Prospective Students FAQs

Graduate Admissions

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All graduate students, except those pursuing non-matriculated courses, are members of both a department or faculty and a college or hall. You can state a college preference on your application form or, if you have no particular preference, you can let us assign you a college.

If you do choose to state a college preference, you may wish consider these factors in your selection:

  • accommodation for couples, families and/or students with disabilities, if you will require this
  • funding opportunities
  • location within Oxford
  • sports facilities
  • whether it is specifically for graduates, or if it also accepts undergraduate students

If you do receive an offer from the department then you will also receive an offer from a college or hall, although this might not be the college you stated as your preference if you indicated one.

All Oxford’s colleges and halls offer an extra dimension to student life at Oxford, and you can be sure that the college or hall that does make you an offer will extend a very warm welcome to you.

Yes, but there is no need to apply for the MSc and MPhil in the same subject.

Ideally, you would have secured a supervisor first but this is not essential.

Successful applicants are usually notified within ten weeks of the application deadline. 

Graduate Study at the School and at Oxford

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The academic year is divided into three terms, each of eight weeks: Michaelmas (autumn/winter), Hilary (winter/spring) and Trinity (spring/summer). However each term has a noughth week and many social events take place in each ninth week so in total you will find yourself very busy for ten weeks each term. 

You might wish to purchase an official University of Oxford pocket diary from Oxford University Press. This contains all of the key dates and celebratory sessions unique to the University calendar year. 

Colleges usually have their own individual induction programmes, during which you'll be provided with a university card which will give you access to libraries and other buildings.  

Students register in the School early in the week before their first term (known here as ‘0th week’). During this session you'll be asked to sign a registration form and be photographed. A general induction to the School takes place later that day, where you'll be introduced to the academic and administrative staff of the School. Students are also asked to introduce themselves briefly. Further inductions follow later in the week to the Tylor Library and other relevant libraries in the university as well as the Pitt Rivers Museum. Students should already have been told who their supervisors will be by this time and you should make a particular effort to meet them during ‘0th week’.

All research students are invited to attend a Divisional induction event through the Social Sciences Doctoral Training Centre, which you are strongly encouraged to attend.

Oxford's world leading tutorial systems benefits from small group sizes, up to four students. Classes may have a dozen or so students. Seminars and lectures, especially if given by guest speakers, may be considerably larger, up to fifty or occasionally more. Lectures are generally not interactive, unlike the other formats.


A tutorial is interactive. The more you bring to a tutorial or class, the more you will gain from it. Tutorials are an opportunity for you to raise the issues and ask the questions which are troubling you, and to try out your own ideas in discussion with someone of greater experience; classes are an opportunity to explore issues together, and to get used to general discussion.

For most tutorials, and for many classes, you will be asked to produce written work, and a good deal of your time will be spent writing and preparing essays on topics suggested by your tutors. They will normally direct you towards some secondary reading.

There is tremendous variety in the ways that tutors approach tutorials, and that is a strength of the system. Given this variety, do not worry if your peers in other Colleges seem to be doing things differently for any given paper; your own College Tutor knows how best to prepare you for your course and examinations.

Your tutors will give you regular feedback in the form of comments on your work. It is reasonable to expect written comments on any work a tutor takes in; but it is exceptionally rare for tutors to put marks on written work.


A lecture list will be published in 0th week of each term on the School website here: 

Lectures do not always coincide with the term in which you are writing essays on that subject. Important lectures may come a term or two before your tutorials; in this case you should read in advance the texts which are being lectured on, even if that reading has to be in translation.

Lectures aim to provide a broad overview of fact and theory by experts in particular areas. While tutorials allow students to pursue special issues in greater depth and to develop their own views, together with skills in writing and argumentation, it is impossible to benefit fully from them — or to do well in examinations — without the broader perspectives offered by lectures.

Students should expect to be in Oxford during the eight weeks of each term, with a week either side (Noughth Week and Ninth Week) unless they are doctoral students pursuing agreed fieldwork or research elsewhere. There is more flexibility in vacations, but even if they go away, students should still expect to continue working on their own towards their degrees (this may be linked to set coursework or other assignments of some kind). The MSc degrees last for twelve months and the MPhil degrees for 21 months. Research degrees typically last for an unspecified, though not unlimited, number of years (e.g. at least three and more usually four to five years is the expectation for a doctorate in anthropology, though sometimes more time is needed).

Each graduate student is allocated a supervisor within the School, or in the case of research students sometimes two (NB: at graduate level ‘tutors’ are generally called ‘supervisors’ in Oxford, whether they are teaching on taught courses or research degrees). Taught course students especially may have tuition from other members of staff than their main supervisor, e.g. for option courses. Departmental supervisors are mainly responsible for guiding their students through their specific courses in regular tutorial or supervision sessions, the type and frequency of which depend on the course being followed (for example, a possible eight tutorials a term for a taught-course student, or two to three supervision sessions a term for a research student, depending on activity). Full details of individual course structures and teaching provision is given in the course descriptions in the departmental Handbook.

Supervisors give students advice on their coursework, theses or preparation for examinations, as well as on what lectures and classes to follow; they are also involved in the administrative side of students’ activities (form-filling etc.). Generally speaking, while supervisors do have to approve many steps administratively in a student’s career, their role is rather one of academic advisors. Nonetheless students are expected to take this advice seriously and to assume a large degree of responsibility themselves for the progress of their own studies. Students have the right to see the termly reports written on their progress by their supervisors and to be consulted on these. They may (but need not) also report on their own progress through the Graduate Supervision Reporting (GSR).

