The Academic Year

The University has three terms, each of eight weeks duration:

  • Michaelmas Term (October to December)
  • Hilary Term (January to March)
  • Trinity Term (April to June).

Term dates are available here.

Students are expected to be in residence at Oxford for each of the eight weeks of term, but are free to leave Oxford after the end of each term. The exception to this is Trinity Term, where examinations will take place during Week 9. You are advised to return during the week prior to the start of the next term (referred to as 0th week).

The MSc courses are one-year taught courses, and students are registered at Oxford University from October until the end of September of the following year.

The MPhil courses are 22 month taught courses, and students are registered at Oxford University from October until the end of July of the second year.

Joining the department

Whe you first join the department, you will undertake a week of induction, split between your department, your college and including an introduction to other areas of the University such as the Library. This takes place in Oth week of Michaelmas Term.

As part of the department induction, you have the opportunity to meet other members of your course as well as the course staff, both in sessions and socially. You will be introduced to the teaching and administrative team, the content of the course, and to the department and its research portfolio and other activities. Full information about the course is made available to you via an internal web-based site, Weblearn, which you are given access to once you have joined the department.


The majority of the teaching is delivered in Michaelmas Term and Hilary Term, with some revision sessions taking place in Trinity Term. Teaching is delivered using various different methods, including lectures, seminars workshops and supervision sessions, depending on the material being studied. For example, on both the Comparative Social Policy courses and the Evidence-Based Intervention and Policy Evaluation courses, the core courses include lectures delivered to the whole group, whereas the option papers are delivered via smaller classes, and the methods teaching involves practical workshops in the computer lab. There is an emphasis on student interaction, opportunities for discussion and student presentations on all courses.

Each student is assigned a supervisor who will provide one-to-one supervisions. For MSc and MPhil students, these will particularly provide support for the development of the thesis. The supervisor is responsible for your progress and works with you to consider your training needs through a system of Skills Review and Training Needs Analysis. You have the opportunity to attend a variety of skills training sessions appropraite to different stages of your graduate careers, as well as training geared to your specific needs. You and your supervisor should also complete termly online reports on how you are progressing, and these also provide an opportunity to raise issues and address concerns.

As well as your supervisor, the Course Director, Director of Graduate Studies and the course administration team are available to offer support or advise you on where to get appropriate support. There is an extensive framework of support available within colleges. Your college will allocate to you a College Advisor from among its Senior Members, usually in a cognate subject, who will arrange to see you from time to time and whom you may contact for additional advice and support on academic and other matters. In college you may also approach the Tutor for Graduates (a fellow of the college with particular responsibility for the interests and welfare of graduate students) and/or the Senior Tutor for advice. The University also has a professionally staffed confidential Student Counselling Service which offers assistance with personal, emotional, social and academic problems.


MSc students sit their exams at the end of Trinity Term, during Week 9, and students need to make sure that they do not leave Oxford until their examinations have finished. The Long Vacation is the period after Trinity Term ends before the start of the new academic year in October. During this period students undertake their thesis research, either in Oxford or overseas (according to their topic). The MSc thesis has to be submitted by 15th August.

MPhil students take their Qualifying Examinations in Trinty Term of year one, and in year two take a second option paper.

Examination Boards are generally held in early or mid-July and mid or end September. Students should be available to return to Oxford if called back for a viva voce (an interview between the examiners and candidate usually called if the candidate is borderline between pass/fail or pass/distinction or, more rarely, where plagiarism is suspected). Examination results are published as soon as possible after the examination board meetings.

Student Feedback

Individual student feedback is sought regularly through feedback forms, for example feedback is requested on each individual series of lectures, as well as the course as a whole, and your exerience of the department.

There is a Graduate Joint Consultative Committee in the department, which an opportunity for students' views and concerns to be raised. Each group elects student representatives who are responsible for consulting with the full group to identify any issues to bring to this committee.

At divisional level, there is a discussion forum, made up of student representatives from each department/faculty of the division. Issues raised by this body are reported to the division’s Graduate Studies Committee. Departmental representatives are appointed by the students each year.

The views of research students are also sought by means of a centrally administered questionnaire, the Student Barometer.