Institution Profile: University of Oxford

May 2024

5 Minute Read

Tagged as: Applying to Elite Universities, Choosing a School/Program

A general overview of Harvard, admissions stats (2015), trivia, and admissions requirements

The University of Oxford is one of the oldest continually-operating universities in the world. Scholars estimate that instruction began as early as 1096. It is home to the Rhodes Scholarship, which allows students from around the world to complete their graduate education at the university. Oxford is also the namesake of the Oxford English Dictionary, which is one of the most exhaustive English language resources available today.

Popular undergraduate majors (courses):

  • Biology and Biochemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Mathematics
  • Arts and Humanities (#1 in the world, according to US News and World Report)
  • Environment/Ecology

Notable graduate programs:

Notable Alumni:

  • Aung San Suu Kyi, leader, Burmese National League for Democracy and Nobel Peace laureate
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, author and linguist

Academic Life

The University of Oxford is composed of 38 separate "colleges," each of which selects their own students and determines how they will teach courses (known as "majors" at US institutions). Each college also runs its own residence and dining halls. The central university system decides the content of courses and provides administrative support. This unique "federalized" structure ensures the quality of a small cohort-style education within a larger research institution. Oxford and Cambridge often collaborate on hosting summer programs for high school students.

Two pieces of trivia about Oxford

  1. Oxford currently houses a fascinating technological oddity: a battery-powered bell that has been ringing for nearly two centuries straight. Blogger Saran Udayakumar noted that "nobody knows what the battery is made of and no one wants to risk taking it apart to find out. We’ll never know for sure until it someday stops working, making it the world’s longest-running science experiment."
  2. The staircase leading to the Great Hall at Christ Church at Oxford was used in several shots of the Harry Potter films. The hall itself was the main inspiration for the set of the dining hall at Hogwarts.

Student Life

Unlike many universities, the University of Oxford does not have a single "campus." Instead, it is comprised of many different buildings scattered throughout the city of Oxford. Student housing is very similar. While many students live in college-specific accommodations (as they do during Oxford’s many summer programs), there is no requirement for where students have to live. As a result, a lot of residential property is owned or co-owned by the university and rented to students. This helps the university increase outreach to under-represented people and recruit more students from diverse backgrounds.

Admissions Statistics (2021):

  • 24,338 applicants
  • 3,555 (14.6%) offered admission (7.8% of non-EU, non-UK applicants were offered admission)

How to apply to Oxford:

  • Complete the UCAS application
  • Course-specific exams (these are administered in September and October)
  • Admissions interview (if the student is shortlisted)
  • Analytical writing sample in English (the IB Extended Essay is commonly used for this, but anything that demonstrates research and argumentation skills)
  • Admissions decisions are announced in January

Application Deadline:

  • October 15
  • If you wish to apply for a choral or organ award (for music courses), you need to submit an additional online form by September 1.

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