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Mansfield College, Oxford is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. As of February 2018,[1] the college comprises 231 undergraduates, 158 graduates, 34 visiting students and 67[3] fellows and academics.

Mansfield College
Mansfield College Main Building and JCR with Library on the left.
Mansfield College Oxford Coat Of Arms.svg
Blazon: Gules an open book proper inscribed DEUS LOCUTUS EST NOBIS IN FILIO in letters sable bound argent edged and clasped or between three cross crosslets or.
LocationMansfield Road
Coordinates51°45′27″N 1°15′10″W / 51.757428°N 1.252876°W / 51.757428; -1.252876Coordinates: 51°45′27″N 1°15′10″W / 51.757428°N 1.252876°W / 51.757428; -1.252876
MottoDeus locutus est nobis in filio ("God hath spoken unto us by [his] son", Hebrews 1:1–2)
Established1838 as Spring Hill College
1886 as Mansfield College
Named forGeorge and Elizabeth Mansfield
ArchitectBasil Champneys
Sister collegeHomerton College, Cambridge
PrincipalHelen Mountfield
Undergraduates231[1] (February 2018)
Endowment£14.5 million (2018)[2]
Boat clubBoatclub
Mansfield College, Oxford is located in Oxford city centre
Mansfield College, Oxford
Location in Oxford city centre



The college was founded in 1838 as Spring Hill College, Birmingham, a college for Nonconformist students.[4][5] In the nineteenth century, although students from all religious denominations were legally entitled to attend universities, they were forbidden by statute from taking degrees unless they conformed to the Church of England.

Stained glass window in the college chapel, L-R Sir Henry Vane, Oliver Cromwell and John Hampden

In 1871, the Universities Tests Act abolished all religious tests for non-theological degrees at Oxford, Cambridge, London and Durham Universities.[6] For the first time the educational and social opportunities offered by Britain's premier institutions were open to some Nonconformists. The Prime Minister who enacted these reforms, William Ewart Gladstone, encouraged the creation of a Nonconformist college at Oxford.

Spring Hill College moved to Oxford in 1886[7] and was renamed Mansfield College after George Mansfield and his sister Elizabeth. The Victorian buildings, designed by Basil Champneys on a site bought from Merton College, were formally opened in October 1889.[8]

Mansfield was the first Nonconformist college to open in Oxford. Initially the college accepted men only, the first woman (Constance Coltman) being admitted to read for an external degree in 1913.

During World War II, over forty members of staff from the Government Code & Cypher School moved to the college to work on British codes and cyphers.[9]

In 1955 the college was granted the status of Permanent Private Hall within the University of Oxford and in 1995 a Royal Charter was awarded giving the institution full college status.

Like many of Oxford's colleges, Mansfield admitted its first mixed-sex cohort in 1979, having previously not accepted women to read for Oxford degrees.[10]

Nonconformist rootsEdit

Since the college was first formally integrated into the University structure in 1955, its Nonconformist aspects have gradually diminished. Until 2007 the United Reformed Church (URC) sponsored a course at Mansfield for training ordinands. These students became fully matriculated members of the University and received degrees. Mansfield no longer trains URC ordinands.[11]

The Nonconformist history of the college is however still apparent in a few of its features. A portrait of Oliver Cromwell hangs in the Senior Common Room and portraits of the dissenters of 1662 hang in the library and the corridors of the main college building, together with portraits of Viscount Saye and Sele, John Hampden, Thomas Jollie and Hugh Peters.

The college chapel is unconsecrated, and contains stained glass windows and statues depicting leading figures from Nonconformist movements, including Cromwell, Sir Henry Vane and William Penn.[8] Chapel services are still conducted in a Nonconformist tradition. Over the years attendance at chapel services has declined and the make-up of the general student body no longer reflects the Nonconformist religious origins of the college.

Because of its Nonconformist roots, the college still has strong links with American schools. It has a long established tradition of accepting around thirty "Junior Year Abroad" students from the US every year. These students come to study in Oxford for one academic year.


