History and Modern Languages | University of Oxford
History and Modern Languages
Grand Canal and Basilica Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy.
(Image credit: Shutterstock).

History and Modern Languages

mortar boardUCAS codeSee course combinationscalendarDuration4 years with year abroad (BA)
pencilEntrance requirementsAAAHeadSubject requirements  A modern language (depending on course choice)
tickAdmissions test(s)


tickWritten workOne/three pieces
bar chartAdmissions statistics*

Interviewed: 81%
Successful: 23%
Intake: 24
*3-year average 2016-18


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Email Modern Languages

Subject requirements:       Essential       Recommended       Helpful – may be useful on course

In recent years History has experienced a ‘linguistic turn’ while literary studies have undergone a ‘historical turn’, making this combination of subjects more exciting than ever. Knowledge of the past contextualises literary artefacts, while the forensic literary skills of the linguist are vital for interrogating historical documents. While historians have to be aware of genre, plot and rhetorical techniques in the creation both of their sources and their own arguments, linguists need to appreciate the social and political concerns that are woven into literary works. This degree brings these two skill sets together.

Oxford has a long and enduring commitment to the teaching of history and European languages, leading to a particularly rich environment in terms of staff expertise, library resources, language training and overseas contacts. Undergraduate students have access to the Taylor Institution Library, the biggest research library in Britain devoted to modern languages, as well as the History Faculty Library housed in the Radcliffe Camera. The University’s well-equipped Language Centre has resources specifically tailored to the needs of History and Modern Languages students.

The fullness and variety of the curriculum means that students can combine papers from the two faculties in stimulating ways. The two parts come together directly in the bridge essay, where students can make their own innovative contributions.

International opportunities

History and Modern Languages is a four-year course with a compulsory year abroad in your third year. You may work as a paid language assistant in a foreign school or do an internship abroad, both of which provide valuable opportunities to develop career experience while improving language competence. Alternatively your year may be spent studying at a foreign university. You will also be encouraged to spend as much of your time as possible during the vacations in the countries whose languages you are studying. In addition to the possibility of Erasmus funding, extra financial support, including travel scholarships, may be available from your college and/or the faculty.

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 a course’s requirements for international study. Students who consider that they may be affected are asked to contact their department for advice.

 students at a lecture“I loved both History and German at A-level, and couldn’t imagine not studying either, so when I discovered that Oxford offered a course that would enable me to study both in greater detail, I decided to apply.

‘Greater detail’ turned out to be an understatement! One of the great things about History and Modern Languages is that I can choose how much the subjects work together. You can study the literature and the history of a period at the same time, or (like me) you can keep the two separate – my papers this year cover everything from 19th-century Britain to medieval German literature, modern linguistics and the Cold War.”  

A typical week

Your time will be divided between the Faculties of History and Medieval and Modern Languages, and your college. A week’s work will include tutorials in history and in the literature and culture of the language you study, around 3 or 4 lectures/classes for each subject and language classes involving different skills, e.g. translation, oral and grammar. The rest of your time will be allocated to independent study preparing essays for your weekly tutorials.

Most tutorials, classes, and lectures are delivered by staff who are tutors in their subject. Many are world-leading experts with years of experience in teaching and research. Some teaching may also be delivered by postgraduate students who are usually studying at doctorate level.

To find out more about how our teaching year is structured, visit our Academic Year page.

Course structure



Six courses are taken:

  • History
    • European/World history (four options: 370–900; 1000–1300; 1400–1650; 1815–1914)
    • Either a British Isles history period, or a historical methods paper, or a foreign text or an optional subject
  • Modern Language
    • Practical language work (two papers)
    • Two literature papers


First University examinations: six written papers



  • A period or theme paper European/World history
  • Either a special subject in History (two papers, see History), with one additional history or literature option; or three papers selected from history (British history, further subject, thesis) or literature (special subjects, prescribed authors, extended essay)
  • An optional additional thesis in History
  • Practical language work (two papers)
  • A period of literature
  • A paper on one of a wide range of options
  • A bridge essay


Final University examinations: between six and nine written papers; between one and four submitted essays, including the compulsory bridge essay; oral examination in the modern language

For the latest information on all course details and options see the History and Modern Languages websites.

The content and format of this course may change in some circumstances. Read further information about potential course changes.

Academic requirements

A-levels: AAA
Advanced Highers:AA/AAB
IB:38 (including core points) with 666 at HL
Or any other equivalent (see other UK qualifications, and international qualifications)                                                           

Wherever possible, your grades are considered in the context in which they have been achieved.  (See further information on how we use contextual data.) 

