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Education of Oxford University
The University of Oxford, located in the city of Oxford, England, is the oldest university in the English-speaking world.
The university traces its roots back to at least the end of the 11th century, although the exact date of foundation remains unclear. According to legend, after riots between scholars and townsfolk broke out in 1209, some of the academics at Oxford fled north-east to the town of Cambridge, where the University of Cambridge was founded. The two universities have since had a long history of competition with each other, and are widely seen as the most prestigious universities in the United Kingdom (see Oxbridge rivalry).
Oxford has recently topped two university-ranking league tables produced by British newspapers: it came first according to The Guardian and, for the fourth consecutive year, in The Times table. Although widely contested (as with most league tables) on the basis of their ranking criteria, recent international tables produced by Shanghai Jiao Tong University rated Oxford tenth  in the world.
Oxford is a member of the Russell Group of research-led British universities, the Coimbra Group (a network of leading European universities), the LERU (League of European Research Universities), and is also a core member of the Europaeum.
Coat of arms of the University of Oxford
The date of the University's foundation is unknown, and indeed it may not have been a single event, but there is evidence of teaching there as early as 1096. When Henry II of England forbade English students to study at the University of Paris in 1167, Oxford began to grow very quickly. The foundation of the first halls of residence, which later became colleges, dates from this period. Rioting in 1209 led many scholars to leave Oxford for other parts of the country, leading to the establishment of a university in Cambridge. On June 20, 1214, a charter of liberties was granted to the University by Nicholas de Romanis, the papal legate, which authorised the appointment of a chancellor of the University. Riots between townsmen and scholars ("town and gown") were common until the St Scholastica Day riot in 1355 led to the king confirming the supremacy of the University over the town.
In 1555-6 the Protestant Oxford Martyrs, Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer were burned at Oxford.
The University's status was formally confirmed by an Act for the Incorporation of Both Universities in 1571, in which the University's formal title is given as The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford. In 1603 the University granted the right to appoint two Members of Parliament, a right which lasted until the abolition of university constituencies in 1949.
The comprehensive set of statutes, known as the Laudian Code, was drawn up by Archbishop William Laud in 1636 and ratified by Charles I. The University supported the king during the English Civil War, and was the site of his court and parliament, but clashed with his grandson, the Roman Catholic James II, who was later overthrown in the Glorious Revolution.
In the 1830s the University was the site of the Oxford Movement in the Church of England.
A Royal Commission to reform the University was appointed in 1850 and its proposals, accepted by Parliament, revolutionised the medieval workings of the University, until then still governed by the code of 1636. Later royal commissions were appointed in 1872 and 1919. In 1871 the Universities Tests Act opened the University to Dissenters and Roman Catholics. The first women's halls were established in 1878, and women were admitted to degrees in 1920.
Oxford is a collegiate university, consisting of the University's central facilities, such as departments and faculties, libraries and science facilities, and 39 colleges and 7 Permanent Private Halls (PPHs). All teaching staff and degree students must belong to one of the colleges (or PPHs). These colleges are not only houses of residence, but have substantial responsibility for the teaching of undergraduates and postgraduates. Some colleges only accept postgraduate students. Only one of the colleges, St Hilda's, remains single-sex, accepting only women (though several of the religious PPHs are male-only).
Oxford's collegiate system springs from the fact that the University came into existence through the gradual agglomeration of independent institutions in the city of Oxford.
See also: Colleges of Oxford University, and a list of Cambridge sister colleges.
Brasenose College in the 1670s
As well as the collegiate level of organisation, the University is subdivided into departments on a subject basis, much like most other universities. Departments take a major role in graduate education and an increasing role in undergraduate education, providing lectures and classes and organising examinations. Departments are also a centre of research, funded by outside bodies including major research councils; while colleges have an interest in research, few are subject-specialized in organisation.
Governance and administration
The main legislative body of the University is Congregation, the assembly of all academics who teach in the University. Another body, Convocation, encompassing all the graduates of Oxford, was formerly the main legislative body of the University, and until 1949 elected the two Members of Parliament for the University. Convocation now has very limited functions: the main one is to elect the (largely symbolic) Chancellor of the University, most recently in 2003 with the election of Christopher Patten.
The executive body of the University is the University Council, which consists of the Vice-Chancellor, Dr John Hood (succeeding Sir Colin Lucas), heads of departments and other members elected by Congregation in addition to observers from the Student Union. Until 1969, the statutes also provided for an Ancient House of Congregation, which somehow survived the university reforms in the 19th century and was summoned for the sole purpose of granting degrees. Since then degrees have been granted by Congregation, but as late as 1994 these were still being announced in the Gazette as meetings of the Ancient House.
The academic year is divided into three terms, known as Full Terms, each of eight weeks' duration. Michaelmas Term lasts from October to December; Hilary Term from January till March; and Trinity Term from April till June. These terms are amongst the shortest of any British university, and the workload during each term is therefore intense. Students are also expected to prepare heavily in the three vacations (known as the Christmas, Easter and Long Vacations).
Admission to the University of Oxford is principally based on academic merit and potential. Admissions for undergraduates is undertaken byindividual colleges, working with each other to ensure that the best students gain a place at the University regardless of whether or not they are accepted by their preferred choice. This has resulted in a greater balancing of academic strength across the various constituent colleges than was historically typical of the University. Selection is based on school references, personal statements, achieved results, predicted results, written work, written tests and the interviews which are held between applicants and faculty members. Because of the high volume of applications and the direct involvement of the faculty in admissions, students are not permitted to apply to both Oxford and Cambridge in the same year.
For graduate students, admission is firstly by the University department in which each will study, and then secondarily with the college with which they are associated.
Oxford, like Cambridge, has traditionally been perceived to be a preserve of the wealthy, although today this is not the case (except concerning overseas students, see below). The cost of taking a course, in the days before student grants were available, was prohibitive unless one was a scholar (or in even earlier times, a servitor - one who had to serve his fellow undergraduates in exchange for tuition). Public schools and grammar schools prepared their pupils more specifically for the entrance examination, some even going so far as to encourage applicants to spend an extra year in the sixth form in order to study for it: pupils from other state schools rarely had this luxury.
In recent years, Oxford has made