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Anyone studied/studying at Oxford ? Wondering about workload.

(77 Posts)
TheodoresMummy Mon 23-Jul-07 09:11:11

Have made the decision to go to Uni !!!

Whilst looking at some prospectus', I thought I would have a look at Oxford (because it's fairly close to us and it was a dream of mine to go when I was younger).

Well it looks as fab as it always did (although being a married student with kids would not allow the level of involvement that I could have had years ago).

All of the colleges accept mature student applications. One college is exclusively for mature students.

The workload looks full on, but the terms are only 8 weeks each. So with family support (which I am lucky in having) could I do it ? Am I crazy ? I looked over a sample entrance exam for the course I am particularly interested in and it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it might be.

Anyone got any thoughts ?

gess Mon 23-Jul-07 09:16:50

Lots on here went there, so you should get a lot of advice

Depends a bit on your course I think, and also your tutor. Medics are always very busy! I did Zoology (no more in existence) andsome terms had a lot of labs and lectures, other terms had none! The main piece of work was for the tutorial. I was a bit lazy so found it didn't take too long to produce something acceptable (but it can take as long as you like, and obviously the more you put in the more you get out). Some (probably most) colleges you would have exams (collections) every term, but that depends on your tutor. Ours never set any, so we had prelims in the first year (which needed some intensive revision but we hadn't done much when they were taken), then finals and that was it. I did work hard for finals- so most of the 3rd year, but the other years were very unpressured.

I'd go for it! I've recently gone back to education and love it.

MrsBumblebee Mon 23-Jul-07 10:33:22

I agree that it depends on your course. If you do an arts subject (I did Classics) then your time will be much more unstructured than if you do a science. I only had either one or two compulsory hours of tutorials per week - there were also optional lectures, but I often preferred to read the book instead (or not ) unless the lecturer was really good. The rest of the time was entirely self-supervised - reading set texts and crit books, writing essays (two per week) and a bit of language work. Similar to gess, I just had two proper sets of exams - one after five terms and then finals. Finals was the really stressy bit - I worked very hard for about 12 weeks and did a lot of panicking, which to be honest could have been reduced if I'd organised myself a bit earlier and worked more consistently throughout my four years!!

So I think what I'd say is, it depends what sort of person you are. Doing an arts subject (and actually, probably Oxford generally) suits you best if you're very motivatd and a self-starter. I'm not, particularly, and the short terms / unstructured timetable thing didn't really suit me very well - faced with a 12 week summer holiday, I found it very hard to knuckle down to much reading, and that made things much harder in the exams. Essays were much less of a problem, because there was always a very short deadline to work to.

Having said that, I still got my 2:1 and managed to have a very nice time while I was there. You don't HAVE to work like a maniac to do well. And I might well have found the work easier to manage as a mature student - paradoxically, I think having less free time available would have increased my organisation and ability to get on with it.

HTH. Oxford's a fantastic place to study, so I'd really recommend it.

Mum2BenjyElizaNel Mon 23-Jul-07 14:25:22

of course you can do it! Go fot it. It is brilliant being a student parent becasue you have a prupose for yourself, a guilt free excuse to get out of the house with just adults, but its not soo full on you have to never see your child.
I did Law at LSE a few years ago, I had an 18 month old when I started, and got pregnant with my second in my second year, then took a year out, and then spent my 3rd year delivering my 4 year old to school, and my one year old to LSE nursery. I got pregnant with my 3rd whilst at law school and am now finally at work, finished my exams, and thinking how well worth it it all was. The work is nothing compared to actual work in a job, and you gave lovely big long holidays to spend with your kids, and actually, I found I did way more work than my childless peers because I had to go home, rather than to the pub, at the end of every day! And one more bonus - when the children are sick, no one minds if you miss a couple of lectures, whereas work is a very very different story! you should definetly do it. And another bonus - god I can't stop - is hardly anyone else will have kids, and if you meet lovely people like I did, they will all be really helpful and interested and your children will make lots of student friends!
Enjoy yourself.

Ladymuck Mon 23-Jul-07 14:32:16

Tbh I think that you need to give us a clue as to what you want to study as the courses are all hugely different. Loads of people I know did find the 8 weeks terms stressful - "Fifth Week blues" were very common. But the workloads between the subjects did seem very different. And a lot depended on how lectures/tutorials were organised - for some bizarre reason it seemed to be common practice to have tutuorials in an area in a term before the lectures started (so obviously you have to do all your reading prior to lectures).

