A guide for graduate applicants from the USA | Graduate admissions | University of Oxford
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(Image Credit: Michael Camilleri / Graduate Photography Competition)

A guide for graduate applicants from the USA

Oxford has a vibrant international community.  We have nearly 1000 graduate students, over 150 undergraduate students and nearly 300 members of academic staff from the USA.

Oxford and the USA

The connections between Oxford and the United States are strong across the spectrum of the University’s activities. The USA is the largest source of students and staff outside of the UK and is home to the largest number of international Oxford alumni. Oxford academics and scientists publish research with American colleagues more frequently than with any other nationality, and the USA provides the largest source of funding for Oxford research outside of the UK. Find out more about how Oxford and the USA are working together in the International Oxford webpages.

Essential requirements for graduate study

The normal minimum qualification to be eligible for graduate study at Oxford is the completion of a Bachelor’s degree with a first or upper second class honours, usually between 3.5-3.8 GPA (US). If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC). Students applying for a doctoral course usually need to complete a master’s degree first.  The full requirements for each course are listed on each course page.


Over 1000 fully-funded scholarships are available for new master’s and doctoral students from the University, our colleges and supporters, for entry in 2016-17.

For most university scholarship funding you will need to apply to Oxford by the relevant January deadline. For over 70% of Oxford scholarships, nothing more than the standard course application is usually required. If you fulfil the eligibility criteria, you will be automatically considered. The majority of Oxford scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic excellence. Use our online search tool to get a comprehensive list of all of the University scholarships for which you are eligible.

Many of Oxford’s scholarships are available to graduate students from across the world, including the Clarendon Fund and Ertegun Graduate Scholarship Programme in the Humanities.  There are also scholarships specifically of interest to students from the USA, which include:

Visas and Immigration

Students with a USA passport will generally need to apply for a Tier 4 visa.  For the latest information, please see the visa and immigration web pages.

Settling in

At the beginning of the autumn term, the University holds an Orientation Day for students who are new to the UK, offering practical information sessions to help you settle into life in Oxford.

Meet our American students

Catherine Sheard, DPhil in Zoology (St Cross), previously studied at Yale University

Catherine Sheard

Why Oxford

I'm based at the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology, part of the Department of Zoology at Oxford.

The EGI is one of the best, if not the best, ornithological research groups in the world, as well as a global leader in research on social and sexual selection.

I was particularly excited about the research that I could accomplish here, the methods that I could study and the people I could learn those techniques from, as before applying I had designed a really neat project specific to the data and skills of my prospective lab.

Best memory so far

My best memory, academically, was my very first day in the ornithological collections at the Museum of Natural History at Tring, realising I had access to specimens of nearly every bird known to man, including skins collected by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace.

Non-academically, some of my best memories of my time at Oxford have included learning to punt and play cricket, attending formal dinners and balls at colleges, and being able to explore some of what the UK has to offer.

Life after Oxford

After I finish my DPhil, I hope to stay in academia, moving onto post-docs and eventually a more permanent research position. By studying at Oxford, I not only gain pertinent skills and research experience, but I am exposed to world-class scientists through seminars, conferences, and informal discussions in my department’s hallways or at the lunch table.

College life

I am in St Cross College, which is a small, modern, postgraduate-only college with a particularly international flair. The community is big enough for you to find your social niche, but not so big that you get lost, and I’ve appreciated the opportunity to get to know fellow postgraduates from all over the world and across all disciplines.  

Advice for applicants from the US

While undergraduate studies in the American and British systems are completely different, a DPhil at Oxford is very much like a PhD program at Yale or any other American institution, though in the UK you generally start immediately with your dissertation research rather than taking classes or doing lab rotations as you would in the States.

Apply for every funding source you’re eligible for, even if it’s extremely competitive. You never know what opportunities will work out, and every fellowship application you fill out or interview that you do is valuable practice for the next one down the line.

Miles Taylor, MPhil in International Relations (New), previously studied at Indiana University

Miles Taylor

Why Oxford

I came to Oxford to study how states can foster the basic liberties upon which human prosperity has depended throughout history: free minds, free markets, and free people. I knew that the University of Oxford offered the world-class programmes, the interdisciplinary approach, and the academic freedom to make those studies worthwhile.

