Classics | University of Oxford
Classics
Detail of a statue in the Ashmolean Museum.
(Image credit: Richard Watts).

Classics

This course encompasses the study of the languages, literature, and history of ancient Greece and Rome, ancient and modern philosophy, the archaeology of the Greek and Roman Mediterranean, and comparative philology and historical linguistics. It is one of the most varied and interdisciplinary of all subjects, and offers the opportunity to study two foundational ancient civilisations and their reception in modern times.

 

Classics at Oxford

Oxford has the largest Classics department and programme of courses in the world, with unparalleled teaching, library and museum resources, including the Sackler and Bodleian Libraries, the Ashmolean Museum and a designated Classics Centre. The degree involves extensive study of ancient languages, with a view to studying texts in the original. Applications are welcomed from candidates with and without prior knowledge of Greek and/or Latin. The breadth of options available means you can study papers ranging from Homeric Archaeology to Byzantine Literature, and the four year course allows all students to explore the various disciplines within this vast subject and to engage with their particular interests within the classical world in real depth.

Careers

The breadth of subjects studied and variety of skills earned to a high level leave Classics graduates in high demand among employers. Occupations for Classics graduates have recently included teaching, the Civil Service, finance, media, software development, film production, conducting, NHS administration, consultancy, accountancy, the law, medicine, publishing, and further classical study.

Menai, who graduated in 1997, is now a project manager for Kent County Council. She says: ‘I joined Kingfisher Retail and subsequently WHSmith. I then worked for a charity and finally moved to local government. The training in logical thinking and a questioning approach I developed while studying for my degree have been invaluable.’

Related courses

Students interested in this course might also like to consider other Classics or Ancient History courses.

Fieldwork/international opportunities

Fieldwork is not a requirement in any part of the course, but some undergraduates may participate in archaeological excavations.

A typical weekly timetable

Your time is divided between lectures, tutorials and private study. Most of your work will be in preparation of essays for your tutorials, although systematic language learning and reading of texts also require considerable time and effort.

CoursesTerms 1–5
Courses
Terms 1–5
Assesments

Course IA
(Latin and Greek, for those who have studied Latin and Greek to A-level or equivalent)

Course IB
(Latin and Greek, for those who have studied only Latin to A-level or equivalent)

Course IC
(Latin and Greek, for those who have studied only Greek to A-level or equivalent)

  • Homer’s Iliad
  • Virgil’s Aeneid
  • Texts and contexts: integrating literary, archaeological material
  • A special subject in Philosophy (ancient or modern)
  • A classical special subject: historical, archaeological or philological
Work on the Greek and Latin languages

First University examinations IA:
Ten papers, including four language papers (Latin and Greek)

First University examinations IB:
Ten papers, including four language papers (Greek language work at a less advanced level than IA, Latin at the same level as IA)

First University examinations IC:
Ten papers, including four language papers (Latin language work at a less advanced level than IA, Greek at the same level as IA)

Course IIA
(Latin only, for those who have not studied Greek or Latin to A-level or equivalent)

 

  • Virgil’s Aeneid
  • Special subjects and Texts and Contexts as Course I
  • Work on the Latin language

 

First University examinations IIA:
Seven papers, including two language papers
Course IIB
(Greek only, for those who have not studied Latin or Greek to A-level or equivalent)
  • Homer’s Iliad
  • Special subjects and Texts and Contexts as Course I
  • Work on the Greek language
First University examinations IIB:
Seven papers, including two language papers
   
CoursesTerms 6–12
Courses
Terms 6–12
Assesments

Course IA
(Latin and Greek, for those who have studied Latin and Greek to A-level or equivalent)

Course IB
(Latin and Greek, for those who have studied only Latin to A-level or equivalent)

Course IC
(Latin and Greek, for those who have studied only Greek to A-level or equivalent)

Choose eight options from more than 80 in the following subjects (no area is compulsory); in most of these subjects it is possible to offer an undergraduate thesis in place of one of the papers:

  • Greek and Roman history (choose up to five): some are period papers, others topic-based
  • Philosophy (choose up to five ancient): numerous ancient and modern options ranging from Plato’s Republic to the Philosophy of mind
  • Greek and Latin literature (choose up to five)
  • Greek and Roman archaeology (choose up to two, plus a thesis if you wish)
  • Philology and Linguistics (choose up to two, plus a thesis if you wish)
  • Second classical language: Course II students can take up the second classical language if they wish (will count as two papers in the final exam)
Final University examinations:
eight exam subjects taken, with the possibility of offering one paper as a thesis. For some Literature options: instead of a three-hour paper, assessment involves the composition of one long essay over a three-week period.
Course IIA
(Latin only, for those who have not studied Greek or Latin to A-level or equivalent)
Final University examinations:
As Course I, but Latin only, unless you take optional second classical language
Course IIB
(Greek only, for those who have not studied Latin or Greek to A-level or equivalent)
Final University examinations:
As Course I, but Greek only, unless you take optional second classical language

The content and format of this course may change in some circumstances. Read further information about potential course changes.