But agree, fantastic place to study - and you get to meet/work with some great people.

stealthsquiggle Mon 23-Jul-07 14:33:18

Terms are really short, but you should probably reckon on being around and "working" in 0th week (week before term starts) and 9th week (week after term ends) at least later in the course.

As others have said - if you are a self-motivated self starter, and you must be if you are looking at going to Uni now, then Oxford is great. The whole experience depends very much on the college and in particular on your tutor (true for all subjects, but even more so for arts rather than sciences). All the colleges have open days for prospective students - I would recommend going to a few and seeing what the atmosphere is like and, if possible, meeting the tutor(s) for the subject you are looking at.

Personal predjudice, but I would probably avoid the older colleges (Magdelen/Oriel/Christchurch, for example) as they tend to be slower than the newer and/or ex-womens colleges (e.g. St Annes, Somerville) to move on and embrace concepts such as mature undergraduates. I may however be doing them a massive disservice as it is a long time since I was there.

margoandjerry Mon 23-Jul-07 14:40:30

I did PPE there and the workload is huge compared to other universities and next to nothing compared to doing a normal job

We did two essays a week for three years which is massive compared to most other universities where as far as I could work out you did maybe two essays a term. And we had exams every term (collections).

But to offset that, if you are in an arts subject you have hardly any lecture time and only two hours of tutorials a week. The rest of the time you are supposed to be in the library.

I used to think for arts degrees at Oxford you could basically do them by correspondence course. You get almost nothing from the university in terms of active teaching - you are teaching yourself. The much-vaunted tutorial system involves you reading your essay out to a bored graduate student and then talking about it a bit...You definitely rely on your own resources. But that's what makes it a good education - you train yourself rather than just copying down loads of boring lecture notes. But you have to be self-motivated. I would think that as a mature student that would be much easier to manage than as an 18 year old.

Plus it's eight week terms and you can stand anything for 24 weeks a year.

I hated it but, 20 years on I am still reaping the rewards of having an Oxford degree. People still value it more highly than other universities, rightly or wrongly.

Blandmum Mon 23-Jul-07 14:44:30

I did biochemistry. Our work load was practicals (which seemed to go one for ever in two week blocks) and tutorials. Our tutorials were fairly intense, as they were 1 to 1 or at most 1 to 2, so you couldn't 'hide' . They used to farm us out round the university, so you'd find yourself having tutorial with the person who specialised in whatever you were studying. The next week you'd move on to someone else and a different subject.

Terms are short, but in practice I always spect 0th and 9th week back at collage.

Christ Church (my old collage ) isn't as bad as it used to be, as they now actually have women in more senior academic positions. But there may be other collages who are more open to mature applicants.

When I did my dphil there was a single mum doing hers in the same department (the other half of the building from gess!) so it can be done!

Go for it! The saddest words in the english language were 'If only'

stealthsquiggle Mon 23-Jul-07 14:47:23

oops sorry MB (cue MNers from Oriel and Magdelen to tell me I am wrong about them as well) - please note disclaimer!! I was at Somerville, but (just) before they went and let men in and ruined it

Blandmum Mon 23-Jul-07 14:51:01


ChCh; the cream of Oxford collages, Rich, Thick and full of Clots!

It still isn't an oasis of egalitarianism, but it is better than it was the year I went (the first year they took women)

Acinonyx Mon 23-Jul-07 16:58:08

Not crazy at all. I'm a mature PhD student at the other place - Cambridge - which is very similar. I tutored undergrads when pg - I loved tutoring and took it quite seriously! My impression was that it really depends which subject you are doing and how well you need to do (and why - for example, are you competing for PhD funding and in which subject etc). Workload is inconsistent - piling up around exams and essay deadlines which sometimes all fall together.

Definitely choose the college for mature students - that's what I did (it's only postgrad and a lot of mature students). How old are you and what do you want to study? Mature students seem to do well as long as you are well-motivated. Go have chat with someone in your chosen subject.


stealthsquiggle Mon 23-Jul-07 17:04:39

Cambridge and Oxford similar?!! You'll get yourself lynched by both sides for saying things like that, Acinonyx

TheodoresMummy Mon 23-Jul-07 17:51:13

Wow !! Loads of replies !! Thanks so much.

I am 30 and I have one DS (3.8). We are trying to conceive second child now.

I don't have the qualifications to go yet. Was planning to do an access course, but the subjects offered at my college are a bit limited and I don't think there is enough depth to the course to prepare me for what I want I want to do at Uni. Do Oxford even accept Access students ? I didn't see anything on their website. So I will do A Levels.

