The Tutorial System
Undergraduate instruction at Oxford University is largely carried out through individual or small-group tutorials, in which students meet weekly with their tutor to present and discuss an essay they have written, based on an extensive amount of reading undertaken from an assigned reading list they will receive at the beginning of each term. In addition to the weekly tutorial, students are from time to time encouraged to attend a pertinent course of lectures offered by the University that corresponds to the material being addressed in their tutorials.
Each student will plan a course of study for the three terms of the academic year in consultation with the Director of the Programme. In his or her capacity as the Tutor for Visiting Students at Exeter College, the Director, working closely with Exeter’s subject tutors, will arrange the teaching for the students, monitor student progress, be in regular contact with the student’s tutors, supervise the examinations that students will sit at the end of each academic term, and report on each student’s academic progress to the Senior Tutor at Exeter College. There are no ‘add/drop’ periods at Oxford; once a student has made a commitment to a particular tutorial course, and the Director has then secured a tutor to teach that course, students cannot back out.
Over the course of the three terms students are required to enroll in a minimum of FIVE tutorial courses and a maximum of SIX tutorial courses (consisting of eight tutorial meetings and requiring the preparation of eight essays or their equivalent).
Course of Study
Students are encouraged to pursue a course of study during their three terms at Oxford that reflects the strength of the University’s offerings and the interests of the Tutorial Fellows at Exeter College. Williams students in Oxford will be able to pursue tutorial work in fields in which Oxford is particularly noted (Classics, English Literature, History, Modern Languages, Philosophy, Politics and Theology). Exeter also has a fellow in English literature (specializing in the period from the Renaissance until the mid-nineteenth century) in history (specializing in medieval and Europe), and in Politics (specializing in international relations) committed to teaching Williams students. No disciplinary or departmental interest is closed to Williams students, although, given the nature of the Oxford and Williams curricula, instruction in the lab sciences is often difficult to arrange in Oxford
There are a staggering number of subjects taught at Oxford University. From the many tutorial possibilities, those listed in the Williams College Bulletin represent some of the courses that have been taken by Williams students on the Programme. Therefore the tutorial courses listed in the Bulletin are a selection of the standard undergraduate “papers” (i.e., courses) in the various academic disciplines at Oxford. Their presence in the Bulletin means that in the past directors have succeeded in securing tutors to teach these subjects to Williams students. There is no guarantee that these courses will always be available, however. Undergraduate “papers” are normally only offered in specific terms at Oxford and are often associated with a series of required lectures. It is difficult or even impossible to secure tutors for papers in terms when those papers and their associated lectures are not offered. Moreover, as noted above, the courses listed in the Bulletin represent only a selection of the subjects available to Williams students to study while at Oxford.
Therefore students should consult the various department websites at Oxford University on-line in order to find undergraduate papers not currently listed in the Bulletin that they may be interested in studying. A comprehensive list of the papers that make up the degree requirements in a given field may be found in the bulky University of Oxford Examination Regulations, copies of which are available in the Dean’s Office. All student course selections must be approved by the Director. Students should realize that it is easier to find tutors in some subjects than in others and it may not be possible for the Programme to accommodate all of their requests.
Grades and Credit
Tutorials taken by Williams students are graded by their tutors. Grades are based on the work done by the student over the course of the term (both written and in tutorial) as well as on a final exam, paper, or project.. Final examinations last three hours and are always sat in the ninth week of term, following the eight weeks of instruction.
Upon satisfactory completion of the requirements for the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford University, students receive academic credit for a regular academic year. Grades eventually become a part of their Williams transcript and are included in the computation of their Grade Point Average.
Tutorial courses in Oxford may be used toward fulfilling the divisional distribution requirement; a student may earn a year maximum of three distribution requirements, with no more than one from each division, for the year. All tutorial courses at Oxford meet the Williams College ‘Writing Intensive’ designation, except for those in mathematics, the sciences, and the studio arts.
Tutorial courses in Oxford may also be used to meet major requirements. Some departments at Williams will grant a two-course credit towards the major for each tutorial course taken at Oxford. Most departments, however, will grant a one-course credit towards the major for each relevant tutorial course taken at Oxford. Students are encouraged to check with their department chair(s) to confirm official department policy.
Non-Credit Foreign Language Study
In addition to their regular tutorial courses, students may begin or continue the study of a wide range of foreign languages on a non-credit basis through a variety of arrangements available through the University as well as a number of other educational and cultural institutions in the city of Oxford. The Programme normally subsidizes such study.
The following links are important for understanding the Oxford tutorial system and curriculum and for planning a course of study in Oxford:
- Oxford University Divisions & Departments – Examine the curricular offerings available in Oxford
- Oxford University Course Information – An overview of the various ‘papers’ [tutorial courses] offered as part of the ‘degree courses’ [majors] available to students at Oxford University
- Thinking About Tutorials 2013-14