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Education of Oxford University

The University of Oxford, located in the city of , , is the in the world.
The university traces its roots back to at least the end of the , although the exact date of foundation remains unclear. According to legend, after riots between scholars and townsfolk broke out in , some of the academics at Oxford fled north-east to the town of , where the was founded. The two universities have since had a long history of competition with each other, and are widely seen as the most prestigious universities in the (see ).
Oxford has recently topped two university-ranking produced by British newspapers: it came first according to and, for the fourth consecutive year, in table. Although widely contested (as with most league tables) on the basis of their ranking criteria, recent international tables produced by rated Oxford tenth in the world.
Oxford is a member of the of research-led , the (a network of leading European universities), the (League of European Research Universities), and is also a core member of the .
History
Coat of arms of the University of Oxford
The date of the University's foundation is unknown, and indeed it may not have been a single event, but there is evidence of teaching there as early as . When forbade English students to study at the in , Oxford began to grow very quickly. The foundation of the first halls of residence, which later became colleges, dates from this period. Rioting in led many scholars to leave Oxford for other parts of the country, leading to the establishment of a university in . On , , a charter of liberties was granted to the University by , the papal legate, which authorised the appointment of a chancellor of the University. Riots between townsmen and scholars ("town and gown") were common until the in led to the king confirming the supremacy of the University over the town.
In – the , , and were burned at Oxford.
The University's status was formally confirmed by an Act for the Incorporation of Both Universities in , in which the University's formal title is given as The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford. In the University granted the right to appoint two , a right which lasted until the abolition of in .
The comprehensive set of statutes, known as the Laudian Code, was drawn up by Archbishop in and ratified by . The University supported the king during the , and was the site of his court and parliament, but clashed with his grandson, the , who was later overthrown in the .
In the the University was the site of the in the .
A to reform the University was appointed in and its proposals, accepted by Parliament, revolutionised the medieval workings of the University, until then still governed by the code of 1636. Later royal commissions were appointed in and . In the opened the University to and Roman Catholics. The first women's halls were established in , and women were admitted to degrees in .
Organisation
Oxford is a , consisting of the University's central facilities, such as departments and faculties, libraries and science facilities, and 39 colleges and 7 (PPHs). All teaching staff and degree students must belong to one of the colleges (or PPHs). These colleges are not only houses of residence, but have substantial responsibility for the teaching of undergraduates and postgraduates. Some colleges only accept postgraduate students. Only one of the colleges, , remains single-sex, accepting only women (though several of the religious PPHs are male-only).
Oxford's collegiate system springs from the fact that the University came into existence through the gradual agglomeration of independent institutions in the city of Oxford.
See also: , and a list of Cambridge .

Brasenose College in the 1670s
As well as the collegiate level of organisation, the University is subdivided into departments on a subject basis, much like most other universities. Departments take a major role in graduate education and an increasing role in undergraduate education, providing lectures and classes and organising examinations. Departments are also a centre of research, funded by outside bodies including major research councils; while colleges have an interest in research, few are subject-specialized in organisation.
Governance and administration
The main legislative body of the University is , the assembly of all academics who teach in the University. Another body, , encompassing all the graduates of Oxford, was formerly the main legislative body of the University, and until elected the two . Convocation now has very limited functions: the main one is to elect the (largely symbolic) of the University, most recently in with the election of .
The executive body of the University is the , which consists of the , (succeeding ), heads of departments and other members elected by Congregation in addition to observers from the Student Union. Until , the statutes also provided for an Ancient House of Congregation, which somehow survived the university reforms in the 19th century and was summoned for the sole purpose of granting degrees. Since then degrees have been granted by Congregation, but as late as these were still being announced in the Gazette as meetings of the Ancient House.
Academic year
The academic year is divided into three , known as Full Terms, each of eight weeks' duration. Term lasts from to ; Term from till ; and Term from till . These terms are amongst the shortest of any British university, and the workload during each term is therefore intense. Students are also expected to prepare heavily in the three vacations (known as the , and Long Vacations).
