The University of Oxford and Pakistan

The University of Oxford and Pakistan

By Mustafa Imran

The University of Oxford is arguably one of the most recognized universities in the world. It is also the most familiar university in Pakistan and India for a variety of reasons. Perhaps one of the top reasons is that the rich of South Asians have been sending their children to the United Kingdom (UK), particularly to Oxford and Cambridge University, for over a century or so.

So I thought I should take a look at it and see why our students should aim for it for their future studies.

Oxford is considered as the oldest university in the English-speaking world[1]. It was ranked first in the World University Rankings 2016-17[2]. The University is very competitive: around 18,300 people applied for around 3,200 undergraduate places for entry in 2015. That means that Oxford receives, on average, around five applications for each available place.

The University, including the colleges and Oxford University Press, is the largest employer in Oxfordshire, supporting around 17,000 jobs and injecting more than £750 million (US$1.03 billion) annually into the regional economy.

There are over 23,000 students at Oxford, including 11,728 undergraduates and 10,941 postgraduates. About 42% of the total student body (almost 9,900 students) comprises of students outside of the United Kingdom that come from over 140 countries and territories, which makes a truly global university.

The University has been functional since late 11th century, but it started to develop rapidly from the mid-12th century when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris.

This state-of-the-art university is situated in the historical city of Oxford in United Kingdom. According to the official government website of Oxford city, the population of the city is around 159,600 as per 2015 mid-year estimate. It is ranked as the fast-growing international city with third highest ethnic minority population in South East England (28% of the total population).

It is a collegiate university instead of a campus university. The colleges, departments and other constituent units are situated throughout the city of Oxford along with a central University.  The central University is composed of academic departments and research centers, administrative departments, libraries and museums. The famous publishing company Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. The 38 colleges are self-governing and financially independent institutions, which are related to the central University in a federal system. Among these colleges, the Christ Church and the Magdalen College are the most famous ones.

Initially, the university was headed by a scholaster[3] named Oxonie before the university received its charter in 1214. Then the title of Scholaster was replaced by Chancellor. At present, Christopher Francis Patten is the Chancellor of the university.

The early subjects taught and discussed at the university were religion and politics. Later on from 18th century, the university started major contribution in the scientific discovery and religious revival.

There are total four Nobel-prize winning scientists who graduated from the University of Oxford. Adding to this, there is a list of contributors provided by the university to the world who played important role in the development of science and technology.

Apart from natural sciences, the university has also provided the world many renowned personalities in the field of fine arts, politics, literature, religion, mass media, trade and commerce, philosophy to name a few.

The recently elected Prime Minister of England Theresa May and former Prime Minister David Cameron are alumni of the University of Oxford.

It is an honor for Pakistan that our first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was an alumni of this university. Moreover, there some other top Pakistani politicians are also alumni of the university like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto — former President and Prime Minister of Pakistan, Sardar Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari — former President of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto — former Prime Minister of Pakistan and Imran Khan — former international cricketer.

At the university the trend of linking with the outside world for admitting international scholars into the university began from the late 12th century (around 1190 A.D). Now the university has around 9,900 international students out of which around 6,000 students belong to non-European countries. These students are given accommodations within the university according to the internal accommodation system.

But this is an alarming situation for us being Pakistani that at present there is a very small percentage of Pakistani students enrolled in the university compared to the overall number of non-European students currently enrolled in the university.

At present, the university offers 250 subject combinations for undergraduates along with 300 graduate programs. Moreover, there are variety of Continuing Professional Education Programs including Online and Distance Learning programs and Summer Schools programs. There are around 1000 short or part-time study courses offered by the Department for Continuing Education.

There are also a number of female students enrolled in the university. Out of 23,000 students currently enrolled in the university, 45% are female students and 55% are male. Although the university is 800 years old, it started enrolling females from 20th century.

Beside the educational contributions and development, The University of Oxford is also serving as a tourism site. This university is contributing worth £58 million through tourism and cultural contributions. The official website of the university has a dedicated section for visitors/tourists.


[1] Around the world, the University of Karueein, Fez, Morocco is considered as the oldest university, founded in 859 AD (ref:

[2] Times Higher Education

[3] A scholaster or a magister scolarum was the head of a cathedral school in middle aged Europe.