Oxford University is considered to be the oldest university in the English speaking world. Although there are no written record as to when teaching actually began there it is believed to have started somewhere at round 1096. What the records do show is that the school began to grow rapidly at around 1167; this was after King Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. In 1209, after disputes with the townspeople of Oxford, some of the professors moved to the town of Cambridge, there founding the University of Cambridge, the second oldest university. Together with Oxford they are referred to as the “ancient universities.” Because of their histories they are often referred jointly as “Oxbridge.”
Oxford is a “city” university, this means it doesn’t have a main campus of its own, but rather the school’s buildings are intermixed with homes and businesses throughout the town. Oxford University is made up of 38 colleges as well as a host of other academic institutions. It is also home to one of the oldest and very prestigious scholarships, the Rhodes scholarship. The school also has the oldest university museum and the largest university press in the world, the Oxford Press.
Its alum includes 27 Nobel laureates, 26 Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, and a host of foreign heads of state. In addition many famous authors and artist attended school there. The apartment where author Lewis Carroll, of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, stayed when he attended the university was pointed out to us.
The buildings of Oxford, and those of the town, have an accumulation of traditions and history that goes throughout the centuries and will continually thrill you as walked around this ancient city.
One of the most interesting structures is the Hertford Bridge. This bridge was built in 1911 as a skyway to connect the two parts of Hertford College. I was told that its design is of the Bridge of Sighs in Venice Italy. However this seems to be a legend, the Hertford Bridge was never designed after that famous Venetian bridge. In fact after seeing the Bridge of Signs in Venice the one at Oxford looks more like Venice’s Rialto Bridge.
Other unique buildings at Oxford are the Radcliffe Camera, built between 1737 and 1749, that houses the Radcliffe Science Library, the Sheldonian Theater, built in 1664, where concerts, lectures and ceremonies are held even today.