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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 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, provides administrative services and centrally managed student services, admits and supervises graduate students, and examines theses, sets and marks examinations, and awards degrees.
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, take responsibility for tutorial teaching for undergraduates.
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). The university itself is responsible for conducting examinations and conferring degrees. Undergraduate teaching takes place during three eight-week academic terms: Michaelmas, Hilary andTrinity. These teaching terms are shorter than those of most other British universities, and their total duration amounts to less than half the year. However, undergraduates are also expected to do some academic work during the three holidays (known as the Christmas, Easter, and Long Vacations).
Research degrees at the master's and doctoral level are conferred in all subjects studied at graduate level at the university.
The Humanities Division comprises around a third of the University's community of staff and students, offering taught graduate and research degrees in a very wide range of subjects.
Some of these subjects are relatively new, and cross the boundaries of traditional disciplines. Others are areas of academic research that have long been recognised as of central importance, and they include some that few other universities are still able to support. In each case, the objective is to sustain and to teach the highest standards of scholarship. The dynamism of intellectual activity is in evidence in the wide variety of open lectures and seminars, in addition to those for specific courses.
You will have access to an immense range of research material, including digital resources. These resources are provided through Oxford’s impressive library system, based on the central Bodleian libraries, through the work produced by the University's research projects, and through the rich and diverse holdings of its museums.
In addition to materials and support focused on conveying subject-specific knowledge, there is a wide range of facilities aimed at the personal and professional development of students; strengthening their existing skills and developing new skills, and preparing them for careers after they have completed their studies.
Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division
The MPLS Division is home to some of the most creative and innovative scientific thinkers and leaders working in academe. Senior researchers in MPLS at Oxford have been awarded some of the most significant scientific honours and the division has a strong tradition of attracting and nurturing the very best early career researchers who regularly secure prestigious fellowships.
Medical Sciences Division
The Medical Sciences Division houses some of the strongest biomedical research in the world; Oxford is repeatedly placed first in clinical, pre-clinical and health in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
The division’s 2,000 researchers cover a wide area, ranging from sub-molecular structural biology to epidemiology as applied to very large populations. This enables students to work on virtually any biomedical problem. With close to 1,200 graduate students, excellent new facilities, and close personal supervision by world-class researchers, the division provides a stimulating and challenging environment for talented graduate students.
The course names below do not fully reflect the wide range of research projects available. Prospective students are encouraged to use the Medical Sciences Graduate School website to help them identify opportunities and courses based on their area of interest.
All candidates who apply by the January deadline are automatically considered for full funding awards, irrespective of their nationality. The majority of students accepted by the division secure full funding, covering both fees and living expenses.
Social Sciences Division
The Social Sciences Division comprises the largest grouping of social sciences in the UK, home to a fourteen outstanding departments, including the Saïd Business School and the Blavatnik School of Government.
Oxford's Social Sciences departments are committed to research that develops a greater understanding of all aspects of our complex society, from the impact of political, legal and economic systems on social and economic welfare to human rights and security, disseminating this research through innovative graduate courses.
A wide range of courses is offered, many of which are recognised by the UK Research Councils and provide preparation for doctoral work, as well as being discrete programmes of advanced study in their own right; others provide a professional qualification. All are rooted in research of international standing and students have access to a well-resourced, active research environment.
The purpose-built Centre for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, adjacent to the Faculty of Law houses the Departments of Economics, Politics and International Relations, and Sociology. This building also houses the Bodleian Social Science Library and provides exceptional facilities for master’s and research students.
As one of the major providers of social science research in the UK, the University, in collaboration with Brunel University and the Open University, hosts the “Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership”, one of fourteen Doctoral Training Partnerships recently accredited by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of a new Doctoral Training Network. ESRC DTP studentships are available in a wide variety of training pathways in the social sciences, for both DPhil and master's-to-DPhil programmes.
Department for Continuing Education
The need for educational opportunities throughout life is now recognised in all sectors of modern society: an intensive period of initial higher education, even of the highest quality, is simply not sufficient in times of rapid social, economic and technological change. Through the work of the Department for Continuing Education, Oxford is recognised internationally as a leading provider of extended learning for purposes of professional and personal development.
The department provides high-quality, flexible, part-time postgraduate education specifically tailored for adults. Opportunities exist to undertake postgraduate certificates, postgraduate diplomas and taught master’s degrees in a wide range of subjects. Increasing numbers of courses are delivered in mixed mode, combining intensive residential periods in Oxford with tutored online study. Part-time doctoral programmes are also available in a number of disciplines.
