Friday, June 8, 2012

Oxford—Daily Student Life

The daily schedule of the medieval Oxford student was very different from what modern college students go through. For the first few centuries, there were no dorms, and students would room at a "Hall" connected to their college and run by a "Principal." Separate rooms devoted to lectures were not always available, and lectures were given in a room at the Hall or in the Master's own house or rented room. Fires were not allowed in college rooms—any college rooms—and the probable lack of chairs or benches meant you were standing in bitter cold for hours during part of the year.

Lectures were given from 6:00 a.m. until 10:00, when the first food of the day was made available at the Hall.* Dinner was served from 10:00 until 11:00, followed by free time until noon. Afternoon lectures were given from noon until 5:00 p.m.

Homework as we think of it (daily amounts of reading from a text that every student owned; regularly written essays) was unknown. Evenings were free, therefore, for gambling, chess, drinking and socializing; musical instruments could be played in the evening.

NO jousting, hunting, or hawking were allowed. One reason given was that, since they were expensive pastimes and therefore the province of the wealthy, engaging in them created a social divide between students from different economic classes.

Lectures might be offered on Sundays, or else they could be used for worship. Church holidays were free of lectures.

At the end of the term, the student body and Masters were gathered together at a meeting called the collect. Masters would discuss each student in turn, listing attendance violations, "grading" performance, and then assessing fees. Tuition was collected at this meeting—hence the name. N.B., students paid for the learning they received, they did not pay up front. This is not to say that you could hang out in Oxford, skip classes, and save the money that your parents sent you with: skipping a lecture for a subject you were supposed to be studying meant a fine of two pennies!

*This lack of breakfast will be addressed in the June 9 post.

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