University College, Oxford

University College (in full The Master and Fellows of the College of the Great Hall of the University of Oxford, colloquially referred to as "Univ"), is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. As of 2009 the college had an estimated financial endowment of £110m. It has a claim to being the oldest Oxford college.


Some claim the college was founded by King Alfred in 872. However most agree its foundation was in 1249 by William of Durham. This later date still allows the claim that Univ is the oldest of the Oxford colleges. Until the 16th century it was only open to Fellows studying theology. As Univ 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.Radcliffe Quad followed more rapidly by 1719, and the Library was built in 1861. Univ began to accept female undergraduate students in 1979.


Logic Lane runs through the college, but its main entrance is on the High Street and its grounds are bounded by Merton Street and Magpie Lane.

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 expelled for writing The Necessity of Atheism — depicted lying dead on the Italian seashore. Rumour has it that the sunken area around the statue was once filled with water and live goldfish as a student prank. Another apparently common student prank involving the statue has been to paint his genitalia bright colours; for this reason, the statue's appendage is somewhat smaller than it used to be.

Student Life
Univ Alternative Prospectus

The Alternative Prospectus is written and produced by current students for prospective applicants. The publication was recently awarded a HELOA Innovation and Best Practice Award. 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.


University has the longest grace of any Oxford (and perhaps Cambridge) College. 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, the same person doing it for a whole week, 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, although it is not unusual for people to do so.

Former students and fellows

Many influential politicians are associated with Univ 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.

As well as poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (expelled for writing The Necessity of Atheism) for whom there is a memorial in college University College alumni include a Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, author of the Narnia books C. S. Lewis and a Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Sir V. S. Naipaul. Actors Michael York and Warren Mitchell attended the college, as well as broadcaster Paul Gambaccini.

It is due to the college's lack of a mathematics fellow (this is no longer the case) that Professor Stephen Hawking read a natural sciences degree and ended up specialising in physics. A perhaps more unusual alumni is Prince Felix Yusupov, the assassin of Rasputin.

Univ has the highest proportion of old members offering financial support to the college of any Oxbridge college with 28% in 2007.

Other connections

Although not member 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.

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).

University College Record

The University College Record is the annual magazine sent to alumni of University College each autumn. The magazine provides College news, including clubs and societies such as the University College Players and the Devas Club. News about and obituaries of former students are included at the end of each issue.

Previous editors include Peter Bayley, A. D. M. Cox and Leslie Mitchell. The current editor is Dr Robin Darwall-Smith.


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