Guidance for mature students | University of Oxford
Mature students
Students sitting on the steps to the entrance of the Rothermere American Institute.
(Image credit: Greg Smolonski / Oxford University Images).

Guidance for mature students

Oxford is looking for the candidates with the most academic potential, irrespective of their age or background. Just like everyone else who applies, mature students need to demonstrate academic ability and commitment to study. ('Mature student' means 21 or over at the start of October in your first year.)

As well as using the information below, you can read more about what it is like to be a mature student here on our current students' website.

Open days

Mature students are very welcome to attend our main University open days for prospective undergraduate students.

Qualifications and study skills

Tutors at Oxford will take your work experience and life skills into account when you apply. These are most helpful where relevant to the course you are applying for. In order to be competitive it is essential that you have also undertaken formal academic qualifications within the three years before you apply. We need to be sure that you will be able to cope with the demands of academic study at Oxford and that you have the study skills that are so essential to following an undergraduate degree course. Many different academic qualifications would be acceptable. For further information on the qualifications you would need to make a competitive application, please refer to Entrance Requirements.

Making an application

The application procedure for mature students is the same as for other students (see Applying to Oxford). Many subjects require you to take a written test or submit written work as part of your application. Mature applicants do not always have suitable written work, and we do understand this. Please contact the college you’re considering applying to, to discuss your options.

Oxford does not accept transfer students under any circumstances. However, you may like to consider applying to Oxford for a second undergraduate degree. If you have studied at undergraduate level before and completed your course, you will be classed as an Equivalent or Lower Qualification (ELQ) student and won't be eligible to receive government or Oxford funding.


For information about fees and funding, please see our student funding pages.


All undergraduate degrees at Oxford involve intense study and high levels of commitment. All undergraduate students are therefore required to be resident in the city during term-time, either in college accommodation, in other accommodation within six miles of the city centre, or within 25 miles, if it is your family home. In the first instance, you should discuss your accommodation with your assigned college. You can also seek guidance from our Accommodation Office.

Which college?

As a mature student, you can apply to any college or PPH. One college, Harris Manchester, and one of the Permanent Private Halls, Wycliffe Hall, take only mature students. A college environment specifically catering for mature students can provide excellent peer support in which to enjoy the varied and fast-paced life of Oxford.

For more information about all the undergraduate colleges please see our college pages


The University aims to assist wherever possible in the provision of childcare. For further details please see our childcare pages.

Part-time study

There are no part-time or distance learning options for undergraduate study here. However, you may wish to consider one of the many courses offered by the University’s Department for Continuing Education.

Department for Continuing Education

Foundation Certificates in English and History

Oxford offers two Foundation Certificates, in English Literature, and in History. These are part-time two-year courses for mature students. If you do well enough you could progress to a degree at Oxford by applying to join the second year of an English or History degree course.

Part-time courses

The Department for Continuing Education also offers a full range of part-time Undergraduate Certificates, Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas in other subjects. Some of these may be studied online, and all earn nationally recognised credits.

For further details along with details of how to apply for these part time courses or the Foundation Certificates, please see the Department for Continuing Education website.

Laura, English Language and Literature

"Before I returned to the world of academia I had several careers: accountant, police officer and interior designer! My first degree was in Business Studies at the age of 18. Since then I had hungered to study English Literature and at 38 found myself in the position to go for it. I was scared, having not studied for 17 years, but knew I had to have a go. I visited Harris Manchester on an open day and knew this was where I wanted to be.

I’m sitting in our library while I write this and, even though I have been here for three years already (I studied an undergraduate degree before embarking on my Master’s) I still feel immensely privileged to be in beautiful surroundings studying a subject I love. All the staff here are so supportive both academically and personally so what seems terrifying at first is soon made familiar and homely. My only regret is that I didn’t come sooner!"

Janine, History

"I had always loved history. I started taking some history courses at Birkbeck College, and after a few modules I realised that I was ready to do a structured course. I knew that the Department for Continuing Education at Oxford offered one-to-one tutorials, that the class size would be relatively small, and that there would be a week’s full-time study after the first year which all seemed ideal.

To start with I was worried about everything from essays and class discussions to exams, but it really helped being part of a group.

After I completed my Foundation Certificate I was very keen to pursue an academic path, and the programme directors fully supported my application to Oxford University. I am now excited to be reading History as a second year undergraduate student."

Most Popular Questions

Would insufficient grades from school prevent me from applying?

We do understand that people often develop their academic interests and skills later in life. Having lower grades from school will not prevent you from making a successful application, as long as you are able to demonstrate recent academic achievement and exceptional academic ability. 

Who should write my academic reference?

Normally your referee should be a teacher or tutor at your current or most recent place of education. Your reference needs to be submitted before the 15 October deadline, so do make sure to approach your referee in plenty of time. There is guidance for them on how to write a reference for UCAS on our advice for teachers page.

Where can I sit an admissions test?

Arranging to sit an admissions test can be a little trickier for mature applicants, so do make sure you give this your earliest attention. For most tests, you can either register at one of the many open test centres around the world, or ask your current place of study to become a centre where you can sit the test. Please see our individual test pages for more information on how to register.