Graduate Admissions

The Faulty of History at Oxford is one of the world's largest centres for graduate study in History.

Working as an Oxford graduate student is an exhilarating experience. History at Oxford stretches from circa 300 A.D. to the present and embraces, in addition to its British and European heritage, an exceptionally broad range of World history. It comprises an active research community of up to 800 senior academics and graduate students, all contributing to a varied menu of research seminars, lectures, academic societies, and personal contacts. Our research is organised around historical periods and research centres, or in collaborative and individual research projects, and as a graduate student, you will always be welcome at seminars, workshops and conferences whatever the subject. Graduates are encouraged to make use of these opportunities as widely as possible. Striking the right balance between intellectual curiosity and discipline, and remaining focused without becoming blinkered, is an integral part of a successful graduate career. The Oxford environment provides all the ingredients for you to develop these skills while engaging fruitfully with others in the field.

Teaching and Supervision

All postgraduate students are assigned a supervisor (or in some cases two co-supervisors). The supervisor’s primary responsibility is to advise the student on the programme of work necessary to complete a dissertation or thesis. To this end, the supervisor should maintain a general overview over the student’s studies and academic development. Supervisors should help their students to identify and acquire the knowledge and skills needed to complete the dissertation or thesis, and to further their aims for study or employment, insofar as these build upon the programme of graduate study.

Oxford students have the additional advantage that they are also members of the academic community of their respective colleges. Colleges will usually appoint one of their History fellows or lecturers to provide pastoral oversight and general academic advice to their junior members in History. There is no presumption, however, that graduate students should be at the same college as their expert supervisors; in fact, it often enhances the opportunities for academic contact if the supervisor can provide a link into a different academic community. 

All graduates are encouraged to identify and prioritise their own training needs, and to consider how and on what timetable these might best be met. The checklist below has been devised to assist students in this process. You should aim to discuss your training plan with your supervisors regularly, especially at the start of the academic year (with an emphasis on work to be done or classes to attend during the year) and during Trinity Term (with an emphasis on work to be done over the summer).  Copies of this form will be sent out to new students before their arrival, so that the Graduate Office and supervisors have advance notice of students’ training needs.

If you have training needs not covered by the checklist, or not well provided by the means indicated, please discuss with your supervisor and alert the Graduate Office. The checklist may help students not only to identify and find ways of addressing training needs, but also to report on both needs and achievements.

Research students are also asked to summarise training needs and training taken in their transfer and confirmation applications (relevant questions are set out on the standard university forms). Increasingly British funding bodies also ask for such reports.

Research students completing their probationary period who wish to be inducted into teaching on the faculty plan will need to discuss this with their supervisors and return the appropriate form early in the summer vacation.

The university's online Graduate Supervision System (GSS) gives all students enrolled on graduate programmes each term the opportunity to report on their learning experience and training needs. Using the system is easy and intuitive, and we hope students will find that stopping for a few minutes and taking stock of what they have achieved in a termly cycle will help them to stay focused. The Humanities Division has published a short  online guide with suggestions how the system could be most fruitfully use

Each year the Faculty provides, in conjunction with the University's Language Centre, a range of language classes in major European languages. In addition, students, with the support of their supervisor(s) may apply for funds to support language teaching outside these provisions, e.g., for tuition in an unusual language. But we ask supervisors and students to communicate with the Graduate Office before making any such arrangements, since it may be possible to organize provisions for several students who, unknown to each other, have common needs. 

Further teaching and collaborative academic activity takes place chiefly in: 

  • classes – small groups of students meeting on a regular basis to present and discuss assigned work under the guidance of a class convenor;
  • tutorials (at graduate level only applicable in very specialist contexts) – one or more students meeting on a regular basis to present and discuss assigned work with a tutor;
  • lectures – presentations by a lecturer. Graduates may attend undergraduate lectures; lectures specifically for graduates play some part in introductory teaching;
  • seminars – groups of students and academics meeting on a regular basis to hear and discuss research presentations by members of the group or visitors. These allow graduates to develop links with the university’s larger research community. 

Students' work which is submitted and formally assessed for a master's degree programme, or for research student progression, will be reviewed under the Faculty's approved and published marking criteria. 

Academic responsibilities of Graduate Students

Graduate students are expected to apply themselves to academic work on a full-time basis throughout the duration of their course, both during university terms and vacations, except during public holidays and when they take time off for personal holidays (perhaps to a total of six weeks during the year). This also applies (pro rata) to part-time doctoral students: they are expected to set aside on average some 20 hours per week for their individual research and regular, at least fortnightly, attendance at relevant Oxford research seminars. 

Unless they have completed their residence requirements, full-time students are expected to be resident in Oxford during term time. Tutorials, classes and seminars, and formal assessment interviews (for Transfer or Confirmation of Status) will normally be scheduled only during full term or in weeks 0 and 9. During university vacations students are expected to pursue independent study and research. Neither supervisors nor students will necessarily be in Oxford during vacations, but supervision meetings may be arranged if it is mutually convenient.

Students on taught master’s courses are required to follow the programme of study specified for their course, and any additional requirements agreed with their supervisor. This usually entails a combination of the following: 

  • classes in research methods, theory or historiography
  • classes or other training in specific technical skills (e.g., Latin, palaeography, quantitative methods)
  • classes or tutorials devoted to the study of a specific topic or topics, usually chosen by the student from a menu of options
  • individually arranged meetings with a research supervisor devoted especially to work on a research dissertation
  • attendance at relevant lecture and seminar series

Research students are required, in addition to working on their dissertations or theses, to attend a ‘core research seminar’ in their area of specialisation; all research students are also strongly encouraged regularly to attend one or more additional research seminars, and to make occasional presentations based on their research.

There are many opportunities for students to benefit from classes or seminars other than those they are required to attend:  

  • students on most taught courses may on application substitute options offered for other courses for those offered in their own course (see Approved papers for details; note that a student choosing an option from another degree course must conform to the regulations of that course in relation to participation, contribution, modes of assessment, submission deadlines, etc.)
  • students (including research students) may choose to audit course-specific classes (implying regular attendance and completion of all work assigned for class meetings). The Faculty Lecture list, published each term will assist you to find a course that is relevant.
  • students on taught courses are also warmly encouraged to attend research seminars relevant to their fields of research
  • students may also organize their own seminars, to discuss work in progress, or to provide a platform for invited speakers (e.g., Graduate-run seminars) 
List of site pages