10 interesting facts about Oxford University

Victorian poet Matthew Arnold called Oxford “the city of dreaming spires” in his poem Thyrsis, and the iconic architecture of this beautiful city certainly offers a stunning and well-preserved landscape to any visitor. For those who only recognised Oxford and its famous university from its starring role in TV crime dramas Morse and Lewis, here are ten interesting facts about Oxford University for you to study…

Making history

There has been an educational institution in Oxford since 1096 making it the second oldest surviving university in the world (after, since you ask, Bologna which was established eight years earlier). University, Balliol and Merton Colleges were established between 1249 and 1264. Within a century it had established itself as the eminent university in the country.

 

Here come the girls

Oxford University was an all-male preserve for centuries with women only being admitted for the first time in 1878 with the establishment of Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville College. Even then it wasn’t until 1884 that women could take exams. The majority of students continued to be educated separately until 2008 when all colleges finally accepted men and women. Famous female graduates include Fiona Bruce, Emilia Fox, Lady Antonia Fraser and Baroness Shirley Williams.

Making history

There has been an educational institution in Oxford since 1096 making it the second oldest surviving university in the world (after, since you ask, Bologna which was established eight years earlier). University, Balliol and Merton Colleges were established between 1249 and 1264. Within a century it had established itself as the eminent university in the country.

 

Here come the girls

Oxford University was an all-male preserve for centuries with women only being admitted for the first time in 1878 with the establishment of Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville College. Even then it wasn’t until 1884 that women could take exams. The majority of students continued to be educated separately until 2008 when all colleges finally accepted men and women. Famous female graduates include Fiona Bruce, Emilia Fox, Lady Antonia Fraser and Baroness Shirley Williams.

Yes, Prime Minister

Oxford University has always been a breeding ground for politicians and has educated 27 British Prime Ministers from Whig the Earl of Wilmington (1673-1743) to Theresa May. Recent Prime Ministers who graduated from Oxford University include Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and David Cameron.

 

A new leaf

The famous Bodleian Library at Oxford University dates back to the Elizabethan era when it was founded by Sir Thomas Bodley who had been a student at Oxford University. Known affectionately as “The Bod” it is the second largest library in the country after the British Library. There are over 12 million items but it is not a lending library and items cannot be removed. On a visit to Oxford take a guided tour to see inside its historic rooms including the 15th-century Divinity School and medieval Duke Humfrey's Library.

Home to the dinosaurs

Founded in 1860 as the centre for scientific study at the University of Oxford, the Museum of Natural History houses the University’s important collections of geological and zoological specimens. The museum is home to the "Stan", the Tyrannosaurus rex, a duck-billed dinosaur Edmontosaurus and the head of a dodo, complete with skin. Very family-friendly and admission is free.

 

Not a lot of people know that

Oxford University is famed for scientific studies and alumni include Professor Stephen Hawking, the inventor of the world wide web Sir Tim Berners-Lee, astronomer Edwin Hubble and many Nobel Prize winners. Research is still an important part of Oxford University life. Recent discoveries include the revelation that female fruit flies start head-butting each other after mating and how Medieval fasting resulted in changes to chicken DNA.

Home to the dinosaurs

Founded in 1860 as the centre for scientific study at the University of Oxford, the Museum of Natural History houses the University’s important collections of geological and zoological specimens. The museum is home to the "Stan", the Tyrannosaurus rex, a duck-billed dinosaur Edmontosaurus and the head of a dodo, complete with skin. Very family-friendly and admission is free.

 

Not a lot of people know that

Oxford University is famed for scientific studies and alumni include Professor Stephen Hawking, the inventor of the world wide web Sir Tim Berners-Lee, astronomer Edwin Hubble and many Nobel Prize winners. Research is still an important part of Oxford University life. Recent discoveries include the revelation that female fruit flies start head-butting each other after mating and how Medieval fasting resulted in changes to chicken DNA.

Funny ha ha

The Oxford Revue started the show business career of many talented artists including Alan Bennett, Rowan Atkinson, Armando Iannucci and Stewart Lee. There’s a thriving drama department at Oxford University and the 50-seater Burton Taylor Studio stages two student productions every week.

 

Classic architecture

Oxford University is responsible for a large number of the beautiful buildings in the city, many dating back hundreds of years. 14th century New College is a fine example of English Perpendicular Gothic style and one of the first colleges to be built around a quadrangle, Magdalen College gives us the iconic bell tower and the Radcliffe Camera is the first round library in the country.

And a new look

Modern architecture sits side by side with the classic form at Oxford University. More recent buildings include the Grade II listed red brick Florey Building and the Saïd Business School with a Ziggurat tower. The New Biochemistry building has glass windows allowing passers-by to discover the fascinating work being carried out inside.

 

A modern university

Today there are more than 23,000 students at the University of Oxford with around five applications for each available place. Oxford University was ranked first in the world in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-2017. 42% of students are from outside the UK, from more than 140 different countries.

Photo from Paul Hayday

And a new look

Modern architecture sits side by side with the classic form at Oxford University. More recent buildings include the Grade II listed red brick Florey Building and the Saïd Business School with a Ziggurat tower. The New Biochemistry building has glass windows allowing passers-by to discover the fascinating work being carried out inside.

 

A modern university

Today there are more than 23,000 students at the University of Oxford with around five applications for each available place. Oxford University was ranked first in the world in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-2017. 42% of students are from outside the UK, from more than 140 different countries.

Photo from Paul Hayday

You can visit Oxford University on our Oxford, Stratford and Cotswolds Villages tour here