We finished up our Easter break with a visit to the town and University of Oxford. It is only about an hour drive from our house and on the way I did a little research on the University. I knew it was structured differently than universities in the U.S. but I didn’t know exactly how. The University of Oxford is made up of 38 colleges – with names like Christ Church, Magdalen, Trinity and Wycliffe – and six private Christian Halls. Each College and Hall is independent and self-governing. They each have their own buildings, and provide classrooms, housing, dining and social activities for their students. They are independent entities united as the University of Oxford. When a student is accepted to Oxford, they can apply to a specific college or they can just asked to be assigned. Some of the colleges are very small and accept fewer than 20 new students each year. Each has their own personality, traditions and style. They offer multiple degrees so you do not need to choose a college solely on your course of study.
When British students take their “A” level exams at the end of their Sixth Form or Secondary School education, they list their university choices in order of preference. A large number of students list Oxford and Cambridge, but only 20% of applicants are accepted.
The town of Oxford is a perfect example of old meets new. Some of the Colleges have been in place since the 1300s, yet the town centre offers all the modern shopping and dining any university student could want. Initially as we wandered the town we noticed the beautiful old architecture, but did not know exactly where the colleges were located. Most of the buildings are imposing stone structures on the outside with interesting thick wood doors. Some of the colleges leave the doors open to welcome visitors and with a peek inside, the beautiful courtyards and gardens are revealed. Near the doors are the coat of arms for the college and sometimes that is the only signage telling you where you are. It has the feel of a secret and protected world.
Most colleges have their own beautiful chapels on their grounds. New College, which was found in 1379, was used as the setting for some of the Harry Potter films.
You will notice in these pictures a rare and beautiful sight – blue sky and sunshine! It was still cold enough to wear a coat, but we enjoyed every minute of the sunshine and quickly realize how much more beautiful everything is without grey clouds above.