International Womens Day 2018: Women in Oxford History

Happy International Women’s Day from Oxford Summer Courses! To celebrate, we’re taking a look at the role of women in Oxford history and how history has been shaped by the women who have studied and lived in Oxford’s prestigious colleges.

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Despite the university welcoming women as students in 1920, Oxford colleges Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville College were the first women’s colleges to open in Oxford, in 1879. It is impossible to mention women in Oxford history without mentioning the women of Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville College. In June 1878, the Association for the Higher Education of Women was founded, with its goal being the creation of a college for women in Oxford. The group was undecided between whether or not the institution to be founded should be specifically Anglican. The group split, with Lady Margaret Hall being originally founded as an Anglican institution, and Somerville College being founded as a college “in which no distinction will be made between students on the ground of their belonging to different religious denominations.”

Lady Margaret Hall is the oldest women’s college at Oxford or Cambridge, founded in 1878 and opening to its first 9 female students the following year. It was founded by Edward Stuart Talbot, then the warden of Keble College, and his wife, Lavinia Talbot. Lady Margaret Hall, known sometimes as “LMH”, was named after Lady Margaret Beaufort, patron of scholarship and learning and mother of King Henry VII. The first principal of the original 9 students was Elizabeth Wordsworth, great-niece of the poet William Wordsworth. The college remained a women’s college for 100 years, admitting men in 1979. Notable alumnae of Lady Margaret Hall include Benazir Bhutto, Ann Widdecombe, Nigella Lawson, Eglantyne Jebb, Priscilla Tolkein, among many others. Actress and women’s rights activist Emma Watson is a visiting fellow of Lady Margaret Hall. Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Noble Prize recipient and activist for universal education for girls and women, is a current student at LMH.


Somerville College was the second women’s college founded at Oxford. The college became co-ed in 1994, and today the college is 50% male. Somerville College was named after the Scottish mathematician and renowned scientific writer Mary Somerville, known also for her expressed views in support of women’s suffrage and equal access to education for women. When opened, the college was originally known as Somerville Hall and had twelve students. It was the first women’s hall to introduce entrance exams in 1891. It was renamed Somerville College in 1894, becoming the first of the Oxford women’s college to adopt the title of a college. In 1920, Oxford University allowed women to matriculate, and in 1925, Somerville’s college charter was granted. Dorothy Hodgkin is one of the most notable alumnae of Somerville, the only British woman so far to have been awarded a Nobel Prize in the three sciences. She was awarded a first-class honours degree from the university, and at the time was only 1 of 3 women in Oxford history to do so. She won the 1964 Nobel Prize for chemistry for her work in protein crystallography and her work in determining the structure of penicillin.


Learn More

Both Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville College are accommodation options on our summer courses, where students from around the world can live and learn in Oxford, a city brimming with history. To learn more about these colleges and links to our photo galleries for each, please visit our accommodation page. We wish a happy International Women’s Day to all.

Posted: March 8, 2018

Cambridge: The Heart of Technology & Business in the UK

Cambridge, summer course in Cambridge, Silicon Fen, Summer Class, Summer Programme, Summer Abroad

Many students like the idea of studying in the UK and Cambridge has always been a hot and not surprisingly, a historic destination. With an education system that has a renowned international reputation, as well as a broad range of courses to choose from, a summer course in Cambridge can be both fulfilling and practical for all ages. Moreover, there are opportunities for personal growth and development quite unlike anywhere else.

Many students like the idea of an educational summer abroad in order to study for what is now becoming one of the fastest growing areas of learning – emerging technologies. A course within this discipline can offer an exciting opportunity for students to immerse themselves within the very latest technological developments, while getting a comprehensive understanding of digitization within the world today.  While many of us take the Internet and applications for granted, understanding the role they play within a wider commercial context is crucial within the modern world.

From the emerging technologies of A.I., 3D Printing and even the importance of Digital Marketing and App Development, exploration and learning in this area is going to be beneficial in any industry of the future and there are plenty of opportunities to discover this exciting world at Oxford Summer Courses.

A key component to the course here is developing student understanding of things like venture capital and investment, which could take a student’s initial idea from concept through to ground breaking technology in the future. It’s exciting stuff!

Equally, business and entrepreneurship is of growing interest to a lot of students who have dreamed of starting their own business in the future. A course within this area can not only offer you greater understanding of commercial operations but more importantly, it will give students transferable skills and knowledge that could set them apart from their peers within the commercial world. Studying over a summer in Cambridge is therefore the perfect way to combine both educational and life goals together.

