UNIVERSITY COURTS, in the English universities of Oxford and Cambridge, courts of inferior jurisdiction, administering principles of justice originally founded on the canon and civil law, but now defined and limited by the common law (see particularly Ginnett v. Whittingham, 1886, 16 Q.B.D. 769).
At Oxford the judge of the chancellor's court is the vice chancellor, who is his deputy or assessor; the court has had since 1244 civil jurisdiction, to the exclusion of the king's courts, in all matters and suits wherein a scholar or privileged person of the university is one of the parties, except in actions relating to freehold. It had also, from 1290 downwards, jurisdiction of all injuries and trespasses against the peace, mayhem and felony excepted, but since the Summary Jurisdiction Acts this is possibly no longer exercisable, but the chancellor, vice-chancellor and the vice-chancellor's deputy are justices of the peace for Oxford, Oxfordshire and Berkshire, where scholars are concerned, and exercise this jurisdiction under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts. By the Oxford University Act 1854 the vice-chancellor's court now administers the common and statute law of the realm.
The criminal jurisdiction of Cambridge University in cases where any person not a member of the university is a party has ceased, and its jurisdiction over light women, which was founded on a charter and statute of Elizabeth, was taken away in 1894 by a private act of that year (c. 60), and an act of 6 Geo. IV. c. 97, dealing with them and applicable till then only to Oxford University, was extended to Cambridge University. Previous to 1891, women of light character, who had been convicted of consorting with or soliciting members of the university in statu pupillari, were detained in a house of correction called the spinning house, but in that year a conviction was held bad (ex parte Hopkins, 1891, 61 L.J.Q.B. 240; see also, however, Kemp v. Nevill, 1861, 10 C.B.N.S. 523).