Walking Tours of Oxford
When I started guiding in 1992, the standard tour was called 'Oxford Past and Present'. In those days most colleges were open and welcoming, higher education was mainly free, the internet was around the corner, the two old Universities Oxford and Cambridge held the high ground, teaching methods reflected their medieval origins. Women students and postgraduates were a small minority. A group of male academics swam every day from Parsons Pleasure on the River Cherwell, the Parks staff were required to break the ice if necessary and ladies were required to alight from their punts and walk around! Oxford slumbered in its Ivory Towers.
In the Town was a range of independent shops; traffic moved freely through most streets. Somehow we had to manage without a mobile phone, email, and all the essentials of modern life. We had got used to seeing a red Jaguar car driving, or being pushed, with a grumpy detective within, named Morse. We had never heard of someone called Harry Potter (we have now!).
Now most of the independent shops have become branches of coffee purveyors. Ethnic restaurants have multiplied as the number of overseas students at both universities and other language schools has grown. Most central streets are virtually traffic-free. The computer screen and e-reading are replacing the printed book; lectures can be received from star international professors across the world; the mass of information available at the click of a mouse is massive and growing. Free higher education is gone, costs are rising, the student is now a customer and demanding respect and a good degree. Nevertheless the old university still teaches its undergraduates for less than half a year and traditionalists hang on grimly to their principles and usually win.
So in addition to 'Past and Present' is added 'Future' and the emphasis on my tours has gradually swung that way. Most people who choose to visit Oxford are well above average intelligence and expertise (yes, really), and there is often a discussion from which I learn. Over the page are the typical things seen and talked about. I hope that you will join me.