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As a student, for purely educational purposes, you should consider the OTN license. And based on such agreement upon, the available SE, EE and PE Database editions, besides XE.
The license text/terms is linked from the main downloads page:
Read the description in the (for) Developers: box, that contains "... or for strictly self-educational purposes.", and then go on to read the Developer license terms, to see if it may apply to your requirements.
Ah, OK - you are making the point that 32-bit support for linux is available - just not for the XE edition.
Indeed you are right - Linux x386 release of 11.2 is available at:
I suppose the problem for me is that I am hoping to run it on very reduced hardware and I was attracted by the 1GB RAM limit for XE - in my experience, 1GB is a bare minimum for 11.2... Also, it seems a shame that no other older versions are available for download at all and have to be requested via a trip to My Oracle Support - (a web experience most sensible people try to avoid...)
Thanks for the response!