Oxford University has no clear date of foundation, but teaching in some form existed at Oxford from 1096. The University was formally incorporated in 1571 under the name of 'The Chancellor Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford'.
Read more about the University’s legal status as a civil corporation and an exempt charity.
‘Collegiate’ and ‘central’ University
Oxford University’s unique structure sometimes makes it necessary to define precisely which parts of the University you are referring to. Oxford’s colleges are an integral part of the University, but legally independent institutions. Refer to the ‘collegiate University’ when you describe the University including its colleges, otherwise to the ‘central University’.
The central University consists of
- Academic divisions and departments
- Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM)
- University Administration and Services (UAS)
Academic divisions and departments
The University’s academic departments, faculties and research centres are grouped into four divisions:
- Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS)
- Medical Sciences
- Social Sciences
The divisions have considerable authority in matters such as academic policy, finance, and planning. Each division has a full-time divisional head, who sits on Council and its main committees. A divisional secretary leads each division’s administration. They also have elected divisional boards, to which faculty boards and department committees report.
See which departments and faculties belong to each division
Department for Continuing Education
The Department for Continuing Education is the focus of the University’s lifelong learning, professional development and online learning activities. It provides university education to those who wish to study part-time, through short full-time courses or online. Continuing Education is under the general supervision of a Continuing Education Board.
Gardens, Libraries and Museums
Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM) comprises the four University museums, the Bodleian Libraries and the Botanic Garden & Harcourt Arboretum. These contain some of the world's most significant collections. They provide important research and study opportunities for members of the University. For the public they also represent the front door to the wealth of knowledge curated and generated at Oxford.
Visit the GLAM website
Professional and administrative services
The central administrative departments of the University are collectively called University Administration and Services (UAS). UAS sections are responsible for University-wide functions in the areas of
- academic administration
- research services
- IT services
- external affairs
Most heads of UAS sections report to the Registrar. To find out more about individual areas of central administration at Oxford, refer to the full list of UAS sections.
Colleges and halls
Oxford’s 38 colleges and 6 permanent private halls are an integral part of the collegiate University. They are independent, self-governing institutions, which are related to the central University in a federal system. Each college has its own statutes, endowment and governing body, which comprises the Head of House and college fellows.
View list of all colleges and halls
Although independent, the colleges share many responsibilities with the central University. For example, the admissions policy and process for undergraduate students is co-ordinated centrally, but colleges select their own students. For postgraduate students there is a two-part admissions process involving selection by both department and college. In terms of teaching, the colleges provide tutorials, while the University organises lectures and seminars, sets the syllabuses, examines students, and awards degrees.
Find colleges and halls on the interactive map.
Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press (OUP) is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objectives by publishing academic and educational books and online resources worldwide. OUP’s affairs are overseen by a group of delegates appointed from the academic staff of the University and chaired by the Vice-Chancellor.
Read more about the structure and history of Oxford University Press.