Admission
Admission to the University of Oxford is principally based on academic merit and potential. Admissions for undergraduates is undertaken by individual colleges, working with each other to ensure that the best students gain a place at the University regardless of whether or not they are accepted by their preferred choice. This has resulted in a greater balancing of academic strength across the various constituent colleges than was historically typical of the University. Selection is based on school references, personal statements, achieved results, predicted results, written work, written tests and the interviews which are held between applicants and faculty members. Because of the high volume of applications and the direct involvement of the faculty in admissions, students are not permitted to apply to both Oxford and Cambridge in the same year.
For graduate students, admission is firstly by the University department in which each will study, and then secondarily with the college with which they are associated.
Oxford, like Cambridge, has traditionally been perceived to be a preserve of the wealthy, although today this is not the case (except concerning overseas students, see below). The cost of taking a course, in the days before student grants were available, was prohibitive unless one was a scholar (or in even earlier times, a servitor — one who had to serve his fellow undergraduates in exchange for tuition). and grammar schools prepared their pupils more specifically for the entrance examination, some even going so far as to encourage applicants to spend an extra year in the in order to study for it: pupils from other state schools rarely had this luxury.
In recent years, Oxford has made greater efforts to attract pupils from state schools, though admission to Oxford and Cambridge remains on academic merit and potential. Around half of the students in Oxford come from state school backgrounds; for comparison, approximately 93% of students in the UK study at state schools. There is still much public debate in Britain about whether more could be done to attract those from poorer social backgrounds. Responding to these criticisms, Oxford has introduced a university-wide means-tested bursary scheme effective from 2006, the Oxford Opportunity Bursaries, to offer financial support to those in need.
Students successful in early examinations are rewarded with and , normally the result of a long-standing endowment, although when tuition fees were first abolished the amounts of money available became purely nominal: much larger funded bursaries are available on the basis of need for current and prospective students. "Closed" scholarships, which were accessible only to candidates from specific schools, exist now only in name. Scholars, and exhibitioners in some colleges, are entitled to wear a more voluminous undergraduate gown; "commoners" (i.e., those who had to pay for their "commons", or food and lodging) being restricted to a short sleeveless garment. The term "scholar" in relation to Oxbridge, therefore, has a specific meaning as well as the more general meaning of someone of outstanding academic ability. In previous times, there were "noblemen commoners" and "gentlemen commoners", but these ranks were abolished in the 19th century.
Until one had to belong to the to receive the BA degree from Oxford, and "dissenters" were only permitted to receive the MA in . Knowledge of was required until , and until . Women were admitted to degrees in .
Degrees of Oxford University
For other degrees, see Academic degree or Degree (disambiguation)
This article concerns the Degrees of Oxford University. The system of academic degrees in the University of Oxford can be confusing to those not familiar with it. This is not merely because many degree titles date from the Middle Ages, but also because many changes have been haphazardly introduced in recent years. For example, the (mediaeval) BD, BM, BCL, etc. are postgraduate degrees, while the (modern) MPhys, MEng, etc. are undergraduate degrees.
In postnominals Oxford University is normally abbreviated Oxon. which is short for (Academia) Oxoniensis, e.g. MA (Oxon.)
1 Undergraduate degrees
1.1 Undergraduate masters degrees
2 The degree of Master of Arts
2.1 Significance of the MA
3 Postgraduate degrees
3.1 Bachelors' degrees
3.2 Masters' degrees
3.3 Doctorates
4 Order of academic standing
5 See also
6 External links

Undergraduate degrees
Bachelor of Arts (BA)
Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
The Bachelor's degree is awarded soon after the end of the degree course (three or four years after matriculation). Until recently, all undergraduates studied for the degree of Bachelor of Arts. The BFA was introduced in 1978. Holders of the degrees of BA and BFA both proceed in time to the degree of Master of Arts (MA). Note that even in science courses, such as the three-year Physics degree, students are awarded the BA. The degree of Bachelor of Science (BSc) has never been awarded as an undergraduate degree at Oxford, however it used to be awarded as a graduate qualification.
