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 .
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 .
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.