When you think of prestigious and famous universities you doubtlessly think of Oxford. The University of Oxford is located in Oxford, England and is notoriously difficult to get into. But it is certainly worth a try for those who end up studying there more often than not lead extremely successful lives. Indeed, among those who have graduated from Oxford are countless millionaires, politicians, Nobel Prize winner and other celebrities. Stephen Hawking, Kate Beckinsale, Oscar Wilde and Margaret Thatcher are just a few of the successful individuals that have attended Oxford.
Oxford is known for its superb academic reputation. It is also known for its students who inevitably go on to make the most of their lives meaning that the connections you make there could be very powerful and could help you out later on in life. Apart from that, however, Oxford is also known for its aesthetics. Both the exterior and the interior of these buildings is breathtaking, to say the least and resembles Hogwarts in more than one way.
30 It’s The Second Oldest Performing University In The World
While no one knows as to when exactly Oxford University was founded, it is believed that it began operating as a university sometime in the 12th century although teaching in Oxford took place as early as 1096. This makes Oxford the oldest university in England as well as the oldest university in English-speaking parts of the world.
In addition, Oxford University is also the second oldest university in the world that still operates to this day, the oldest one being the University of Bologna in Italy.
29 No Female Students Admitted Until The 19th Century
Even though Oxford University has been around for centuries, women were not admitted as students until the 19th century. Indeed, it was only in 1875 that a statute allowing for women’s examinations was passed thanks to the initiative of many bold women as well as The Association for Promoting the Higher Education of Women (AEW).
However, it was not until 1920 that women were treated as full members of the university and even then there was a quota as to how many women could attend the university a year. This quota was eliminated in 1957. Two years later, women’s colleges finally got the same status as those of men.
28 Its Motto Is “The Lord Is My Light”
Every university has a motto and Oxford is, of course, no exception. In Latin, Oxford University’s motto is as following – “Dominus illuminatio mea”. Translated into English it becomes “The Lord is my light.” This motto has been used since the later part of the 16th century and it appears on Oxford’s coat of arms.
But what does the motto mean? Ivan Illich provides a possible answer in his paper titled Guarding the Eye in the Age of Show – “[…] The relationship of things to God "who is light" must be understood. This is the century [i.e., the thirteenth century] suffused by the idea that the world rests in God's hands, that it is contingent on Him. This means that at every instant everything derives its existence from his continued creative act. Things radiate by virtue of their constant dependence on this creative act. They are alight by the God-derived luminescence of their truth."
27 Many notable people Attended Oxford
Many famous celebrities attended the University of Oxford. For example, few people know that Mr. Bean, or rather, the actor who plays Mr. Bean – Rowan Atkinson – obtained a masters degree in electrical engineering at Oxford. In fact, it was while he was at Oxford that Atkinson came up with the idea of Mr. Beans. He was no doubt inspired by the numerous acting clubs that he was a member of.
Emma Watson, best known for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, also went to Oxford (although just for a year) where she studied English literature. Other famous Oxford graduates include Emilia Fox, Hugh Grant, Rosamund Pike, and Kate Beckinsale among many others.
26 A Number Of Hogwarts Locations Were Inspired By Oxford University
Fans of Harry Potter will no doubt recognize the dining hall in the image above. Indeed “The Tudor Great Hall” in Christ Church College in Oxford was the inspiration for the Great Hall in the Harry Potter movie series. Film producers were so smitten with it that they built its replica in London studios.
The stairway in Christ Church College also appears in the Harry Potter series on a number of occasions as do the cloisters (which is where Hermione shows Harry his dad’s Quidditch trophy).
The Bodleian Library of Oxford was also used a couple of times in the first Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
25 Oxford’s Alumni Include A Great Number Of Nobel Laureates
Oxford is a competitive university so it comes as no surprise that it attracts the most talented of individuals. Indeed, its graduates and its staff include not only famous celebrities but also countless of Nobel Prize winners.
So far, Oxford alumni and staff have won the Nobel Prize for Medicine as many as 16 times, the Nobel Prize for Chemistry 11 times and the Nobel Prize for Economics nine times. Oxford University graduates have also won the Nobel Prize for Physics, Literature, and Peace five times each. The most recent Oxford graduate Nobel Prize winner has been Sir John Gurdon (pictured above) who won the prize for his studies on stem cells in 2012.
24 It’s Both A Public And A Private University
Google Oxford and you’re bound to come upon the question “Is Oxford a private or a public university?” The answer, however, is far from straightforward and might further confuse you as opposed to making things clearer.