Subject requirements


For History with Czech, French, German, Italian, Modern Greek, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish, candidates would usually be required to have that language to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher Level in the IB or another academic equivalent. The Beginners’ courses allow students to start studying one of these languages from scratch. 


It is highly recommended for candidates to have History to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher Level in the IB, or another equivalent.

In Czech, Italian, Modern Greek, and Portuguese, beginners will receive additional language support, but study together with those who already have A-level (or equivalent) and take the same first year exam.  

If, and only if, you have chosen to take any science A-levels, we expect you to take and pass the practical component in addition to meeting any overall grade requirement.

If English is not your first language you may also need to meet our English language requirements.


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

Admissions test

Test: HAT and MLAT
Test date:30 October 2019            
Registration deadline:                   6pm 15 October 2019                                                                                                      

All candidates must take the History Aptitude Test (HAT) and the Modern Languages Admissions Test (MLAT) as part of their application. Separate registration for each test is required and it is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered for these tests. We strongly recommend making the arrangements in plenty of time before the deadline. For everything you need to know, including guidance on how to prepare, see the MLAT page and the HAT page.

Changes to HAT for 2019 entry: The HAT will consist of one question based on an extract from a primary source, to be answered in one hour. The format of this question will be similar to question 3 of past papers which are available on the HAT page

Written work

Description:Candidates must submit written work for each of the subjects forming this joint course. Please check the written work requirements for both History and for Modern Languages.
Deadline:  10 November 2019

You will see that candidates are required to submit a piece of written work in English for the Modern Languages part of the course (along with work in the chosen Modern Language). If you would like to use the same piece that you submit for History, please send us two copies of this piece of work.

For general guidance and to download the cover sheet, please see our written work page.

What are tutors looking for?

Tutors are looking for intellectual curiosity, your capacity for independent thought and ability to relate and conceptualise ideas, as well as a flexible approach to engaging with unfamiliar concepts or arguments and your oral competence in the language. If you are shortlisted, you may be asked to discuss your submitted written work and personal statement during interview. Candidates may also be asked to read and talk about a short text in English and/or the modern language as part of the interview.

For more detail on the selection criteria for this course, please see the selection criteria for History and for Modern Languages.


Employers value language skills combined with the many transferable skills of a History and Modern Languages degree. Recent graduates from this course are employed in international institutions such as the UN and the EU, by NGOs as well as by national governments. They work in the media, publishing, the law, banking, consultancy, teaching, research, commercial industry and many other sectors.

Matthew, now an investment manager, says: ‘I enjoyed the sheer variety and choice of a History and Modern Languages degree. I benefit hugely in my professional life from the skills I learned from historical argument and literary criticism, not to mention the ability to speak French. Every time I tell my clients how politics and financial markets might affect their investments, I draw on the analytical and presentational skills I acquired at Oxford.’

Oxford University is committed to recruiting the best and brightest students from all backgrounds. We offer a generous package of financial support to Home/EU students from lower-income households. (UK nationals living in the UK are usually Home students.)

Latest information for UK and EU undergraduates who will begin their course in 2020 can be found here. Further information for EU students starting in 2020 is available here.

The fees and funding information below relates to those who will start at Oxford in 2020.


These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2020.

Fee status

Annual Course fees

(Channel Islands & Isle of Man)

For more information please refer to our course fees page. Fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Living costs

Living costs at Oxford might be less than you’d expect, as our world-class resources and college provision can help keep costs down.

Living costs for the academic year starting in 2020 are estimated to be between £1,135 and £1,650 for each month you are in Oxford. Our academic year is made up of three eight-week terms, so you would not usually need to be in Oxford for much more than six months of the year but may wish to budget over a nine-month period to ensure you also have sufficient funds during the holidays to meet essential costs. For further details please visit our living costs webpage.

Financial support


A tuition fee loan is available from the UK government to cover course fees in full for Home (UK)/EU students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your course fees up front.

In 2020 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to UK and EU students with a family income of around £42,875 or less, with additional opportunities available to UK students from households with incomes of £27,500 or less. This support is available in addition to the government living costs support.  See further details.

(Channel Islands and Isle of Man)

Islands students are entitled to different support to that of students from the rest of the UK.

Please refer the links below for information on the support to you available from your funding agency:

States of Jersey
States of Guernsey
Isle of Man


Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford Bursaries and Scholarships page.