I would like to study PPE (more interested in the Politics and Economics I think). Sounds like you can focus on the two subjects which interest you most in 2nd and 3rd year which makes it even more appealing.

I think I would apply to Harris Manchester College which is the mature students only college.

It's great to hear you all saying 'go for it'.

Margoandjerry - that sounds like some workload !!!

However, good point about most students spending copious amounts of time in the pub and doing various extra curr activities and me being at home every evening and weekend. Maybe it's not unreasonable to expect to manage the workload....

Will read through the posts again. Please keep posting if you think of anything to add.

Blandmum Mon 23-Jul-07 18:07:31

Googled oxford entrance requirements

They say for PPE History and maths at A level (or equivalent) would be advantageous.

They don't specifically mention access courses as far as I can see, but they do say 'or equivalent'

Ladymuck Mon 23-Jul-07 18:15:31

They have accepted someone on the basis of an Access course, though I don't think that they run them themselves. But I have to say that they do continually emphasise that their courses are academic, and that they do prefer A levels. Also mature students would still get a similar offer for a place (so they would be looking for A grades). And even in the dim and distant past where A level offers were of the 2E variety it was highly unusual to find that many people with less than a B grade.

Blandmum Mon 23-Jul-07 18:26:46

and that was after you had sat, and passed their own exams, and then been interviewed.

I got an offer of two EEs in this way.

If you didn't sit the exam the offter was mostly AAB or AAA for medicine

TheodoresMummy Mon 23-Jul-07 18:33:26

martianbishop - History and Maths A Level sounds fab.

ladymuck - AAA seems to be pretty much what they're after. Feeling a bit scared at that thought. I reckon I could perform at that level (if I can get my big head through the exam hall door ), but it's scary to think that there is no room for error.

Blandmum Mon 23-Jul-07 18:34:48

they are advisable not essential

ib Mon 23-Jul-07 18:44:17

I did PPE at Oxford and I definitely think the workload is manageable - to be honest, I think you can work as much or as little as you want, you'll get out of it what you put in.

I was at New College, and we had no collections, just prelims and finals.

If you are comitted and interested ime the dons will cut you a lot of slack to acommodate the rest of your life.

I would say choose your college carefully, as your tutors will make all the difference to your experience there.

Go for it! I really loved my time there.

ib Mon 23-Jul-07 18:46:28

I didn't have maths and got a D in my history A level - they won't expect the same grades from you as from a public school kid.

Blandmum Mon 23-Jul-07 18:48:03

I alwys liked the hill in the garden of New Collage!

And entering the collage was always so beautiful after being in that dark lane! So unexpected to see such a beautiful quad after being in almosr medaeval darkness! Stunning.

ib Mon 23-Jul-07 18:52:44

I know, it's a fab college. Although dh and I got into terrible trouble for living together in college....(we got married as undergrads there)

BellaBear Mon 23-Jul-07 18:53:28

Things at Oxford seem to be changing - I had a AAB offer but haven't heard of anyone having less than AAA at all now (ten years later). Also alternatives to A-level don't seem to be as successful. Also, many courses seem to be moving towards exams at end of second year as well as first and third.

However, all of the above is based on hearsay, from acquaintances (friends, students) of mine so could all be a load of rubbish!

I do know that while there, I was expected to work just as hard in the vacations (ha!) and had to work extremely hard for the proper exams, but as has been said I think not doing the whole 18 year old student thing will make the workload seem better as you may be a bit better organised (not writing essays at midnight for example!)

Good Luck!

TheodoresMummy Mon 23-Jul-07 19:05:13

ib - Thanks. Very useful info.

Uni understanding that if my kids are ill then I will be at home with them is something that I am concerned about. Obviously if they have a cold or a party to go to then I can delegate, but proper poorly means Mummy being there no matter what.

Would applying to a different college (i.e. not geared towards mature students) be a bad idea bearing this in mind ?

margoandjerry - 'And we had exams every term (collections).'

ib - 'I was at New College, and we had no collections, just prelims and finals.'

So do the different colleges teach the same subjects in different ways ? PPE is offered at all colleges I think. Should I investigate the several colleges for different approaches ?

Sooooo many questions...... Thanks.

BellaBear Mon 23-Jul-07 19:09:01

yes different colleges teach in different ways but each course has its own requirements - so would have to do the same number of papers etc, but some college will test you more often. As mb says, you are farmed out to specialists at other colleges sometimes for tutorials - happened to me quite often for philosophy but only once in three years for maths. At Exeter College there were collections at the beginning of every term, mainly I think to ensure you studied through the vacations ("make sure you take Christmas day off" - quote from my tutor - ha!)

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