Supervisors and other tutors are not necessarily, even perhaps rarely, members of the student’s own college at graduate level, and most of the teaching and supervision will be done outside the college, in SAME or a similar building. However, students are also usually assigned an advisor or personal tutor in their colleges, who may be in their own subject or close to it. This is someone the student may approach for advice, a second view, or if problems occur in the relationship with the departmental supervisor (who should be different). Alternatively a student may approach the School’s Director of Graduate Studies or Head of Department for advice. 

Depending on the course, tutorial teaching is generally one to one in small groups. Teaching seminars, including those for the option courses, may have rather more students.


Graduate students can normally expect to receive desk facilities along with their college accommodation. Colleges also have their own library and workspace facilities, and desks are available in the Bodleian (the main university library) and other libraries.

A few workspaces are available for DPhil students in 43 Banbury Road on a first come first served basis. These spaces are organised by the JCC.

An induction session in the week immediately before the start of the academic year introduces new students to the department’s IT provision. The School has a computer room, which may be used for email as well as word-processing, data-analysis and internet search purposes. Personal computers may only be linked to the net with the permission of the department’s IT staff, who reserve the right to test such equipment beforehand and refuse permission for its use. Upon arrival, students receive an e-mail account, login and provisional password (changeable immediately) from departmental IT staff.

More information on the School's IT support can be found here.

Students may use other departmental libraries and their own college library, provided the necessary conditions have been met (these vary from case to case).

The Pitt Rivers Museum and Centre also has its own library (the Balfour Library), of interest to anthropologists.

The Bodleian Social Sciences Library is also available (Manor Road Building, Manor Road, Oxford).

All registered students of the university and some other categories may use the main Bodleian Library and its dependent libraries as a matter of course (many of which are not ordinarily lending libraries). The University now has a wealth of electronic sources, some specific to particular libraries. You should be prepared to show your university card at any time in seeking access to any library or other building in the university.

Provision of research seminars continues throughout the year, but varies from term to term. In general they are open to all members of the university, including both taught-course and research students, but some may have a teaching component which is more restricted; if in doubt, consult the seminar convenor.

A major event in the school is the Departmental Seminar normally held on Friday afternoons in term.

All seminars are listed in the events section of the website.

Students in all programmes of study are given intensive training, through practice in the first instance, in understanding and interpreting texts and writing essays on the basis of these texts, as well as constructing longer works of varying length in the form of theses or extended essays, the higher ones in particular normally being based partly on field research. Part of this training involves learning how to construct arguments and support them with evidence at a high level of academic discourse, as well as to develop the ability to criticize the work of others in the discipline effectively but professionally. At the same time, students are encouraged to develop their own intellectual strengths and scholarly abilities so as to equip them for involvement in the discipline at a professional level. Research students in particular are given a number of opportunities to present their work in class or seminar formats and are encouraged to attend relevant conferences in Oxford or elsewhere to present papers. Continual guidance in such activities by supervisors forms a core aspect of SAME teaching, but students are also expected to work largely on their own and to organize their studies and work effectively in relation to both structure and time management.

In addition, classes are held on research skills and methods of special relevance for anthropologists, including (depending on the specific course) project design, fieldwork, data collection and analysis (qualitative and quantitative), interviewing, visual aspects, cataloguing and databases, museum collections management and conservation, writing up and ethics. Students on some courses are also required to attend statistical training, which is generally available for other students who want it. On some courses, some of this work is marked and contributes to the degree result. Training in teaching skills is dealt with in 10, below.

The Social Sciences Division also organizes a Professional Training for Social Scientists (PTSS) programme covering a range of generic skills, which research students in particular are encouraged to attend. Information about training and other courses offered across the University is available through the University Skills Toolkit. This site provides information about transferable skills development for research students and research staff in the University, and includes a searchable database of skills training opportunities, links to articles on subjects such as project management, teaching and career planning, and message boards for asking questions and discussing issues with other researchers. An online Personal Development Plan system called ASPIRE is available through the Skills Portal.

Research students are permitted, but not obliged, to undertake some undergraduate teaching. Such teaching is generally arranged by the colleges, not the School, and there is no guarantee that any will be available. In anthropology, teaching opportunities are normally restricted to research students who have returned from fieldwork and are writing up their theses. Would-be graduate tutors are periodically given an introduction or briefing to tutoring by a member of School staff. Those interested should ensure that their names appear on the lists of tutors maintained for each paper within the School of Anthropology, including the Institute of Human Sciences (for that degree), as well as by the separate Institute of Archaeology (for the Archaeology and Anthropology degree). Would-be tutors are expected to have attended one of the briefings or training sessions mentioned above to be registered. SAME has set up a mentoring scheme for graduate tutors, including possible certification, in connection with the Department of Education; those interested should approach the School Director of Graduate Studies or other officer with direct responsibility for these activities.

The University has established a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) to support the development of research students who wish to follow an academic career, including training in teaching skills.

The School has a Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) to liaise with its students, the officers of which are drawn from the student body and include course representatives, though both academic and non-academic staff are also represented and attend its meetings. The JCC meets every term to discuss matters of mutual interest and concern between School and its students, and in particular provides a forum in which students’ views and concerns can be brought to the attention of School staff. Students’ views regarding courses are also sought through the circulation and return of anonymous feedback forms. The views of research students are also sought through a questionnaire centrally administered by the University. There is also an online reporting system (GSR) to which students may contribute on a voluntary basis.