Theology and Oriental Studies
Buddhist prayer flags.
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Theology and Oriental Studies

The course in Theology and Oriental Studies enables you to learn in depth about a number of the world’s great religious traditions, including Christianity (taught primarily in the Theology and Religion Faculty) and Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism (taught primarily in the Oriental Studies Faculty). To engage with all the different aspects of the course, you have to be something of a historian and a philosopher, a textual and literary critic, and a linguist. All these disciplines together not only enable students to appreciate the qualities of religions that in some cases are radically different from those in western societies but, like the other arts subjects, equip graduates to embark on a wide range of careers.

Theology and Oriental Studies at Oxford

The Theology and Religion, and Oriental Studies Faculties have between them more than 270 members, ranging from experts in the ancient languages and literature of the world’s religions to church historians and systematic theologians.

Our library facilities are excellent. Besides the Bodleian Library and the Theology Faculty library, most college libraries have a theology section, and the Oriental Institute Library and the Sackler Library offer loan collections in fields important for the study of oriental religions.

The Theology and Religion Faculty Centre and the Oriental Institute provide access to a vast range of networked resources in Humanities including electronic journals, library catalogues, language-learning programmes and digitised texts for different parts of the course.


Oxford graduates in Theology and Oriental Studies can expect to go on to careers as diverse as law, social work, the media, journalism, publishing, banking, management consultancy, accountancy, personnel management, teaching, the police force and the arts. Employers look very favourably on applicants who have learned oriental languages, and Oxford graduates with such skills are among the most successful each year in finding employment. The Theology and Religion Faculty’s website has information about careers for theologians.

Related courses

Students interested in this course might also like to consider other Theology and Religion or Oriental Studies courses.

A typical weekly timetable

The University arranges lectures (up to six weekly) and classes. For Theology subjects and some Oriental Studies subjects, a large part of the week is spent in private study in preparation for tutorials, which are usually held with college tutors once a week. Subjects which require a great deal of language work are taught for the most part in classes, which may meet three times a week or more.

Year 1


Follow the course for Theology and Religion (refer to Theology and Religion). In the third term all students take one Theology and Religion paper; no Oriental Studies teaching


First University Examinations in Theology and Religion (refer to Theology and Religion)

Years 2 and 3



  • Either: God and Israel in the Old Testament or The Gospels and Jesus (with special reference to the gospels of Matthew and John)
  • And either: The development of doctrine in the Early Church to AD 451 or God, Christ and salvation
  • Plus up to three other papers chosen from the Theology FHS.

Oriental Studies

  • Papers may be chosen from any one of the following sections: 1 Buddhism, 2 Eastern Christianity, 3 Hinduism, 4 Islam, and 5 Judaism


Final University Examinations:
Candidates will take eight papers, of which at least three and not more than five must be taken in Theology, and at least three and not more than five must be taken in Oriental Studies.
One paper may be substituted by a thesis

Experience of studying a language, and a subject involving essay-writing, to either A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher Level in the IB or another equivalent can be helpful to students in completing this course, although they are not required for admission.

Students are not expected to have studied any Oriental language before.

Some candidates must also take the Oriental Languages Aptitude Test (OLAT) as part of their application. Please see how to apply for further details.

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

Written work

Candidates are expected to submit two pieces of written work, one for Theology and one for Oriental Studies by 10 November 2014. The work should be marked in the normal process of school or college work. All written work must be in English.

The written work for Theology should be in Religious Studies. If you cannot submit samples of work in Religious Studies, please submit work in a related area. If you do not have any such written work available, please contact the Tutor for Admissions at the college considering your application.

The written work for Oriental Studies may be on any subject.

Written test

Candidates who intend to specialise in Hebrew/Judaism or Arabic/Islam must take the Oriental Languages Aptitude Test (OLAT), normally at their own school or college on 5 November 2014. Candidates must make sure they are available to take the test at this time. Separate registration for this test is required and the final deadline for entries is 15 October 2014. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered for this test. For further details please see the test website at

What are tutors looking for?

During the interview, tutors will be keen to find out about your linguistic ability and your commitment to a wide-ranging course. Ability to sustain an argument is also important. Applicants will normally be interviewed by representatives of the Faculty of Oriental Studies and by Theology tutors.

Selection criteria

Candidates may wish to refer to the selection criteria for Theology and for Oriental Studies.

Suggested reading

At present we do not produce a specific Theology and Oriental Studies reading list for people who are considering making an application, though we always advise prospective candidates to read beyond what they are reading in school and to explore areas that interest them.

Chloe, 1st year

'There’s a whole range of people with different faiths, beliefs, worldviews. That’s part of what makes it so exciting in tutorial - you don’t want to just hear people saying the same as you!'

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