Oxford University When the quarrel between Henry II and Philip Augustus in 1167 made it impossible for English students to attend the University of Paris , the opportunity for developing a similar institution arose at Oxford. Dominican friars established their main house of study there on arrival in England in 1221 and were followed in 1224 by the Franciscans. Divinity was constituted as a superior faculty and students were admitted who already possessed an arts degree.
University colleges, endowed by patrons, were gradually formed where students resided during their long courses of study. William of Durham founded University College in 1249. John Balliol left money which his widow applied to founding Balliol College in 1282. Earlier, in 1264, Walter de Merton , chancellor of England, devoted most of his fortune to establishing Merton College. Undergraduates were admitted for the first time about 1500. By Elizabeth's reign, there were fifteen colleges. As at Cambridge, they increasingly attracted the sons of wealthy or aristocratic families rather than poor scholars.
Under the influence of Archbishop Laud , Oxford became associated with high-church views, reinforced after the 1640s when the city was the headquarters of the royalist army during the Civil War. In the early Hanoverian period it was reputed a nest of Jacobitism , though such disloyalty as there was caused the authorities little more than momentary irritation. More than two-thirds of its graduates entered the Church of England, and the Oxford movement in the 19th cent. reflected their concerns about priesthood.
the 19th cent. saw the beginnings of change. Degrees were no longer awarded without written examination. Honours degrees in both classics and mathematics were introduced in 1801, creating the ‘double first', and a similar provision was made for science and law in 1890. From the last quarter of the 19th cent. the number of Oxford colleges began to increase. the first two colleges for women were Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville (1879), and since 1937 colleges for postgraduate study, such as Nuffield, St Antony's, Linacre, and Wolfson, have been founded.
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