Connections between Oxford and the United States are strong across the spectrum of the University’s activities. The USA is the largest source of students and staff outside of the UK and is home to the largest number of international Oxford alumni. Oxford academics and scientists publish research with American colleagues more frequently than with any other nationality, and the USA provides the largest source of funding for Oxford research outside of the UK.
Oxford University Press has deep historical links to the US: in January 2009, President Barack Obama was sworn into office on the same Bible as that used by Abraham Lincoln in 1861, which was published by Oxford University Press in 1853. The Oxford University Press, Inc. (OUP USA) is Oxford University Press’s second major publishing centre after Oxford, and is by far the largest university press in the USA. Set up in 1896, OUP USA was the Press’ first international office. Since it began to publish its own US books in the 1920s, the Press has been honoured with seven Pulitzer Prizes, several National Book Awards, and over a dozen Bancroft Prizes in American history. It publishes at a variety of levels and for a wide range of audiences in almost every academic discipline, furthering Oxford University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education.
The focal point for the study of the USA at Oxford is the Rothermere American Institute. Opened in 2001 by former US President Bill Clinton, it is an international centre of excellence dedicated to the interdisciplinary and comparative study of the US. Bringing together scholars, intellectuals, policy-makers, and public figures from around the world, it seeks to promote a greater public and academic understanding of the history, culture, and politics of the US. It is considered to be one of the best places to study the United States outside America. The Director of the RAI is Professor Jay Sexton, an expert on the American presidency and currently Tutorial Fellow in American History at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. His research focuses on nineteenth century America and its connections with the wider world.
The study of American history enjoys great vitality at Oxford thanks to its dynamic expansion in recent years. The Oxford Centre for Research in US History (OxCRUSH) is housed in the Faculty of History and brings together the substantial body of American historians who work in Oxford.
Provision in the field is now unsurpassed within the British university system. Forming one of the largest establishments of American history specialists in the country, the group of nearly 10 Faculty post holders teach and supervise most of the major areas of American history. The annual Harmsworth Professorship makes Oxford unique amongst British institutions by enabling a distinguished American scholar to spend a year in Oxford teaching, conducting seminars, and pursuing research.
As a mark of the standing of Oxford’s scholars of the US, in February 2009, Professor Richard Cawardine, Lincoln biographer, former Rhodes Professor of American History, and President of Corpus Christi College, became the only non-American to receive the Order of Lincoln from the State of Illinois.
American Politics and International Relations
Oxford is home to a number of specialists in American Politics and International Relations. Professor Marc Stears, University Lecturer in Political Theory, specialises in the history of radical political thought with a recent focus on US radicals. Professor Desmond King, the current Andrew Mellon Professor of American Government, is a leading scholar of American political development and the author of many works on labour markets, race, immigration, and ethnicity.
American literature is one of the major research areas of Oxford’s Faculty of English Language and Literature, and the RAI also hosts a research programme in American literature. Oxford’s American literature specialists publish widely on American modernist literature, poetry and the history of American literature. The Faculty is home to specialists in the works of authors including Ezra Pound, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, TS Eliot, and Philip Roth among others.
The USA in its regional context
The North American Studies programme, established in 2012 at St Antony’s College, seeks to examine the common problems and issues that transcend national boundaries in North America, the interrelationships among North American states and societies, and the relationship of the region to the wider world. It is designed to create a lively and world-class multi-disciplinary programme at Oxford to study North America as a region, defined as the area from the Arctic to Panama, including the Caribbean. It is a substantial and permanent programme for the study of North America, and was designed to build on the strong base that already exists at Oxford through our wide range of North American experts in faculties such as History and Politics and in such centres as the Rothermere American Institute, International Studies, the Environmental Change Institute and Migration Studies. The North American Studies programme also brings in leading scholars and practitioners from the UK and North America.
