an era of scientific discovery and religious revival. Edmund Halley, Professor of Geometry, predicted the return of the comet that bears his name; John and Charles Wesley's prayer meetings laid the foundations of the Methodist Society.
The University assumed a leading role in the Victorian era, especially in religious controversy. From 1833 onwards The Oxford Movement sought to revitalise the Catholic aspects of the Anglican Church. One of its leaders, John Henry Newman, became a Roman Catholic in 1845 and was later made a Cardinal. In 1860 the new University Museum was the scene of a famous debate between Thomas Huxley, champion of evolution, and Bishop Wilberforce.
From 1878, academic halls were established for women and they were admitted to full membership of the University in 1920. Five all-male colleges first admitted women in 1974 and, since then, all colleges have changed their statutes to admit both women and men. St Hilda's College, which was originally for women only, was the last of Oxford's single sex colleges. It has admitted both men and women since 2008.
During the 20th and early 21st centuries, Oxford added to its humanistic core a major new research capacity in the natural and applied sciences, including medicine. In so doing, it has enhanced and strengthened its traditional role as an international focus for learning and a forum for intellectual debate.
Oxford is a collegiate university, consisting of the central University and colleges. The central University is composed of academic departments and research centres, administrative departments, libraries and museums. The 38 colleges are self-governing and financially independent institutions, which are related to the central University in a federal system. There are also six permanent private halls, which were founded by different Christian denominations and which still retain their Christian character.
The different roles of the colleges and the University have evolved over time.

The colleges

  • Select and admit undergraduate students, and select graduate students after they are admitted by the University.
  • Provide accommodation, meals, common rooms, libraries, sports and social facilities, and pastoral care for their students.
  • Are responsible for tutorial teaching for undergraduates.

The University

  • Determines the content of the courses within which college teaching takes place.
  • Organises lectures, seminars and lab work.
  • Provides a wide range of resources for teaching and learning in the form of libraries, laboratories, museums, computing facilities, and so on.
  • Provides administrative services and centrally managed student services such as counselling and careers.
  • Admits and supervises graduate students, and examines theses.
  • Sets and marks examinations, and awards degrees.

The collegiate system is at the heart of the University’s success, giving students and academics the benefits of belonging both to a large, internationally renowned institution and to a small, interdisciplinary academic community. It brings together leading academics and students across subjects and year groups and from different cultures and countries, helping to foster the intense interdisciplinary approach that inspires much of the outstanding research achievement of the University and makes Oxford a leader in so many fields.














 Visiting, recognised and other students









Staff numbers

The total number of staff employed by the University, at 31 July 2014, was 12,510. 


31 July 2014



Full time equivalent







footer university of oxford university of oxford university of oxford ministere culture université avignon athena sacem université bnf MFO ULB university of oxford sciences et avenir ists CGI ministère éducation nationale

bnf athena bnf