Oxford’s history with France goes back to the very first days of the University’s inception; although university-level teaching is known to have existed at Oxford in some form in 1096, the University of Oxford developed rapidly from 1167 onwards after English students were banned from attending the University of Paris by Henry II, the English king.
Today, France has one of the very highest rates of co-publication with Oxford of any country. In addition, French organisations have been partners with Oxford on projects funded by the EU ‘framework programmes’ more frequently than any other country’s bar Germany.
Another important link between Oxford and France, the Maison Française d’Oxford (MFO), began in 1946. The MFO is a French academic centre in Oxford that is associated with the University, and which facilitates collaboration between the University and France. It hosts French academics working on long-term collaborative projects with colleagues at Oxford, supports visiting French students, and promotes French culture and language in Oxford. The MFO has three French parent organisations, the Universités de Paris, the Ministry for European and Foreign Affairs, and the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).
France studies at Oxford
Study and teaching about France takes place in departments throughout the University’s academic divisions. There are also several units with a strong concentration on France.
The French department of the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages is one of the major centres at Oxford for French studies, and one of the major centres for it in the UK. The department covers all aspects and periods of French literature, culture and language.
Oxford’s Voltaire Foundation is a world leader in 18th century scholarship. It is producing the definitive edition of the Complete Works of Voltaire, with a digital edition also in active preparation. The foundation also publishes a major series of works devoted to Enlightenment studies, the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series, as well as editions of the correspondences of key French Enlightenment thinkers. It has also created Electronic Enlightenment, an online repository of correspondence from the Enlightenment period.
Oxford’s Faculty of Law offers degrees that include studying a European legal system abroad, including French law.
Libraries and Museums
The Ashmolean Museum’s holdings include the world’s largest collection of paintings by Camille Pissarro, as well as works by other French artists such as Manet, Renoir and Degas.
The Faculty of Music’s Bate Collection of musical instruments is the most comprehensive collection in Britain of European musical instruments, and includes instruments by the most important French makers.
A highlight of the Bodleian Libraries’ collections is the oldest surviving manuscript of the French epic poem La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland).
Collaborations with French institutions
Academics at Oxford work collaboratively with their French colleagues across a broad range of disciplines.
Gardens, Libraries and Museums collaborations
Coin Hoards of the Roman Empire, a project run by the Ashmolean Museum and the Oxford Roman Economy Project, is creating an online database of Roman-era coin hoards found in ex-territories of the Roman Empire. A number of French institutions participate: the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), the École Pratique des Hautes Études, the ANHIMA (Anthropology and History of the Ancient World) research centre, the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap), and the Société française de Numismatique.
Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences collaborations
The Department of Physics at Oxford and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) are partners in the PanScales project at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC). ‘Parton showers’ are a tool vital to the LHC’s experiments, but whose precision now needs to be improved so as not to become a weak link in the LHC’s work. PanScales aims to develop a novel parton shower with accuracy up to an order-of-magnitude greater than in current approaches.
Social Sciences collaborations
The OxPo programme supports joint activities between Oxford and Sciences Po in France. It provides a platform for the comparative study of the political and social systems of countries in Europe and beyond, through organising academic exchanges and fostering joint research projects between the programme’s two partners.
Oxford’s Faculty of Law operates an annual French law “moot”, where students are given the opportunity to argue in French over a point of French law. It is geared mostly, though not exclusively, towards students for whom French is a second language and French law a second legal system. It has been sponsored since its inception by the French legal firm Gide Loyrette Nouel, and also receives sponsorship from the Association Henri Capitant and Société de législation comparée.
Oxford’s Department of Economics, the Paris School of Economics and Chicago’s Northwestern University have run the Transatlantic Theory Workshop series in economic theory annually since 2008. The event rotates between Oxford, Paris and Chicago.
Scholarships and travel assistance
There are many schemes offering funding for international undergraduate students and particularly funding for international graduate students to study at Oxford, as well as schemes to help students already at Oxford travel abroad.
Oxford has official clubs and societies for people interested in, or who have a connection to, many different countries and regions.
Oxford alumni in France
Oxford has a large number of alumni groups around the world.