The department's courses recruit adult students of all ages regionally, nationally and internationally, and many courses are offered in conjunction with other departments of the University. Subjects available to study at the department span the humanities, mathematical, physical and life sciences, medical sciences and social sciences - encompassing, for example, archaeology, English local history, creative writing, sustainable urban development, international human rights law, evidence-based health care, and cognitive therapy.
Students on all the department’s programmes are members of its Graduate School, which aims to provide a stimulating and enriching learning and research environment for the department's postgraduate students, fostering intellectual and social interaction between students from different disciplines and professions from the UK and around the globe through inter-disciplinary research seminars, training opportunities and other events.
The Department for Continuing Education offers scholarships for the MSt in International Human Rights Law and the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development. All Master's and DPhil applicants are considered for Clarendon Scholarships, and the department is committed to seeking to provide scholarship support for other graduate students wherever possible.
The department also offers full-time pre-master’s courses - the Advanced Diploma in British & European Studies and the Foundations of Diplomacy Course. Aimed at students who intend to pursue master’s degree studies at leading British universities, they combine academic study across a number of disciplines with an intensive English language enhancement programme.
Faculty of Law
The Faculty of Law in the University of Oxford is one of the largest in the United Kingdom. It is a federation of thirty law schools in the colleges of the University. Legal scholars in the colleges and University are members of the Faculty, which coordinates and supports the teaching and writing of one hundred fifty three academics. We admit and support and teach and examine a diverse and outstanding body of students from all parts of the British Isles and from all over the world. Our student-to-faculty ratio is approximately 7:1.
Oxford is different from any other law school.
- Students for the BA in Jurisprudence are typically taught in pair tutorials. A tutorial is an exercise for which the student writes an essay, so that the focus of the meeting is on the student's own work on the subject.
- We have the only graduate degrees in the world that are taught in tutorials as well as in classes (the BCL, MJur, and the new Master's in Law and Finance).
- We have the largest doctoral programme in Law in the English-speaking world.
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 amagister 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.Through the ages Oxford was the centre for lively controversy, with scholars involved in religious and political disputes. The 18th century was also an era of scientific discovery and religious revival. 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.
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. 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.
2nd in the world (1st in the UK) in Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-16
3rd in the world (2nd in the UK) in Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2015
6th in the world (2nd in the UK) in QS World University Rankings 2015-16
5th in the world (2nd in the UK) in Center for World University Rankings (CWUR): World University Rankings 2015
2nd in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016
2nd in The Guardian University Guide 2016
2nd in The Complete University Guide 2016
Studying at Oxford means being part of a diverse community of over 22,000 fellow students, drawn from over 140 different countries.
There are over 200 clubs and societies covering a wide variety of interests available for students to join or attend. Most academic areas have student societies of some form which are open to all students, regardless of course, for example the Scientific Society. There are groups for almost all faiths, political parties, countries and cultures. Most colleges have chapel choirs. Music, drama, and other arts societies exist both at collegiate level and as university-wide groups. Unlike most other collegiate societies, musical ensembles actively encourage players from other colleges.
There are two weekly student newspapers: the independent Cherwell and OUSU's The Oxford Student. Other publications include the Isis magazine, The Owl Journal, the satirical Oxymoron, and the graduate Oxonian Review. The student radio station is Oxide Radio.
Sport is played between college teams, in tournaments known as cuppers (the term is also used for some non-sporting competitions). In addition to these there are higher standard university wide groups. Significant focus is given to annual varsity matches played against Cambridge, the most famous of which is The Boat Race, watched by a TV audience of between five and ten million viewers. Much attention is given to the termly intercollegiate rowing regattas: Christ Church Regatta, Torpids and Summer Eights. As well as traditional sports, there are teams for activities such as Octopush and quidditch.
Gifted men and women have studied or taught at the University throughout its history. Among them are 26 British Prime Ministers, at least 30 international leaders, 50 Nobel Prize winners, and 120 Olympic medal winners.