A day in the life

I flipped back into my calendar, and here was a random Wednesday in October:  I headed to breakfast at New College (in a dining hall that never can escape the frequent comparisons to Hogwarts), worked on a paper in the Bodleian Library about American foreign policy in the interwar years, joined a lunch meet-and-greet set up by career services with a top consulting firm, rushed to a lecture at the Manor Road building by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and ended the day by opening up our college’s graduate student bar, where I served as the bartender (and de-facto DJ, making sure my British friends get a healthy dose of American rock!).

College life

New College has a distinctly ironic name, as it was founded in 1379. It’s one of Oxford’s oldest and most beautiful colleges, boasting a historic chapel, sprawling gardens, a tower with one of the best views of the city, and the classic archways and stone structures that are the clichés of any imagined Oxford scene. The College is social and vibrant, a mix of graduate and undergraduate students studying in dozens of fields.

Life after Oxford

In the immediate term, I want to jump into the private sector to focus on how international trade and entrepreneurship can unlock human potential. In the long term, my Oxford international-relations studies will help me work more effectively to dismantle trade barriers and poorly designed regulatory schemes which inhibit economic growth both at home and in the most undeveloped regions of the world. Political liberty is a pre-requisite, and I have given myself the right education at Oxford to help make that a reality.

Advice for applicants

Know yourself and know what you want. Oxford rewards those with independent minds and self-starting attitudes. Some of the best work you’ll do will be self-directed - if you choose to take advantage of the resources that will be waiting for you.

Kareem Ayoub, DPhil in Biomedical Sciences: NIH-Oxford (Green Templeton College), previously studied at Rice University

Kareem Ayoub

Why Oxford

I’m doing combined medical and doctorate degrees with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Washington University in St. Louis.

I came to Oxford two years ago to carry out some collaborative research and loved the place. I wanted to experience a different culture, and I was fortunate enough to receive the Marshall Scholarship.

Life after Oxford

I’d like to finish medical school after completing my DPhil, and then carry out a career in academic medicine. Oxford prepared me in the most rigorous way for a research career. International collaborations are one of the most important things in research and I’ve created a global network by coming to Oxford.

Later on, I’d like to take on a public policy role with regards to scientific research and the relationship between the UK and USA. I also think you can’t really understand UK/USA relations unless you’ve lived in both places.

College life

The community is the best thing about my college. There are people who have started families, completed several years of work, started their own companies or travelled the world. The students are all passionate about their chosen subject.

Rowing for Green Templeton College has been my most intense athletic experience, even though I’ve played soccer all my life, and I’m now the incoming President of the Boat Club. The food is phenomenal despite being inexpensive. I am the Charities and Development Officer for the GCR (Graduate Common Room) and have found college are very receptive to our concerns.

Extracurricular life

I began a non-profit organisation, worldSTEMworks.org, which is a science outreach programme, currently mainly based in the USA, China and the UK. Alongside rowing and being involved with the GCR, I have some side science projects still going on and frequently travel to and from the US to see my girlfriend, family and friends.

Advice for applicants

Don’t limit yourself. I didn’t know how much I could do before coming here – academically, professionally and in my extra-curricular life. I promised myself to be open to new things and develop long-lasting friendships, but I was still surprised by what I could dip my toes in to.

Sean Grant, DPhil in Social Intervention (Green Templeton College), previously studied at Loyola Marymount University

Sean Grant

Why Oxford

Obviously excellence in research and teaching played a part. I also wanted to study outside the USA and experience something different. I first came to England when I did an international rugby tour and loved it, so my parents encouraged me to think about studying here. Oxford offers a unique DPhil programme in my area of study.

The University also emphasises the student’s ability to work independently, so I’ve been able to pursue my interests.


For anyone coming from a big city, Oxford is ‘vibrant calm’. The beautiful architecture and countryside nearby make it feel quaint, but there are also many interesting ambitious people doing world-changing activities. It feels inspiring, not frantic.

