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Oxford and Cambridge are the oldest and the most traditional universities in Great Britain. They are often called Oxbridge to denote elitist education. Oxford was established in 1249, the first college at Cambridge, Peterhouse, was founded in 1284. The universities were only for men until 1871, when the first women's college was founded. Almost all colleges are mixed now and people from different parts of the world come to Oxbridge to study and get degrees.
Oxford and Cambridge universities consist of a number of colleges. Each college has its name, its coat of arms. Each college is self-governing. The large colleges have more than 400 members; the smallest ones have less than 30. Within a college there is a chapel, a dining-hall, a library, and rooms for students and for teaching purposes. All the students must pay for their education, examinations, books and libraries, laboratories, university hostel. Very few students get grants. The cost of education depends on the college and speciality.
The head of the university is a chancellor who is elected for life. The teachers are usually called "dons" and "tutors". Teaching is carried out by tutorial system for which Oxford and Cambridge universities are known all over the world. This is a system of individual tuition organized by the colleges. Every student has a tutor who practically guides him through the whole course of studies. The tutor plans the student's work and once or twice a week a student goes to his tutor to discuss his work with him. Each college offers teaching in a wide range of subjects. Students usually study only one or two subjects, such as politics and philosophy, or German and linguistics, for the whole of their course.
After three years of study students take the Bachelor's degree, and later the Master's and the Doctor's degrees. The degrees are awarded at public degree ceremonies. Oxford and Cambridge universities respect their traditions, such as the use of Latin at degree ceremonies. And students must wear gowns at lectures and exams.
The universities have over hundred societies and clubs. There are religious societies and societies for those who don't believe, sport and drama clubs. The Debating society is very popular among the students. There they debate political and other important up-to-date issues with the famous politicians and writers. Their debates are shown on TV.
A number of great men, well-known scientists and writers studied at Oxbridge, among them Erasmus, the great Dutch scholar, Roger Bacon, the philosopher, Oliver Cromwell, the soldier, John Milton and George Gordon Byron, the poets, Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, the scientists.