  • A-levels: AAA (with As in Latin and Greek, if taken)
  • Advanced Highers: AA/AAB (with As in Latin and Greek, if taken)
  • IB: 39 (including core points) with 666 at HL (and an aggregate of 12 in Latin and Greek, if taken)
  • Or any other equivalent

For Course I, candidates should normally have Latin and/or Greek to A-level, Advanced Higher, or Higher in the IB or equivalent. Course II is for candidates with no or lesser experience of these languages.

All candidates must also take the Classics Admissions Test (CAT) as part of their application. Please see how to apply for further details.

Oxford University is committed to recruiting the best and brightest students from all backgrounds. We offer a generous package of financial support to Home/EU students from lower-income households. (UK nationals living in the UK are usually Home students.)

Fees

These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2016.

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU£9,000£0£9,000
Islands
(Channel Islands
& Isle of Man)
£9,000£0£9,000
Overseas£15,295£7,135£22,430

For more information please refer to our tuition fees page. Fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Living costs

Despite what you may have heard, it's no more expensive to study at Oxford than at any other university. In fact, our world-class resources and college provision can help you to lower your living costs.

Living costs for 2016/17 are estimated to be between £970 and £1,433 for each month you are in Oxford. Our academic year is made up of three eight-week terms, so you would not usually need to be in Oxford for much more than six months of the year but may wish to budget over a nine-month period to ensure you also have sufficient funds during the holidays to meet essential costs. For further details please visit our living costs webpage.

Financial support

Home/EU

A full loan is available from the UK government to cover tuition fees for students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your tuition fees up front.

In 2016 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of £42,875 or less, with additional opportunities available to those from households with incomes of £16,000 or less.  This support is available in addition to the government grants and loans.  See further details.

Islands
(Channel Islands and Isle of Man)

Islands students are entitled to different support to that of students from the rest of the UK.

Please refer the links below for information on the support to you available from your funding agency:

States of Jersey
States of Guernsey
Isle of Man

Overseas

Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford support page.

*If you have studied at undergraduate level before and completed your course, you will be classed as an Equivalent or Lower Qualification student (ELQ) and won’t be eligible to receive government or Oxford funding

Fees, Funding and Scholarship search

All candidates must follow the application procedure as shown in applying to Oxford. The information below gives specific details for students applying for this course.

Written work

As part of your application you will be required to submit two essays or commentaries by 10 November 2015. Normally these will be in areas relevant to Classics. They should preferably not be short, timed essays or exercises answering questions on a short passage of text.

See further guidance on the submission of written work.

Written test

All candidates must take the Classics Admissions Test (CAT), normally at their own school or college, on 4 November 2015. This test is in three parts: the Latin test, the Greek test and the Classics Language Aptitude Test. Candidates who are studying Latin or Greek to A-level or equivalent (those applying for Course I) must take the test(s) in the language(s) you are studying. Candidates who are studying neither Latin nor Greek to A-level or equivalent (those applying for Course II) must take the Classics Language Aptitude Test.

Separate registration for this test is required and the final deadline for entries is 15 October 2015. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure they are registered for this test.

What are tutors looking for ?

Tutors are looking for potential and an enquiring mind, and a real commitment to this wide-ranging subject.

Selection criteria

Candidates may wish to refer to the selection criteria for Classics.

Suggested reading

There is no reading list for students applying for Classics, as we encourage students to read as widely as possible about any Classics materials they find interesting (in literature, history, philosophy, archaeology, and/or philology), and to think critically about their reading. You may also wish to explore some websites which have excellent links to materials about the ancient world, such as the British Museum or the BBC Radio 4 archives, for example for the programme ‘In Our Time’, covering material from Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.

There are also many social media sites which you can join such as Classics Confidential, Classics Outreach and Classics International.

Apply

Hannah Culik, 3rd year

Laura, 4th year

'I was attracted to the Classics course at Oxford because of its diversity and commitment to learning both Latin and Ancient Greek. During the first two years, as well as intensive language classes designed to advance your ability quickly to read texts in the original language, I had the opportunity to choose from options covering topics from philosophy to ancient art. I find that the tutorial system at Oxford works especially well for studying Classics, because you get the opportunity for discussion and debate about interesting and challenging topics in small groups on a regular basis. Oxford has vast resources for studying Classics, especially in terms of libraries and I particularly like the Ashmolean museum, with its Greek and Roman collection, which is a great resource for Classicists to have on our doorstep!

I have particularly enjoyed being on the Undergraduate Joint Consultative Committee, in which faculty members consult undergraduates for their input on the workings of and changes to be made within the department. This is especially important as it ensures that the voice of the students is being heard, with regard to the subjects they are studying. Getting the chance to study Classics at Oxford has definitely been the most positive and inspiring opportunity that I could have asked for, and I feel that it has fundamentally shaped my future.'

