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Oxford University


Oxford University is one of the top universities in the world, but unlike top American universities such as Harvard, it’s public. That means that students pay fees to study there but (in the case of British students) the cost of courses is subsidised by the UK government. It is also the oldest university in the English-speaking world, with evidence of teaching at Oxford as far back as 1096. To put this in context, the world’s oldest university, Bologna, was founded in 1088, and the University of Salamanca in 1134. Cambridge University was not founded until the early 13th century.
A tourist arriving in Oxford might expect to see a big main gateway leading to a large university campus. In fact, Oxford University is divided into no less than thirty-nine separate colleges that are spread out throughout the city. Each has its own name and was founded at a different time in history. Each has its own library, student bar, and dining room. The dining room at Christ Church College, for example, was the model for the Great Hall at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. Most also have a chapel. Some colleges have beautiful gardens; Magdalen College even has its own park with deer in it!
There are many other university buildings around the city. These include the huge Bodleian library —or “the Bod”, as students often call it—, the Ashmolean Museum, with its famous collection of mummies, the Sheldonian Theatre, built in the 17th century, where graduation ceremonies still take place in Latin, as well as the neoclassical Clarendon Building, the original site of Oxford University Press, responsible for the Oxford English Dictionary.
About 24,000 students now study at the University of Oxford. Add to that 18,000 students from the city’s other university, Oxford Brookes, and you have a lot of students in Oxford during term time —about a quarter of the city’s population.