About the course
This one year part-time course offers an exciting opportunity for graduates of any discipline to pursue a taught graduate qualification in historical studies and to research and write a substantial dissertation. The Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) in Historical Studies can be studied as a stand-alone course or form the first year of the MSt in Historical Studies.
The course consists of the following five units and additional online modules:
Unit 1: Princes, States, and Revolutions
The first unit examines the interaction between the state and the individual from medieval to modern times and focuses upon authority, resistance, revolution and the development of political institutions.
Unit 2: European Court Patronage c.1400
The second unit explores cultural patronage in late medieval Europe and examines the diverse courtly responses to shared concerns and experiences, including the promotion of power and status; the relationship between piety and power; and the impact of dominant cultures.
Unit 3: Religious Reformations and Movements
The third unit examines the role of organised religion and religious movements in the lives of people in the past.
Unit 4: Memory and Conflict
The fourth unit focuses upon a central theme in the study of twentieth-century European history: how societies have chosen to remember (and forget) violent conflicts, and the relationship between public and private memory.
Unit 5: Special Subjects
In the final unit, students study a source-based special subject and research and write a dissertation on a related topic of their own choice.
Online teaching modules
The first module provides a pre-course introduction to history and post-graduate study skills. The second focuses upon the analysis and interpretation of material sources, such as buildings and images and the third upon the analysis and interpretation of a range of documentary sources. All include a range of self-test exercises.
There are five weekend units, during which supported learning will be provided in a variety of formats: PowerPoint presentations, tutor-led discussion, group discussion, and student presentations on prepared topics. During the final, Special Subject weekend (Unit 5), there will also be one to one tutorials with the dissertation supervisor.
It is anticipated that students will need to spend about 12-14 hours per week in private study, as they will work on the online modules, read widely, and research and prepare their assignments and dissertation.
At no extra cost, the wide range of lectures and research seminars organised by the University of Oxford’s History Faculty are also available to you. You will be able to borrow books from both the Department for Continuing Education’s library which is part of the Bodleian libraries and the History Faculty Library, and are also eligible for membership of the Bodleian Library.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department for Continuing Education and this role will usually be performed by the Course Director.
It is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department for Continuing Education.
The Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) in Historical Studies is assessed through coursework comprising:
- four essays
- two source-based exercises
- a dissertation.
You will write one essay following each of the first four units and the dissertation following the fifth and final unit. There will be a wide choice of assignment subjects for each unit and you will select a dissertation topic relating to your special subject with the advice of the course team. You will be asked to write a non-assessed book review following the first pre-course online module and the source-based exercises will follow the second and third online modules. Assignment titles, submission deadlines and reading lists will be supplied at the start of the course.
Students who complete the course successfully will be able to apply for masters' courses in the Department for Continuing Education in the University of Oxford or other institutions. However, it is important to note that successful completion of the course does not confer an automatic right of entry to any institution.
Changes to this course and your supervision
The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
Other courses you may wish to consider
If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.
All graduate courses in the humanities offered by this department
Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any discipline.
This might include candidates who have studied history in the past and wish to update and hone their historical skills and knowledge, broaden their approach to the discipline or enhance their level of qualification.
Preference may be given to those who have previously studied in an historically related subject.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- Candidates are likely to come from a variety of backgrounds and to want to study for personal interest as well as academic progression and career development. All candidates will be expected to demonstrate a lively and sustained interest in the discipline, the commitment to undertake a demanding academic course and the academic potential to develop the research and writing skills required at graduate level. Please contact the course administrator if you wish to discuss your qualifications.
- Publications are not required.
English language proficiency
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
Declaring extenuating circumstances
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process and are conducted by a minimum of two interviewers.
Interviews are normally held in February (for January deadline applications) and April (for March deadline applicants).
The following criteria are taken into account when selecting candidates for interview:
- the class of degree achieved;
- the quality and relevance of the personal statement;
- written work submitted; and
- the views of referees.
Interviews are undertaken in person or by Microsoft Teams and focus upon your prior academic study, your historical interests, your statement and written work and your reasons for wishing to undertake the course. You will also be offered the opportunity to seek further information about the course.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading. References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process.
An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed.
Shortlisting and selection
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
Other factors governing whether places can be offered
The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
- the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
- minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.
Offer conditions for successful applications
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our After you apply pages provide more information about offers and conditions.
In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
The department is located in a block of attractive Victorian houses in Wellington Square in central Oxford close to some of the University's major libraries and museums and to the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter. The city's historic sites, colleges, shops and restaurants are only a few minutes' walk away. The modernised and extended site has its own fully equipped seminar rooms, library, reading room, student computing facility, graduate school study/social room, dining-room, common-room, garden seating areas and short-term student accommodation.
The department's graduate school provides a stimulating and enriching learning and research environment for its 700-strong graduate community. It fosters intellectual and social interaction between graduates of different disciplines and professions from the UK and around the globe. It runs training sessions, a termly research seminar and dinner, an arts and humanities seminar series and social events.
In addition to Rewley House's well-stocked Continuing Education Library, you will have access to University libraries such as the Bodleian Library, Weston Library, History Faculty Library, and the Sackler Library. Library access includes full online access to history and other journals and to a wide range of historical data bases and document collections, available anywhere.
You will also have access to the extensive range of seminars, lectures and training sessions offered by this department and other departments, faculties and centres within the University. The Humanities Division and History Faculty offer a wide range of graduate seminars, lectures and training and special events. The Bodleian Library Group and IT services run a wide-ranging programme of training workshops.
The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.
For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the department's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2023-24
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees and Funding section of this website, which includes detailed fee status information.
This course has residential sessions in Oxford. You will need to meet your travel and accommodation costs in attending these sessions. Further, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.
Matriculation confers membership of the University on students. Students who enrol on this course will not be matriculated and will not become a member of an Oxford college. Although not formally members of the University, non-matriculated students are expected to observe the same rules and regulations as matriculated students. Further information about matriculation is available on the Oxford Students website.
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. We recommend that you submit your application well in advance - two or three weeks earlier.
Application fee waivers
An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:
- applicants from low-income countries;
- refugees and displaced persons;
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and
- applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.
You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.
Contacting the department
You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.
If you have queries about the course or its content, please contact the Award Programme Administrator via the contact details provided on this page.
Completing your application
You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents. If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.
Three overall, academic preferred
Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.
References should generally be academic. However, where academic references cannot be provided, professional references will be accepted in lieu of academic references.
Your references will support your academic ability and suitability for this course.
Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.
A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.
A maximum of 500 words
Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas of the course that interest you and/or you would like to specialise in.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for your reasons for wishing to enrol on the course, for your interest in studying the historical disciplines and identifying historical subjects of particular interest to you, and for evidence of your motivation to successfully complete a challenging part-time programme of study.
It will be normal for your ideas to change subsequently as you investigate the evidence and develop your understanding of historical studies and interest in the subject. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your historical interests, motivations and suitability at this moment.
One essay of a maximum of 2,000 words
An academic essay or other writing sample is required. An extract from a longer piece of writing is acceptable but a note should be included to provide context.
The text submitted should be in English, preferably written recently and covering a historical subject. The word count does not need to include your bibliography or any brief footnotes.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for your knowledge and understanding of the subject demonstrated, ability to construct a logical and persuasive argument, and the clarity and quality of your expression.