Virginia Woolf, "A Room of One’s Own"

"Oxbridge" and Higher Education for Women

        Although other universities exist in England, most notably the "red-brick" or middle-class institutions like those at Essex, Manchester, and Reading, the English elite have traditionally sent their sons (and later their daughters) to Oxford and Cambridge, known colloquially as "Oxbridge."  Despite the nickname's implication that they're essentially the same, the schools’ rivalry is legendary, but when compared with their second-tier rivals, their joint influence on English cultural life is far more significant until the most recent decades. They are organized as economic institutions to provide centralized services to various "colleges" which were endowed at different times and which sometimes have specific charters dedicating them to particular branches of study. Until Cambridge broke ranks with the establishment of Girton College in 1869, no college at either university admitted women as fully-matriculated students who could stand for a degree.  Even then, the women’s colleges did not have the same academic status as the men’s colleges, Oxford holding out until 1960. Woolf addressed the women of Newnham and Girton colleges, Cambridge, in October of 1928, when the schools were 57 and 59 years old.  The schools have continued to grow, but the proportion of men's to women's colleges has remained disproportionate.

Oxford University (founded some time before 1163; graduates indicate their matriculation by adding "Oxon" to their degree, for Oxoniensus," Latin, "of Oxford")

Men’s Colleges and Year of Foundation:

University (1249), Balliol (1263), Merton (1264), Exeter (1314), Oriel (1326), Queen’s (1340), New (1379), Lincoln (1427), All Souls (1438), Magdalen (1458), Brasenose (1509), Corpus Christi (1517), Christ Church (1525/46), St. John’s (1555), Trinity (1555), Jesus (1571), Wadham (1612), Pembroke (1624), Worcester (1714), Hertford (1874), Keble (1868/1952), St. Edmund hall (1226/1952).

Women’s Colleges and Year of Foundation:

Lady Margaret hall (1878), Somerville (1879), St. Hilda’s (1893).

Cambridge University (founded after 1209 town-gown violence in Oxford caused scholars to flee to a town on the River Cam, and functioning as a university by 1226-9; graduates indicate their matriculation by adding "Cam." for "Cambridgiensis," Latin, "of Cambridge")

Men’s Colleges in 1928, and Year of Foundation:

Peterhouse (1284), Clare college (1326), Pembroke college (1347), Gonville and Caius college (1348), Trinity hall (1350), Corpus Christi college (1352), King’s college (1441), Queens’ college (1448), St. Catharine’s college (1473), Jesus college (1496), Christ’s college (1505), St. John’s college (1511), Magdalene college (1542), Trinity college (1546), Emmanuel college (1584), Sidney Sussex college (1596), Downing college (1800), and Selwyn college (1882).

Women’s Colleges in 1928 and Year of Foundation:

Girton college (1869), Newnham college (1871).  (Also, women students at Hughes hall [1885] may be accepted for degrees at Cambridge in preparation for teaching school.)