Guidance for mature students | University of Oxford
Mature students
Mature students

Guidance for mature students

If you will be age 21 or older at the start of your course, then you will automatically be considered a mature applicant. In general, the process to apply to Oxford is the same regardless of your age; however, we know that some elements of the application process may be more complex for mature applicants.

What are we looking for?

Oxford is looking for the candidates with the most academic potential, irrespective of their age or background. Just like everyone else who applies, mature students need to demonstrate academic ability and commitment to study.

Life experience and study skills - We know that mature applicants are likely to have a wide range of experiences beyond formal education, including work experience and volunteering. Tutors at Oxford will take your work experience and life skills into account when you apply. These are most helpful when they are relevant to the course you are applying for, and help to demonstrate independent motivation and academic curiosity.

While showing these skills can add to your application, work experience will not replace direct evidence of your ability to succeed in a formal learning environment, and we will still need to see academic qualifications completed in the past 3 years.

Qualifications - To make a competitive application, you will need to show that you have the necessary skills to tackle intensive, independently-driven academic study in your subject. This means that we will be looking for recent evidence of success in formal education, typically within the three years before you apply.

This might be A-levels, or it could be an Access to Higher Education qualification, Open University course, foundation degree, or equivalent. If you haven't done any formal study for longer than three years, it's a good idea to take another qualification to refresh your study skills. Bear in mind, you may need to have A-levels or equivalent qualifications in particular subjects, depending on your chosen course. See our admission requirements for further details.

Don’t worry if your school results don’t reflect your best work. We understand that education is an ongoing journey, and that a lot may have changed from when you left school. We are most interested in your academic potential to pursue a degree now, not your abilities at age 18.

Making an application

The application procedure for mature students is the same as for other students, and you can find further step-by-step guidance in our application guide.

College Choice - When you apply, you will be asked to choose a particular Oxford college, or else to make an ‘open application’. As a mature applicant, you can choose any Oxford college which offers your course. You can also choose to preference either Harris Manchester College or Wycliffe Hall (where you can study Theology and Religion or Philosophy and Theology), both of which are only open to mature students. Whether you choose a mature college or apply to a college with a mix of students is a matter of personal choice. Regardless of which college you attend, you will have access to personalised academic support and a wide array of college and University events and societies, including the opportunity to join a mature student society. For more information on Oxford’s collegiate system, please see What are Oxford Colleges?.

References - The UCAS application form requires an academic reference, which is usually completed by a school or college teacher. Depending on your educational background, we understand that mature applicants may find it difficult to find a teacher who can speak to their academic potential. While we encourage you to ask a teacher who is familiar with your recent work in a formal education setting, where this is not possible, you should ask someone who knows you from an educational setting, work context or volunteering, can give specific details of your academic potential and is not a friend or relative.

Admissions Testing - Applicants for many courses at the University of Oxford are asked to complete an admissions test, which you must register for by 15 October (Note: the LNAT for law applicants, and the BMAT for applicants to Medicine or Biomedical Sciences have different deadlines). While most applicants take their admissions test at their school, you can also register through an open test centre. For details, please see the specific admissions test required for your course.

Written Work - Many subjects require you to submit written work as part of your application. Mature applicants do not always have suitable written work, and we do understand this. Please contact the college you’re considering to discuss your options.

Can I apply for a second undergraduate degree?

If you have completed a degree at undergraduate level before, you may still apply to Oxford for a second undergraduate degree. Before considering a second undergraduate degree, you should review your finance options, as you may not be eligible for the funding typically available for first undergraduate degrees.

If you already have an undergraduate degree in another subject, you may choose to apply for “Senior Status”. This option allows you to start your second undergraduate degree directly in year two of the degree. While the application process for a second undergraduate degree, with or without the Senior Status option, is generally the same as the standard application process, you may wish to note that not all colleges offer the Senior Status option, and that this status is at the discretion of the college.

For further information, please see our second undergraduate degree page. 

Can I study part-time?

The University of Oxford does not offer part-time or distance learning options for our undergraduate degree courses. All of our undergraduate courses are offered full-time, and require students to live in Oxford during term time in order to participate fully in the short, intensive teaching periods of the degree. If you are interested in part-time or distance learning options, you may wish to consider one of the many certificates, diplomas and graduate courses offered by the University’s Department for Continuing Education.

