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Oxford University

Oxford University

"Where's the  University?" That is one of the most common questions of visitors to Oxford,  particularly North American visitors who may expect a carefully laid out campus  like those they see at home. But Oxford University is not a homogenous whole,  rather it is a collection of indepently founded colleges, each with its own  history and its own administration.

Going back to the  origins of Oxford University, there were no buildings at all. The "university"  really consisted of students gathered about individual Masters (teachers). These  students lived in academic halls, or sometimes, in the house of the  Master.

Many of the older  colleges were regional in nature. Jesus College drew its students from Wales,  Queen's College from Cumberland and Westmorland, and so on.

Another point to  remember about the older colleges is that they were religious foundations, not simply academic. St. John's College was founded to educate  Cistercian monks, New College to supply clergy to replace  those who had died in the Black Plague.

The founding date  of the university presents equal problems. Although the University has claimed  an association with Alfred the Great, this seems quite unlikely. The oldest  colleges are Merton, Balliol, and University College, dating back to the  mid-13th century.

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