The Tutorial System
The core of an Oxford education, tutorials for the majority of undergraduates take place in College. Teaching across the subjects also includes classes, practicals, seminars and lectures, the latter of which tend to be arranged by Faculties and Departments in the University.
In most cases students have at least one tutorial a week, often as part of a pair. Depending on the subject, students may be asked to prepare a piece of written work on a subject they will then discuss in the tutorial, or perhaps attempt to find solutions to a sheet of mathematical problems, also for discussion. This discursive approach means that students can expect to range far beyond the scope of their original work, and achieve a much deeper understanding of the topic at hand.
Tutorial teaching is organised and undertaken by academics who are experts in their field of study; the connection between research and teaching in Oxford is intimate. Students are expected to contribute their own ideas to what is meant to be an intellectual discussion, not a lesson. This means that students take great effort to work hard and take their studies seriously, but the rewards can be correspondingly great. Far from being a confrontation, in the best tutorials tutor and undergraduate work together to develop and deepen their understanding of the topic so that both come away having learned from the experience.
The individual attention which students receive in tutorials means that, within the (broad) outlines of their degree course, students are encouraged to develop their own interests. This degree of individual attention is one of the things which makes Oxford so special, and is a key aspect of the University’s collegiate system.