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Cambridge University Oxford University

Oxford University is the oldest in Britain. The university now has 38 colleges (in 2008 Green and Templeton Colleges merged) (see the list of colleges).

The colleges
Nineteen of these 38 colleges were founded in the 19th and 20th centuries, whilst the other 19 have foundation dates stretching back as early as 1249, the year the oldest college - University College - was founded.

Many of the foundation years given for the colleges don't reflect the fact that they often replaced even more ancient halls of residence, used by students who studied in Oxford before the college system had even developed. These institutions often date back into the 11th century or further.

Oxford University - especially its older established colleges - has seen many of its former students go on to achieve notable things.

No degree
But a successful completion of their studies was not always necessary for former students to achieve success in life. The Poet Laureates
Sir William D'Avenant, Robert Southey and John Betjemen, the poet Percy Shelley and the writers Samuel Johnson and Robert Graves all left Oxford without a degree. A degree also eluded Edward VII, the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, the founder of the US state of Pennsylvania William Penn and the Elizabethan adventurer Walter Raleigh.

It wasn't until 1879 when Lady Margaret Hall and
Somerville College opened that women were finally admitted to Oxford. Since then graduates have included the first British woman to win a Nobel Prize, Dorothy Hodgkin; Britain's three women Prime Ministers: Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May, Liz Truss; the writers Iris Murdoch and Dorothy L. Sayers; India's first woman Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi and the Burmese winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The following list shows the 38 colleges, grouped by the century in which they were founded.

The colleges founded before the 18th century include information on a selection of famous people who have been connected to the college and links to the college website and its history webpage.

The colleges founded since 1700 have links to their websites.

The 38 Oxford Colleges


13th century


University College
Founded: 1249

Balliol College

Founded: c. 1263

Merton College

Founded: 1264

14th century


Exeter College
Founded: 1314

Oriel College

Founded: 1326

Queen's College

Founded: 1341

New College
Founded: 1379

15th century


Lincoln College

Founded: 1427

All Souls College

Founded: 1438

Magdalen College

Founded: 1458

16th century


Brasenose College
Founded: 1509

Corpus Christi Coll.
Founded: 1517

Christ Church

Founded: 1546

St John's College
Founded: 1555

Trinity College
Founded: 1555

Jesus College
Founded: 1571

17th century


Wadham College
Founded: c. 1613

Pembroke College
Founded: 1624

18th century

Worcester College
Founded: 1714

19th century

St Catherine's College
Founded: 1868

Keble College

Founded: 1870

Hertford College

Founded: 1874

Lady Margaret Hall
Founded: 1879

St Anne's College

Founded: 1879

Somerville College

Founded: 1879

Mansfield College

Founded: 1886

St Hugh's College

Founded: 1886

Harris Manchester Coll.

Founded: 1889

St Hilda's College

Founded: 1893

20th century

St Peter's College

Founded: 1929

Nuffield College

Founded: 1937

St Antony's College

Founded: 1950

St Edmund Hall

Founded: 1957

Linacre College

Founded: 1962

St Cross College
Founded: 1965

Wolfson College
Founded: 1965

Kellogg College
Founded: 1990

Green Templeton College
Founded: 2008

13th century
University College A selection of famous people who have been connected with the college.

William of Durham founded
University College and the foundation date is given as 1249 - the year of his death.

This makes the college
the oldest in Oxford and the English-speaking world.


Famous People

Prince Felix Yusupov Assassin of Rasputin
Undergraduate, 1909-12

William Beveridge Social reformer
Master, 1937-45

Bob Hawke Prime Minister of Australia, 1983-91
Rhodes Scholar, 1953-56

Bill Clinton President of the United States, 1993-2001
Rhodes Scholar, 1968-70

Inventors and Scientists

Edmund Cartwright Inventor
Undergraduate, 1760-64
See Magdalen College

Stephen Hawking Theoretical physicist
Undergraduate, 1959-62
See Trinity Hall, Cambridge

