The Department of Education
Students get to use the library and seminar rooms of the Department of Education, Norham Gardens, to study.
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Short periods of study as a Visitor

You can use the Visitor route for courses of up to six months, for longer 'distance learning' courses where you are based outside the UK and only need to be in Oxford for short periods, for research of up to six months where this is part of your degree course outside the UK, to sit an examination or to take a DPhil viva. 

This replaces the previous Short-term study provision from 1 December 2020. The remaining Short-term study category is now only for language school students and does not apply to Oxford. 

What study can you do as a visitor?

 Visitors are now allowed to study for up to six months, and you can use this route for:

  • short courses either full or part time
  • an undergraduate Visiting Student programme of one or two terms where the start and end dates are not more than six months apart
  • 'distance learning courses' longer than six months where you are based outside the UK most of your time, and come to Oxford for short periods only, for example for short intensive periods of face-to-face teaching or for supervision or assessment
  • if you are a degree student outside the UK, a period of research or research tuition which your home institution confirms is part of or relevant to your degree. Internships and work placements are prohibited. Check if you need ATAS clearance for some science or technology subjects and if you do plan to apply for it well in advance of arrival
  •  taking part in Oxford’s medical Elective programme if your Elective is unpaid and does not involve treating patients
  • sitting an exam or taking a DPhil viva

What are the conditions of the Visitor route for study?

You must be a genuine visitor meaning that you must not use the route to live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits or make the UK your main home, and that you will leave the UK at the end of your visit. This is particularly important for courses where you will need to keep coming back to the UK for a period exceeding six months for example for teaching blocks for a part time Masters. A decision maker (a visa application caseworker or Border Control staff) will be looking at the pattern and duration of your time spent in the UK, and if they decide this indicates you are in effect living in the UK for your course they could refuse you a further visa or admission as a visitor.

You are not allowed to be employed, do work for anybody or any organisation, do an internship or a work placement or engage in business or provide services as a consultant or freelancer while in the UK as a visitor. Volunteering is allowed, for example activity to support a charity, voluntary or public sector organisation as long as this does not amount to unpaid work. 

You need enough money for your living expenses including accommodation, travel, course fees and any other expenses related to your visit. 

For some subject areas you need an ATAS certificate before you start study and you need to apply for this well in advance.  

You need a letter from the course administrator or your Oxford department about the study you are coming for, including the course name, duration and the amount of any fees. If you are coming for a period of research or a medical elective you also need written confirmation from your home institution that this will be relevant to your degree course. 

Using the visitor route for a course longer than six months ('distance learning')

Normally you can only do a course as a visitor if you will be completing the whole of the course in a visit of six months or less. As an exception, the Home Office allows the visitor route to be used for courses that fit their description of 'distance learning': where you would be studying for most of your time outside of the UK but may be required to be in Oxford for short periods for certain activities, such as induction weeks, intensive face-to-face learning, one-to-one progress checks or to sit exams or assessments. If the course structure meets these requirements it doesn't matter if it is not specifically described by Oxford as a distance-learning course. The visitor route is appropriate for some Oxford part-time masters courses where teaching is concentrated into residential blocks or modules. If you use the visitor route for a distance learning course where you will need to visit Oxford from time to time over an extended period remember the requirement above to be a 'genuine visitor', and remain based outside the UK. 

Do you need to apply for a visitor visa?

Depending on your nationality you will either need to apply for a visitor visa before travelling to the UK or you will be able to enter the UK as a visitor without a visa. You can check if you need a visa on the Home Office website. Select your nationality then choose the following options:

  • 'study', then
  • 'six months or less'

If you need a visitor visa, apply online. You can apply in any country outside the UK. You will need to submit your Study Visitor letter from Oxford, a letter from your home university if you are coming for a period of research or a medical elective, and evidence of your funding with your visit visa application. 

It is possible to apply for a longer term multi-entry Standard Visitor Visa, for example for two years, to use for a distance learning course where you will need to make several short visits to Oxford. 

Financial and accommodation evidence

You need to be able to show you have enough money for all the costs of your visit including travel, accommodation and living expenses and any course fees. Evidence could include recent bank statements and a letter from an employer. If your study will be supported by a financial reward, use an official letter from the provider. Somebody else can fund your study if you have a personal or professional relationship with them, for example a close family member or an employer. They would need to be able to support you for the duration of your stay. Read the Home Office staff visit guidance for full information on how your funding may be assessed. 

You need to be able to afford accommodation for the duration of your stay. If you have already arranged accommodation, include evidence of this with your visa application or have it to hand if you will be arriving without a visa. 

Arrival in the UK

If you don't need to apply for a visa before travelling to the UK as a Visitor for study, you will need to be prepared to explain the purpose of your visit when you arrive. As well as your passport you will need:

  • your letter from Oxford with details of your study or period of research
  • financial and accommodation evidence

Unless you are eligible to use the ePassport gate, you will be stamped in as a visitor, normally for six months.

Using the ePassport gate
Passport holding nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States of America,  EEA countries and Switzerland are able to use ePassport gates to enter the UK. Your passport must have a biometric symbol on the cover.  You would probably not see a Border Force officer and your passport will not be stamped; you will have been admitted for six months as a visitor. However we recommend that you still have your letter and financial evidence with you as a precaution, and keep a record of your travel dates.

EEA and Swiss national ID cards
Currently you can use an EEA or Swiss national ID card to come into the UK as a visitor though you will not be able to use it at the ePassport gate.  From 1 October 2021 you will not be able to use a national ID card to enter the UK as a visitor without first applying for a visa. 

Further information

For detailed information about how you would be assessed as a visitor, read the Home Office staff visit guidance.

UKCISA has helpful information on studying as a Visitor.


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