*If you have studied at undergraduate level before and completed your course, you will be classed as an Equivalent or Lower Qualification student (ELQ) and won’t be eligible to receive government or Oxford funding

Fees, Funding and Scholarship search

Additional Fees and Charges Information for History and Modern Languages

During the year abroad, students pay significantly reduced fees. For students who started an undergraduate course from 2019, who are going on their year abroad in 2020, the course fees are:

  • Home/EU/Islands students: £1,385 for the year.
  • International students: £8,750 for the year.

We recommend that students begin to research their year abroad options – including the financial implications – as early as possible in the second year of the course. There is plenty of support, information and advice to help you. You may choose to work or study during your year abroad, or you may do both. Students undertake a range of activities while on their year abroad, some activities may receive a salary and thus - depending on individual choices - it is possible for the year abroad to be cost neutral. Actual costs (such as course fees) and living costs will vary depending on the destination and the activity undertaken.

You will need to pay for living costs during the year abroad, including accommodation and travel expenses. Subject to the UK continuing to be eligible to participate in the Erasmus Programme or equivalent framework after leaving the EU, students taking part in Erasmus (or equivalent) study exchanges will not need to pay tuition fees to other institutions. However, if you decide to study outside this framework you will be liable to pay tuition fees to the relevant institution. For more information about the Erasmus+ programme at Oxford, please visit ox.ac.uk/erasmus

You may receive salary payments or grants to offset some or all of these costs. Also, if you receive government funding for the rest of your course, you will still be entitled to government support during your year abroad. Hardship funds are available from the Faculty of Medieval & Modern Languages for students who can demonstrate particular difficulties related to their year abroad. These are awarded through a termly application process.

KIS data linksUCAS codes
History and Beginners' CzechVR1R
History and CzechVR17
History and French VR11
History and German VR12
History and Beginners' Modern GreekVR1X
History and Modern GreekVQ17
History and Beginners' Italian RU31
History and Italian VR13
History and Beginners' PortugueseVR1N
History and Portuguese VR15
History and Russian VRC7
History and Spanish VR14

Contextual information

The Key Information Sets provides applicants with statistics about undergraduate life at Oxford. But there is so much more to an Oxford degree that the numbers can’t convey.

The Oxford tutorial

College tutorials are central to teaching at Oxford. Typically, they take place in your college and are led by your academic tutor(s) who teach as well as do their own research. Students will also receive teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. However, tutorials offer a level of personalised attention from academic experts unavailable at most universities.

During tutorials (normally lasting an hour), college subject tutors will give you and one or two tutorial partners feedback on prepared work and cover a topic in depth. The other student(s) in your college tutorials will be from your year group, doing the same course as you and will normally be at your college. Such regular and rigorous academic discussion develops and facilitates learning in a way that isn’t possible through lectures alone. Tutorials also allow for close progress monitoring so tutors can quickly provide additional support if necessary.

Read more about tutorials and an Oxford education

College life

Our colleges are at the heart of Oxford’s reputation as one of the best universities in the world.

  • At Oxford, everyone is a member of a college as well as their subject department(s) and the University. Students therefore have both the benefits of belonging to a large, renowned institution and to a small and friendly academic community. Each college or hall is made up of academic and support staff, and students. Colleges provide a safe, supportive environment leaving you free to focus on your studies, enjoy time with friends and make the most of the huge variety of opportunities.
  • Each college has a unique character, but generally their facilities are similar. Each one, large or small, will have the following essential facilities:
    • Porters’ lodge (a staffed entrance and reception)
    • Dining hall
    • Lending library (often open 24/7 in term time)
    • Student accommodation
    • Tutors’ teaching rooms
    • Chapel and/or music rooms
    • Laundry
    • Green spaces
    • Common room (known as the JCR).
  • All first year students are offered college accommodation either on the main site of their college or in a nearby college annexe. This means that your neighbours will also be ‘freshers’ and new to life at Oxford. This accommodation is guaranteed, so you don’t need to worry about finding somewhere to live after accepting a place here, all of this is organised for you before you arrive.
  • All colleges offer at least one further year of accommodation and some offer it for the entire duration of your degree. You may choose to take up the option to live in your college for the whole of your time at Oxford, or you might decide to arrange your own accommodation after your first year – perhaps because you want to live with friends from other colleges.
  • While college academic tutors primarily support your academic development, you can also ask their advice on other things. Lots of other college staff including welfare officers help students settle in and are available to offer guidance on practical or health matters. Current students also actively support students in earlier years, sometimes as part of a college ‘family’ or as peer supporters trained by the University’s Counselling Service.

More about Oxford colleges and how you choose