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Could you direct me to the University please?
Oxford in General
Member Name: adamkilleya
Oxford in General
Date: 04/05/01, updated on 04/05/01 (93 review reads)
Advantages: Beautiful Buildings, History
Disadvantages: Occasional Ugly Bits
The average pre-conception of Oxford for most tourists seems to be: 'it's got an old university' and that's about it. Yep the University has been around for a while but describing it just in those terms hardly does the university or the city justice.
I came to Oxford just over 18 months ago to do PPE at Balliol and frankly have fallen in love with the place: both the city and the university. Oxford has its weak points but is still a wonderful place.
For those of you who don't know (including all the American Tourists who keep asking the way to 'The University') Oxford is a collegiate University: there is no central building (though their is a clock tower which is traditionally considered the 'centre of the university' for some reason). There are instead 39 colleges who each have their own buildings and a large degree of control over their own running and teaching. Some of these Colleges are truly beautiful such as Christ Church (famous for its bowler hatted porters), All Souls (where every few years the Fellow practice a strange tradition involving chasing a wooden duck carried on the end of a pole) and Balliol, my own college, known for its stripy chapel, for being one of the oldest colleges and for having produced 3 Prime Ministers (Asquith, Macmillan and Heath).
Unfortunately the colleges also help to illustrate one of few gripes about Oxford that insufficient respect is shown for the architectural environment: some of the more recent colleges are just plain ugly monstrosities totally not in keeping: St Peter's for one will know who I'm talking about here. And some of the bits of the beautiful colleges are modern edifices of concrete and glass too: the Quad of Balliol is somewhat spoilt by a REALLY ugly lecture theatre building. Outside of the University the pedestrianised Cornmarket street is very ugly and not much as it pains me to make the comparison not something you would probably find in Cam
bridge where they seem to have more respect for history.
Still despite the occasional lapses Oxford is still a beautiful place, The Famous Sheldonian Theatre and The Radcliffe Camera are two other beautiful buildings though both slightly demonstrate the tendency of Oxford architects to design phallic buildings. And the fairly recent move towards a car-free town centre has, I think, made things a lot better. Park and ride services ensure that it's not difficult for motorists to get into Oxford and open top buses help tourists to get around.
Outside of the beauty of the place Oxford's got plenty of other stuff going for it too especially if you're a student: The eating out opportunities are not too bad with Kebab Vans and Decent Restaurants depending on taste and budget (personally I go for the cheap option except when the parents are visiting and paying!) and a decent selection of pubs. The sports facilities are even better than you'd expect with most colleges having their own fields, squash courts, tennis courts etc and unsurprisingly with over 40 different libraries it's a bit easier to get hold of the books that you need than at other Uni's. Finally there is the World Famous Oxford Union, which regularly holds debates and speaker meetings with the great and the good from around the world including recently Michael Jackson, Rolf Harris, John Hume and David Trimble (not all at once apart from the last two!) And even if you're not a student can't use a lot of these facilities there's still a lot to see and do.
Not everyone loves Oxford I admit but I do and it's definitely worth at least one visit during your lifetime.
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