Oxford University

Oxford University, an autonomous English institution of higher education located in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, is one of the world’s finest institutions. Oxford is located 50 miles (80 kilometres) north-northwest of London, along the upper channel of the River Thames, which the locals name the Isis.

Oxford had schools at the beginning of the 12th century, based on little evidence. By the end of the 12th century, a university had become well-established, possibly responding to the exclusion of English students from the University of Paris in 1167. Oxford was structured after the University of Paris, with theology, law, medicine, and liberal arts as its first faculty.

In the 13th century, several religious orders, mostly Dominicans and Franciscans, were established in the city of Oxford, which bolstered the university’s strength, notably in theology. In its early years, the institution had no structures; lectures were held in rented halls or churches. Originally, the different colleges of Oxford were just funded boardinghouses for poor pupils. They were primarily meant for master’s or bachelor’s degree holders in the arts who required financial aid to continue their education. University College, the oldest of these institutions, was founded in 1249, and Merton College was founded in 1264, whereas Balliol College was founded around 1263.

According to mythology, Oxford University was founded in 872 when Alfred the Great met several monks there and engaged in a multi-day scholastic debate.

In truth, its growth began in the 12th century, when renowned professors began to lecture there, and students began to settle and study at Oxford. In 1167, the institution received a boost when the English monarch ordered all students in France to return home for political reasons, and several of them travelled to Oxford.

There was a conflict between students and residents from the beginning. In 1209, students departed and travelled to Cambridge. However, Oxford merchants quickly missed the students’ business and persuaded some of them to return in 1214. That year, Robert Grosseteste was designated the first Chancellor (1175-1253).

Initially, students resided with residents or in residence halls. St Edmund Hall was founded in 1238. In the thirteenth century, the first colleges were established. Each university possessed its facilities, and the universities also held land (today, many of them own investments). Each college was autonomous. In 1249, William of Durham established the first institution, University College. (The earliest portion of the extant structures dates to 1634.)

John de Balliol founded Balliol College in 1264. As atonement for offending the Bishop of Durham, he founded it. In 1264, Walter de Merton founded Merton College. In 1379, Merton Library was constructed.

In 1314, Walter Stapledon created Exeter College for students from the Exeter Diocese; eight were to come from Devon and four from Cornwall. In 1324, Adam de Brome founded Oriel College. In 1341, Robert Eglesfield founded Queens College. As the queen’s chaplain, he gave it this name in her honour. John Wycliffe was dismissed from Oxford University in 1377 for criticising some religious doctrines.

William of Wykeham lived from 1324 until 1404 and founded New College in 1379.

After 1410, it became illegal for students to dwell with locals, who were required to reside in dormitories. Eventually, most of the halls were replaced with colleges, and St Edmund Hall existed until the 20th century when it was converted into a college. Around 1426, the Divinity School was constructed.

In 1427, the Bishop of Lincoln founded Lincoln College. It was designed to prepare men to combat heresy. In 1630, the chapel was constructed. Archbishop Chichele built All Souls College in 1437 to honour Henry V and all the soldiers killed at Agincourt. In 1448, the Bishop of Winchester, William of Waynflete, founded Magdalen College. The bell tower was constructed in 1509


As books were a rare luxury in the Middle Ages, pupils learnt through lectures. In 1476, when Caxton introduced the printing press to England, the situation altered, and books became far more prevalent.

During the Middle Ages, pupils were taught grammar, rhetoric, logic, mathematics, geometry, astronomy, and music. In the 16th century, the study of humanities began. Ancient authors such as Aristotle were considered the last authority during the Middle Ages. It was an issue of clarifying what they meant to lecture. With the Renaissance, a new spirit of inquiry emerged.

In 1509, Brasenose College was established. It derives its name from a bronze door knocker removed from a Stamford home. The Hall was constructed in 1663. In 1666, the chapel was erected.

In 1516, Corpus Christi College was established. In 1525, Cardinal Wolsey founded Christchurch College. The chapel of Christchurch College was renamed Oxford Cathedral in 1542. Wren constructed Tom Tower (the collegiate bell tower) in 1682. In 1555, Trinity College was formed. Also created in 1555 was St. John’s College. Queen Elizabeth created Jesus College in 1571.

Duke Humfrey (younger brother of Henry V) created the Oxford library in 1444. At the time of the reformation, it was dismantled, and its volumes were auctioned. However, Sir Thomas Bodley chose to repair it in 1598. In 1603, the new library was opened. Then, Bodley wanted to expand the library. He passed away in 1613, but the Bodleian Library was finished in 1624.

In 1621, Oxford established a physic garden where medicinal plants were planted. The current name is Botanic Gardens.

Wadham College was established in 1612, whereas Pembroke College was established in 1624. Oriel College was rebuilt between 1619 and 1642. The staff of Oxford University was cleansed of royalists in 1647, following the civil war. After the restoration in 1660, puritans were expelled.

In 1669, Wren constructed the Sheldonian Theatre. In 1683, the Old Ashmolean Museum was constructed (it is now the Museum of the History of Science). In 1713, the Clarendon Building was constructed. In 1714, Worcester College was established. In 1749, Radcliffe Camera was established as a library. Magdalen Bridge was completed in 1782.

Green (1979), Harris Manchester (founded in 1786; incorporated in 1996), Hertford (founded in 1740; incorporated in 1874), Jesus (1571), Keble (founded in 1868; incorporated in 1870), Kellogg (1990), Lady Margaret Hall (founded in 1878; incorporated in 19 (founded 1283; inc. 1714). Private residences at the university include Blackfriars (1921; established 1994), Campion (1896; established 1918), Greyfriars (1910; established 1957), Regent’s Park College (1810; established 1957), St. Benet’s (1897; established 1918), and Wycliffe (founded 1877; inc. 1996).

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