Can I work during my degree?

Given the short, intensive nature of the teaching terms at Oxford, there are constraints around students working during term time. However, many students pursue internship or work experience opportunities between terms. Support in securing internships and placements is available through the Careers Service.

What financial support would be available to me as a UK mature student?

Please see our Fees and Funding pages for more details on the financial support Oxford can offer.

The Crankstart Scholarship is available to all UK residents with a household income of £27,500 per year or less, who will be studying for their first undergraduate degree. This scholarship offers an annual bursary of up to £5,000, as well as extensive personalised careers support and internship and volunteer opportunities. If you have spent time in care or are estranged from your family, you may be eligible for additional bursary support.

If you are not eligible for, or choose not to take up the Crankstart Scholarship, you may be eligible to receive an Oxford Bursary, an annual, non-repayable bursary to support your living costs available to first-degree UK students with a household income of up to £42,875.

Mature students from the UK may also be eligible for further assistance from the Government to support them during their studies, including:

  • The Childcare Grant, a non-repayable grant for students in full time higher education with children under the age of 15 (or under the age of 17 if they have special needs)
  • The Adult Dependants’ Grant, a non-repayable grant for students in full time higher education with an adult that is financially dependent on them
  • The Parents’ Learning Allowance, a non-repayable grant for student parents who are in full time higher education or initial teacher training
  • Disabled Students’ Allowance, a non-repayable grant to help cover some of the extra costs that may result from a mental health problem, long term illness or any other disability.

Do I have to live in Oxford?

Yes, all Oxford students must live in or near Oxford city during term time. All our undergraduate degrees involve intense study and high levels of commitment. The amount of time you will spend studying in a week is approximately the same as a full-time job. Most students study around 40 hours a week. All undergraduate students are therefore required to be resident in the city during term time, either in college accommodation, in other accommodation within six miles of the city centre, or within 25 miles if it is your family home. All first year undergraduate students are provided accommodation by their college and in the first instance you should discuss your accommodation with your assigned college. You can also seek guidance from our Accommodation Office.

What if I have childcare responsibilities?

The University aims to assist wherever possible in the provision of childcare. For further details please see our childcare pages.

Jess, Human Sciences - “Having taken three years out before coming to university, I was worried that I might be at a disadvantage. However, I’ve found that being a mature student broadens your perspective on your subject, as you can relate it to your own life experience. I’ve found that I’m constantly surrounded by inspiring, hard-working people with an interesting story.” 
 
Scott, PPE - "My experience with admissions at Oxford was fantastic. They looked at my application holistically, and gave me an opportunity to defend my unique application in an interview.” 
 
Christopher, History - “As I passed 60 my family nagged me about retiring, but I realised I had to do something that would engage me. So I sent an application into Oxford. I was offered a place in January, finally retired in July and arrived at Freshers’ Week in October. I quickly became absorbed by college life. I can’t believe how fortunate I have been to return to education in Oxford, to study a subject which totally engages me and to be based in a college full of like-minded people.” 
 
Amelia, Experimental Psychology - “Studying here has been eye-opening, and I’ve had opportunities for personal and academic growth I couldn’t have dreamed of before. If you’re thinking of applying but worried your earlier achievements are unflattering, don’t rule yourself out – they’re looking for evidence of potential not a finished product.”
 
Laura, English Language and Literature - "Before I returned to the world of academia I had several careers: accountant, police officer and interior designer! My first degree was in Business Studies at the age of 18. Since then I had hungered to study English Literature and at 38 found myself in the position to go for it. I was scared, having not studied for 17 years, but knew I had to have a go. I feel immensely privileged to be in beautiful surroundings studying a subject I love. All the staff here are so supportive both academically and personally, so what seems terrifying at first is soon made familiar. My only regret is that I didn’t come sooner!" 

Most Popular Questions

Would insufficient grades from school prevent me from applying?

We do understand that people often develop their academic interests and skills later in life. Having lower grades from school will not prevent you from making a successful application, as long as you are able to demonstrate recent academic achievement and exceptional academic ability. 

Where can I sit an admissions test?

Arranging to sit an admissions test can be a little trickier for mature applicants, so do make sure you give this your earliest attention. For most tests, you can either register at one of the many open test centres around the world, or ask your current place of study to become a centre where you can sit the test. Please see our individual test pages for more information on how to register.