Extracurricular life

I play in a cover band with some other DPhil students, performing rock covers of popular songs from different genres and eras. After playing at the Green Templeton College (GTC) Ball for three years, we played the main stage for that ball and headlined Wolfson College Ball this year. Balls are the social side of Oxford that I didn’t expect – they’re usually at the end of term when everyone has finished exams and are really fun!

There are lots of Americans here, but the postgraduate community feels more international. My friends are from all over the place – Canada, Holland, Germany, Austria, South Africa and New Zealand. But I still bump into Americans often.

Life after Oxford

I want to work in applied research for a think-tank or university and am interested in substance use and research methods. I’d like to return to LA to work on these social issues where I grew up. Oxford has helped me by giving me fresh international perspective so I think outside the box.

A day in the life

Get up and go for a run (Oxford has beautiful parks for joggers – Port Meadows, Christ Church Meadows, University Parks). I’m in the office by 9 or 10 doing research all day; reading, writing, meeting with my supervisor, bouncing ideas off other DPhil students. I have lunch at the University Office or Taylors (famous Oxford café). There’s a tea room in my department where I take breaks and chat to other students and staff members in my department. I go home at 6pm and cook or go to a restaurant with friends. I might go to the pub with my friends or watch some 30 Rock/Big Bang Theory before bed.

Marisa Benoit, DPhil in the History of Medicine (Christ Church), previously studied at Yale University

Marisa Benoit

Why Oxford

My history in Oxford is quite complicated! I first came here as a Junior Year Abroad student in 2004 and spent six months at Worcester College during my degree at Yale where I was a History major. I then came back to Oxford after working for two years to do an MSc in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology at Lincoln College.

The taught MSc here was great - it only takes one year so it’s fast and you do broad coursework in the first two terms, then you specialise and write your dissertation over the summer.

I started my DPhil in the History of Medicine at Christ Church in 2010 which is titled ‘Comparing attitudes to infertility in early modern England and colonial New England’. My department is the Wellcome Unit for History of Medicine.

Life after Oxford

I’d like to continue working in higher education in a broad sense. I love being part of an academic community and might go into an administrative role or a role focusing on student welfare. The university environment is somewhere I thrive, and I’ve had some experience working at the Alumni Office and work well with the administrators here.

Academic life

At my unit there is a really strong community and some great departmental seminars. I have two fantastic supervisors and feel absolutely supported by them. I can ask them anything from career questions to questions about my current work so I really lucked out with two great role models.

In my unit there’s a sense of community which you are welcomed into. In my department, there’s also a mentoring programme so you have someone to help you out at first, and then you take new students under your wing when you’re settled in.

Extracurricular life

I’ve been involved with the student-alumni society OXAS which is a networking group designed to strengthen ties between alumni and students. I’ve also become a Graduate Ambassador which is a programme just started by the Development Office that involves being a representative of the university to alumni. I’m also the Female Welfare Rep for the GCR and am quite involved with the GCR in general.

American Society 

US students are the University’s largest group of international graduates and are well catered for by Oxford’s student groups and societies, of which there are over 400. These include music, literature, sport, politics, performing arts, media, faiths, cultural groups, science, opportunities for volunteering and much more. Whatever your level of expertise, you can become involved in a club or society that interests you.

After Oxford

There are currently more than 275,000 alumni around the world and more than 200 regional alumni groups in around 90 countries.

There are over 30,000 Oxford alumni based in North America, mainly in the United States and Canada, although Oxonians can be found from Antigua to Mexico. The University's North American Office is based in New York.

Oxford’s distinguished American alumni include:

  • Eric Lander,
    Founding Director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and a principal leader of the Human Genome Project (Rhodes Scholar)
  • Bill Clinton,
    42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001
  • Elena Kagan,
    Supreme Court Justice and former Dean, Harvard Law School
  • Andrew Michael Spence,
    Former Dean of Stanford Business School and Nobel Laureate
  • Rachel Maddow,
    Television host, author, political commentator (Rhodes Scholar)
  • Reid Hoffman,
    Co-Founder of LinkedIn and venture capitalist (Marshall Scholar)