Oxford University uses tutorials rather than U.S. style lecture courses. It is the tutorial which gives Oxford its particular distinction and is integral to a liberal education and the development of critical thinking among students. Through tutorials, Oxford scholars engage students in a dynamic academic discourse. OSAP, which offers a program for students of academic distinction, engages renown Oxford scholars who offer tutorials to students in all academic disciplines.
The Oxford tutorial system is a one-on-one tutorial meeting between tutor and student. Essays are usually presented weekly and form the basis of tutorial discussions. Students are graded by the same standards expected of degree candidates. Grades are based on tutorial essays, tutorial discussions and sometimes written examinations.
The flexibility of the individual tutorial allows each student to design a curriculum suited to his or her academic requirements and specific interests. You are encouraged to consult with your home college advisors to prepare a program of study, which will satisfy credit requirements and make maximum advantage of your stay in Oxford.
There is no regular schedule from which to pick classes. Instead, Oxford offers classes in essentially every discipline, and there is very little limit to what you may study. Once you are accepted into OSAP, you will fill out a tutorial request form, and we will try to find the appropriate tutor for you.
It is important that you think about Oxford’s strengths and not simply what you might have studied next semester at your U.S. college.
Two tutorial courses are pursued a term, usually a primary course of nine tutorials and a secondary course of five tutorials. Courses are taught only at the U.S. advanced (Junior or Senior) levels. It is difficult to compare the Oxford system to the U.S. system. Associate Members who have studied through our program in the past have usually earned 14 U.S. semester credits for a term based on the work they completed while in Oxford; likewise, Visiting Students have usually earned 18 U.S. semester credits per term.
There is no pre-arranged list of upcoming tutorials, but you can find popular tutorials that students have taken below. For questions about tutorials for OSAP students, please contact [email protected].
While preparing for your studies at Oxford, OSAP encourages you to read The Oxford Tutorial: Thanks, You Taught Me How to Think, edited by David Palfreyman, MA, MBA, LLB, FRSA; Bursar, New College, and Director of the Oxford Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies. You can download the publication for free from this link.
Associate Members and Visiting Students are not, of course, candidates for Oxford degrees. Their credits are awarded by their home colleges and count towards their home college degrees. Their curriculum in Oxford must, therefore, be approved by both their home college and their Oxford academic advisors.
This means that many options are open to them, so long as the courses they study make good sense academically. Naturally, they must possess the academic background to pursue any particular course. Within those constraints, however, their Oxford academic advisors are free to seek out the best teachers available anywhere in the University. They will often be faculty of other colleges.
The academic advisors have found by experience that most OSAP students tend to select from five or six subjects, primarily history, English, politics (including political thought and international relations), economics and philosophy. A few students will study psychology, physics, chemistry, math, law, geography, sociology, art history, etc. (Remember that practical science courses, i.e., those requiring laboratory facilities, are usually available given sufficient notice).
All courses are taught at the level of the U.S. Junior or Senior year; they are similar to U.S. “electives” and are specialised, one cannot study an introductory course or a “survey course”, such as “European History”, or “British Literature”.
Laboratory use must be approved by the Science Department, not by your Oxford college, and may incur a surcharge, given the usually very high cost of arranging laboratory access, which is usually not available to non-matriculated students. Again, please note that if laboratory access is integral to your Oxford tutorials, please be sure to notify OSAP well in advance of your studies in Oxford (ideally at the time of application).
Study at the graduate level is available. Several students enrolled by Law Schools received ARA approval to study in this program. We also have many summer courses, details about all of which can be found on our website.
Home college advisors and students often ask for course descriptions of Oxford tutorials. Since all education at Oxford is highly individual (the exact courses are worked out jointly by the academic advisor, the student and the tutor) there is no Oxford Course Catalog in an American sense.
As a convenience to North American students, academic advisors in Oxford have collected as much information as possible from individual tutors. They have relied upon the Oxford Examination Decrees for some of the information and for some of the wording. The Oxford University Press is aware that we have made use of some of the material in their publications. They have then analyzed which courses seem most in demand by North American students. Not surprisingly, a good many wish to come to Oxford to study British History, British politics, and English Literature — especially Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, the Victorian novels, etc. A good number wish to study Modern European History, the EC, Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth, etc.
After much discussion with students, tutors, other advisors, and with US professors and advisors, the academic advisors in several Oxford colleges have identified a good range of tutorial courses which seem well suited to the academic needs of one-year or one-term North American students.
We must stress that this list is not by any means exhaustive or complete. One of the many advantages of Oxford is that there is a faculty: student ratio of about 1:4; there are specialists in almost every academic subject. Please look upon this as a starting point and a rough guide.
Associate Members normally study a primary course for 9 tutorials and a secondary for 5 tutorials (equal to 14 U.S. semester credits in each term/semester). Visiting Students usually study in two primaries – 18 meetings in total, and recommended to receive 18 U.S. semester credits each term/semester). If a student chooses to study in less than the normal 14 or 18 tutorials there can be no refund since the cost for the entire program is based on average costs per student. Not every student will participate in every tour or use every library, etc. The same average use principle applies.
As part of their application, applicants are requested to choose a first choice and backup choice for each of their tutorials. Successful applicants are sent a Tutorial Request Form and asked to confirm their tutorial selections prior to their arrival in Oxford.
The Academic Advisors have been very successful in persuading some of the very best teachers and scholars in Oxford to offer to teach Associate Members or Visiting Students. Many of these tutors are international leaders in their fields – Fellows of the British Academy (only a few scholars in Britain in each field are elected to the British Academy), Fellows of the Royal Society (the equivalent honour for scientists), Fellows of the Royal Historical Society, Fellows of All Souls and of other leading graduate colleges (Nuffield, St. Antony’s, Wolfson), holders of chairs in their field (there are only one or two chairs in each subject in Oxford), Heads of colleges, Directors of Institutes, etc. Almost all have published widely in their fields. About a third of Oxford’s permanent faculty never bothered with a Ph.D; they wrote a book (or several books instead) – the equivalent. You will note that many of the Chairs (and Fellows of the British Academy, etc.) never took a PhD degree.
For some tutorials, advisors will appoint a young scholar (less widely published but a leading specialist in the student’s chosen subject); in all cases every tutor will be a scholar who has normally taught candidates for Oxford degrees, or has been associated with Oxford University.
Some of our staff are broadly familiar with Oxford; if you have a detailed question an Oxford scholar will be glad to discuss it with you. Please email [email protected] for more information.
Students should note that attendance at all tutorials is required. Failure to attend a tutorial may result in a loss of credits. Although tutorials may be rescheduled with the mutual agreement of the student and tutor, all tutorials arranged as part of the academic programme must be completed, including the submission of an essay of 1,500 to 2,000 words at each tutorial—or the problem set equivalent for science students—before the course end date. Students who miss a tutorial without prior authorization from WISC/OSAP and/or the tutor must attend a meeting with a WISC/OSAP academic advisor within five days of the missed tutorial. Failure to attend two consecutive tutorials without a valid reason (e.g. a doctor’s note) will result in the student being referred to his/her home institution for possible disciplinary action including, but not limited to, expulsion from the WISC/OSAP programme and a loss of credits.
See this page for the full OSAP Attendance Policy.
"I enjoyed my tutorials immensely and think this system of teaching to be one of the best I have ever encountered. It allowed me to become more interested than I have ever been in my subjects."
"I was taught by two Professors [holders of Chairs, usually only one don in the University in each subject], both of whom were Fellows of the British Academy. My academic program could not have been better."