Academics can be found working on North American issues, and in collaboration with North American colleagues, throughout the University. Academically, the study of the United States - its history, culture and politics - received a renewed focus in Oxford with the establishment of the Rothermere American Institute which was opened by former US President Bill Clinton in 2001. The RAI is an international centre of excellence dedicated to the interdisciplinary and comparative study of the United States.
Studying North America in its regional context allows the programme to focus on common issues and challenges such as migration, security, trade, environment, resources, aboriginal rights and governance, which affect the continent as a whole. The programme will initially look at three main areas: the common problems and issues which transcend national boundaries in North America; the interrelationships among the states and societies of North America; and the relationship of the continent to the external world.
It is a sign of Oxford’s strong ties with the region that one of only three international University offices is located there. The University's North American Office, based in New York, reflects and seeks to further strengthen Oxford's relationship with North America.
Libraries and Museums
Several of the University libraries and museums hold extensive collections of items relating to native and post colonial America. For instance, the Rothermere American Institute is host to the Vere Harmsworth Library (part of the Bodleian Library), the finest library of Americana to be found outside the US. Its collection focuses predominantly on the history, social, political and economic, of the United States from Colonial times to the present day.
Research connections between the US and Oxford are strong and growing: The US is the largest source of international research collaborators and also the largest source of international research funding at Oxford, with funding from federal (government) agencies in the USA becoming an increasingly important part of the wider research funding portfolio at Oxford over recent years. In addition to funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Oxford researchers have been successful in securing grants and contracts from a range of other US federal agencies such as the Department of Defence (and its sub-agencies such as DARPA, Office of Naval Research, US Air Force) and the Department of Education and Department of Energy.
Furthermore, the USA is home to the largest concentration of Oxford’s co-authors in its academic and scientific publishing. The University collaborates most frequently with Harvard University followed by Johns Hopkins, Yale, Wisconsin and MIT.
Oxford was recently ranked number one in the world for the study of medicine by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings in 2015, so it is not surprising to find Oxford medics collaborating extensively with one of the US’s top medical research institutions, the National Institutes of Health.
The Jenner Institute was founded in November 2005 to develop innovative vaccines against major global diseases. The current HIV Vaccine Programme at the Jenner Institute is seeking to develop a vaccine for the HIV virus. Based jointly at the Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine and the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology the programme is designing, developing and carrying out clinical trials on a number of vaccine strategies with the hope of developing an effective drug to combat the disease. Part of this programme is being carried out in collaboration with the Vaccine Research Centre in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. Funding for this part of the programme is provided by the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative.
National Institutes of Health Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Programme
The National Institutes of Health Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Programme was started in 2001 in recognition of the fact that the most innovative and exciting biomedical research is increasingly a global and collaborative process. The programme leads to an Oxford doctorate, and is designed to train outstanding students in various areas of biomedical research.
Students split their time evenly between two world-class research centres – Oxford University and the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland – and are supervised by leading researchers in both places. Scholars (6-8 per year) are fully funded and must be US citizens or permanent residents with a US bachelor’s degree. Current students on the course are researching areas such as HIV Vaccines, Pharmacology, Neuroscience, Stem Cells, Immunology and SARS.
Collaborations with Princeton
Established in 2001 to build on longstanding connections between Oxford academics and to further strengthen ties between the two universities, the collaboration between Oxford and Princeton is now three-pronged: student exchange, a joint postdoctoral programme (the Global Leaders Fellowship Programme), and research collaboration seed funding.
The student exchange programme has been running since 2002. While formal student exchanges take place at undergraduate level, there are also less formal graduate exchanges that take place on an ad hoc basis at the faculty or department level. Each year, up to 10 undergraduate students from each university, in Biochemistry and Engineering, spend a half or full year at the other university.
Oxford-Princeton Global Leaders Fellowship Programme
In 2007, Oxford and Princeton launched the Oxford-Princeton Global Leaders Fellowship Programme, a postdoctoral programme in world politics and political economy for scholars from developing countries. Between three and five fellows are appointed each year; they spend one year at Oxford and one year at Princeton. In Oxford, the programme is run by the Global Economic Governance Programme and Fellows hold a research scholarship at University College. In Princeton, it is run by the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. The programme creates a network of scholars and practitioners with expertise in the key issues surrounding globalisation.