Oxford University is public in that it receives funds from the government. However, it is also private in that it also receives funds from private individuals and is completely self-governing. This means that Oxford could at any time choose to reject state funding and become fully private.
23 It Is In The Top Six Best Universities In The World
Those who are academically inclined will naturally gravitate towards Oxford. Why? It is a prestigious university with world-famous alumni and chances are, if you go there, you’ll make a success of your life. The recent statistics seem to prove it. In fact, according to a 2013 article in the Daily Mail, as many as 401 graduates of Oxford have ended up as millionaires.
Indeed, over the last five years Oxford has continuously been ranked as one of the best six universities in the world and this year - 2018 - is no exception. It remains the sixth best university in the world.
22 The Curious Penny Game Played By Oxford Students On A Night Out
Students at Oxford University might be a talented bunch but that doesn’t mean that all they do during their time in college is study. Indeed, Oxford students are just as fond of having a drink as anyone else.
However, Oxford students do like to make things interesting which is where “Pennying” or the “Penny Game” comes in. Pennying is a simple British drinking game that is often played during formal Oxford dinners.
The main idea behind the game is that if someone drops a penny into your drink, you must empty your glass instantly so as to save the “Queen” (who appears on every British coin). However, there are additional rules.
21 Theft At The World’s First University Museum - The Ashmolean Museum - Has Never Been Solved
The Ashmolean Museum, which is part of the Oxford University, was the world’s first university museum. It was established in 1683 and houses a number of amazing collections, including drawings by Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci, paintings by Pablo Picasso and Egyptian antiquities.
However, just like many other museums, The Ashmolean Museum did not avoid major theft. On New Year’s Eve in 1999 the landscape painting "View of Auvers-sur-Oise" by Cezanne was stolen. The thieves were never found but it is assumed that the mysterious robbery was ordered because no other artwork in the museum was touched and the painting itself does not appear to have been sold on the black market.
20 According To Legend, It Was A Woman Who Started The University Of Oxford
According to local legend, it was a beautiful young princess named Frideswide who started the University of Oxford. Having been brought up by nuns, Frideswide desperately wanted to become a nun herself. However, when her father the King agreed to marry her off to a Prince, Frideswide ran away from home.
Eventually, however, Frideswide heard that her father the King was extremely ill as a result of her disappearance and thus she decided to return to Oxford. There she was met by the Prince who, upon Frideswide's desperate prayers, was struck blind. Frideswide was horrified by what she had done and prayed to have the Prince’s eyesight restored and his passion for her eliminated. Once the Prince was out of the picture Frideswide set up a nunnery in the spot where Christ Church Cathedral now stands.
19 Oxford Is Made Up Of 38 Colleges And Six Private Halls
Students of Oxford belong not only to the University itself but also to a smaller academic community known as a college or a hall. Currently, Oxford has 38 different colleges and six private halls including All Souls, Exeter, Christ Church, Balliol, Trinity and Merton among many others.
Colleges are self-governing as well as financially independent and they differ from private halls in that private halls were founded by a specific Christian denomination. All colleges and halls are of good repute but there is no denying that some are more famous than others.
18 Complementary £10 Masters Degrees
Few people know that Oxford graduates with a bachelor’s degree can receive a complementary master’s degree for as little as £10 if they apply for one after 21 college terms have passed since their graduation. And they don’t even need to continue their studies to obtain this master's degree!
If it seems unfair to you, you’re not the only one. There was a huge outrage over these complementary masters degree back in 2011 when British Labour MP Chris Leslie labeled this practice as unfair. A spokesman for Oxford University then claimed that the complementary masters was nothing more than a tradition but Leslie argued that most employers would not know that the masters were not earned the hard way.
17 The Head Of Oxford Is Known As Chancellor And He Holds His Position Until His passing
Oxford had a Chancellor – the head of the university – ever since 1201, if not sooner. The current Chancellor of Oxford University is a man named Chris Patten but unlike other electoral seats, Patten will not be giving up his position anytime soon.
In fact, a new Chancellor for Oxford will only be chosen when Patten will die. After all, that is exactly how Patten got his seat in the first place – the previous Chancellor – a man named Roy Jenkins – died in 2003, thus freeing up the position. If that seems somewhat unfair, just know that Chancellors only hold a symbolic position and it is, in fact, the Vice-Chancellor who runs the university on a day-to-day basis.
16 Punting Is A Popular Student Summer Activity
Punting is one of the more popular summer activities in Oxford. It is a rather eccentric sport that has been practiced ever since the 19th century. For those of you who are not aware of what punting is, it is basically boating in a punt (a boat with a totally flat bottom and a square-cut bow).
