University College, Oxford

University College (in full The College of the Great Hall of the University of Oxford,[1][4] colloquially referred to as "Univ"[5]) is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. It has a claim to being the oldest college of the university, having been founded in 1249 by William of Durham.

University College
Quad, University College, Oxford University
Univ, Oxford CoA.svg
Arms: Azure, a cross patonce between four [sometimes five] martlets or.
LocationHigh Street
Coordinates51°45′09″N 1°15′07″W / 51.752453°N 1.251996°W / 51.752453; -1.251996Coordinates: 51°45′09″N 1°15′07″W / 51.752453°N 1.251996°W / 51.752453; -1.251996
Full nameThe College of the Great Hall of the University of Oxford
Latin nameCollegium Magnae Aulae Universitatis Oxon.[1]
Established1249; 772 years ago (1249)
Sister collegeTrinity Hall, Cambridge[2]
MasterValerie Amos, Baroness Amos
Undergraduates410[3] (2019/2020)
Boat clubUniversity College Boat Club
University College, Oxford is located in Oxford city centre
University College, Oxford
Location in Oxford city centre

As of 2018, the college had an estimated financial endowment of £132.7m.[6]

The college is associated with a number of influential people, including Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson, Bill Clinton, Neil Gorsuch, Stephen Hawking, C. S. Lewis, V. S. Naipaul, Robert Reich, William Beveridge, Bob Hawke, Robert Cecil, and Percy Bysshe Shelley.


A legend arose in the 14th century that the college was founded by King Alfred in 872.[7] This explains why the college arms are those attributed to King Alfred, why the Visitor is always the reigning monarch, and why the college celebrated its millennium in 1872. Most agree that in reality the college was founded in 1249 by William of Durham. He bequeathed money to support ten or twelve masters of arts studying divinity, and a property which became known as Aula Universitatis (University Hall) was bought in 1253.[8] This later date still allows the claim that Univ is the oldest of the Oxford colleges, although this is contested by Balliol College and Merton College.[9][10] Univ was only open to fellows studying theology until the 16th century.[citation needed]

The college acquired four properties on its current site south of the High Street in 1332 and 1336 and built a quadrangle in the 15th century.[11] As it grew in size and wealth, its medieval buildings were replaced with the current Main Quadrangle in the 17th century. Although the foundation stone was placed on 17 April 1634, the disruption of the English Civil War meant it was not completed until sometime in 1676.[1] Radcliffe Quad followed more rapidly by 1719, and the library was built in 1861.[citation needed]

Like many of Oxford's colleges, University College accepted its first mixed-sex cohort in 1979, having previously been an institution for men only.[12]


The Logic Lane covered bridge above Logic Lane running through University College, as viewed from the High Street.

The main entrance to the college is on the High Street and its grounds are bounded by Merton Street and Magpie Lane. The college is divided by Logic Lane, which is owned by the college and runs through the centre. The western side of the college is occupied by the library, the hall, the chapel and the two quadrangles which house both student accommodation and college offices. The eastern side of the college is mainly devoted to student accommodation in rooms above the High Street shops, on Merton Street or in the separate Goodhart Building. This building is named after former master of the college, Arthur Lehman Goodhart.[citation needed]

A specially constructed building in the college, the Shelley Memorial, houses a statue by Edward Onslow Ford of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley – a former member of the college, who was sent down for writing The Necessity of Atheism (1811), along with his friend T. J. Hogg. Shelley is depicted lying dead on the Italian seashore.[13]

The college annexe on Staverton Road in North Oxford houses undergraduate students during their second year and some graduate students.[14]

The college also owns the University College Boathouse (completed in 2007 and designed by Belsize architects)[15] and a sports ground, which is located nearby on Abingdon Road.[16]

Student lifeEdit

Univ Alternative ProspectusEdit

The Alternative Prospectus is written and produced by current students for prospective applicants. The publication was awarded a HELOA Innovation and Best Practice Award in 2011.[17] The Univ Alternative Prospectus offers student written advice and guidance to potential Oxford applicants. The award recognises the engagement of the college community, unique newspaper format, forward-thinking use of social media and the collaborative working between staff and students.[citation needed]