A major aim of the formal collaboration agreed between Oxford and Princeton was to encourage research collaboration and access to one another's research facilities. To facilitate this, Oxford and Princeton began providing seed funding for joint research projects in 2003. The seed fund has supported 65 projects since its inception on projects as varied as ‘Marriage and Youth in Contemporary India’, ‘Metabolomic analysis of severe malaria’, and 'How does the brain encode memories?'
In the Faculty of Music, the Oxford-Princeton Partnership was established as a research partnership in music theory and analysis with colleagues in Princeton’s Music Department. The partnership encourages closer research collaborations between the two institutions; to rethink definitions and boundaries of musical analysis and to consolidate Oxford as a leading UK centre for music theory. The group holds an annual Analysis Symposium at which faculty members and graduate students both present work on the practice of music analysis.
Collaborations in Astrophysics
Researchers at Oxford are involved with a wide range of collaborations with US partners in the field of astrophysics.
In March 2010, an international team, including scientists from Oxford University and NASA JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) at Caltech, the University of California, and the University of Arizona investigated the heart of our solar system’s largest storm on Jupiter. The team used thermal images from the Very Large Telescope (Chile), Gemini Observatory telescope (Chile) and Japan’s Subaru telescope (Hawaii) to uncover an incredibly complex structure in what was previously thought to be a simple storm system.
In January 2011, the same team of Oxford planetary astrophysicists analysed the debris from a massive impact on Jupiter which had caused a huge hole in its surface. They discovered that it was the result not of an icy comet as had previously been thought, but of a rocky asteroid the size of the Titanic. This result was highly pertinent because it was the first time that a comet had been monitored hitting the planet, which was previously thought to be impossible due to the fact that comets have very steady orbits.
In May 2011, Oxford University led a team of physicists including astronomists from a range of US universities including University of Maryland; University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Cornell University, which pioneered the 3D mapping of weather activity on Saturn. The team used observations from both an orbiting spacecraft (NASA's Cassini) and ground-based telescope (ESO's VLT) at thermal infrared wavelengths, in order to build a picture of the weather on Saturn which had previously been impossible using only visible light observations. They uncovered that what had until that time been thought of as a very calm and relatively weather free planet was in fact a hotbed of meteorological activity and violent storms.
In August 2011, Oxford astrophysicists were part of a team which discovered the brightest and closest supernova (exploding star) of its type observed for 40 years. Scientists from the University of Oxford made the discovery with their colleagues from the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) collaboration at Caltech, and collaborators from Columbia University, Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, UC Berkeley, and the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel) using a robotic telescope in California.
Collaborations in the Humanities
Research collaborations in the humanities between Oxford University and scholars in the USA have increased in recent years, and include postgraduate students as well as academics.
Oxford-US Links in Law
Oxford’s collaborative links are not only about academic research; student and academic staff exchange is also a key aspect of the University’s relationship with many international partners.
In 2010, Oxford University and Columbia Law School announced the Columbia-Oxford Alliance in Law and Finance. This exchange programme offers 3rd year Columbia law students the chance to study law at Oxford for 2 academic terms through its Masters in Law and Finance curriculum, and in exchange allows Oxford graduates to audit Law School courses and conduct research under the guidance of faculty members. In addition, faculty members from both law schools will also participate in the exchange to facilitate academic interaction and new teaching experiences.
Oxford’s Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy (PCMLP) at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies collaborates closely with the Centre for Global Communication Studies at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. PCMLP provides a sophisticated and nuanced understanding of the playing out of human rights debates in media systems and the impact of media changes on democratic values and economic development.
