The Capitol building in Washington DC at night
The Capitol building in Washington DC at night
(Image credit: Shutterstock).

United States of America

The United States has particularly strong connections to the University. By far Oxford’s largest single partner in terms of research funding and co-publications produced with Oxford academics, American nationals also constitute one of the largest groups of international staff and students at the University, and the United States has the largest number of resident Oxford alumni outside the UK.

A new centre to house Oxford’s humanities faculties will be created thanks to a landmark donation by Stephen A. Schwarzman, the American philanthropist and co-founder of the Blackstone investment group. The new Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities will bring these faculties together under one roof for the first time in the University’s history. In addition, the centre will house a specialist institute for ethics in artificial intelligence, as well as major new concert and performance venues for the city of Oxford.

Oxford University Press (OUP), the publishing arm of the University, opened its American office in 1896, and the US division is now one of the country’s largest academic publishers. An interesting historical link, predating the press’ establishment in the US, is that Abraham Lincoln was sworn into office on a bible published by OUP; the same bible was later also used by Barack Obama and Donald Trump at their inaugurations.

American studies at Oxford

Research and teaching about the United States takes place in departments throughout the University.

Oxford has a dedicated centre of American studies, the Rothermere American Institute, which is considered the foremost American studies centre outside the United States. Founded in 2001, its purpose is to promote greater public and academic understanding of the history, culture and politics of the United States.

The Rothermere Institute’s Vere Harmsworth Library houses Oxford’s main research collection related to the history of the United States, and is the largest such academic library collection in the UK. It also houses an extensive collection of American election campaign ephemera, the Philip & Rosamund Davies US Elections Campaigns Archive.

Libraries and museums

The Pitt Rivers Museum's North American collection is one of the most important in the UK. A highlight is the museum’s collection of historical photographs of Native Americans: it includes portraits of Native American leaders who came in delegations to Washington DC in the mid-19th century; anthropological photographs from the later 19th century taken for the US Bureau of American Ethnology; and photographs of day-to-day life taken in 1879 as part of the US Geological Survey of the Southwest.

Collaborations with institutions in the United States

Humanities collaborations

The Quill Project researches and models the negotiation of landmark legal texts including the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. Its digital-humanities approach to the study of constitutional law creates analytical tools aimed at historians, legal researchers and a broader public. The project has established a State Constitution Network in the US and collaborates with several American Universities – including Utah Valley University, Arizona State University, the University of New Jersey, and Brandeis University in Boston – to undertake archival research and digitisation for its digital publications related the evolution of American constitutional law.

The Hexapla Project aims to create a new standard edition of historical material connected with the Hexapla, a lost third-century comparative text of the Hebrew Bible and contemporary Greek translations of it. Fragmentary citations and references to the Hexapla in manuscripts and other works attest to the Hexapla’s original contents, and hence to the versions of the Biblical texts in circulation at the time it was compiled. The Hexapla Project aims to create the first new standard collection of this material in 150 years, that benefits from modern scholarship and the inclusion of newly discovered material. The project is a partnership between Oxford, VU University Amsterdam, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the United States (to August 2021), and the Phoenix Seminary in the US (from August 2021).

Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences collaborations

Washington State University is a partner in the international C4 Rice project to develop a higher-yielding rice variety, which is funded in part by the Gates Foundation. Existing varieties of rice will probably not be able to fulfil future needs, due to an increasing demand from a growing population in Asia coupled with a likely decrease in available agricultural land. Increasing the yield of rice is therefore considered one of the ‘grand challenges’ for science in the 21st century. Now led by the Dept. Of Plant Sciences at Oxford, the project originated at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.

The Zooniverse online ‘citizen science’ platform allows members of the public to participate in scientific research. Volunteers on Zooniverse help researchers by performing basic, common-sense analysis or categorisation tasks on research data; for example, sorting galaxies by their shape, counting penguins in pictures from Antarctica, or finding and marking particular landscape features on photographs of Mars. The project is lead from Oxford, and has two main American partners, Chicago’s Adler Planetarium and the University of Minnesota.

Medical Sciences collaborations

The US-based Kavli Foundation has endowed a new nanoscience research centre at Oxford, the Kavli Institute for NanoScience Discovery. The foundation is a major philanthropic funder of scientific research, primarily through the establishment of research centres at universities in the US and elsewhere. The new institute at Oxford will house around 40 faculty and 400 students and researchers, drawn from different disciplines that can contribute to neuroscience research.


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.

Student societies

Oxford has official clubs and societies for people interested in, or who have a connection to, many different countries and regions.

Oxford alumni in the United States

Oxford has a large number of alumni groups around the world.

Notable American alumni

As would be expected, Oxford has a considerable and impressive list of prominent American alumni, including:

  • Bill Clinton, former American president;
  • Stephen Breyer, former US Supreme Court justice;
  • Elena Kagan, US Supreme Court justice;
  • Cory Booker, senator for New Jersey;
  • Joseph Heller, writer, author of Catch–22;
  • Edwin Hubble, astronomer;
  • Alain Locke, philosopher and writer, first African-American Rhodes scholar;
  • Rachel Maddow, radio and television host
  • John Rawls, philosopher, author of A Theory of Justice;
  • Robert Penn Warren, writer and poet, former American poet laureate.