20th and 21st Centuries
- Tony Abbott, former Prime Minister of Australia
- HM King Abdullah II of Jordan
- Sir Grantley Adams, former Premier of Barbados and Prime Minister of the West Indies
- J M G (Tom) Adams, former Prime Minister of Barbados
- Diran Adebayo, author
- Samira Ahmed, journalist and presenter
- Monica Ali, author
- Tariq Ali, writer
- Elizabeth Anscombe, philosopher
- W H Auden, poet
- Clement Attlee, former British Prime Minister
- Zeinab Badawi, journalist and broadcaster
- Solomon Bandaranaike, former Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
- Sir Roger Bannister, neurologist and athlete
- Kate Barker, economist
- Dame Josephine Barnes, first female President of the British Medical Association
- Gertrude Bell, explorer and archaeologist
- Tony Benn, politician
- Alan Bennett, playwright
- Sir Lennox Berkeley, composer
- Sir Isaiah Berlin, philosopher
- Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web
- Sir John Betjeman, poet
- Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan
- Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, former President and Prime Minister of Pakistan
- Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister
- Baruch S Blumberg, Nobel Prize-winning scientist
- Henry Bonsu, journalist and broadcaster
- Dr Ian Bostridge, opera singer
- Sir Adrian Boult, conductor
- William Boyd, author
- Lord (Melvyn) Bragg, broadcaster
- Katy Brand, comedian and actor
- Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States
- Vera Brittain, writer
- Fiona Bruce, broadcaster
- Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia, former Prime Minister of Ghana
- Rt Hon David Cameron MP, current British Prime Minister
- Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England
- Baroness (Barbara) Castle, politician
- Reeta Chakrabarti, journalist
- Bill Clinton, former President of the United States
- Yvette Cooper, MP, politician
- Wendy Cope, poet
- Dr Penelope Curtis, Director, Tate Britain
- Richard Curtis, screenwriter
- Cecil Day Lewis, poet
- Cressida Dick, Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police
- Edward de Bono, philosopher
- David Dimbleby, journalist and broadcaster
- Sir John Eccles, scientist, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physiology
- T S Eliot, poet
- Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, chef and broadcaster
- Helen Fielding, author
- Lord Florey, Nobel Prize-winning pathologist
- Emilia Fox, actor
- Lady Antonia Fraser, novelist and historian
- Malcolm Fraser, former Prime Minister of Australia
- William Fulbright, politician, founder of the Fulbright Scholarships
- Indira Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India
- Dr Frene Ginwala, former Speaker of the South African National Assembly
- William Golding, Nobel Prize-winning novelist
- Hugh Grant, actor
- Robert Graves, poet
- Graham Greene, author
- Sir John Gurdon, Nobel Prize-winning scientist
- Mark Haddon, author
- J B S Haldane, geneticist
- Professor Stuart Hall, sociologist
- Tony Hall (Lord Hall of Birkenhead), Director General of the BBC
- Rt Hon Lady Justice Hallett, judge
- Harald V, King of Norway
- Bob Hawke, former Prime Minister of Australia
- Professor Stephen Hawking, physicist
- Sir Edward Heath, former British Prime Minister
- Joseph Heller, author
- Sir Cyril Hinshelwood, Nobel Prize-winning chemist
- Dorothy Hodgkin, Nobel Prize-winning chemist
- Edwin Hubble, astronomer
- Ruth Hunt, chief executive of Stonewall
- Aldous Huxley, author
- Armando Iannucci, writer and comedian
- Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana, former US Congressman
- Felicity Jones, actor
- Lakshman Kadirgamar, former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister
- Eleanor Kagan, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court
- Imran Khan, Pakistani politician and former international cricketer
- Liaquat Ali Khan, first Prime Minister of Pakistan
- Soweto Kinch, jazz musician, saxophonist
- Dame Emma Kirkby, soprano
- John Kufuor, former President of Ghana
- Hari Kunzru, author
- Haruhiko Kuroda, Governor of the Bank of Japan
- Martha Lane Fox, businesswoman, co-founder of lastminute.com
- Philip Larkin, poet
- T E Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia
- Nigella Lawson, chef and broadcaster
- John Le Carré, author
- Sardar Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari, former President of Pakistan
- C S Lewis, writer and scholar
- Ken Loach, film-maker
- Alain Locke, philosopher and architect of the Harlem Renaissance
- Val McDermid, crime writer
- Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum
- Harold Macmillan, former British Prime Minister
- Norman Manley, former Leader of Jamaica
- Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, former Director General of the Security Service
- Chief Justice Mrs Sujata Vasant Manohar, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India
- Rt Hon Theresa May, MP, politician, UK Home Secretary
- Sir Peter Medawar, Nobel Prize-winning scientist
- Dame Barbara Mills, first female Director of Public Prosecutions
- Dom Mintoff, former Prime Minister of Malta
- Dame Iris Murdoch, philosopher and author
- Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of News Corp, chairman and CEO of 21st Century Fox
- Arthur Mutambara, politician, former Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe
- Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace
