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Virtual Open Day: Academic Life
In this video
MSc in Integrated Immunology, speaking from the John Radcliffe Medical Site
DPhil in Earth Sciences, speaking from the Earth Sciences laboratory
In the graduate prospectus
- the length and structure of different taught courses,
- minimum entry requirements, i.e. the qualifications you need to submit a competitive application,
- the number of applications for every place on the department's courses,
- the level of English proficiency required (standard or higher),
- how to submit an application and the documents you need to send, and
- contact details, in case you have any further questions about the courses or the department.
The Courses A-Z is an alphabetical index that also clusters programmes by theme or topic, giving you a fuller picture of which departments may have expertise available in each area. About Our Programmes gives a detailed introduction to the way that research and teaching at graduate level works at the University, including the type of work you will be expected to produce on each different kind of graduate qualification, from MJur to DPhil.
Q. What is an average day for a graduate student like?
A. This will generally depend on whether you are a taught or research student, and on whether you are working in a scientific discipline or in the arts and humanities.
Taught students will have a great deal more scheduled time with supervisors, lecturers and other graduates than research students. Seminars are usually a defining feature of study for taught graduates, placing ever more focus and significance on each student’s own ideas and original work than at undergraduate level.
Research students in the sciences may find that they spend a full working week in the laboratory, working on their own research and collaborating with others in a research group. Research students in arts and humanities are generally expected to work on a very independent basis, communicating closely with their supervisor and scheduling their own attendance at relevant seminars and lectures to support their work.
The unique essence of all Oxford’s teaching is a strong emphasis on each student’s ability to work independently and to take the initiative in their own learning and research, using the University’s world-class resources to support their work. Personal discipline and motivation are essential to success at graduate level. It is therefore highly likely that you will be working on your research or course material on your own initiative on most days of term, and often out of term, in order to perform successfully on your programme. Seminars, supervisions and other opportunities to collaborate with staff and students organised centrally tend to only take place in term time.
Q. As a research student, will I be expected or given the opportunity to teach?
A. Arrangements may vary substantially by department, although it is common for DPhil students to be given the opportunity to contribute to the teaching of undergraduates, perhaps through direct supervision and/or marking of work.
Graduate students also contribute to the admissions process for undergraduate study in their area. A small teaching commitment may be prescribed to DPhil students in later years of their course in some departments.
Whilst this work is financially compensated, you are required to be financially independent of any such commitment (by documenting in the College Financial Guarantee that you have full funding before you are able to commence any programme at Oxford) and the maximum number of hours you would be permitted to commit to teaching would be relatively few – usually less than one working day per week in term time.
If this aspect of studying at Oxford is of particular interest or concern to you, you can always discuss it with the department prior to submitting an application.
Q. Can I study part-time or by distance learning?
A. Currently, very few of Oxford’s programmes are available part-time, and all full-time courses require students to reside within 25 miles of the centre of Oxford, Carfax Tower, for the duration of their course.
Graduate courses which are available part-time are listed as such in Course Guide. The majority of these courses are administrated through Oxford’s Department for Continuing Education, which offers a wide programme of short courses, summer courses, online and part-time options, although these courses do not cover the majority of subjects offered on a full-time basis.
Q. How long is a DPhil programme at Oxford?
A. DPhil programmes usually last three or four years, depending on your department and the nature and progress of your research.
Students who undertake a MPhil or BPhil at Oxford and then proceed to a DPhil in the area of their dissertation research may often be able to complete the programme in two years. A part-time DPhil programme will generally take around six years to complete.
Q. What is the structure of my course and which modules will I be able to choose from?
A. A brief summary of each course is given via the department pages of the Course Guide, although the majority of up-to-date and comprehensive information will be published on the relevant department’s own website.
Q. Which libraries will I have access to?
A. All of Oxford’s students will have a Bodleian Card, which will allow them to register for access for all of the Bodleian Libraries, which are the central libraries of the University.
You will also have access to your department’s library, which should comprise the majority of any specialist material you need, and your college’s library. It is not usually possible to arrange access to other college’s libraries, but most departments will allow students to register for access or lending if they have a genuine academic need.
Q. Which journals and electronic publications does Oxford have access to?
A. More than 30,000 e-journals are currently available; full details of all of the electronic resources accessible though the central Bodleian libraries are available via their website.
The Bodleian Libraries consider any requests for new subscriptions to be added.
Do you have any questions about academic life at Oxford?
You can submit your questions to us via our online form. We will get back to you in every case, and if the answer to your question might be helpful to other applicants we may publish the question and answer here in our Virtual Open Day.