The University of Oxford Essays and Papers

This essay has a total of 3032 words and 12 pages.

The University of Oxford

The University of Oxford
The University of Oxford in Oxford, England is a very old and distinguished institution.
Oxford University has been in existence for around nine centuries (Brief 1). It is the
oldest English speaking university in the world (History 1). There is no exact date when
the University was established, but there is some evidence of teaching going on around
1096 (Kenny 2). There are said to be several different founders of the University, but
there is no way to designate one over another. Oxford was always struggling to prove it
self as being a serious university. This is because of its great rival university in
Paris, which got most of the spotlight in the earlier days. Oxford is rich in its origins
and history, which is due to its extremely old background. Even though Oxford is such a
distinguished institution it does have a past of problems. The University has a history
of altercations with the townspeople, which involves fights, major crimes, and conflicts
over the unfair treatment the townspeople received due to the University. The
University’s relations with authority came with an abundance of privileges. The king and
other leaders always put the University’s needs before the townspeople. Oxford also
demanded a great deal from its students, whose lives revolved around the University.
Oxford was an extremely difficult school whose courses were of the highest quality.
Oxford University is a very important part of England’s history and society today. Oxford
University’s origins, relations with town and authority, students, and curriculum make it
of the most important and significant institutions of all time.

Oxford University has had many situations, people, and events that have helped in its
growth. Oxford’s location is in an ideal place for a major university. It is located on
the confluence of the Rivers Cherwill and Thames (Oxford 1). Since Oxford is not a great
cathedral city its location is one of the things that helped it gain people and popularity
in its earlier days (Leff 77). The fact that royal and religious people surrounded Oxford
also attracted visitors and students to its whereabouts (Leff 77).

Henry I built a palace at Woodstock, which is only a few miles down the road from Oxford
(Leff 77). There are also two monasteries built around Oxford, which brought the
religious people to the city (Leff 77). One of the major events in Oxford’s past, which
helped to bring students to the city, is when King Henry III banned English students from
attending Paris University in 1167 (Story 4). This forced the English students who were
attending Paris to come to Oxford if they wanted to continue their studies. King Henry
III’s ban greatly boosted the number of students attending Oxford University. These are a
few of the major things that helped in the growth of Oxford University.

The origin’s of an individual being the head of the school at Oxford are unknown to this
day, but there are bits and pieces of historic information that show early leaders. There
is some mention of a master of schools around 1201, but there is no chancellor in
existence at that time (Thompson 2). In 1214 a charter of liberties, this involves the
punishment of the townspeople, contains the first reference to a chancellor (Leff 79).
The year 1214 marked the inauguration of a chancellor at Oxford University, whose name is
Robert Grosseteste (Leff 79). The chancellor at Oxford symbolized something different
than at its rival Paris University. At Oxford the chancellor stands for self-rule
because, he was in the society of masters. While at Paris the chancellor was not in the
society of masters so he would symbolize alien rule. Probably one of the earliest known
teachers is Theobald Stampenisis in 1117 (Leff 77). He taught European fame and is said
to have had around fifty pupils while he was at Oxford (Leff 77). Emo of Friesland was
the first student to attend Oxford from overseas in 1190 (History 1). His arrival marked
the beginning of Oxford University’s tradition of international scholarships. These are
just a few of the notable leaders who brought about great things to Oxford University.

Oxford University’s relations with authority were something like a parent and a spoiled
child. Whatever the University wanted they pretty much received. One of the University’s
many privileges was the custody over bread, ale, and weights and measures (Leff 88). In
1231 Henry III forced the burgesses to lower the rents. This was the first but not the
last time a king stepped in to lower rents in order to help the students. In 1311 Edward
II ordered the sheriff to place any student who had been taken into custody into a
separate jail from the townspeople (Leff 88). This is another example of the
uncontrollable privileges being given to the University and its students. Edward III
showed his strong preferential treatment on March 5, 1355 when he placed the masters and
scholars of Oxford University under the protection of the crown

(Leff 1). The only form of real discipline that any king showed towards the students of
Oxford University was in 1231, when Henry III ordered the expulsion of any student who was
not on tract for a master (Leff 83). These are only a few of the numerous occasions of
the king’s bias treatment against the townspeople, and in favor of the University.

