An Oxford University education seems to elicit not only greater interest from prospective employers, but also an almost reverential acknowledgement from students around the world of the added prestige in successfully completing any degree here. Although its high standards are beyond dispute, they are certainly not unrivalled amongst other, lesser known universities. Yet, Oxford retains a significant edge in snob value that possibly has as much to do with its age and impressively long list of famous, former alumni as with its superb level of education.
Though no clear date is known for the beginnings of Oxford as a learning institution, it has featured in English history since the late 11th century. The 12th century saw Henry II ban all English students from attending the University of Paris which precipitated a period of rapid growth for Oxford. Tensions between townspeople and students necessitated the building of the first student residences in the 13th century and many scholars, both famous and infamous called it home. The philosopher, John Locke was suspected of treason and forced to flee the country in the late 17th century. The 18th century saw a Professor of Geometry correctly predict the return of a comet which now bears his name. The intellect of the physicist Professor Stephen Hawking was nurtured at Oxford as was the creative genius of the renowned poet, T S Eliot. It has been influential in the lives of foreign kings, 26 British prime ministers and the leaders of many nations around the globe.
Oxford offers students the unique opportunity of exploring their chosen field in colleges thoroughly permeated by the historic achievements of the great men and later, women who have trodden its hallowed halls. The modern day scholar of the sciences, the arts or any chosen path, will not be a little intimidated by his or her illustrious predecessors but, inspiration by the same must surely seep from every brick in every building. The whispers of those who went before, combined with the distinct voices of those who teach now, will ensure that Oxford remains in the very forefront of higher learning.