Punting usually takes place in rivers and punts are moved by poles that are rammed against the bed of the river. Punting is also popular in Cambridge but the way punting is carried out at the two universities differs.
15 It Is Very Competitive And Almost Impossible To Get Into
According to Oxford’s own website, “More than 19,000 people applied for undergraduate study in 2017 and over 26,000 people applied for graduate study for entry in 2017. Oxford has around 3,200 undergraduate places and about 5,400 graduate places each year.”
As these numbers show, the number of applicants far exceed the number of places available at Oxford University. Thus, it is no surprise that the application process is deemed incredibly competitive.
So, what can you do to improve your chances? According to many students studying there, grades are important but so is interest in topics outside of the curriculum as well as a passion for a specific subject and the courage to speak your mind.
14 Oxford Academics Set Up Cambridge
Oxford and Cambridge are two of the most famous universities in England, and one dare say, the world. Indeed, Oxford and Cambridge are often regarded side by side which has resulted in the two universities being nicknamed “Oxbridge”.
Interestingly, it is quite likely that Cambridge would have never existed if it wasn’t for Oxford’s academics who got into a violent fight with Oxford’s inhabitants in 1209 and then had to flee. They then set up the University of Cambridge and to this day the two universities share a friendly rivalry.
13 Matriculation Ceremony Initiates Students Into The University
In most universities, you are only treated to a lavish ceremony upon your graduation. Not in Oxford, however! There you can also expect to celebrate your enrollment into the university. Thus, at the end of your very first week at Oxford you are expected to throw on your sub-fusc – formal academic dress – and attend the Matriculation Ceremony.
During the ceremony, students are initiated to the university at the Sheldonian Theater and attendance to this event is mandatory. In fact, those who fail to show up to the Matriculation Ceremony are not allowed to take their exams.
12 27 major british names Attended Oxford
As many as 27 British Prime Ministers have attended Oxford, including Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May, David Cameron, and Anthony Eden among many others. Seeing how since Robert Walpole (the man who is generally regarded as the first British Prime Minister) there have been 54 Prime Ministers, it says something that exactly half of them were educated in Oxford.
So what is it about Oxford that turns people into politicians? Apparently, it’s Oxford's Union Debating Society. Its debating style is very similar to the debating style of the House of Commons. In addition, it is at Oxford Union debating society that most future politicians make contacts that help them further their careers in the future.
11 Oxford Has No Campus
Every day, tourists ask residents of Oxford as to where they can find the famous university. All the locals can do is laugh – there is nowhere to point to, nowhere to send these tourists. Why? Well, because the University of Oxford is not located on just one site. In other words, it doesn’t have a campus.
Instead, the various colleges, halls, academic departments, gardens, museums, and libraries are scattered all over town. The good news is that this way you’ll get to see a good bit of the town itself instead of just focusing on the university.
10 The Mallard Ceremony Is Performed Once Every Century
The Mallard Song is a unique ceremony that takes place once every century at the start of the year in Oxford. The ceremony is held at the All Souls college and involves a procession of specially invited people who sing a special song known as the Mallard Song and who are led by “Lord Mallard” (usually a don) who carries a duck on a pole (nowadays it is a wooden duck although back in 1801 it was real).
The ceremony dates back to the 15th century when builders were working on All Saint’s campus and came across a bewildered duck that flew away from the building. Ever since then a duck has become the emblem of the college and every century fellows of the college dine on duck and sing the Mallard Song. The ceremony was celebrated in 1801, 1901, and most recently in 2001.
9 Merton College’s Tradition Of Walking Backwards
Once a year a great number of Oxford students walk backward for a full hour on Merton College campus. Why? To make sure that the clocks go back just as they should. The bizarre ceremony – which is of course, totally pointless but oh so fun - was started in 1971 and stuck ever since. Thus, every October students proceed to walk backward around the quadrangle at 2 a.m British time and do not stop until 2 a.m Greenwich Mean Time.
The man who started this strange tradition is named Barry Press, who explained, in an interview with the Independent in 2013, as to why he started the seemingly pointless ceremony - “I felt there should be some sort of recognition of it going back. We thought that in theory maybe it wouldn’t go back, and that we ought to help it. And this seemed the obvious thing to do. Walking backwards round Fellows' Quad seemed to be a good idea – anticlockwise, obviously. And why not dress in full sub-fusc?”
