To most Americans the every day life of the student of an English university is an almost unknown subject, Their information about it is mainly derived from the brilliant pictures of university life which the English novel occasionally affords us. It would be difficult to imagine a life more free and pleasant than that which the Oxford student enjoys. Although the social entertainment and amusements of the town of Oxford are few, he need never be at a loss for occupation, for the university is most completely a world by itself, which possesses innumerable sources of amusement on account of this very absence of outside attractions. Oxford presents a birds-eye-view, as it were, of English social life. Many of the clubs are copies of the London clubs, and social distinctions, which were formerly preserved with absurd exactness still exist, and the young representatives of the English nobility are still apt to secure the big prizes in the contest for social eminence and honors.
The daily routine of the Oxford undergraduates is not calculated to produce exhaustion from overwork, although the hard-working student of course can easily find enough to occupy him all the time in an institution which possesses such opportunities for learning as does Oxford. All the lectures are given in the morning, and the afternoon and evening are free to the student. It is seen from this that the amount of time devoted absolutely to work is not very large, and as the length of each term is eight weeks, and vacation, all told, amounts to six months each year, a course at Oxford need not be a very severe "grind" to a man rather inclined to take things easy. There is one restriction, however, put upon the personal freedom of the students, which perhaps seems strange and amusing to the students of Harvard, where every student is almost completely his own master.
No Oxford student is allowed to enter or leave the university after nine o'clock. The gates are shut at this time, but the payment of a fine, graded according to the gravity of the offence, will admit the tardy student even after this late hour. This regulation and one forbidding students to walk up the river in the morning, and another forbidding students to walk on "The High" in study hours, without cap and gowns, are relics of the old system of police regulations which used to exist in all colleges and universities in olden times. These last two regulations are what we might call dead letters on the Oxford statute book; no observance is paid to them. These are good examples of a certain class of petty rules and regulations in existence, but never enforced at Oxford.
One point wherein the Oxford student has the advantage, or disadvantage as the reader may think, over the American college student, is the regulation that no one shall pursue separate courses of study until he has been at the university a year. No matter what his knowledge may be, every man is obliged to wait a year before trying to pass his "Moderations," as they are called; then, if successful, he is allowed to study "The Finals," or elective courses. Thus taking a three years' course instead of one of four years, is scarcely feasible or practicable.