Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about life as an Oxford law student.
• For more detailed and more authoritative answers to all of your questions please consult the Faculty's undergraduate handbook. Some of the answers below are simplified.
What are the dates for the beginning and end of the academic year?
An Oxford academic year is made up of three eight-week 'full terms', generally beginning early October (Michaelmas Term), mid-January (Hilary Term), and late April (Trinity Term). Undergraduates must be in residence during full term. Your college may require you to appear a few days before the start of full term. Those on our Law with Law Studies in Europe programme will follow the term dates of their host University during their year abroad.
How will I be taught?
At the heart of the Oxford undergraduate law programme is the 'tutorial system'. A tutorial is a meeting between a single law tutor and (usually) two or three students. In most of your examinable courses you will have seven or eight tutorials, which will be paced either weekly (over one term) or fortnightly (over two terms). Sometimes your tutorials may be supplemented by preparatory classes, depending on the learning methods favoured by your tutor. However adequate preparation for tutorials is mainly your job, and will always require a great deal of independent study. You will have a reading list to guide you. You will also be able to take advantage of a wide range of lectures on various aspects of your courses. You will choose which of these to attend, based on your current study priorities and interests, tgether with the recommendations of your tutor. Attendance at lectures is not compulsory. But attendance at tutorials is compulsory. It is absolutely NOT acceptable for you to miss tutorials since these have been specially arranged for you. Those on our Law with Law Studies in Europe programme will be subject to the teaching methods of their host University during their year abroad.
What part does my college play in the programme, and what part does the Faculty play?
Your college is responsible - through its law tutors - for laying on your tutorials and for keeping an eye on your general academic progress. It also has various administrative, disciplinary, domestic, and pastoral functions. It is also very likely to be the place where you live. The Faculty lays on lectures and organises the degree examinations. Most college law tutors are also lecturers in the Law Faculty, and vice versa.
Will I be set any written work apart from degree examinations?
Yes - a great deal, more than at most universities. This is because of the tutorial system. Your tutors will usually expect you to write an essay for each tutorial. On average you will have three tutorials every two weeks - so that's an essay and a half a week. With one exception, these essays do not play a part in your degree result but they do matter to your learning curve. Your tutors will also set you compulsory practice examinations, usually at the start of each new term, based on the tutorial work you did the term before. It follows that you must set aside a good proportion of every vacation for further study and revision of tutorial work. Those on our Law with Law Studies in Europe programme will write essays and sit examinations according to the systems in use at their host University during their year abroad.
The 'one exception' just mentioned is this. For students who begin their course in October 2011 or later, there is an essay in jurisprudence (theory of law) to be written over the summer vacation at the end of the second year. Your mark for this essay counts towards your degree result. The exam in jurisprudence at the end of your final year is correpondingly shorter.
Does everyone use the same reading list?
Not exactly. The Faculty policy is that every course has an agreed reading list which sets out the core material for the course. But your tutor will normally develop this list in his or her own way to turn it into a coherent and illuminating basis for tutorials, and then for exam preparation. The Faculty intranet will give you access to the agreed list should you want to look at it. Your tutors will give you the more customised reading lists that you will use from day to day.
Where will I do my work?
Oxford law requires a great deal of library work, reading primary sources such as cases and statutes. Your college will have a law library (or a law section in its general library) which will usually cover your everyday needs. For a more extensive collection you will use the Bodleian Law Library, one of the world's finest, located in the same buidling as the Faculty administration and the lecture theatres. A growing amount of material is available online and much of this may be accessed across the University network, possibly even in your own college room. Your college room will be set up as a study-bedroom and you may well write essays or do background reading there. But note that the Bodleian Law Library is not a lending library and most college law libraries do not allow primary materials such as law reports to be taken out and used in your room. So you will inevitably spend much of your working week in the library.
How are the courses assessed?
Your tutor is assessing you all the time through essays, tutorial discussions, and practice exams, and may draw attention to your performance in these areas when writing references for you (e.g. when you apply for jobs or for postgraduate study). But these tutorial assessments do not count towards your official degree result. All that counts towards your official degree result is your performance in the public examinations organised by the Faculty and regulated centrally by the University. You sit two sets of public examinations during your programme. The first set ('Law Mods') is sat at the end of your second term (i.e. two thirds of the way through your first year). You must pass these in order to proceed. The second set of examinations ('Schools' or 'Finals') is taken at the end of your final year and cover all the tutorial courses that you took in the intervening period (i.e. more than two years' worth of work). Your degree classification is determined entirely by your performance in Schools. Almost all of the public examinations - in Mods and Schools - take the form of traditional unseen written examination papers , lasting two or three hours and requiring you to answer three or four questions. You are not allowed to take your notes or books into the examination with you, although you may be given some reference material to rely upon in some examinations. On our undergraduate programmes there is just one piece of writing outside the examination room that counts towards your degree result: for students who begin their course in October 2011 or later, there is an essay in jurisprudence (theory of law) to be written over the summer vacation at the end of the second year. The exam in jurisprudence at the end of your final year is correpondingly shorter. Those on our Law with Law Studies in Europe programme will be subject to the assessment systems of their host University during their year abroad. You must pass your year abroad to earn the Law with Law Studies in Europe degree, but we do not otherwise count your marks from abroad in the classification of your degree. Your host university abroad will give you and your college a separate record of how you performed.
What degree classifications are used?
There are firsts, upper seconds, lower seconds, thirds, pass degrees and fails. Everything above a pass degree counts as an 'honours' degree (technically it counts as a degree of 'Bachelor of Arts in the Final Honour School of Jurisprudence').
Will I be able to do paid work alongside my studies?
Our BAs in law are intensive full-time programmes. They are designed to occupy you for about 45 hours per week during term time. And those are 45 efficient hours, with good concentration. All your extra-curricular life combined will have to fit around this. With that in mind your college will have rules governing the amount of paid employment you may take during term time, and more generally about academic discipline and progress. To thrive as an Oxford law student you will also have to set aside substantial time during vacations for further reading, consolidation, and revision. Your college tutors will monitor this by setting practice examinations at the start of each term, covering the previous term's work. So even during vacation the amount of paid work you can do will be limited by the demands of your studies.
Is there student representation in Faculty decision-making?
Yes, there is representation on the Faculty's Undergraduate Studies Committee and on the Faculty Board. There is also an undergraduate student representative on the Committee for Library Provision in Law. These Faculty representatives are chosen by a Joint Consultative Committee made up of undergraduate representatives from all the colleges. There is a senior Faculty officer - the Director of Undergraduate Studies - with whom issues can also be raised. There is also a Student Administration Office within the Faculty with an officer dedicated to undergraduate studies.
Where can I find the answer to my other questions?
• Admissions question? Undergraduate admissions FAQs are here...