The main building of Mansfield College. The Department of Chemistry can be seen in the background.


The grounds of Mansfield College are located on Mansfield Road, near the centre of Oxford, and to the south of the Science Area. The grounds are near the University parks and the River Cherwell. The college shares a boundary wall with Wadham College.


The main building was designed by architect Basil Champneys, and built between 1887 and 1889. It houses the main college library, the law library and the theology library. It is also home to the college's Junior Common Room, Middle Common Room, and Senior Common Room. The main college building encloses three sides of the large quadrangle,[8] which has a circular lawn. The college also has several other buildings, primarily used for student accommodation, which are opposite the main building.

Unusually, Mansfield College is not accessed via the porter's lodge, the college staff maintaining that this is representative of its open and non-conformist ethos. However, early outlines of schematics for the college show an enclosed second quadrangle behind the main building, with the front tower serving as a gatehouse into this area. However, the college's constituent poverty and lack of funds owing to its non-conformist history prevented these plans from being executed. What was planned to be a traditional style porter's lodge can still be found in the main building: on 1902 plans, the tiny room opening directly on to the entrance hall is labelled 'Porter'.[12]

The latest addition to the college's facilities, the Hands Building, was designed by Rick Mather Architects and uses renewable energy sources.[13] It incorporates 74 en-suite study bedrooms, seminar rooms and a 160-seat auditorium that will be used for lectures, as a cinema, moot court and performing arts space.[14]

Academic performanceEdit

The Norrington Table is an annual ranking of the colleges of the University of Oxford by number and class of degrees awarded. In 2011 Mansfield ranked 12th out of 30 colleges in the table,[15] after being 23rd in 2008[16] 28th in 2009[17] and 29th in 2010.[18] The university advises that due to the small number of degrees awarded the rankings should be treated with caution.[19] Mansfield's academic performance, as reflected in the Norrington Table, is currently within the same 10% range as most of the other colleges.[19]

Student lifeEdit

Mansfield College Boat Club and a number of other college organisations are popular amongst the students, achieving results competitive with the larger colleges. Many of the sports teams are "combined" in partnership with Merton College.

As of the start of 2011, the First XI football team play in the JCR Premier League, the 1st XV rugby team in the JCR 3rd division and the 1st XI cricket team in the Premier Division. The netball team is currently in the 2nd division. The college's teams won the 2010/11 JCR football Premier League, the 2011 rugby Cuppers Bowl, and achieved four consecutive promotions in college netball. The cricket team has won numerous Cuppers and League titles in the past five years.

Like many of the constituent colleges of Oxford University, Mansfield holds a ball once every three years.[20]

In Oxford tradition, Mansfield College holds regular formal dinners. These take place every Wednesday and Friday in the Chapel Hall.[21]

Mansfield is known for placing emphasis on access, welfare and equality, with over 90% of students coming from a state school background.[22]

College graceEdit

In 2011, Mansfield College adopted two distinct pre-supper graces, one religious and one non-religious, in an effort to be inclusive to persons of different faiths, or none.[23]

  • Benedictus Benedicat

May the Blessed One Bless

  • Nullius boni possessio est iucunda sine socio

No good thing is worth having unless it is shared

Prior to 2011, the college used the following, specifically Christian grace, adopted in 1953:[24]

  • Omnipotens Deus, clementissime Pater, omnis boni fons, in donis tuis gaudentes nomen tuum magnificamus, per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum.

Almighty God, Father of mercies and fount of every good, in the enjoyment of thy gifts we bless thy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

People associated with Mansfield CollegeEdit


Staff and fellowsEdit

The theologian Albert Schweitzer was a special lecturer at the college and often performed on the chapel organ. Rev. John Muddiman, G. B. Caird Fellow in New Testament Theology, and Michael Freeden, director of the Centre for Political Ideologies and founding editor of the Journal of Political Ideologies are two recently retired (now Emeritus) Fellows of the College. Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the British astrophysicist known for first discovering radio pulsars, is currently[when?] a visiting professor.