The chancellor of Oxford University was given many privileges by the kings, which made him
the most powerful man in the city of Oxford. The kings were so much in favor of the
University that they would take the chancellor’s word over the mayor or sheriff on almost
any occasion (Leff 88). In 1244 Henry III extended the chancellors power to all cases of
rents, and prices of food and movables, which involved scholars (Leff 83). King Edward
III’s charter on June 27, 1355 gave the chancellor sole jurisdiction over the items of
bread, ale, weights and measures, with the power to punish transgressors (Leff 91). The
chancellor position at Oxford University was given its biggest responsibility in 1309 by
King Edward II, who gave the chancellor the right to put burgesses and other townspeople
in his own separate court (Leff 88). This privilege was expanded even more when Edward
III made the chancellor’s court free from royal interference and no worry of being charged
with false imprisonment. The kings of England made Oxford University’s chancellor one of
the most powerful and authoritative men in England.

The townspeople of Oxford University were unjustly treated and abused in order for the
students to have better lives. In 1305 Edward I banned the people of Oxford’s annual town
tournaments and joust because it made to much noise, which disturbed the students studies
(Leff 88). This is one example of how the University’s needs and wishes always came
foremost to the towns. In 1248 Henry III made the town responsible for the murder of a
scholar, without even investigating into the incident to try and find the truth (Leff 83).
There was another occurrence of a student getting killed in 1297. However, this time the
townspeople who were responsible for the murder were found and punished, but still the
town had to pay the University a two hundred pound compensation fee (Leff 85). These are
a few of the instances of the University getting what ever it could out of the town, with
little to no justice for the townspeople of Oxford.

The burgesses of Oxford were very unjustly and improperly treated. Often the students of
the University would commit major crimes against the townspeople but only receive minor
punishment. One example of this occurred in 1244 when forty-five students were imprisoned
for attacking the Jews but were soon released under the chancellor’s orders (Leff 83).
Even when the burgesses were merely defending themselves they were considered to have
committed crimes and were severely punished for them. One example of this is in 1209 when
a scholar murdered a woman and in return the townspeople executed several scholars (Leff
78). In punishment for their actions these townspeople were excommunicated and the town
had to pay retribution for the students’ deaths (Leff 78). The burgesses believed that
Oxford “was a hotbed of criminals and clerks (Leff 86).” The burgesses of the city of
Oxford described their situation in this way:

...if a clerk wound or beat or does violence to a layman, for which he is
imprisoned by the bailiff, he will at once be delivered by the chancellor without
writing [written security], and if a layman ill-treats a clerk he will be imprisoned
by the chancellor, and will be there a month or forty days, and will not be
delivered without grievous ransom both to their common chest and the injured
party, so that it grievously seems to the commonality that there is not one law
for the clerks and the laymen (Leff 86).
These are just a small number of the wrong doings committed against the people who lived in the town of Oxford.
Oxford students in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were taught in a different way
than college students today. There were also no specific courses like History,
Mathematics, and Biology etc (Story 4). Instead the students at Oxford were taught to be
well-rounded individuals (Story 4). During a student’s time at Oxford he attended
lectures on any of the following categories: law, medicine, theology and the seven arts.
At the end of student’s studies at Oxford he had to take an oral exam in order to receive
his master (Story 4). So as one can see, a student at Oxford University had to have a
great deal of discipline to be able to achieve his goals.

There were four different topics taught at Oxford University in the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries (Leff 127). They may differ in regulations and the time taken to
gain a master in one subject to another, but they all consist of very difficult and
thorough material. Theology was the most revered of the subjects taught, due to its goals
of understanding our purpose in life and life itself. Next there is law, which was
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