The granting of the Freedom of the City of Oxford is awarded under two categories:
- Persons of distinction; and
- Persons who have, in the opinion of the council, rendered eminent services to the city.
The title is honorary and does not have any rights attached to it other than to attend formal Council meetings. The Freedom is awarded following a suggestion from a councillor and agreement by all the Party Groups. There has to be a vote in favour of at least 2/3rd of those attending the meeting at which the conferment is to be made for Freedom of the City to be granted.
The following is a full list of people and organisations that have been awarded Freedom of the City of Oxford since 1900. The list runs in reverse date order:
- Lesley Dewhurst, 14 September 2016 - in recognition of her work with single homeless people in Oxford over the last 20 years
- The Rifles where allowed to exercise the Honour of the Freedom of Entry to the City of Oxford, by parading through Oxford City on 24 May 2015
- Professor Christopher Brown CBE, 2 July 2014, Director of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
- Oxfam, 23rd October 2012 - for its achievements in the city and across the world
- Philip Pullman, 24th January 2007 - author of the His Dark Materials trilogy
- Sir Roger Bannister, 12th May 2004 - the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes
- Professor Sir Richard Doll, 16th September 2002 - one of the first two scientists to link smoking with lung cancer
- Colin Dexter, 26th February 2001 - author of the Inspector Morse books
- Aung San Suu Kyi, 15th December 1997 - pro-democracy campaigner and leader of the opposition National League for Democracy party (NLD) in Burma. Collected in person on 20 June 2012. This honour was formally removed by Council at a special meeting on 27 November 2017.
- The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford, 23rd September 1997 - to reflect the eminent service it renders to the City
- Oxford Brookes University, 13th September 1997 - to reflect the eminent service it renders to the City
- Nelson Mandela, 23rd June 1997 - leader of the struggle to replace the apartheid regime and former president of South Africa
- City District of Bonn, 24th May 1997 - in recognition of the contribution to the life of the City
- City of Leiden, 22nd July 1996 - in recognition of the contribution to the life of the City
- Olive Gibbs, 17th June 1982 - local politician and political campaigner
- Florence Andrews, 22nd March 1974 - Mayor of Oxford and a founder member of the Oxford-Bonn twinning link
- Sir Basil Blackwell, 12th January 1970 - bookseller and publisher
- Lady Mary Townsend, 17th July 1967 - Mayor, leader of Oxford City Council from 1945 to 1967, an alderman, and a city magistrate for twenty years
- Mabel Prichard, 27th July 1964 - involved with public health and welfare in the City of Oxford
- The Rt. Hon. Clement Attlee, 16th January 1956 - British Prime Minister famous for introducing the National Health Service to Britain
- The Rt. Hon. Vivian Smith, The Lord Bicester, 1st March 1955 - merchant banker
- Alic Halford Smith, 10th February 1955 - warden of New College Oxford and vice-chancellor of Oxford University
- Robert Menzies, 6th June 1953 - former Prime Minister of Australia
- The Rt. Hon. William Morris, Viscount Nuffield, 15th January 1951 - founder of Morris Motors
- Benjamin Rowland-Jones, 4th September 1942
- Sir Hugh Hall, 23rd March 1932 - editor and general manager of the Oxford Journal
- Sir Michael Sadler, 18th May 1931 - lecturer and director of the office of special inquiries and reports in the Department of Education
- The Rev. H. E. Salter, 3rd March 1930 - local historian
- Arthur Cave, 21st October 1925
- Frederick Symonds, 11th August 1924
- Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig, 25th June 1919 - commander-in-chief of the British Army during the First World War
- Admiral of the Fleet Sir David Beatty, 25th June 1919 - commander of the British Grand Fleet during the First World War
- Rear Admiral Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt, 3rd February 1919 - naval officer during the First World War
- The Rt. Hon. Arthur Annesley, Viscount Valentia, 6th December 1900
During a tour of Wales and the Midlands, Admiral Lord Nelson was also given the Freedom of the City of Oxford at a ceremony in the Town Hall on 22 July 1802.
The Freedom of Entry to the City was awarded to the Oxfordshire and Bucks light infantry in October 1945 but not exercised until 10 April, 1948. This freedom has been exercised by the Royal Green Jackets (the successor regiment) before the Royal Green Jackets became The Rifles (the honour has now pass to this regiment). The freedom was last exercised by The Rifles in 2015.