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The Visiting Students Programme at St Peter’s has been running for more than 30 years and is one of the most successful in the University. Visiting Students participate actively and successfully in both the academic and social life of the College, and many former Visiting Students return to do their graduate work at St Peter’s and at Oxford.
Who can apply?
We are open to applications from all over the world. The programme was originally designed for the Year Abroad schemes which are run by many North American universities as part of their degree courses, but for several years now we have been taking students from continental Europe and Asia. All nationalities are welcome to apply.
Admission to the programme is competitive as there are a limited number of places. We admit students based on merit and promise, as demonstrated through their academic record, letter of reference and sample academic work. Admitted students will generally have a minimum cumulative GPA score of 3.7 or equivalent, but all elements of the application are carefully considered.
What can I study?
We welcome applications in all subjects offered in College, with the exception of Law, Music and History of Art. This includes most subjects offered at Oxford (see Course options). As we strongly believe that every effort should be made to integrate Visiting Students with degree students, we expect our Visiting Students to follow the Oxford course structure. Some flexibility is possible within the tutorial system to allow you to explore your specific areas of interest, but in general you will be encouraged to choose among the courses offered to regular students. Usually Visiting Students will study a single subject or combinations of subjects offered as standard at Oxford; it may be possible to choose a combination of subjects not usually offered at Oxford, subject to agreement from all relevant tutors.
How long does the programme last?
The duration of the programme is one academic year, from early October to late June. The Oxford academic year is divided in three terms: Michaelmas (Oct-Dec), Hilary (Jan-Mar) and Trinity (Apr-Jun). We believe a full academic year is the minimum amount of time needed to benefit fully from the tutorial system, therefore it is generally not possible to apply for only one or two terms. At Oxford, you grow and develop your knowledge of the subject through you continuous interaction with your tutors; this is a fantastic way of learning, but it requires time.
How does studying at St Peter’s work?
The standard workload is two courses per term, although this may vary across subjects. When there are good reasons, and with the agreement of the institution of origin, slightly different workloads may be agreed, but in general the expectation is that Visiting Students will take the standard workload in their subject, as other students do.
Teaching at St. Peter’s – and Oxford generally – centres on tutorials. These are weekly meetings with a tutor (usually the equivalent of an American Professor, but in any case an expert in the field) and usually one or two other students (although some tutorials may be one-on-one). The tutor will usually be a Fellow of St Peter’s College although for specialist options you may be assigned to a tutor from another college. Colleges routinely swap students to ensure that they are taught by somebody with expertise and research interests close to the course. This allows you to interact and discuss your ideas and questions with an academic actively involved in research on the topic, and it is one of the most exciting aspects of academic life at St Peter’s.
The objective of the tutorial is to learn through a constructive scholarly exchange. Tutorials are not adversarial nor an exam – you will find that both tutors and fellow students are supportive, friendly, and willing to engage with your questions and ideas.
For each tutorial you will be assigned a reading list, and you will typically have to write an essay, or complete some other type of work, as appropriate. In any case the expectation is that you will have done a substantial amount of work that you will then discuss with your tutor and fellow students. This combination of independent work and constant feedback is central to our educational approach. You will probably find that you have never read, written or studied as much as you will at Oxford, but you will also find that you had never before had that much focused attention on what you have written and had to say. You will not only learn a lot about your subject of study, you will also learn to work fast and efficiently, to convey your ideas clearly and succinctly, and to debate them constructively.
What else can I do at St Peter’s?
Studying at Oxford provides a wide range of academic and extracurricular opportunities. As well as tutorials, you will also attend larger classes and lectures in the University, and there are numerous special seminars, talks and other events. The University also has many student clubs and societies for pursuing sport, the arts, and more. You will be truly spoilt for choice. As a Registered Visiting Student you will have access to all events that are open to regular undergraduates.
Can I stay in St Peter’s during the breaks between terms?
Out of term time, life quietens down significantly. You will be allowed to keep your room, which will be in one of the College’s residential annexes, throughout your vacation. Vacations are a good time to reflect on what you have learnt and revisit some topics that you feel need consolidation; you may also like to use them to travel within Britain and Europe.
How will my learning be assessed?
Visiting Students are not generally asked to sit exams (in Oxford exams are normally taken at the end of the third year of a degree course; they are summative and), although you may sit College internal examinations if you wish to do so, by agreement with your tutor. Your assessment will be based on the termly reports that tutors write for each of their students. These reports will contain general comments on the student’s performance, highlighting strengths, weakness, and advice on how to improve; it will also contain some more quantitative assessment. All of this information will form the basis of your final grade. At the end of the year you will receive a final transcript listing the courses taken, summarising the qualitative reports from your tutor and giving a final overall mark for each course you have taken. This final mark will be given according to both Oxford’s own scale and the American grading system, for ease of comparison. A copy of this transcript will go to your home institution to enable you to get credit for the work you have done at Oxford. A copy will also be sent to you to for use in postgraduate and employment applications.