World-class resources and facilities | University of Oxford
A dinosaur skeleton in the Natural History Museum
A dinosaur skeleton in the Natural History Museum (Image credit: Martin Gassler / Graduate Photography Competition)

World-class resources and facilities

Oxford's graduate students have access to outstanding resources and facilities, including over 100 libraries, cutting-edge experimental labs and world-famous museums and collections.

Libraries

Oxford is famous for its libraries, and with good reason. The University has incredible collections of books, manuscripts and other materials, many of them housed in beautiful, historic buildings. These resources draw scholars to the University from all over the world.

The Bodleian Libraries

Founded in 1602, the Bodleian is the principal University library, and one of the oldest libraries in Europe. For 400 years, it has received a copy of every item, digital or online, published in the UK.

The Bodleian Libraries is also the largest library system in the UK. It includes the main Bodleian Library and libraries all across Oxford, including major research libraries and faculty, department and institute libraries. Together, the Libraries hold more than 13 million printed items, over 80,000 e-journals, and outstanding special collections including rare books and manuscripts, classical papyri, maps, music, art and printed ephemera.

As a graduate student, you’ll be issued with a Bodleian Reader Card (often called a ‘Bod card’), which will give you access to the Bodleian Libraries and their world-class resources. To help you get the most from Oxford’s libraries, the Bodleian runs workshops to develop your research skills and help you to keep up with emerging research in your area, get access to the scholarly materials you need and manage your research data.

Department and faculty libraries

The Bodleian is networked with around 30 department and faculty libraries. These libraries not only offer large holdings of books and journals, but they’re invaluable resource hubs for any student engaged in study or research in a particular subject area. 

For example, the Radcliffe Science Library, the University’s main science library, holds about 1 million printed items across the scientific disciplines. It hosts training workshops on topics such as working with sensitive research data and open-access scholarship, and runs inductions for graduate students in science subjects. The library also offers 3D printing and scanning services, VR equipment and a 360° camera, with drop-in sessions to let students try out these resources and learn more about using them in research. 

College libraries

Oxford’s colleges boast impressive libraries. Most colleges have large holdings across the disciplines, and some also offer specialist collections in a particular subject area. You can view just some of these incredible books, manuscripts and other ephemera on Digital Bodleian

Many college libraries are open 24 hours a day, and offer graduate students access to fantastic resources as well as a quiet, comfortable place to study. You can find out more about each college’s library in our colleges A-Z.

Digital resources

Oxford combines a rich heritage with infrastructure and facilities that are adapted to the needs of today’s students and scholars.

Across the University, digital technologies are enabling new kinds of research and learning, from computational approaches to drug discovery to exploring the Colosseum in VR. Oxford has been a centre of excellence for computing and engineering for decades, and is at the forefront of research in areas such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

But no matter your subject, we want to enable you to make the most of technology to enhance your study and research. We have one of the largest private networks in the UK, providing high-speed internet and excellent IT facilities and support, with hundreds of computers for use throughout the University. Our virtual learning environments (VLEs) allow students to access course materials and collaborate, and many lectures are captured as audio or video podcasts.

Enhanced research

At Oxford, fantastic research materials are often just a few clicks away. Using SOLO, the University’s main search engine for library collections, students can search almost all of the holdings in the Bodleian, as well as departmental, faculty and college libraries across Oxford — that’s millions of printed books, e-books, online journals, articles, reports and databases at your fingertips.

Our museums and libraries use new technologies to provide digital access to their collections, including many objects and texts you might not otherwise get to see. Digital.Bodleian makes the Bodleian’s unique riches freely available to the world. It features over 650,000 digital objects, including images of manuscripts, rare books, maps and ephemera, from medieval Arabic cosmographies to maps of Middle Earth annotated by JRR Tolkien, and from classical papyri to drafts of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The Ashmolean Museum has also embarked on a major project to digitise its collections, with over 60,000 object records available for you to browse or search. 

Open access

Oxford’s academic community is committed to providing the widest possible access to its world-class research. We have a policy of open access for publications that result from the University’s research. All researchers are encouraged to deposit their research publications in the Oxford Research Archive (ORA), the University’s digital repository, which holds more than 225,000 works including datasets. 

