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Applying to Oxford University - from within the UK

Students who have already been studying in the U.K. prior to applying to Oxford University should be able to obtain information on the general application procedures from their schools or colleges. As such, the following information would only concern Oxford-specific FAQs. Please note that the answers only represent the viewpoints borne by Vietnamese Oxford alumni.

1. Oxford University’s annual academic timetable

An academic year at Oxford University has 3 terms: Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity. Each academic term lasts 8 weeks, usually followed by 4-to-6-week breaks of Christmas and Easter vacation. Summer vacation usually lasts 3 months, from late July to early October. Official and provisional term dates are available from the website of the University.

2. The collegiate system of Oxford University

Oxford University comprises 38 residential colleges and 6 permanent private halls. Each college or hall is a center of studying and social life for typically 30-70 academics and 300-500 students from across subjects. The colleges and halls provide tutoring, accommodation, catering, academic and sports facilities as well as extracurricular clubs and societies during term times. Most colleges and halls are closed during vacation times, as is the case for most of the tutoring and teaching activities. Please refer to the question on Oxford’s academic timetable for description of term times and vacation times.
(Facts and figures from the website of the University of Oxford as of January 2009)

3. The teaching system of Oxford University

The teaching system of Oxford University is special because it comprises both lectures/ classes and tutorials. The lectures and classes of a specific subject are organized by their respective University departments and are open to students from all colleges and halls reading that subject. On the other hand tutorials of a specific subject are study groups of usually 2 to 4 students, chaired by a tutor from a college, hall or University department. Students of most subjects usually attend lectures every day of the week, while classes are organized less frequently based on the nature of the course. Tutorials of a subject usually take place once a week. The specific arrangements of tutorial groups and schedules are determined by the respective University departments and colleges or halls.

4. The studying system of Oxford University

In a nutshell, the lectures and classes of a specific subject are usually designed to equip you with knowledge of the core concepts and the foundational theories of that subject; whereas the tutorials are intended to enhance your understanding and challenge your perspectives through encouraging your independent thinking in the discussion and critique of those ideas.

5. Choosing an Oxford college or hall

The general consensus is that the Oxford colleges and halls are essentially the same in nature: they are your “home” during your 3 or 4 years at Oxford and their first priority is to support your academic endeavour. As such, you should be happy at whichever college or hall that you end up with. However, there are certain aspects that you can consider when choosing a college or hall to ensure as good a fit as possible between their characteristics and your preferences:
Please note that the Oxford University Student Union (OUSU) also produces an annual Alternative Prospectus, which should provide useful insights into the cultural features of each college and hall since it is prepared by the current Oxford students themselves. This Alternative Prospectus can be downloaded electronically from OUSU website.
Finally, it is important to remember that you can also submit an open application in which you do not need to specify your first and second choice of college or hall. In this case, the University will allocate your application to a college or hall based on a number of undisclosed factors.