University has the longest grace of any Oxford (and perhaps Cambridge) college.[18] It is read before every Formal Hall, which is held Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday at Univ. The reading is performed by a Scholar of the college and whoever is sitting at the head of High Table (typically the Master or the most senior Fellow at the table if the Master is not dining). The Scholar does not need to know it by heart, and it is unusual for people to do so.[citation needed]

Original versionEdit

Gratiarum actio in collegio magnae aulae universitatis quotidie ante mensam dicenda.[19]

ScholarBenedictus sit Deus in donis suis.
RESPONSEEt sanctus in omnibus operibus suis.
SCHOLARAdiutorium nostrum in Nomine Domini.
RESPONSEQui fecit coelum et terram.
SCHOLARSit Nomen Domini benedictum.
RESPONSEAb hoc tempore usque in saecula.
SCHOLARDomine Deus, Resurrectio et Vita credentium, Qui semper es laudandus tam in viventibus quam in defunctis, gratias Tibi agimus pro omnibus Fundatoribus caeterisque Benefactoribus nostris, quorum beneficiis hic ad pietatem et ad studia literarum alimur: Te rogantes ut nos, hisce Tuis donis ad Tuam gloriam recte utentes, una cum iis ad vitam immortalem perducamur. Per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

SCHOLARDeus det vivis gratiam, defunctis requiem: Ecclesiae, Reginae, Regnoque nostro, pacem et concordiam: et nobis peccatoribus vitam aeternam. Amen.

English translationEdit

The Grace that must be said every day before dinner in University College.[19]

SCHOLARBlessed be God in his gifts.
RESPONSEAnd holy in all his works.
SCHOLAROur help is in the name of the Lord.
RESPONSEWho has made heaven and earth.
SCHOLAR May the name of the Lord be blessed.
RESPONSEFrom this time and for evermore.
SCHOLARLord God, the Resurrection and Life of those who believe, You are always to be praised as much among the living as among the departed. We give You thanks for all our founders and our other benefactors, by whose benefactions we are nourished here for piety and for the study of letters. And we ask you that we, rightly using these Your gifts to Your glory, may be brought with them to immortal life. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

SCHOLARMay God give grace to the living, rest to the departed; peace and concord to the Church, the Queen and our Kingdom; and to us sinners, eternal life. Amen.


Climate Crisis ResponseEdit

In 2021, University College was scored a 0 out of 100 in 'The Climate League of Oxford and Cambridge' for its poor record on investment in, and association with, fossil fuel companies, and its poor climate governance and lack of action on decarbonisation.[20] It is currently the lowest among all 68 colleges of Oxford and Cambridge combined (along with Brasenose, St. Anthony's and St. Catherine's). In November 2021 the Oxfordshire Guardian brought attention to University College's absence of 'moves towards divestment, and [it] has shown little interest in environmental governance in general.'[21]

Following the CLOC (Climate League of Oxford and Cambridge) report a response on behalf of the Conference of Colleges, which deals with matters of shared interest and common purpose amongst Oxford’s colleges, was issued questioning both the usefulness and methodology of the findings. There is well documented Information on existing college sustainability initiatives, and Univ’s own Sustainability Committee was established in 2021.

People associated with the collegeEdit


Government and politicsEdit

Many influential politicians are associated with the college, including the social reformer and author of the Beveridge Report William Beveridge (who was a master of University College) and two UK Prime Ministers: Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson (a Univ fellow). US President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke were also students. Other heads of state and government to have attended Univ include Edgar Whitehead (Rhodesia), Kofi Abrefa Busia (Ghana), and Festus Mogae (Botswana). Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Robert Cecil studied law at the college, similarly U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch received a DPhil in law as a Marshall Scholar,[22] while former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Bernard W. Rogers read Philosophy, Politics and Economics as a Rhodes Scholar, and former Court of Justice of the European Communities Judge Sir David Edward read Classics.[23]

Literature and artsEdit

In the arts, people associated with the college include poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (expelled for writing The Necessity of Atheism), for whom there is a memorial in college; Poet Laureate Andrew Motion; author of the Narnia books C. S. Lewis; and a Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Sir V. S. Naipaul. One of the translators of the King James Bible, George Abbot, was a master of the college. The actors Michael York and Warren Mitchell attended Univ, as well as broadcaster Paul Gambaccini.

