PGCert in Historical Studies | University of Oxford
Radcliffe Camera
The Radcliffe Camera, seen from the Bodleian Quad
(Image Credit: Christopher Wills)

PGCert in Historical Studies

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 Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) in Historical Studies is assessed through coursework comprising:

  • four essays of 2,500 words each
  • two source-based exercises of 1,500 words each
  • a dissertation of 8,000 words. 

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.

A variety of teaching methods will be used in both the face-to-face and online elements of the course. In addition to lectures, PowerPoint slide presentations and tutor-led discussion, there will be opportunities for you to undertake course exercises in small groups and to give short presentations on prepared topics.

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 and the History Faculty Library, and are also eligible for membership of the Bodleian Library.

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.

Graduate destinations

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.

Other courses in this area

Changes to the course

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. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2019-20

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, 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.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

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. 

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview(s)

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 telephone 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.


Publications not required.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Preference may be given to those who have previously studied in an historically related subject.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Department for Continuing Education to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Department for Continuing Education and 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.

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 sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.


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.


There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.


Annual fees for entry in 2019-20

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£4,270

The fees shown above are the annual course fees for this course, for entry in the stated academic year.

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. You may have seen separate figures in the past for tuition fees and college fees. We have now combined these into a single figure.

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 likely increases to fees and charges.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Additional 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.

Living costs

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 2019-20 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,058 and £1,643 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 2019-20, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

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.


This is a non-matriculated course and students studying non-matriculated courses do not become members of an Oxford college. More information about matriculated and non-matriculated courses can be found on the Matriculation page.

How to apply

If you have queries about the course or its content, please contact the Award Programme Administrator in the first instance.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

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.

Personal statement:
Around 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.

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.

Written work:
One essay 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.

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.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic

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.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Carefully read the entry requirements on this course page to make sure you meet all the criteria.

Step 2: Check above what documents are required and prepare to apply by reading our Application Guide.

Step 3: Apply as soon as possible. Consult the Application Guide for more information about deadlines.

Application GuideApply

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