The University of Oxford has no known foundation date.Teaching at Oxford existed in some form as early as 1096, but it is unclear when a university came into being.
It grew quickly in 1167 when English students returned from the University of Paris The historian Gerald of Wales lectured to such scholars in 1188 and the first known foreign scholar, Emo of Friesland, arrived in 1190. The head of the university was named a chancellor from at least 1201 and the masters were recognised as a universitas or corporation in 1231. The university was granted a royal charter in 1248 during the reign of King Henry III.
After disputes between students and Oxford townsfolk in 1209, some academics fled from the violence to Cambridge, later forming the University of Cambridge.
As a collegiate university, Oxford's structure can be confusing to those unfamiliar with it. The university is a federation, comprising over forty self-governing colleges and halls, along with a central administration headed by the Vice-Chancellor.
Academic departments are located centrally within the structure of the federation; they are not affiliated with any particular college. Departments provide facilities for teaching and research, determine the syllabi and guidelines for the teaching of students, perform research, and deliver lectures and seminars.
Colleges arrange the tutorial teaching for their undergraduates, and the members of an academic department are spread around many colleges. Though certain colleges do have subject alignments (e.g., Nuffield College as a centre for the social sciences), these are exceptions, and most colleges will have a broad mix of academics and students from a diverse range of subjects. Facilities such as libraries are provided on all these levels: by the central university (the Bodleian), by the departments (individual departmental libraries, such as the English Faculty Library), and by colleges (each of which maintains a multi-discipline library for the use of its members).
To be a member of the university, all students, and most academic staff, must also be a member of a college or hall. There are 38 colleges of the University of Oxford and six Permanent Private Halls, each controlling its membership and with its own internal structure and activities. Not all colleges offer all courses, but they generally cover a broad range of subjects.