Oxford we proudly say the name, associating ourselves with one of the world’s greatest ever institutions of learning.
There was once a time when without an Oxbridge degree or aristocratic blood (or ideally both), there was very little you could expect to achieve. Yet that total monopoly on power is now fading from Oxford’s grip, and for good reason.
Whilst we have a long historical heritage to be proud of, much of that heritage is what holds us back. Yes, the tutorial system is excellent when it works, but what about when departments simply fail to organise your course properly, because so little attention is paid to the undergraduate degrees we pay so much for?
It’s true that we’re fortunate enough to have the Bodleian library on our doorstep, but neither it nor its various branches open on a Sunday, and many colleges have nowhere to work after 10pm. An ill-funded former polytechnic may not have the tutorial system, but it would at least have a coherent options system and weekend library opening hours.
No wonder we’re being caught up with by universities such as Imperial, LSE and UCL in the league tables. While Oxford sticks to its often old-style syllabuses, they modernise their courses to attract more students. If you want to do a language without wading through medieval literature, for example, this is not the place to come.
Though for the moment Oxford retains its place by virtue of getting the best, most ambitious students, the university itself may be slowly slipping behind