8 Oxford Electric Bell Has Rung Continuously Since 1840
There is a curious bell in Oxford, known as the “Oxford Electric Bell” (as well as the “Clarendon Dry Pile”), that was first set up in 1840 and which continues to ring to this day even though no one knows how or why.
The experimental contraption is made up of two bells placed on a special battery known as a dry pile (hence the name). Nowadays the ringing is rather inaudible but that is only because it sits behind two thick layers of glass.
Back in the day this unusual device helped prove a few scientific theories including the theory of contact tension which attempted to explain the various sources of electric charge.
7 Students Are Treated To A Three-Course Meal During Formal Hall
The closest thing you’ll get to dining in Hogwarts’ Great Hall is no doubt by attending Oxford. Every college in Oxford has a Formal Hall which is basically a three-course dinner that students have in a beautiful dining hall a few times a week. College fellows preside over the meal and sit at their very own table just like Hogwarts Professors in the Harry Potter series.
The number of times that a college hosts a Formal Hall varies – some colleges host it every night, others host it a few times a week whereas still others do it a few times a term. Formal Halls can be both formal (meaning formal clothes and waiters) and informal.
6 The Bullingdon Club Might Become Extinct
When the Bullingdon Club was initially founded it was to be known for nothing more than cricket and hunting. However, as the years passed by it became known for something else: its wealthy and raucous members who knew how to stir up trouble.
The Bullingdon Club is not officially associated with Oxford but the fact of the matter is that the majority of its members are Oxford undergraduates. These members are all male for women are not permitted to become its members.
Nowadays the Bullingdon Club is known for its grand bouquets and its members’ destructive behavior. The club’s former members include David Cameron and Boris Johnson but according to recent headlines, it may face extinction as no new members want to join it.
5 Its Admission System Has Been Critiqued
Everyone knows that Oxford University is incredibly difficult to get into no matter how good your grades are. But according to some, if you are of ethnic minority or a student from a public school, your chances of being accepted into this elite university are even lower.
In 2000, the Laura Spence affair made headlines when an A grade student named Laura Spence was not accepted into Oxford because she failed to show potential during the interview process. Gordon Brown – Labor MP and later Prime Minister – was outraged and accused Oxford of elitism. Laura, however, went on to study at Harvard and later Cambridge.
In addition, according to The Guardian, a black student was met with a racist interviewer during her Oxford interview – “I didn't mind the bit that was academically rigorous but after [we discussed] Shakespeare the female tutor leaned over and said, 'Really love, wouldn't you be happier somewhere like Liverpool doing community studies?'”
4 It Has A Very Specific Dress Code
The University of Oxford has a very specific dress code and students are expected to follow it to a T. Indeed, Oxford’s academic section on their website reads a little bit like Hogwarts’ list of items that Harry needed to get before his school term.
So, what do Oxford students have to wear? The most important thing is probably a subfusc, which is worn on all formal occasions and which consists of a black tie or a ribbon, a crisp white shirt, black shoes, a dark coat and either a dark skirt or dark pants with black socks. In addition, students have to wear their academic gown.
Not a fan of subfusc? Then you’ll probably like the flower tradition better – on the first day of their exams students wear a white carnation in their lapel followed by a pink and then red carnation as the exams near the end.
3 The Rivalry Between Lincoln College And Brasenose College Has Resulted In A Free Tradition
According to local legend, back in the 13th century two students – one from Lincoln college and the other from Brasenose College – were being chased by the residents of Oxford (in what became known as Town vs. Gown riots). However, when the two students reached Lincoln College the student from that college was allowed in whereas the student from Brasenose College was left to fend for himself.
Today, every year on Ascension Day students from Lincoln College serve beer to students of Brasenose College for a short period of time as an apology for their past misdemeanor.
2 No Flames In The Library
You’d never light a fire inside a library, right? That would be a bad idea. And yet the students of Oxford are not trusted to think logically and are forced to sign a piece of paper that states that they will not light a fire –or somehow bring fire - inside the Bodleian library before they are allowed to join it.
Apparently, back in the day, each new student had to swear an oral oath but nowadays signing a piece of paper is deemed enough. Our question is – why is this even necessary? Surely there had to be an incident in the past that prompted such an oath in the first place?
1 Five Minutes Behind
Curiously enough, Oxford is slightly behind the rest of the world. How? Apparently, way before trains were a common sight in England every town and city operated in its own particular time zone. For some reason, the town of Oxford was five minutes behind Greenwich Mean Time.
That is obviously not the case anymore but Oxford University has decided that this is one tradition that should be honored. As such, all classes start five minutes past the hour which is perfect for students (and professors!) who love to snooze.