Science and innovationEdit

It was due to the college's lack of a mathematics fellow (this is no longer the case) that Stephen Hawking read a natural sciences degree and ended up specialising in physics.[24] Other former students include John Radcliffe (physician), William Jones (philologist), and Edmund Cartwright (inventor). Rudolph A. Marcus, a Canadian-born chemist who received the 1992 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, received a Professorial Fellowship at Univ from 1975 to 1976. A perhaps more unusual alumnus is Prince Felix Yusupov, the assassin of Rasputin.[25]

Univ had the highest proportion of old members offering financial support to the college of any Oxbridge college with 28% in 2007.[26][citation needed]

Other connectionsEdit

A plaque dedicated to Boyle and Hooke telling of their achievements

Although not members of University College, the scientists Robert Boyle (sometimes described as the "first modern chemist") and his assistant (Robert Hooke, architect, biologist, discoverer of cells) lived in Deep Hall (then owned by Christ Church and now the site of the Shelley Memorial). The former made a contribution to the completion of University College's current Hall in the mid-17th Century.[1]

Samuel Johnson (author of A Dictionary of the English Language and a member of Pembroke College) was a frequent visitor to the Senior Common Room at University College during the 18th Century.[1]


The college produces a number of regular publications, especially for alumni.[27]

University College RecordEdit

The University College Record is the annual magazine sent to alumni of the college each autumn. The magazine provides college news on clubs and societies such as the University College Players and the Devas Club, as well as academic performance and prizes. News about and obituaries of former students are included at the end of each issue.[citation needed]

Editors have included Peter Bayley and Leslie Mitchell.

The MartletEdit

The Martlet is a magazine for members and friends of the college, available in print and online.[27]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e Darwall-Smith, Robin (2008). A History of University College, Oxford. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-928429-0.
  2. ^ Daunton, Martin, "From the Master" (PDF), Newsletter: Academic Year 2009/10, Trinity Hall, Cambridge, p. 7, archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2011, retrieved 1 August 2011
  3. ^ "Student statistics". University of Oxford.
  4. ^ Carr, William, [University College], Routledge, 1998. ISBN 978-0-415-18632-2.
  5. ^ "University College Oxford". University College Oxford.
  6. ^ "University College Oxford: Annual Report and Financial Statements: Year ended 31 July 2018" (PDF). p. 28. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  7. ^ "Official College Web-site". Archived from the original on 17 May 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
  8. ^ "Oxford History". Retrieved 23 August 2013.
  9. ^ "Q&A: oldest established". Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  10. ^ Brockliss, L. W. B. (2016). The University of Oxford: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 64–66. ISBN 9780199243563.
  11. ^ "University College". british-history, Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  12. ^ "History - University College Oxford". University College Oxford. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  13. ^ "Shelley Memorial". University College Oxford. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  14. ^ "University College - Oxford University Alternative Prospectus". Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  15. ^ "University College Oxford Boathouse", e-architect.
  16. ^ "Univ Buildings Elsewhere". University College Oxford. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  17. ^ Oxford admissions teams win innovation awards - University of Oxford Archived 26 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2013-08-12.
  18. ^ "Food - University College Oxford (Univ) - Food at Univ". University College Oxford. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  19. ^ a b "College Grace, University College, Oxford". Archived from the original on 11 December 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2008.
  20. ^ "CLOC". CLOC. Retrieved 21 November 2021.
  21. ^ Macgregor, Samuel. "Oxford Student group protest for climate change action - Oxfordshire Guardian". Retrieved 21 November 2021.
  22. ^ "Judge Neil M. Gorsuch". Administrative Office of the United States Courts. The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  23. ^ Famous Univites.
  24. ^ O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F. "Stephen William Hawking". MacTutor History of Mathematics archive. University of St Andrews. Retrieved 1 October 2009.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  25. ^ The History of Univ Archived 5 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine, University College, Oxford.
  26. ^ Lord Adonis, Education Minister, 2008
  27. ^ a b "Publications". UK: University College, Oxford. Retrieved 9 August 2018.

External linksEdit