Nobel Prize Winners

Viscount Cecil of Chelwood Nobel Prize for Peace, 1937
Undergraduate, -1886

V.S. Naipaul Nobel Prize for Literature, 2001
Undergraduate, 1950-53

Prime Ministers

Clement Attlee Prime Minister of Britain, 1945-51
Undergraduate, 1901-04

Harold Wilson Prime Minister of Britain, 1964-70 and 1974-76
Fellow, 1938-39

Writers and Poets

Percy Shelley Poet
Undergraduate, 1810-11 No degree
Shelley was expelled
for publishing a pamphlet on atheism

C.S. Lewis Writer
Undergraduate, 1917, 1919-24
See Magdalen College

Stephen Spender Writer
Undergraduate, 1927-30

Andrew Motion Poet laureate, 1999-2009
Undergraduate, 1971-74 MA, 1977

Balliol College

A selection of famous people who have been connected with the college.

Balliol College was founded by John Balliol, the wealthy father of
John de Balliol, the king of Scotland from 1292-96.

The exact foundation date is not known but is given as around 1263.


Famous People

John Wycliffe Religious reformer

William Beveridge Social reformer
Undergraduate, -1902
See University College

Adam von Trott Plotter in 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler
Rhodes Scholar, 1931-33

Olav V King of Norway, 1957-91
Undergraduate, 1924-26

Harald V King of Norway, 1991-present
Undergraduate, 1960-62

Nobel Prize Winners

Cyril Hinshelwood Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1956
Undergraduate, 1919- Fellow, 1920-21
Professor of Chemistry, 1937-64
See Trinity College

John R. Hicks Nobel Prize for Economics, 1972
Undergraduate, 1922-26
See Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge

Baruch S. Blumberg Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 1976
Undergraduate, 1955-57 Master, 1989-94

Anthony J. Leggett Nobel Prize for Physics, 2003
Undergraduate, 1955-59
See Merton College

Oliver Smithies Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 2007
Undergraduate, 1943-46

Prime Ministers

Herbert Henry Asquith Prime Minister of Britain, 1908-16
Undergraduate, 1870-74 Fellow

Harold Macmillan Prime Minister of Britain, 1957-63
Undergraduate, 1912-14 No degree

Edward Heath Prime Minister of Britain, 1970-74
Undergraduate, 1935-39

Boris Johnson Prime Minister of Britain, 2019-22
Undergraduate, 1983-87

Writers and Poets

Adam Smith Economist. Writer
Undergraduate, 1740-46

Robert Southey Poet laureate, 1813-43
Undergraduate, 1792-94 No degree

Matthew Arnold Poet
Undergraduate, 1841-44
Professor of Poetry, 1857-67
See Oriel College

Gerard Manley Hopkins Writer
Undergraduate, 1864-66

Aldous Huxley Writer
Undergraduate, 1913-16

L.P. Hartley Writer
Undergraduate, 1915-16, 1919-22

Graham Greene Writer
Undergraduate, 1922-25

Merton College

A selection of famous people who have been connected with the college.

Merton College was founded in 1264 by Walter de Merton, the Bishop of Rochester.

It is one of only three Oxford colleges to have been founded in the 13th century.


Famous People

John Wycliffe Religious reformer
See Balliol College

Kris Kristofferson Singer-Songwriter. Actor
Rhodes Scholar, 1958-60

Inventors and Scientists

William Harvey Physician. Discoverer of the circulation of blood
Warden, 1645-46

Nobel Prize Winners

Frederick Soddy Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1921
Undergraduate, 1895-98
Professor of Chemistry, 1919-37

T.S. Eliot Nobel Prize for Literature, 1948
Undergraduate, 1914-15

Nikolaas Tinbergen Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 1973
Fellow, 1949-74

Anthony J. Leggett Nobel Prize for Physics, 2003
Undergraduate, 1959-61
See Magdalen College

Prime Ministers

Liz Truss
Prime Minister of Britain, 2022
Undergraduate, 1993-96

Writers and Poets

Louis MacNeice Writer
Undergraduate, 1926-30

Edmund Blunden
Fellow, 1931-44
Professor of Poetry, 1966-68

J.R.R. Tolkien Writer
Professor of English Language and Literature, 1945-59
Tolkien lived at the college from 1971 until his death two years later

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