University of Oxford

The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and is actually so ancient that its founding date is unknown – though it is thought that teaching took place there as early as the 11th century.

It’s located in and around the medieval city center of Oxford, dubbed “the dreaming city of spires” by the 19th century poet Matthew Arnold, and comprises 44 colleges and halls as well as the largest library system in the UK.

There are 22,000 students at Oxford in total, around half of whom are undergraduates, while 40 per cent are international students. A quarter of the city of Oxford’s residents are students, giving the city the youngest population in the UK.

The University of Oxford does not have a main campus, its buildings and facilities instead being scattered around the medieval city center. Its colleges each have a distinctive character and traditions often dating back centuries. Colleges are self-governing institutions to which students usually apply directly. There are four academic divisions within Oxford University: Humanities, Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences; Medical Sciences; and Social Sciences. The university’s particular strength is the sciences, and it is ranked number one in the world for medicine.

Oxford is a youthful and cosmopolitan city with plenty to see and do. There are dozens of historic and iconic buildings, including the Bodleian Libraries, Ashmolean Museum, Sheldonian Theatre, the cathedral, and the colleges themselves.

Students can choose to spend their time studying or avail themselves of the many extracurricular activities available. There’s a strong musical life at Oxford, with clubs and societies spanning all genres, from jazz, through to classical and folk. Oxford is also ranked highly for sport, with its top rowers taking part every year in the world-famous boat race with the University of Cambridge on the River Thames. Drama lovers are also well catered for, with one of the largest and most vibrant university drama scenes in the country.

Oxford has an alumni network of over 250,000 individuals, including more than 120 Olympic medalists, 26 Nobel Prize winners, seven poets laureate, and over 30 modern world leaders (including Bill Clinton, Aung San Suu Kyi, Indira Ghandi and 26 UK Prime Ministers).

It has a friendly rivalry with Cambridge for the title of best university in the UK and is regularly ranked as being one of the top three universities in the world. Notable Oxford thinkers and scientists include Tim Berners-Lee, Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins.

Oxford offers 48 undergraduate degrees in a wide range of disciplines, from the traditional sciences through to humanities, law, languages, and fine art. Students can also study joint honors programs such as Philosophy and Theology, and Archaeology and Anthropology.

Undergraduate degrees are usually three years in length and are taught inside the individual college to which students apply. Undergraduate study at Oxford is centered on the weekly tutorial, which is supported by classes, lectures, and laboratory work carried out in university faculties and departments.

The admissions rate for Oxford is 21 percent, which seems high in comparison to Ivy League universities but is a reflection of the English system. The application period runs during the autumn for the following academic year. Applicants register to take a test, and prospective students might have to send in written work alongside the standard completed UCAS form. Shortlisted candidates are then invited to interview, and will know whether they have been successful by the end of the calendar year.

Unlike the University of Cambridge, Oxford does not operate a pooling system for candidates invited to interview. Instead, it’s common for applicants to be asked to stay multiple days in the city (accommodation is provided) and, if there are no places available at their first-choice college, they may also be invited for interviews at other colleges which have less competition for places.

Around 17 percent of applicants are international citizens, and there are no quotas for international students (with the exception of the medicine program). The application process is broadly the same for international students, with Oxford accepting school-leaving qualifications from many different countries. There are, however, additional elements to the application such as English language requirements.

Tuition fees are currently set at the annual UK maximum of £9,250, with loans available from the UK government for the full amount. Loans are also available to cover living costs during the full three years of study. Students from outside the EU are charged a significantly higher tuition fee, of up to £24,000 a year, and an additional £7,570 a year college fee. This does not include accommodation or board.

Terms at Oxford are actually shorter than at other UK higher education institutions, and their total duration amounts to less than half of the year. However, undergraduates are also expected to do some academic work during the three holidays, known as the Christmas, Easter, and Long Vacations.

Oxford has a reputation for world-leading research, teaching and resources, all within the confines of a uniquely beautiful city. Graduate programs at Oxford are shorter than in many countries, typically lasting only one year for a master’s degree, something which is designed to facilitate swift career progression.

Students belong to an academic department or faculty that provides teaching, supervision and numerous resources to support studies and are assigned an academic supervisor who provides guidance and advice throughout the program. There are taught programs that usually lead towards a master’s qualification, where students study a range of core and optional courses, supported by lectures and seminars. Research degrees at the master's and doctoral level are conferred in all subjects studied at graduate level at the university.

There were over 20,000 graduate applications last year, so getting your application right is absolutely crucial. Candidates must choose their subject carefully and check to see if they have the correct qualifications before submitting an application.

To apply, applicants must complete Oxford’s graduate application form, pay a £75 application fee and upload the following supporting documents: a statement of purpose and research proposal (if applicable), an official transcript of a bachelor’s degree, academic references, and in many cases a portfolio and written work.

International students whose first language is not English will also need to submit an English language test score certificate to prove either standard or higher (depending on the course) level of English proficiency.

The cost of studying at Oxford as a graduate varies depending on the program. In the humanities, this could range from £4,260 (US$5,962) a year for a three-year DPhil (PhD) in music, to £16,230 (US$22,714) for an MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies.

Most graduate courses fall within this range of costs. There are a few exceptions however, with the most expensive programs, including business administration, costing up to £77,390 (US$108,307). Likely living costs can be anything up to a further £18,655 (US$26,108) a year on top of the course fees.

Financial aid for graduate students is diffuse in its nature. Some colleges offer their own scholarships, and there are a number of external scholarships available, where organizations offer anything from £1,000 (US$1,400) to the entire cost of tuition.

For British students, the UK government offers a loans scheme for master’s courses, and there are hundreds of charities that make awards to current and prospective graduate students.


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