Religion and Oriental Studies | University of Oxford
brass astrolabe
This brass astrolabe is from the 18th century. It carries an inscription on the front of the kursi that records that it was made during the reign of the Safavid Shah Husain (1694-1722) for his vizier, Mirza Muhammad Tahir.
(Credit: History of Science Museum)

Religion and Oriental Studies

mortar boardUCAS codeVT69calendarDuration3 years (BA)
pencilEntrance requirementsAAAHeadSubject requirements  A subject involving essay writing/ a language
tickAdmissions test(s)

ox.ac.uk/olat (Judaism and Islam only)

tickWritten workOne piece
bar chartAdmissions statistics*Interviewed: 72%
Successful: 36%
Intake: 3
*3-year average 2016-18
phoneContact+44 (0) 1865 270790
Email Theology
+44 (0) 1865 278312
Email Oriental Studies

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

The course in Religion and Oriental Studies offers students an in-depth understanding of a number of the world’s great religious traditions including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. To engage with all the different aspects of the course, you will have to become something of a historian and a philosopher, a textual and literary critic, as well as an accomplished 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 with the analytical and critical abilities to embark on a wide range of careers.

Religion and Oriental Studies enables students to study the major world religions and their primary languages. It provides them with an understanding of the intellectual underpinning of religious traditions, and of the social and cultural contexts for religious beliefs and practices. Students can also explore topics such as the relationship between religions and science, and the place of religious ethics in public life.

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

 students at a lecture Student studying in a library students socializing
“Religion and Oriental Studies is a rewarding subject if you like the combination of essay writing and language learning. You have the option to choose a broad range of topics offered by the Theology and Religion Faculty from history of early Christianity to mysticism to psychology of religion while the Oriental Studies Department provides you with a thorough learning of the religious language of your choice. For me, this is Sanskrit, for which I have five hours of tuition every week. I balance this with modules from Religion: Nature of religion and the Gospels and Jesus to name a few.”
PUJA-ARTI
“There’s a whole range of people with different faiths, beliefs, worldviews. That’s part of what makes it so exciting in tutorial - you don’t want to just hear people saying the same as you!”
CHLOE
“The course can be as broad or as in depth as like. You can really facilitate any of your interests. Whether you want to focus on the more traditional studies of the Bible or Church Doctrine, or whether you want to study World Religions your interests will be covered. Next year I will be able to study Feminist interpretation of religion alongside scatological humour in original Buddhist texts- almost everything is covered. There are so many amazing choices that I'm finding it difficult to choose!”
MARCUS

A typical week

Your typical weekly timetable will be divided between one or two tutorials and up to six lectures each week. Throughout the course and particularly in your first year, you will attend at least three (and often more) language classes each week. A large part of your week will be spent in independent study to prepare for language classes and 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 classes 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.

Course structure

YEAR 1

COURSES

  • Religion and religions
  • One of the following languages, each of which have three assessment components each:
    • Greek
    • Hebrew
    • Arabic
    • Tibetan
    • Hindi
    • Pali
    • Sanskrit

ASSESSMENT

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

YEARS 2 AND 3

COURSES

Students specialise in the study of a religion (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam or 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.

ASSESSMENT

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

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.

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

  Helpful: 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.

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.

Applying

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 tests

Yes, for candidates who intend to specialise in Hebrew/Judaism or Arabic/Islam. 

Test: OLAT
Test date:30 October 2019            
Registration date:                   6pm 15 October 2019                                                                                                      

Candidates who intend to specialise in Hebrew/Judaism or Arabic/Islam must take the Oriental Languages Aptitude Test (OLAT). 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. Everything you need to know, including guidance on how to prepare, can be found on the OLAT page

Written work

Description:One piece which has been marked in the normal process of school or college work. In place of this essay you may send an examination or test answer to an unseen question, which has been supervised and marked by your school or college. All written work must be in English. Please send work in Religious Studies if you are studying this subject to A-level (or equivalent). If you cannot submit a sample of work in Religious Studies, please submit work in a related area, for example work on any Humanities subject, such as History or English. If you do not  have such written work available, please contact the Tutor for Admissions at your first choice or allocated college, and they will suggest essay topics or alternative work. Please ensure that work is not overly long (no more than 2,000 words) and conforms as far as possible to the published guidelines on the submission of written work, as tutors want to evaluate the succinctness and pertinence of your work.
Submission deadline:  10 November 2019

If you have any questions, please contact your first choice or allocated college, or email the Director of Undergraduate Studies and Outreach, Dr Mary Marshall, at dus@theology.ox.ac.uk. For general guidance, see our further guidance on the submission of written work.

What are tutors looking for?

Admissions tutors will be keen to find out about your linguistic aptitude and your commitment to a wide-ranging course. They will be looking for an ability to think clearly, form sound arguments and to listen and respond to counterarguments. You may be asked to consider a sample language, a philosophical or ethical question or to study a brief text, but whatever the subject of discussion, interviewers are interested in how you think and how you approach questions. Students are not expected to have prior knowledge of the subject or language.

For more detail on the selection criteria for this course, please see the Theology and Religion and Oriental Studies websites.

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. 

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.)

Fees

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

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU£9,250
Islands
(Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£9,250
Overseas£26,235

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 2019 are estimated to be between £1,058 and £1,643 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

Home/EU

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 2019 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of around £42,875 or less, with additional opportunities available to those from households with incomes of £16,000 or less. This support is available in addition to the government living costs support.  See further details.

Islands
(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

Overseas

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 Religion and Oriental Studies

There are no compulsory costs for this course beyond the fees shown above and your living costs.

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

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