The college was founded as Somerville Hall in 1879 with just 12 students. By adopting the name of Scottish scientist and polymath Mary Somerville, our founders signalled their lofty ambitions for their students. Mary Somerville was also a strong supporter of women's suffrage and an advocate of women's education.
Somerville was the first Oxford college to be non-denominational, which meant that it was open to all students regardless of religious affiliation. We were home to some of the first Indian students at Oxford, including the pioneering lawyer Cornelia Sorabji, marking the beginning of a link with India that flourishes to the present day.
Our students work hard and many have gone on to achieve great things in science, literature, politics, philosophy and other fields: Vera Brittain, Dorothy Sayers, Dorothy Hodgkin, Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher all studied at Somerville.
Male students have been accepted at the college since 1994. Our undergraduate body is now evenly split between men and women.