The two institutions jointly host the annual Annenberg-Oxford Media Policy Summer Institute. This event brings together young scholars and regulators to discuss important recent trends in technology, international politics and development and its influence on media policy. Participants come from around the world; countries represented at previous summer institutes include Thailand, Kenya, China, Brazil, Egypt, Nigeria, Jordan, Italy and Bosnia, among others.
MIT exchange in Material Sciences and Engineering
Since 1996, the Department of Materials at Oxford and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT have sponsored a mutual undergraduate exchange. Students can apply to attend the other university for two academic terms in either their second or final year of study.
Oxford is a member of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), an alliance between ten of the world's leading research-intensive universities who share similar visions for higher education, in particular the education of future leaders. Fellow IARU members include the American universities Yale and UC Berkeley, as well as other research-intensive universities around the world.
The USA is Oxford’s largest source of students and academics outside the UK. There are currently almost 1,500 students from the USA, approximately two thirds of whom are studying at graduate level. Rhodes Scholarships have been particularly instrumental in attracting talented American students to Oxford. The highly prestigious scholarships are unique to Oxford and offer the best and brightest students the opportunity to study at Oxford at postgraduate level, a taught Master’s programme, a research degree, or a second undergraduate degree (senior status). Thirty-two Rhodes Scholarships are awarded annually to Americans.
American students may also apply to the Fulbright-Oxford Clarendon Scholarships which fund US citizens to study for either a taught or research masters or a doctoral programme (DPhil), and Marshall Scholarships which provide students with two fully funded years of study, with a possible third-year extension. Although they are not specific to Oxford, the University consistently receives the largest proportion of Marshall Scholars in the UK averaging approximately 40%.
Prospective American students can also apply for a wide range of other scholarship opportunities.
Oxford currently has over 320 academic and research staff from the US, the University’s largest source of international academic talent. They include:
Professor Shamita Das
Shamita Das is Professor of Earth Sciences and, since 2014, Emeritus Fellow of Exeter College. She is a leading seismologist specialising in tectonics, volcanoes and hazards and her recent work has focused on great earthquakes in Sumatra, Antarctica, and Indonesia. Her long-term research aims to contribute to the development of better earthquake prediction capabilities.
Professor Das received her doctorate at MIT in 1976.
Professor Nancy Bermeo
Professor Nancy Bermeo is Nuffield Professor of Comparative Politics and fellow of Nuffield College. She has published extensively on inequality, federalism, and the causes and consequences of democratisation and regime change, with the focus of her recent work being on post-conflict democracies. She is the founding director of the Oxford University Centre for the Study of Inequality and Democracy which is the centre for collaborative research in comparative politics of democracies. In 2011 she was awarded an Oxford University Teaching Excellence Award as nominated and voted for by her students.
Professor Bermeo studied for her BA in Political Science at Mount Holyoke College and studied for her MPhil and doctorate in Political Science at Yale University.
The US is home to the largest group of Oxford alumni with more than 26,000 Oxonians. There are 33 alumni branches in at least 23 states including some of the University’s most active alumni groups. As would be expected, Oxford has a considerable and impressive list of prominent American alumni.
Among these are political figures and statesmen including:
- Bill Clinton, Former US President and Chairman of the William J. Clinton Foundation
- Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court
- Cory Booker, US Senator for New Jersey
- Susan Rice, US National Security Advisor
Academic leaders include:
- Richard Levin, former President of Yale University
- A. Michael Spence, Former Dean of Stanford Business School and Nobel Laureate
- Elena Kagan, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Justice and former Dean, Harvard Law School
In media and broadcasting, Oxford alumni include:
- Rachel Maddow, radio and television host
- Thomas Friedman, author and columnist in The New York Times
- Walter Isaacson, veteran journalist and CEO of The Aspen Institute
- George Stephanopoulos, television journalist and chief anchor of ABC News
Prominent Oxonian business leaders in the USA include:
- Mohamed El-Erian, Chief Economic Advisor of Allianz
- Patrick Pichette, former CFO and Senior VP of Google Inc
- Afsaneh Beschloss, Founder and CEO, Rock Creek Group