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An integral part of the Oxford program is experiencing the tutorial system, the characteristic form of undergraduate instruction at Oxford University. Stanford students have often described the experience as "the single most challenging, yet rewarding academic experience" that they have had while an undergraduate at Stanford. Tutorials give you an opportunity to explore a subject one-on-one, in depth, with a professor within that respective department.

University of Oxford and Tradition of Tutorials

Tutorials are a fundamental element of study at the University of Oxford. Tutorials are taught one-to-one, or two-to-one, between yourself and a professor or researcher at Oxford who is a specialist in that department.

Most tutorial courses of study are composed of 1 hour of contact with the tutor, and 20 hours of independent study under the tutor’s guidance each week. The hours of independent study can be composed by reading assignments, lecture attendance, practical experience in museums or lab groups, and work composition such as essay writing or problem solving. Most tutorials require a 2,000 word essay to be presented every week by the student for feedback and comment from the tutor. This means that the tutorial will usually produce approximately 14,000 words of written work.

In order to succeed with this type of instruction, students should be self-motivated and have a strong interest in the topic of the class you have chosen. The one-to-one structure allows attention to your knowledge and ideas; they can be developed thoroughly and guidance. The intimacy of tutorial provides effective in-depth discussions of the subject at hand. Tutors give personalised feedback and guidance which can be an invaluable tool for academic development, even beyond your graduation from Stanford.

  • To understand more about the undergrad courses and structure offered at the University of Oxford see here.
  • For more details about this historic method of study, see David Palfreyman’s The Oxford Tutorial, available in hard copy in BOSP and here.

Hours of Study

The amount of time available for independent study can be daunting, but learning to manage your free time is a useful life skill, and the flexibility of tutorial commitments also allows individualized structure for your needs and interests. You can see some examples of Student Timetables here.

The tutorial and the application process

As part of your Oxford application, you should list an academic department in which you have a strong interest. This is not a tutorial proposal, it is a statement that allows the Oxford Centre to assess how your academic passions are developed (through past courses, independent studies, and projects) and how much forethought and commitment you have invested in your studies through conversations with faculty and mentors. You will not be required to pursue a tutorial in the same subject area you describe in the application.

After you have been accepted to the program, in the quarter before you travel to Oxford, you will be asked to choose a tutorial topic. Thus, once you know that you are going, it is a good time to start consulting your faculty advisors and the resources here so that you can choose your tutorial department with confidence.

Finalizing a Tutorial

If accepted into the Oxford program, you will complete the Tutorial Choice Form. In order to fill it in, you should refer to the Tutorial Guide pages and consult with the academic support at Stanford.

Tutorials are not independent studies or directed readings because they are not self-designed topics. They are pre-existing courses taught in an individualized manner and adapted to suit both your interests and the teaching style of your tutor. Thus, they should be approached in an altogether different way from independent study.  Students interested in directed readings should consult the instructions below.

Stanford department policies vary with respect to the number of units that may be valid for credit towards a major or minor. These issues should be discussed with departmental advisors prior to departure. Tutorials are NOT the same as work towards an honors thesis (though they can contribute to one).

Second Tutorials

It is not possible to enroll in two tutorials during your first quarter in Oxford. This is because two tutorials are more challenging, leave less time to socialise with fellow Stanford students on the program, limit your opportunity to fully experience Oxford student life, and can be a very solitary and stressful pursuit.

Students in their second quarter in Oxford who wish to enroll in two 6-unit tutorials are able to do so. If this applies to you, you should consult with the Director during the previous term and then submit your two choice forms no later than the deadline specified by the program.

Directed Readings

Directed readings can be organized for students wishing to study with local (Oxford) faculty on an ancillary project that complements their overall degree plan. Directed reading proposals must be submitted along with tutorial choice form, in the quarter prior to departure. 

Studying a Language

Many students do not want to lose their language proficiency while abroad, and if this is a concern for you please contact the centre. Non-credit bearing language study can be arranged for students in varying levels of intensity: joining local students for conversational practice at ‘Language lunches’; studying once or twice a week in Oxford language courses; working with a personal language tutor to meet your department’s syllabus needs so that you can re-enter in the following term without having lost ground. To pursue this opportunity students must submit the Directed reading proposal in the quarter prior to their departure.