Oxford and Cambridge Universities

Published on Monday, April 25, 2011 in

Oxford University
England is famous for its educational institutes. There were many different kinds of schools in Medieval England and the English universities were one of the most significant creations. The students who attended either Oxford or Cambridge Universities set an intellectual standard that contrasted markedly with the norm of Medieval England. Today both Universities are internationally renowned centres for teaching and research, attracting students and scholars from all over the world.
The University of Oxford, located in the city of Oxford is one of the oldest and most highly revered Universities in Europe. It was the first university established in Britain. Oxford is situated about 57 miles (90 km) north-west of London in its own county of Oxfordshire. The city lies at the confluence of the Rivers Cherwell and Thames, or "Isis", as it is locally known, giving the opportunity to enjoy such pleasant pursuits as boating and punting, or a stroll along river banks. The story of Oxford is one of a war, plague, religious persecution, heroes and the emergence of one of the greatest Universities in the world. Known as the city of "Dreaming Spires," Oxford is dominated by the Medieval architecture of the University, and the exquisite gardens within.
According to legend Oxford University was founded by King Alfred the Great in 872 when he happened to meet some monks there and had a scholarly debate that lasted several days. A more realistic scenario is that it grew out of efforts begun by Alfred to encourage education and establish schools throughout his territory.
Long after Alfred, during the late 11th or early 12th century, it is known that Oxford became a centre of learning for clerics, from which a school or university could have sprung or evolved. The university was given a boost in 1167 when, for political reasons, Henry II of England ordered all English students at Paris to return to England. Most of the returning students congregated at Oxford and the University began a period of rapid development. Oxford, like Cambridge, differs from many other universities in that there is no central university campus. Instead, the University consists of a large number of colleges and associated buildings, scattered throughout the city.
From the start there was friction between "town and gown". Most students took lodgings with local people, who soon realised that they could charge high prices and rents of the Academics. However it was a strain on the resources of the community to have to provide for the influx of people from elsewhere. In the 13th century, rioting between students and localpeople hastened the establishment of primitive halls of residence. These were succeeded by the first of Oxford's colleges or endowed houses whose architectural splendour, together with the University's libraries and museums, give the city its unique character.
The first college, University College, was founded in 1249 by William of Durham. Other notable colleges include All Souls (founded in 1438), Christ Church (founded in 1546) and Lady Margaret Hall (founded in 1878), which was the first women's college. Since 1974, all but one of Oxford's colleges have changed their statutes to admit both men and women. St Hilda's remains the only women's college, and the rest enroll both men and women.
Oxford early on became a centre for lively controversy, with scholars involved in religious and political disputes. John Wyclif, a 14th-century Master of Balliol, campaigned for a bible in the vernacular, against the wishes of the papacy. In 1530, Henry VIII forced the University to accept his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. During the Reformation in the 16th century, the Anglican churchmen Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley were tried for heresy and burnt at the stake in Oxford. During the Civil War, Oxford was selected as the Royalist capital. The King stayed at Christ Church, the Queen at Merton, and a passage was constructed to allow them to meet. Most of the citizens were violently anti-Royalist, but not the University.
Today Oxford University is comprised of thirty-nine colleges and six permanent private halls, founded between 1249 and 1996, whose architectural grandeur, together with that of the University's libraries and museums, gives the city its unique character. More than 130 nationalities are represented among a student population of over 18,000. A range of scholarships offer support for international students.Thirty colleges and all halls admit students for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Seven other colleges are for graduates only; one has Fellows only, and one specializes in part-time and continuing education. Each college is practically autonomous with its own set of rules. There is central administration, providing services such as libraries, laboratories, lectures and examination.
There have been many famous people who have studied at Oxford Univeristy and they include John Locke, Adam Smith, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, J. R. Tolkien, Indira Gandhi, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, Rupert Murdoch, Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean), and Hugh Grant. All in all, Oxford has produced four British and at least eight foreign kings, 47 Nobel prize-winners, 25 British Prime Ministers, 28 foreign presidents and prime ministers, seven saints, 86 archbishops, 18 cardinals, and one pope. Seven of the last eleven British Prime Ministers have been Oxford graduates.
Oxford's teaching and research is consistently in the top rank nationally and internationally, and is at the forefront of medical, scientific and technological achievement. Amongst the University's old members are many widely influential scientists. Contemporary scientists include Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins and Nobel prize-winner Anthony James Leggett, and Tim Berners Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web. Cambridge University
University of Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world (after Oxford). The start of the University is generally taken as 1209, when some masters and students arrived in Cambridge after fleeing from rioting in Oxford.
Cambridge is situated about 50 miles (80 km) north of London. The town of Cambridge originally took its name from the river on which it stood - the Granta. Through a convoluted process of evolution, the name 'Grontabricc' became 'Cambridge', and the river became the 'Cam'. The town is referred to in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales as 'Canterbridge'.
The university was basically established to study for religious purposes. The earliest teaching sessions of the University were carried out in churches or private houses. This was obviously unsatisfactory, and so the University authorities began to establish buildings for its own use. Some of these early 'schools' still exist on the site known, appropriately, as the 'Old Schools'. During the 14th and 15th Centuries, the University gradually gained its independence from the church, with the Chancellor taking on both religious and civil duties.
Cambridge University is composed of more than thirty constituent colleges, one of the most illustrious of which is Emmanuel College. This college was founded in 1584 by Sir Walter Mildmay, Chancellor of the Exchequer to Queen Elizabeth I. Many Emmanuel graduates, including John Harvard, were among those who settled in New England in the first half of the 17th century. The oldest building is in St John's College but the oldest college as institution is Peterhouse, dates from 1284. King Henry VIII founded the largest college, Trinity, in 1546.
Many of the University buildings are of historical or architectural interest, and the University's museums contain many rare, valuable and beautiful items. King's College Chapel, begun in 1446, is one of Britain's most magnificent buildings. The mulberry tree under which the poet John Milton is reputed to have written Lycidas is on the grounds of Christ's College. Samuel Pepys's library, housed in the original cases, is at Magdalene College. Two of the colleges contain chapels designed by Christopher Wren-Pembroke and Emmanuel. The gardens and grounds of the colleges along the River Cam are known as the "Backs," and together they form a unique combination of large-scale architecture, natural and formal gardens, and river scenery with student boaters.
The University at present has more than 16,500 full-time students - over 11,600 undergraduates and nearly 5,000 graduates. About 17% of the student body is from overseas, coming from over 100 different countries. Because of its high academic reputation, admission to the University is highly competitive, and most overseas students already have a good degree from a university in their own country.
The University also has a worldwide reputation for other aspects of its work. Cambridge University Press (one of the world's oldest and largest publishers) and UCLES (University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate) are world leaders in their respective fields and allow the University to make a direct educational and academic contribution to the lives of millions of people around the world.
Cambridge University is more renowned than its rival for mathematics and natural sciences, and has produced 80 Nobel-prize winners (33 more than Oxford and the highest number of any university worldwide), 13 British Prime Ministers (12 less than the other place) and 8 Archbishops of Canterbury, among others.
The list of illustrious alumni is endless. Among the most famous are Desiderius Erasmus, Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, Lord Byron, Charles Darwin, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vladimir Nabokov, Lee Kuan Yew (PM of Singapore from 1959 to 1990), and Rajiv Gandhi. The great Russian scientist Pavlov came to Cambridge to receive the degree of the Honorary Doctor of Cambridge. University of Cambridge is known as a great centre of science, where many fomous scientists have worked.

Sources: http://www.ox.ac.uk/aboutoxford/history.shtml


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