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Oxford is a world-leading centre of learning, teaching and research and the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Oxford is a collegiate university, consisting of the central University and colleges. The central University is composed of academic departments and research centres, administrative departments, libraries and museums. The 38 colleges are self-governing and financially independent institutions, which are related to the central University in a federal system. There are also six permanent private halls, which were founded by different Christian denominations and which still retain their Christian character. The different roles of the colleges and the University have evolved over time.

In the THE subject rankings 2016-2017, Oxford is, for the sixth year running, ranked first in the world for Clinical, Pre-Clinical and Health subjects. It ranks second for Archaeology, Medicine, Anthropology, Law, and Politics and International Studies. Oxford is ranked sixth in the world in the QS World Rankings (2016) and seventh in the world in the Academic Ranking of World Universities compiled by Shanghai Jiaotong University (2016). Oxford is ranked second in the UK by The Sunday Times (2017), The Guardian (2017) and The Complete University Guide (2017).