University of Oxford has no official foundation date, but unofficial teaching at the town of Oxford can be traced back to 1096. It is not only the oldest university in England, but also the first in the entire English-speaking world. It is world's second largest university in the world, only surpassed by the University of Bologna in Italy. By 1201, the university was headed by a magister scholarum Oxonie, and the title of Chancellor was conferred in 1214. Later in 1231 it was finally recognized as a corporation. The university received its royal charter in 1248 from King Henry III.
The University of Oxford grew rapidly since 1167, when Henry II forbade English students from attending the University of Paris. Throughout the 12th and 13th century, the university became home to many religious teachings and many colleges, including the University College, Balliol College and Merton College. During the Renaissance, the university underwent significant growth and change, and it attracted many renowned scholars. Greek language studies, English literature and biblical studies thrived. In the modern period, the university was highly influenced by the Oxford Movement, and Anglo-Catholic doctrines and studies saw great growth in the university. During the 20th and 21st centuries, Oxford also developed greatly in the areas of natural and applied sciences.
The University of Oxford is a federation, comprised of a central university that has four major academic divisions: Humanities; Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences; Medical Sciences; and Social Sciences; as well as 38 colleges and 6 permanent private halls. The university as a whole is headed by the congregation, which is the sovereign body of the university and makes all decisions regarding major policy issues and elections of Council members. The council is the university's principle executive and policy-making body. The colleges are self-governing and financially independent bodies, and the halls, originally founded by Christian denominations, still retain their religious characteristics.
University of Oxford has long been ranked as one of the best universities in the world. It attracts the world's best scholars, teachers and students. Its long and legendary history, well-rounded disciplines and programs, as well as excellent research potential make it one of the world's greatest universities. The newest Times Higher Education Rankings ranked it the second best university in the world, and the newest QS Ranking ranked it 6th in the world. In the latest Complete University Guide, 90% of Oxford's subjects were ranked in the top ten, including Art and Design, East and South Asian Studies, Philosophy, Politics and Music. Because of its high rankings, Oxford is an extremely popular destination for international students. Currently more than 55% of Oxford's graduate students are international.
The University of Oxford has cultivated many excellent alumni in various fields who are well known for their achievements. It is home to 26 British Prime Ministers, including Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and the current prime minister David Cameron. Many world leaders, including the famous Burmese activist and politician Aung San Suu Kyi, attended the university. Many famous philosophers, artists and writers also attended Oxford, such as Thomas Hobbes, Jeremy Bentham, John Locke, Oscar Wilde, C.S Lewis, W.H. Auden and T.S. Eliot. The university also hosts 12 saints and 20 Archbishops of Canterbury.