Bachelor of Theology (BTh)
Bachelor of Education (BEd)
The BTh is awarded primarily to students of the various Theological Colleges and Halls enjoying some sort of associate status with the University, such as Wycliffe Hall, St Stephen's House, Ripon College, Cuddesdon [1] and the former Westminster College, Oxford. Usually, these students are candidates for the ordained ministry of one of the mainstream Christian denominations, but may be drawn from any faith background or none at the discretion of the College or Hall. It should not be confused with the degree of bachelor of divinity (BD), which is a postgraduate degree.
The BEd was formerly awarded to students at Westminster College, Oxford, when that course was validated by the University.
Undergraduate masters degrees
In the 1990s the degrees of Master of Engineering, etc., were introduced to increase public recognition of the four-year undergraduate science programmes in those subjects:
Master of Engineering (MEng)
Master of Physics (MPhys)
Master of Chemistry (MChem)
Master of Biochemistry (MBiochem)
Master of Mathematics (MMath)
Master of Earth Sciences (MEarthSc)
The holders of these degrees have to the academic dress and standing of BAs until the twenty-first term from matriculation, when they rank and dress as MAs. In Cambridge the same purpose has been accomplished more elegantly by granting science undergraduates the additional degree of Master of Natural Sciences (MSci) while continuing to award them the BA (and the subsequent MA). Note that biology undergraduates are still awarded the BA/MA, as are all other undergraduates, whether their degree courses last three years or four years.
The degree of Master of Arts
Master of Arts (MA)
The degree of Master of Arts is awarded to BAs and BFAs 21 terms (7 years) after matriculation without further examination, upon the payment of a nominal fee. Recipients of undergraduate masters' degrees are not eligible to incept as MA, but are afforded the same privileges after the statutory 21 terms. (currently only 9 terms)
This system dates from the Middle Ages, when the study of the liberal arts took seven years. In between matriculation and the licence to teach which was awarded at the end of an undergraduate's studies (whereafter he incepted as a Master of Arts), he took an intermediate degree known as the baccalaureate, or degree of Bachelor of Arts. In the University of Paris the baccalaureate was granted soon after responsions (the examination for matriculation), whereas in Oxford and Cambridge the bachelor's degree was postponed to a much later stage, and gradually developed a greater significance. While the requirements for the bachelor's degree increased, those for the master's degree gradually diminished. An examination along modern lines was introduced for the MA degree in 1800, but this was abolished in 1807.
While the length of the undergraduate degree course has been shortened to three or four years, the University of Oxford still requires seven years to pass before the awarding of the MA. The universities of Cambridge and Dublin have similar systems. In the four ancient universities of Scotland, the BA has become obsolete, and the MA is awarded on completion of the four-year undergraduate degree course in the arts.
The shortening of the degree course reflects the fact that much of the teaching of the liberal arts was taken over by high schools, and undergraduates now enter university at a much older age. In France today students get their baccalaureate at the end of secondary school.
Despite the fact that no greater academic achievement is involved, the MA remains the most important degree in Oxford. Traditionally the MA represented full membership of the University: until 2000, only MAs (as well as doctors of divinity, medicine and civil law) were members of Convocation, the main legislative assembly of the University, which today only elects the Chancellor and the professor of Poetry. Prior to then, members of the university who had not yet been made MA were known as "junior members" while those who were MAs were "senior members". This conveniently excluded most postgraduate students from the privileges the university and colleges accord to dons as well as their graduate alumni, such as the right to dine at High Table.
Members of the University who are MAs still outrank any person who does not have the degree of MA, other than doctors of divinity, medicine and civil law. Hence, a doctor of philosophy who is an MA outranks someone who is simply an MA, but the MA outranks a doctor of philosophy who is not an MA.
Whilst recently there has been increasing criticism of being awarded a Masters degree whilst not doing any additional academic work, supporters assert that the academic workload of a three-year Oxford undergraduate degree exceeds that of a four-year Masters course at many other British universities.
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