Founding[ edit ] Balliol College — one of the university's oldest constituent colleges The University of Oxford has no known foundation date. The head of the university had the title of chancellor from at least , and the masters were recognised as a universitas or corporation in In addition, members of many religious orders , including Dominicans , Franciscans , Carmelites and Augustinians , settled in Oxford in the midth century, gained influence and maintained houses or halls for students.
Among the earliest such founders were William of Durham , who in endowed University College ,  and John Balliol , father of a future King of Scots ; Balliol College bears his name. Thereafter, an increasing number of students lived in colleges rather than in halls and religious houses. Among university scholars of the period were William Grocyn , who contributed to the revival of Greek language studies, and John Colet , the noted biblical scholar. With the English Reformation and the breaking of communion with the Roman Catholic Church , recusant scholars from Oxford fled to continental Europe, settling especially at the University of Douai.
As a centre of learning and scholarship, Oxford's reputation declined in the Age of Enlightenment ; enrolments fell and teaching was neglected.
In  William Laud , the chancellor and Archbishop of Canterbury , codified the university's statutes. These, to a large extent, remained its governing regulations until the midth century.
Laud was also responsible for the granting of a charter securing privileges for the University Press , and he made significant contributions to the Bodleian Library , the main library of the university.
From the beginnings of the Church of England as the established church until , membership of the church was a requirement to receive the BA degree from the university and " dissenters " were only permitted to receive the MA in Wadham College , founded in , was the undergraduate college of Sir Christopher Wren. Wren was part of a brilliant group of experimental scientists at Oxford in the s, the Oxford Philosophical Club , which included Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke.
This group held regular meetings at Wadham under the guidance of the College's Warden, John Wilkins , and the group formed the nucleus which went on to found the Royal Society. Students[ edit ] The curriculum at Oxford before the reforms was notoriously narrow and impractical. Sir Spencer Walpole , a historian of contemporary Britain and a senior government official, had not attended any university. He says, "few medical men, few solicitors, few persons intended for commerce or trade, ever dreamed of passing through a university career.
Among the many deficiencies attending a university education there was, however, one good thing about it, and that was the education which the undergraduates gave themselves. It was impossible to collect some thousand or twelve hundred of the best young man in England, to give them the opportunity of making acquaintance with one another, and full liberty to live their lives in their own way, without evolving in the best among them, some admirable qualities of loyalty, independence, and self-control.
If the average undergraduate carried from University little or no learning, which was of any service to him, he carried from it a knowledge of men and respect for his fellows and himself, a reverence for the past, a code of honour for the present, which could not but be serviceable. He had enjoyed opportunities He might have mixed with them in his sports, in his studies, and perhaps in his debating society; and any associations which he had this formed had been useful to him at the time, and might be a source of satisfaction to him in after life.
Jones argue that the rise of organised sport was one of the most remarkable and distinctive features of the history of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was carried over from the athleticism prevalent at the public schools such as Eton and Harrow. During the First World War many undergraduates and Fellows joined the armed forces. By virtually all Fellows were in uniform, and the student population in residence was reduced to 12 per cent[ of what?
During the war years the university buildings became hospitals, cadet schools and military training camps. Archibald Campbell Tait , former headmaster of Rugby School, was a key member of the Oxford Commission; he wanted Oxford to follow the German and Scottish model in which the professorship was paramount. The Commission's report envisioned a centralised university run predominantly by professors and faculties, with a much stronger emphasis on research.
The professional staff should be strengthened and better paid. For students, restrictions on entry should be dropped, and more opportunity given to poorer families. It called for an enlargement of the curriculum, with honours to be awarded in many new fields.
Undergraduate scholarships should be open to all Britons. Graduate fellowships should be opened up to all members of the University. It recommended that fellows be released from an obligation for ordination. Students were to be allowed to save money by boarding in the city, instead of in a college.
Theology became the sixth honour school. Honours degrees, the postgraduate Bachelor of Civil Law B. Administrative reforms during the 19th century included the replacement of oral examinations with written entrance tests, greater tolerance for religious dissent , and the establishment of four women's colleges.
Privy Council decisions in the 20th century e. Furthermore, although the university's emphasis had historically been on classical knowledge, its curriculum expanded during the 19th century to include scientific and medical studies. Knowledge of Ancient Greek was required for admission until , and Latin until The University of Oxford began to award doctorates in the first third of the 20th century.
The first Oxford DPhil in mathematics was awarded in The list of distinguished scholars at the University of Oxford is long and includes many who have made major contributions to politics, the sciences, medicine, and literature. More than 50 Nobel laureates and more than 50 world leaders have been affiliated with the University of Oxford. Lady Margaret Hall  was followed by Somerville College in ;  the first 21 students from Somerville and Lady Margaret Hall attended lectures in rooms above an Oxford baker's shop.
In women were admitted as medical students on a par with men, and in the university accepted financial responsibility for women's examinations. It was not until that the women's colleges were given full collegiate status. In , Brasenose , Jesus , Wadham , Hertford and St Catherine's became the first previously all-male colleges to admit women. Sayers , herself one of the first women to gain an academic degree from Oxford, is largely set in a fictional women's college at Oxford, and the issue of women's education is central to its plot.
Social historian Jane Robinson 's book Bluestockings: A Remarkable History of the First Women to Fight for an Education gives a very detailed and immersive account of this history.