There are 39 Oxford colleges, which are financially independent and self-governing, but relate to the central University in a kind of federal system.
The colleges and the University work together to organise teaching and research, and many staff at Oxford will hold both a college and a University post.
The central University is made up of many different sections, including academic and administrative departments, libraries and museums.
There are roughly 100 major academic departments, which are overseen by the four academic divisions: Medical Sciences; Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences; Humanities and Social Sciences.
Each department organises teaching and research in a different subject area, from Anthropology to Zoology. There are also many smaller, specialist research centres and sub-departments.
The Department for Continuing Education offers part-time, flexible courses and programmes for adult learners. It offers more than 1,000 courses each year, including weekly classes, online courses, day, weekend and summer schools, undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications, and continuing professional development courses.
In common with most British universities, prospective students apply through the UCAS application system, but prospective applicants for the University of Oxford, along with those for medicine, dentistry, and University of Cambridge applicants, must observe an earlier deadline of 15 October. The Sutton Trust maintains that Oxford University and Cambridge University recruit disproportionately from 8 schools which accounted for 1,310 Oxbridge places during three years, contrasted with 1,220 from 2,900 other schools.
1. UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service)
It is a UK-based organisation whose main role is to operate the application process for British universities.
Services provided by UCAS include several online application portals, a number of search tools and free information and advice directed at various audiences, including students considering higher education, students with pending applications to higher education institutes, parents and legal guardians of applicants, school and further education college staff involved in helping students apply and providers of higher education (universities and HE colleges).
While UCAS is best known for its undergraduate application service (the main UCAS scheme), it also operates a number of other admissions services:
- UCAS Conservatoires – application and search service for performing arts at a UK conservatoire
- UCAS Teacher Training (UTT) – for postgraduate teacher training schemes
- UCAS Postgraduate – application and search facility for some postgraduate courses
Not permitted to apply to both Oxford and Cambridge in the same year:
To allow a more personalised judgement of students, who might otherwise apply for both, undergraduate applicants are not permitted to apply to both Oxford and Cambridge in the same year.
Most applicants choose to apply to one of the individual colleges, which work with each other to ensure that the best students gain a place somewhere at the university regardless of their college preferences.Shortlisting is based on achieved and predicted exam results, school references, and, in some subjects, written admission tests or candidate-submitted written work.
Approximately 60% of applicants are shortlisted, although this varies by subject. If a large number of shortlisted applicants for a subject choose one college, then students who named that college may be reallocated randomly to under-subscribed colleges for the subject. The colleges then invite shortlisted candidates for interview, where they are provided with food and accommodation for around three days in December. Most applicants will be individually interviewed by academics at more than one college. Students from outside Europe can be interviewed remotely, for example, over the Internet.
Offers are sent out in early January, with each offer usually being from a specific college. One in four successful candidates receives an offer from a college that they did not apply to. Some courses may make “open offers” to some candidates, who are not assigned to a particular college until A Level results day in August.
Teaching and degrees
Undergraduate teaching is centred on the tutorial, where 1–4 students spend an hour with an academic discussing their week’s work, usually an essay (humanities, most social sciences, some mathematical, physical, and life sciences) or problem sheet (most mathematical, physical, and life sciences, and some social sciences). The university itself is responsible for conducting examinations and conferring degrees.
Undergraduate teaching takes place during three eight-week academic terms: Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity. (These are officially known as ‘Full Term’: ‘Term’ is a lengthier period with little practical significance.) Internally, the weeks in a term begin on Sundays, and are referred to numerically, with the initial week known as “first week”, the last as “eighth week” and with the numbering extended to refer to weeks before and after term (for example “noughth week” precedes term).Undergraduates must be in residence from Thursday of 0th week.
These teaching terms are shorter than those of most other British universities, and their total duration amounts to less than half the year. However, undergraduates are also expected to do some academic work during the three holidays (known as the Christmas, Easter, and Long Vacations).
Research degrees at the master’s and doctoral level are conferred in all subjects studied at graduate level at the university.
Scholarships and financial support
There are many opportunities for students at Oxford to receive financial help during their studies. The Oxford Opportunity Bursaries, introduced in 2006, are university-wide means-based bursaries available to any British undergraduate, with a total possible grant of £10,235 over a 3-year degree. In addition, individual colleges also offer bursaries and funds to help their students.
Students successful in early examinations are rewarded by their colleges with scholarships and exhibitions, normally the result of a long-standing endowment.