Skills and development

We provide many opportunities for graduate students to gain valuable digital research skills and develop a better understanding of finding and working with data. The Bodleian iSkills programme offers workshops for graduate students in information discovery and scholarly communications, and training in digital research skills are also run by our graduate schools. The Bodleian Data Library can advise you on finding data and statistics and managing your research data. It also manages access to restricted data collections, and helps researchers apply for access to sensitive datasets held offsite.

The University’s IT Learning Centre (ITLC) runs many classroom-based IT courses, taught in state-of-the-art learning rooms. Courses cover topics such as programming, digital media and platforms, data analysis, data management, data visualisation and high-performance computing.

All University members also have free access to a vast library of video learning courses on LinkedIn Learning (previously Lynda.com). These courses are taught by industry experts and cover thousands of topics, from Python to project management.

Facilities for scientific research

Oxford boasts world-class facilities for study and research, from the latest equipment for scientific research to studio space for artists. 

Over the last ten years, the University has invested over £400 million in its science facilities and infrastructure. Here are just some of our newest world-class facilities. 

  • The Beecroft Building is a state-of-the-art laboratory and teaching facility for experimental and theoretical physics, with space for some 200 physicists. The high-specification laboratories are capable of housing extremely environmentally sensitive atomic-level experiments, and are among the very best globally. They can maintain temperature to within a tenth of a degree, and reduce vibration down to the width of a few atoms.
  • The Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Information and Discovery is a new £115 million interdisciplinary research centre. It is the world’s largest health data institute, and houses both the Targeted Discovery Institute (TDI) and the Big Data Institute (BDI). The centre provides space for six hundred scientists across research areas who are working to define disease more accurately, identify targets for new drugs and to help us to understand how disease responds to treatment.
  • The Earth Sciences Building is equipped with a range of specialised laboratories and houses the largest suite of mass spectrometers of any earth science department in the world. In the metal-free labs trace metals can be analysed without contamination, and the basement labs have been modified to remove any trace of the earth’s magnetic field.

You can find out more about the world-class experimental facilities we offer in your discipline or research area by visiting one of our academic departments or checking the ‘Resources’ tab on your course page

Museums and galleries

As a graduate student, you’ll have free access to Oxford’s world-famous museums and collections. They offer astonishing resources for study and research. 

The Ashmolean Museum

The Ashmolean Museum is the University’s museum of art and archaeology, and the oldest public museum in the world. Opened in 1683, it has important and diverse collections from around the globe, ranging from Egyptian mummies and classical sculpture to the Pre-Raphaelites and modern art. 

For graduate students working with historical materials, the Ashmolean is a uniquely rich resource. You might be encouraged to explore the Ashmolean’s collections, both on display and behind the scenes, and have the chance to work with some of the museum’s materials as part of your study or research. 

Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum

Situated in the heart of the city, Oxford’s Botanic Garden is the oldest in the UK, and one of the oldest scientific gardens in the world. With over 6,000 different types of plant, it is an incredible resource for research and teaching. Current research at the Botanic Garden includes the evolution of parasitism, conservation plant collections from biodiversity hotspots, and carnivorous pitcher plants. 

History of Science Museum

The History of Science Museum offers an unrivalled collection of early scientific instruments in the world’s oldest surviving purpose-built museum building. The museum houses around 20,000 objects that represent almost all aspects of the history of science from antiquity to the 1990s, including 13th century Islamic astrolabes, Lewis Carroll’s photographic equipment and a blackboard preserved from Einstein’s second lecture in Oxford in 1931. 

Museum of Natural History

A ‘cathedral to science’, the Oxford Museum of Natural History has been a centre of world-leading research and scientific debate since its opening in 1860. The stunning neo-Gothic building houses over 7 million scientific specimens, 20,000 books and half a million manuscripts, including the fossilised remains of the first dinosaur discovered by scientists and the only surviving soft tissue remains of a dodo. The museum is a major research centre, and its collections are used in research by the Department of Earth Sciences, Department of Zoology and the School of Archaeology. 

The Pitt Rivers Museum

The Pitt Rivers is a museum unlike any other. Founded in 1884, the museum houses more than half a million objects from all over the world, arranged not by age or origin but by type – a ‘democracy of things’. Here you’ll find both great cultural treasures and everyday objects that illustrate the diversity of cultural solutions to the basic problems we face as humans. Graduate students in archaeology and anthropology can borrow from the Balfour Library, one of the UK’s leading museum research and teaching libraries for the study of anthropology, archaeology and world music.

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