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Can you Oxford it?

When applying to an institution like Oxford, you can’t afford to miss a beat. Here are insights into the university’s admission process, the collegiate system and all that you need to know when applying to one of the world’s most reputed universities

education Updated: Apr 13, 2011 10:47 IST
Pooja Biraia

To be an Oxonian, means to belong to an illustrious group of students who come from 140 countries, to study under a tutorial system which boasts of a culture of personalised academic supervision, to learn about your chosen field from true masters (many of them Nobel prize winners), to enjoy the luxury of choice when it comes to choosing the subjects you want to learn and to be a part of an array of events, including the ‘boat race’, rugby matches and a smorgasbord of special interest groups that might catch your fancy.

Colleges and private halls:
Oxford has 38 independent and self-governing residential colleges and 6 permanent private halls (PPHs). Keya Madhvani, a former Oxonian explains that there is no difference between the two and that they are just called by different names. Students at PPHs and colleges are members of the University of Oxford and have full access to the University's facilities and activities. The college - a small community of typically 30-70 academics and 300-500 students - is the centre of a student’s social and academic life, providing entertainment, sports and weekly tutorials.

Choosing your college:
“Don’t worry too much about choosing a college as all colleges have more in common than they have differences,” says Dr Julia Paolitto Press Officer, admissions and educational policy, University of Oxford. “You either need to mention three colleges of your choice, or you fill an open application and let the university decide which college you should be admitted in,” says Swati Apte who pursued her undergraduate degree in Oxford.

However, she adds, “I feel it is better to send an open application than to mention a choice, as you can never be sure of admissions in the colleges you choose, given unforeseen scenarios like lack of space, etc.” Many candidates may therefore receive an offer from a college to which they did not originally apply to.

Tutorial system:
The academic year at Oxford which runs from October to June is divided into three eight-week terms, Michaelmas (autumn), Hilary (spring), and Trinity (summer). A major focus of learning here, is in the form of small teaching groups, known as tutorials that take place in the colleges. This is apart from the regular course lectures. Every week, students meet their tutors, along with 1 or 2 other students and engage in an exchange of ideas. On an average, undergraduate students attend hour-long tutorials every week and undertake a considerable number of hours of preparatory work for each tutorial, including background reading, essay-writing and problem-solving. “All academic staff is affiliated to a central faculty or department, which arranges the curriculum, including lectures, examinations and overall degree. There is, therefore, no academic difference between colleges and all colleges have access to the same resources and same standard of tuition. And if your college tutor does not specialise in a particular subject area, you can have tutorials at other colleges as well,“ explains Paolitto.

. 132 students from India
(ie domiciled in India) applied to Oxford for entry in 2010.
6 received offers.
. 2011 entry onwards, an exemption from the mandatory language exams will be applicable for those who have
received full-time education in English throughout the two most recent years (before the October 15 application
deadline) and also for those who remain in full-time courses conducted in English until the start of their course.

India’s Famous Oxonians
Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, 1966-77 & 1980-84
. Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, since 2004
. Vikram Seth, author
. Cornelia Sorabji, India's first female lawyer
. Amitav Ghosh, Indian author
. Soha Ali Khan, film actor
. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman, planning commission of India.

“Funding for Indian students who do not live in the UK, is limited, as the government’s tuition fee repayment scheme is not available to students who do not come from the UK or EU. The undergraduate bursary scheme too, is at present, only available to UK students and does not include international students,” says Paolitto, Press Officer, admissions and educational policy, University of Oxford. However, the Oxford Funding Search provides information about 'University-wide' scholarships, college awards over £2,000 and departmental awards over £2,000. For determining which scholarships you may be eligible for, you need to fill in your details on the university website.

Scholarships for degrees in all kind of subjects, except a chosen few.

In order to apply for a scholarship for undergraduate studies to Oxford, log on to

Alumni speak
Keya Madhvani
MSc in global Governance and Diplomacy, St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford
“I knew my next destination was Oxford, when I graduated with distinction in economics from St Xavier’s college. But I knew the competition was tough and I had to start early, so I sent my application in November 2008, for the academic year 2009-2010. I got admission in my course, as a full-paying student. I’ve just returned to India and I will always cherish my time in the institution. It’s really helpful when you have a big brand name on your resume as it makes a lot of difference in the job market.”

Swati Apte,
BA in PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) St Anne’s College, University of Oxford
“I studied at St Anne’s college, and I selected it based on the faculty, the sports facilities available, and the housing. The system of studying at Oxford, is excellent. Besides the lectures in the university, tutorials are held in the college for every subject. But if you do not have a tutor for your subject in your college, you can be assigned to one, in another college. I had one tutor from St Anne’s and for every other subject I went to tutors in other colleges. Every college has its own peculiarity, for instance, Balliol is known for both science and economics, St Catherine’s is known for economics, and Merton is good for history and mathematics as well.”