Religion and Oriental Studies

The course in Religion and Oriental Studies enables you to learn in depth about a number of the world’s great religious traditions including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. To engage with all the different aspects of the course, you have to be something of a historian and a philosopher, a textual and literary critic, and a linguist. These disciplines together, not only enable students to appreciate the qualities of religions that can be radically different from those in Western societies, but also equip graduates to embark on a wide range of careers.

This degree offers the opportunity to study the major world religions and their primary languages. Students can also explore the relationship between religions and science, and the place of religious ethics in public life. Religion and Oriental Studies provides an understanding of the intellectual underpinning of religious traditions, and of the social and cultural contexts for religious belief and practice.

The Theology and Religion and Oriental Studies Faculties have between them more than 270 members, ranging from experts in the ancient languages and literature of the world’s religions to church historians and systematic theologians. Their reputations, together with excellent library facilities, attract scholars from all over the world.

RELOS careers

Oxford graduates in Religion and Oriental Studies can expect to go on to careers as diverse as the law, social work, the media, journalism, publishing, banking, management consultancy, accountancy, personnel management, teaching, the police force and the arts. Employers look very favourably on applicants who have learned oriental languages, and Oxford graduates with such skills are among the most successful each year in finding employment. 

Related courses

Students interested in this course might also like to consider Theology and Religion, Philosophy and Theology or Oriental Studies courses.

A typical week

Work is divided between tutorials (usually one or two a week), lectures (up to six a week) and language classes (at least three a week in the first year). A large part of your week will be spent in private study to prepare for tutorials. Tutorials are usually up to three students and a tutor. Seminar and language class sizes may vary depending on the options you choose or the language you are studying, but there would usually be no more than around 10 students and would often be smaller. Lectures are normally around 15-25 students. 

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.

Terms 1–3


  • Religion and religions
  • One of the following languages:
    which have three assessment components each


First University examinations:
Four papers assessed by written and (depending on the option) oral examination.

Terms 4–9


Students specialise in the study of a religion (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism), particularly through the study of its texts in their original languages. Students take seven papers, three in Oriental Studies and three in Religion; the seventh may be chosen from either Oriental Studies or Religion. In addition, all students must prepare a 12,000-word thesis on a topic of their choice, which may be chosen from either Oriental Studies or Religion.

The options listed above are illustrative and may change; not all languages are available every year. More information about current options is available on the Religion and Oriental Studies website.


Final University examinations:
Seven papers (assessed either by written examination or by submitted coursework, depending upon the option), plus a thesis

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

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

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

Experience of studying a language, and a subject involving essay writing, to either A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher Level in the IB or another equivalent can be helpful to students in completing this course, although they are not required for admission. Students are not expected to have studied any Oriental Language before.

We expect you to have taken and passed the practical component in any chosen science subjects.

Some candidates must also take the Oriental Languages Aptitude Test (OLAT) as part of their application.

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.)


These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2019.