- V S Naipaul, Nobel Prize-winning author
- Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan
- Rageh Omaar, journalist
- Michael Palin, actor and writer
- Mansoor Ali Khan ("Tiger") Pataudi, captain of the Indian cricket team
- Lester B Pearson, former Prime Minister of Canada and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
- Robert Penn Warren, American poet laureate
- Robert Peston, journalist
- Sally Phillips, actor and comedian
- Rosamund Pike, actor
- Sir Matthew Pinsent, four times Olympic gold medal-winning rower
- Philip Pullman, author
- Hugh Quarshie, actor
- Dr Olli Rehn, EU commissioner
- Dr Susan Rice, US National Security Advisor
- Rachel Riley, co-host on Channel 4's Countdown
- Hon Raymond Robinson, former President of Trinidad and Tobago
- Michael Rosen, children's novelist and poet
- Sir Martin Ryle, Nobel Prize-winning physicist
- Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the modern hospice movement
- Dorothy L Sayers, author
- Ernst Schumacher, economist
- Pixley Seme, founder of the African National Congress
- Vikram Seth, author
- Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India
- Professor Oliver Smithies, Nobel-prize winning scientist
- Laura Solon, comedian
- Cornelia Sorabji, India’s first female lawyer
- Aung San Suu Kyi, leader, Burmese National League for Democracy and Nobel Peace laureate
- A J P Taylor, historian
- Baroness (Margaret) Thatcher, former British Prime Minister
- Sir Wilfred Thesiger, explorer and anthropologist
- Mark Thompson, CEO of the New York Times Company and former Director-General of the BBC
- J R R Tolkien, author and academic
- Andy Triggs Hodge, Olympic gold medal-winning rower
- Margaret Turner-Warwick, first woman President of the Royal College of Physicians
- Dame Janet Vaughan, haematologist and radiobiologist
- Revd Chad Varah, founder of the Samaritans
- David Vitter, United States Senator
- Baroness (Mary) Warnock, philosopher
- Sir Andrew Wiles, mathematician
- Dr Eric Williams, former Chief Minister, Premier and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago
- Ivy Williams, first female barrister in the UK
- Baroness (Shirley) Williams, politician
- Michael Winterbottom, film-maker
- Jeanette Winterson, author
- Qian Zhongshu, Chinese academic and writer
- Matthew Arnold, poet
- H H Asquith, British Prime Minister
- Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor and composer
- Sir Max Beerbohm, author and cartoonist
- Gertrude Bell, explorer and archaeologist
- Hilaire Belloc, author
- William Beveridge, social reformer and economist
- John Buchan, author
- Sir Richard Burton, explorer
- Edward Burne-Jones, artist
- Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson), author and academic
- Thomas de Quincey, author
- C B Fry, cricketer
- William Ewart Gladstone, British Prime Minister
- Eglantyne Jebb, founder of the Save the Children Fund
- John Keble, theologian
- Gerard Manley Hopkins, poet
- William Morris, artist
- Cardinal John Henry Newman, theologian
- Sir Robert Peel, British Prime Minister
- Edward Pusey, theologian
- Eleanor Rathbone, politician and social reformer
- Cecil Rhodes, colonial pioneer, founder of the Rhodes Scholarships
- John Ruskin, author, artist and social reformer
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, poet
- Frederick Soddy, Nobel Prize-winning chemist
- Arnold Toynbee, social philosopher and economist
- Oscar Wilde, playwright, poet and author
- Emily Wilding Davison, suffragist
17th and 18th Centuries
- William Henry Drayton, American revolutionary
- John Ford, playwright
- Edward Gibbon, historian
- Edmund Halley, astronomer
- William Harvey, scientist who discovered the circulation of the blood
- Thomas Hobbes, philosopher
- Robert Hooke, scientist
- Dr Samuel Johnson, lexicographer
- John Locke, philosopher
- Sir Richard Lovelace, poet
- James Oglethorpe, founder of the US state of Georgia
- William Penn, founder of the US state of Pennsylvania
- Adam Smith, political economist
- James Smithson, scientist, founder of the Smithsonian Institution
- Robert Southey, poet
- Jonathan Swift, author and satirist
- Jethro Tull, agriculturalist and inventor
- John Wesley, founder of Methodism
- John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester, poet and courtier
- Sir Christopher Wren, architect
15th and 16th Centuries
- Cardinal William Allen
- John Donne, poet
- Erasmus, scholar
- Jerome of Prague, Czech religious reformer
- Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor and martyr
- Sir Walter Raleigh, explorer
- Sir Philip Sidney, poet
- William Tyndale, translator of the Bible
- Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Lord Chancellor and churchman, founder of Christ Church
13th and 14th Centuries
- Roger Bacon, scholar
- Thomas Bradwardine, Archbishop of Canterbury
- Simon Bredon, mathematician
- William of Ockham, philosopher and theologian
- Duns Scotus, philosopher and theologian
- John Wyclif (Wycliffe), religious reformer
- 3 Verulam Buildings Scholarship
- Alan Tayler Scholarship
- Berlinski-Jacobson Graduate Scholarship
- Clarendon Scholarships
- Ghosh Graduate Scholarship
- Oxford Pershing Square Graduate Scholarships
- Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann Scholarships and Leadership Programme
- Palgrave Brown Scholarship
- Pershing Square Graduate Scholarship
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