10 Reasons to Study History at Oxford
If you study history at Oxford, you become part of a world-leading history department that is at the forefront of historical research.
We believe strongly that research and teaching feed into each other. The people who teach you while at Oxford are leading researchers in their field. The study of history at Oxford is vibrant and dynamic with our lecturers regularly establishing new courses that reflect their current research and interests.
Oxford attracts a host of visiting speakers, some are guests of the University and its colleges, others come at the invitation of flourishing student clubs and societies. In coming to Oxford you will be participating in one of the most inspiring intellectual cultures in the world.
Oxford offers undergraduates the opportunity to be part of one of the world’s largest and most prestigious faculties as well as a member of an intimate academic community. Every undergraduate is a member of a college. In your college, you are supported by a history tutor who is a member of the History Faculty and an active research historian. You can find out more about the Faculty’s tutors here. You will benefit from three different forms of teaching at Oxford:
- Tutorials - are at the heart of undergraduate learning at Oxford. Students benefit from detailed, regular written and oral feedback by working with an expert tutor who meets weekly with you and another student interested in the same areas of history. This rigorous and personalised tuition allows you to make exceptional progress.
- Seminars - are discussion groups of between 4 and 12 students. They give you the opportunity to debate ideas, to discuss your reading, and to present to a small group.
- Lectures - are given by a wide range of specialists who can share the latest research with you. In your first two terms, you will normally have the opportunity to attend 16 lectures for each of your outline options.
History at Oxford is a subject of energetic debate: debate between your tutor and yourself; debate between you and your fellow students; and debate between your tutors themselves.
The most striking thing about History at Oxford is its extraordinary range and the enormous amount of choice. There are over 150 academic historians in the Faculty. This allows us to offer undergraduates more than 100 different options.
You can study options on any part of British, European and World History from the fading years of the Roman Empire to the present day. Courses encourage undergraduates to think critically about whose voices are represented in the surviving source material, and to use evidence imaginatively to study people whose experiences have been marginalised.
It is one of the strengths of the tutorial system that the choice of topics can be tailored to individual interests to a far greater extent than at many universities. As a result, students are encouraged to extend and deepen their interests.
Oxford’s undergraduates enjoy exploring new ways of thinking about the past. All students explore a variety of approaches to their studies. In your first year, you can choose to study a course on Approaches to History, which examines cross-fertilisation between history and disciplines such as anthropology, economics or gender studies. Another option is the Historiography paper which introduces students to the history of history writing.
If you enjoy the challenge of connecting disciplines, History can be studied as a Joint Honours course with one of five other subjects:
- Ancient History
- Modern Languages
These joint honours courses allow students to spend approximately half their time studying another subject that complements – and challenges – their historical studies.
The Oxford History degree allows students to develop highly transferrable skills through intellectually rewarding study.
The skills Oxford history undergraduates gain include:
- thinking analytically and critically
- researching and evaluating evidence effectively
- forming arguments that are clear, concise and creative
- communicating ideas powerfully on paper and orally
- managing time under pressure and independently
Historians analyse the complexity and diversity of human motivations and seek to understand the ideas and experiences of people who are different to us. These ways of thinking are valued in many professions such as law, policy-making, journalism, and the public sector to name a few.
All Oxford historians have the chance to develop their language skills. The Faculty offers students the opportunity to attend special language classes for historians. If you want to learn additional languages independently, the Oxford University Language Centre also provides excellent teaching and resources.
Oxford is internationally renowned for its history and beauty. Colleges offer tranquil and inspiring places to live and undergraduate historians study in some of the city’s most significant buildings:
- The Radcliffe Camera houses the History Faculty Library. It was built in 1737–49 and is one of Oxford’s most impressive buildings.
- The majority of undergraduate history lectures are normally held in the Examination Schools. Designed by the famous architect Sir Thomas Jackson and built 1876-81, it is one of the university’s largest buildings.
Historians also benefit from Oxford’s inspiring museums, including the oldest museum in the UK - the Ashmolean. All of these buildings are in the heart of the city, only a short walk or bicycle ride from your accommodation, and surrounded by the city’s shops and cafés.
Oxford historians benefit from a flexible timetable. On average, students attend one or two tutorials, a seminar, and a couple of lectures each week.
Undergraduates choose the options that they would like to study, providing that they initially explore a variety of time periods, places and approaches. Outside of these minimal requirements undergraduates are free to follow their own academic interests. You will become skilled researchers by making the most of the opportunity to read in libraries, talk about your studies with friends, and think for yourself about the past.
In the third-year the ‘Special Subject’ paper and 12,000 word thesis offer students freedom to delve deeper into whatever interests them most about the past.
This level of independent study means that historians can make the most of Oxford’s 400+ clubs and societies. These include a student-run Oxford University History Society, which holds frequent events. Whatever you are interested in, there will be others at Oxford who share your enthusiasm.
Oxford’s undergraduate historians come from all kinds of backgrounds and from all over the world.
- 25% of students come from beyond the UK
- Just over half are female
- Around 60 % of UK students have attended state schools
- About 15% of our UK students come from BAME backgrounds
- Just over 10% of UK students live in areas of socio-economic disadvantage
Alongside our current students and their colleges, the Faculty is working hard to reach groups of students who are underrepresented at Oxford. By coming to study at Oxford University, you have the chance to be part of these changes.
Whilst there are almost 1,000 undergraduate students studying in the History Faculty, each college only admits between c. 5 and 18 undergraduate historians each year. This means that students have the opportunity to form close friendships with fellow historians in their college.
Oxford University offers generous bursaries and scholarships to make studying affordable for students from low-income backgrounds. For up-to-date information, explore the University’s comprehensive guidance on fees and funding.
All Oxford historians have access to amazing libraries which means you never need to buy books:
- College libraries provide comfortable and modern study spaces with thousands of history books.You can usually access your college library 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
- The History Faculty Library buys the latest history books, so that you can also read the specialist texts on your reading lists.
- If a particular text is not available elsewhere, it can almost always be found in the Bodleian Library, which receives a copy of every book published in the UK and Ireland.
While studying at Oxford, you can access additional funding from your College to buy books, visit museums, or travel to archives. The eight week terms mean that there are also plenty of opportunities to take on paid work and internships during the vacations.
The University and colleges provide a wide range of professional welfare and well-being services. These services provide additional guidance to support you if you are managing health, welfare, disability, or personal concerns.
College tutors care about their students as individuals and meet with them regularly. Tutors work to ensure that each student receives the support that they need to thrive during their degree.
Employers know the value of an Oxford University undergraduate degree. Data suggests that jobs in the civil service, law, finance, the arts and publishing are amongst the most common careers for history graduates. This diversity is because the Oxford history degree allows students to develop transferrable skills that are highly sought after in the workplace.
Oxford University has an outstanding careers service that students can access for life which helps you build a career that is right for you. For examples of how our former undergraduates found the history degree shaped their careers after graduation, have a look at the life after Oxford posts on our student blog.