Menai, who graduated in 1997

She is now a project manager for Kent County Council. She says:  

‘I joined Kingfisher Retail and subsequently WHSmith. I then worked for a charity and finally moved to local government. The training in logical thinking and a questioning approach I developed while studying for my degree have been invaluable.’

Heather, Classics, who graduated in 2009

The most unexpected thing about my course:

'The breadth of choice! Classics is a fabulous course in part because there is something for everyone. Even in Mods, we get to choose 2 of our 5 options. When it comes to Greats, though, everything is open to us - I think there are about 80 options, of which we can only choose 8. This means that, although when I arrived here I thought I'd be a literature buff, I actually have become a "philosopher" of sorts. I have been able to take five philosophy options ranging from Plato and Aristotle to Theory of Politics and Philosophy of Language, and I've loved it! My course may seem really limited from the outside, but it's really very flexible.'

The best thing that Oxford did for me:

'Helped make me who I am today. Yes, that's corny, but it's true and it's wonderful. I have actually had a chance to be myself, and find out who that is. I've had the chance to explore a million different things here (I've played three different sports at university level, been a member of the JCR committee, been a member of the Sports Fed committee and helped start up Sports Plus, played on almost every college team we have, and so on), and I've also had the chance to meet a million different people. It's all helped me figure out who I am and what I want to be doing. I've learned that I can change my mind about things, I've learned how to make the best out of situations, I've learned how to fail, and how to get back up again, and I think it's all made me blossom.'

My favourite Oxford memory is...

'So Many! One in particular: Last Trinity some friends who had finished their exams asked if I wanted to row with them up to the Trout. We scrambled to find a fourth rower (who ended up being someone who had never been in a row boat...), met at the boathouse, and off we went. The trip up was actually quite hard, as I hadn't rowed very much, and the boy who'd never rowed had a bit of a hard time, but it was still fun. I think the great thing about it was the spontaneity, and just the idea that we could take the afternoon off, get in a shell, and head up the river. Just a nice adventure.'

I'd just like to add:

'I never regret coming here. Every once in a while, when I'm faced with what seems like an insurmountable challenge, I think to myself, "Why didn't I just stay home? Why didn't I do the easy thing?" (I'm American, I should add, so coming here was a bigger step in some ways). And then I think for a second of what I'd be doing if I were at those other universities, and where I'd be now, and who I'd be now, and I think how glad I am that I made the choice I did. It's not easy, that's for sure, but it's worth it.'

Contextual information

The Key Information Sets provide a lot of numbers about the Oxford experience – but there is so much about what you get here that numbers can’t convey. It’s not just the quantity of the Oxford education that you need to consider, there is also the quality – let us tell you more.

Oxford’s tutorial system

Regular tutorials, which are the responsibility of the colleges, are the focal point of teaching and learning at Oxford. The tutorial system is one of the most distinctive features of an Oxford education: it ensures that students work closely with tutors throughout their undergraduate careers, and offers a learning experience which is second to none.

A typical tutorial is a one-hour meeting between a tutor and one, two, or three students to discuss reading and written work that the students have prepared in advance. It gives students the chance to interact directly with tutors, to engage with them in debate, to exchange ideas and argue, to ask questions, and of course to learn through the discussion of the prepared work. Many tutors are world-leaders in their fields of research, and Oxford undergraduates frequently learn of new discoveries before they are published.

Each student also receives teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. But the tutorial is the place where all the elements of the course come together and make sense. Meeting regularly with the same tutor – often weekly throughout the term – ensures a high level of individual attention and enables the process of learning and teaching to take place in the context of a student’s individual needs.

The tutorial system also offers the sustained commitment of one or more senior academics – as college tutors – to each student’s progress. It helps students to grow in confidence, to develop their skills in analysis and persuasive argument, and to flourish as independent learners and thinkers.

More information about tutorials

The benefits of the college system

  • Every Oxford student is a member of a college. The college system is at the heart of the Oxford experience, giving students the benefits of belonging to both a large and internationally renowned university and a much smaller, interdisciplinary, college community.
  • Each college brings together academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students, and college staff. The college gives its members the chance to be part of a close and friendly community made up of both leading academics and students from different subjects, year groups, cultures and countries. The relatively small size of each college means that it is easy to make friends and contribute to college life. There is a sense of belonging, which can be harder to achieve in a larger setting, and a supportive environment for study and all sorts of other activities.
  • Colleges organise tutorial teaching for their undergraduates, and one or more college tutors will oversee and guide each student’s progress throughout his or her career at Oxford. The college system fosters a sense of community between tutors and students, and among students themselves, allowing for close and supportive personal attention to each student’s academic development.

It is the norm that undergraduates live in college accommodation in their first year, and in many cases they will continue to be accommodated by their college for the majority or the entire duration of their course. Colleges invest heavily in providing an extensive range of services for their students, and as well as accommodation colleges provide food, library and IT resources, sports facilities and clubs, drama and music, social spaces and societies, access to travel or project grants, and extensive welfare support. For students the college often becomes the hub of their social, sporting and cultural life.

More about Oxford’s unique college system and how to choose a college