Honorary fellows of the College include Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the USA, Shami Chakrabarti, former director of the civil rights group Liberty and Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, journalist and economist Will Hutton, politician Paddy Ashdown, actress Dame Maggie Smith, US senator Hillary Clinton and barrister Baroness Helena Kennedy.

Notable alumniEdit



  1. ^ a b "Student Numbers". University of Oxford.
  2. ^ "Mansfield College : Annual Report and Financial Statements : Year ended 31 July 2018" (PDF). p. 19. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Mansfield People". Mansfield College, Oxford.
  4. ^ "Mansfield College Historical Background". Archived from the original on 14 May 2011.
  5. ^ Mansfield College, Oxford: Its Origin and Opening, October 14-16, 1889. Oxford. 1890. pp. 3–4. OCLC 794856901.
  6. ^ "Universities Tests Act 1871 s.3".
  7. ^ Mansfield College, pp. 25–26, 38–41.
  8. ^ a b c Mansfield College, pp. 45–49.
  9. ^ "Our Story". Bletchley Park.
  10. ^ Communication from Nicola Patrick, college librarian
  11. ^ "The last URC minister to qualify through Mansfield College". Archived from the original on 26 February 2011.
  12. ^ Stephen Blundell; Michael Freeden, eds. (2012). Mansfield: Portrait of An Oxford College. London: Third Millennium. pp. 61, 65. ISBN 9781906507497.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 April 2016. Retrieved 16 May 2016.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 October 2015. Retrieved 16 May 2016.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ "Oxford University Undergraduate Degree Classifications 2010/11".
  16. ^ "2007 Norrington Table". Archived from the original on 20 April 2008.
  17. ^ "2008 Norrington Table". Archived from the original on 5 February 2011.
  18. ^ "Oxford University Undergraduate Degree Classifications 2009/10". Archived from the original on 3 October 2010.
  19. ^ a b "Ibid". Archived from the original on 3 October 2010.
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Mansfield College: About the college". University of Oxford. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  22. ^
  23. ^ Mansfield College Association AGM 2011 Minutes, §12,[permanent dead link]
  24. ^ Reginald Adams (1992). The College Graces of Oxford and Cambridge. Oxford: Perpetua Press. ISBN 1-870882-06-7.
  25. ^ 'FAIRBAIRN, Andrew Martin', Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2016; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2014; online edn, April 2014 accessed 16 Nov 2017
  26. ^ 'SELBIE, Rev. William Boothby', Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2016; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2014; online edn, April 2014 accessed 16 Nov 2017
  27. ^ 'MICKLEM, Rev. Nathaniel', Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2016; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2014; online edn, April 2014 accessed 16 Nov 2017
  28. ^ Kaye, Elaine (9 March 1994). "Obituary: The Rev Professor John Marsh". The Independent. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  29. ^ "Development board". Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  30. ^ 'SYKES, Dr Donald Armstrong', Who's Who 2017, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2017; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2016; online edn, Nov 2016 accessed 16 Nov 2017
  31. ^ 'TREVELYAN, Dennis John', Who's Who 2017, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2017; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2016; online edn, Nov 2016 accessed 16 Nov 2017
  32. ^ 'MARQUAND, Prof. David (Ian)', Who's Who 2017, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2017; online edn, Oxford University Press, 2016; online edn, Nov 2016 accessed 16 Nov 2017
  33. ^ "Baroness Helena Kennedy QC elected next Principal of Mansfield College". Mansfield College. University of Oxford. 21 July 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  34. ^ "Principal". Mansfield College. University of Oxford. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  35. ^ "Helen Mountfield QC elected Principal of Mansfield College". University of Oxford. 19 January 2018. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  36. ^ Sheffield, University of. "Sarah Harkness - Council - Governance - The University of Sheffield". Archived from the original on 19 March 2017.
  37. ^ "Sarah Harkness - NHS Improvement".
  38. ^ "Adam von Trott Memorial Lecture at the Ambassador's Residence". 4 May 2007.

External linksEdit