1. Read the texts and answer the following questions:
a) When and where did the first universities appear?
b) How many faculties did a university have? What were they?
c) When were the first universities in Britain founded?
d) What was the attitude to the books at those times?
e) What subjects are taught and studied in Oxford nowadays?
f) Was Cambridge University open for women?
The First Universities
Before the 12th century most people were illiterate. Reading and writing skills were not considered important or necessary. Monasteries were centres of education and priests and monks were the most educated people.
But with the development of such sciences as medicine and law, organizations of general study called universities appeared in Italy and France. A university had four faculties: Theology (the study of religion), Canon Law (church laws), Medicine and Art, which included Latin grammar, rhetoric (the art of making speeches), logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music.
In the middle of the 12th century a group of professors from France came to Britain and founded schools in the town of Oxford in 1168. It was the beginning of the first English university. A second university was formed in 1209 in Cambridge. Towards the end of the 13th century colleges appeared around the universities, where other subjects were studied.
Getting an education in those times was very difficult. Printing had not yet been invented, and all the books were hand-written. Thatís why books were rare and very expensive. Only the richest people could afford buying books. If a man had twenty or thirty books, people said that he had a great library. Special rules existed for handling books. You were not to touch the books with dirty hands or put them on the table at meal times. In almost any monastery you could find one or two or more monks spending hours every day copying books.
The first written record of the town of Oxford dates back to the year 912. Oxford University, the oldest and most famous university in Britain, was founded in the middle of the 12th century, and by 1300 there were already 1,500 students. At that time Oxford was a wealthy town, but by the middle of the 14th century it was poorer, because of the decline in trade and because of the terrible plague, which killed many people in England. The relations between the students and the townspeople were very unfriendly, and there was often fighting in the streets.
Nowadays there are about 12,000 students in Oxford and over 1000 teachers. Outstanding scientists work in numerous colleges of the University, teaching and doing research work in physics, chemistry, mathematics, cybernetics, literature, modern and ancient languages, art and music, philosophy, psychology.
Oxford University has a reputation of a privileged school. Many prominent political figures of the past and present times got their education at Oxford.
Cambridge is one of the best-known towns in the world, and the principal reason for its fame is its University, the second oldest university of Britain, which was founded in the 13th century. Today there are more than twenty colleges in Cambridge University.
The oldest college is Peterhouse, which was founded in 1284, and the most recent is Robinson College, which was opened in 1977. The most famous is probably Kingís College, because of its magnificent chapel. Its choir of boys and undergraduates is also well known.
The university was only for men until 1871. In 1871 the first womenís college was opened. Another was opened two years later and a third in 1954. In the 1970s, most colleges opened their doors to both men and women. Nowadays almost all colleges are mixed.
2. Read the text carefully, identify key points. Express your opinion on the problem in English or in Russian when being tested on your progress in independent reading.