The course here at Oxford Summer Schools offers students a hands-on and interactive learning experience, where individuals get to develop their very own business ideas.  They are taught best practice within the business start-up world and by the end of the course they will be equipped with the basic tools they’ll need to turn their idea into reality in the future.

At the Heart of Silcon Fen

Here at Oxford Summer Courses we actually know a thing or two about what it’s like to be a business start-up. However, we not only work within a start-up space in Cambridge, but we’re also in the heart of ‘Silicon Fen’. This movement has seen over 1500 science and technology based companies arise over the last few years, some of which have attracted global interest and worldwide dominance.

In fact, Cambridge is now ranked as one of the top three ‘innovation ecosystems’ in the world.  This makes it a unique and highly relevant study destination for learning and development, offering students opportunities that are not available elsewhere.

If you see yourself in the future as a budding business owner or you would like to be at the heart of a technological hub and develop some fantastic ideas, take a look at our courses and get your future off to the right start!

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Learn More

To learn more about our programme in Cambridge, please visit our Cambridge page.

Posted: March 2, 2018

Why Oxford is the Best Place to Be a Writer, by Dr. Kieron Winn

summer course, summer in Oxford, summer in Cambridge, Oxford Summer Courses Dr. Kieron Winn’s first collection of poetry, The Mortal Man, was published in 2015, and has been widely praised He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was awarded a doctorate for a thesis on Herbert Read and T. S. Eliot. His poems have appeared in magazines including Agenda, Agni, The Dark Horse, Literary Imagination, The London Magazine, The New Criterion, New Statesman, Oxford Magazine, Poetry Review, The Rialto, The Spectator and The Times Literary Supplement. Selections of his poems have featured anthologies including Carcanet’s Oxford Poets 2007 and Waywiser’s Joining Music with Reason, and he has read his poems on BBC TV and radio. He has twice won, in 2007 and 2013, the University of Oxford’s most valuable literary award, the English Poem on a Sacred Subject Prize. He lives in Oxford, where he is a freelance teacher, and has been a tutor with Oxford Summer Courses since its founding in 2010.

I’ve heard it said that Oxford is the best place in Britain to be a writer. Partly this is because of writers whose footsteps you tread in, such as:

1. Geoffrey of Monmouth (medieval teller of tales of King Arthur)

2. Percy Bysshe Shelley (poet)

3. Dorothy L. Sayers (crime writer)

4. Elizabeth Bowen (novelist and short story writer)

5. W. B. Yeats (poet)

6. Philip Pullman (novelist)

The latter writes, in the trilogy His Dark Materials, of openings to parallel universes. Oxford can feel like that: it is crammed with quadrangles and corridors where different worlds exist behind each door. Working alongside each other in a college might be a biographer of Rasputin, a compiler of a Spanish Dictionary, and a researcher into black holes.

Oxford used to be a shallow tropical sea, and there are one or places where you can see fossilised coral and oysters. Sometimes, in the winter, there’s so much rain that it threatens to become a sea again. But, everyone agrees, in the summer, when you would be here, it’s beautiful. The honey-coloured buildings soak up and radiate the sunlight, and there is no shortage of green lawn to recline on. If you’re studying creative writing, you will read extracts from major writers, then pick up their tools. T. S. Eliot says that immature poets imitate, but mature poets steal. In other words, mature writers make the techniques their own. You might learn how to use fewer words, and not to mix your metaphors. You might look at how to use the stream-of-consciousness style of Virginia Woolf (this may involve unlearning a fair amount!). Or you might learn how to use poetic rhythm to generate meaning and make your words sink into the reader’s memory. All the teaching is done in small groups, with the tutorials mostly in pairs. You have to engage and talk, and this can be a great boost to confidence and learning.

Here are three of my favourite quotes about Oxford. The first is from W. B. Yeats: ‘I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all – the colleges I mean – like an opera.’

Here’s Matthew Arnold: ‘Beautiful city! so venerable, so lovely, so unravaged by the fierce intellectual life of our century, so serene! … whispering from her towers the last enchantments of the Middle Age.’

And finally, Oscar Wilde: ‘Oxford still remains the most beautiful thing in England, and nowhere else are life and art so exquisitely blended, so perfectly made one.’

But don’t take their word for it: come and see for yourself, and make your own mind up.


Learn more about Dr. Kieron Winn’s Creative Writing course.

Posted: February 14, 2018


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