Course Directory

Oxford Tradition final debate projectOxford Tradition journalism project at BBC StudiosOxford Tradition drama performance
Our students choose any two courses on the list below, one as a MAJOR course and one as a MINOR. Major courses meet six mornings a week and, depending on the course, include in-class time for fieldwork, labs, workshops, guest speakers, group discussions, and one-on-one instruction. They also include homework and require project and preparation time outside of class. Minor courses meet three afternoons a week, with no homework and all work contained within the class session. A Minor course offers a sample of a different subject than the Major and most students find their Minor a welcome opportunity to try a new subject for the first time.


There is no final application deadline. We accept applications on a rolling basis until a program is full, but we do have Course Guarantee Dates. Students who apply to The Oxford Tradition on or before January 12, 2018 and are accepted to the program have their first choice of courses guaranteed, subject to enrollment minima. As we begin receiving applications in September, we recommend that students apply as soon as possible for courses that may fill early.


  • Through frequent visits to museums and galleries to study canonical works, students receive a broad introduction to major schools of art and art theory, with special emphasis placed upon exploring a variety of critical and analytical approaches. Students learn to read works of art and understand them according to different historical, cultural, and visual criteria.

  • This course explores some of the key moments in British history from Roman times to Brexit. Alongside carefully planned visits, students use primary, literary, archeological, and artistic evidence to analyze the contexts of epoch-defining events in British history.

  • This course examines the literature, philosophy, history, art, and scientific thought of Ancient Greece and Rome. From readings of classical authors to tours of the Ashmolean and local Roman sites, students receive an imaginative introduction to Greco-Roman civilization, and explore why the classical world has been admired for millennia, and how it continues to influence society today.

  • To what extent do people unconsciously take on ideas from the society in which they were raised? Are we all unwitting products of forces we did not choose? This course combines philosophy with critical theory to examine why the world is the way it is. Students call on a range of thinkers to analyze the political and societal trends that define the 21st century. They learn to interrogate information, discuss controversial topics sensitively, and construct persuasive arguments.

  • This course examines some of the great works of English literature from Chaucerto Zadie Smith amidst the evocative surroundings of Oxford. Students engage with a wealth of writers in the literary pantheon to improve their skills in close reading, textual criticism and clear, informed writing. Each student engages in a close study of a chosen text in the final week.

  • Roman language, culture, belief, and artistic taste are examined through the ancient world’s greatest texts, notably Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Martial’s Epigrams. A central feature of the course is providing students with the opportunity to improve their facility for translation. Prerequisites for the Major: minimum two years of Latin and a letter of recommendation from your Latin teacher.

  • This course examines the masterpieces of four Oxford authors: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Students examine their worlds, symbolic systems, and mythologies, as well as their influence on Harry Potter, through workshops, field trips, debates, and group readings. Prior knowledge of the stories is encouraged.

  • Students explore a host of topics drawn from major philosophical, literary, and religious texts. They consider fundamental questions through ancients like Plato and Aristotle; Oxford philosophers like Hobbes and Locke; idealists like Kant; iconoclasts like Nietzsche; and contemporary philosophers.

  • This course explores human experience through poetry, prose, and drama. Readings, discussions, and workshops examine psychological themes in the Western canon, including narcissism, madness, tragedy, sexual dysfunction, and humor. Freud and Jung provide a psychoanalytical foundation for engaging with a variety of literary works.

  • Students consider the origins of slavery before addressing its manifestations throughout the ages. They learn about the slavery that made Athenian liberty and Roman power possible; Arab slavery; the Ottoman child-tribute system; the Atlantic trade; and modern-day slavery. At the same time they learn about the groups that fought slavery, looking at abolitionism on different continents but also at the ongoing struggle, led by NGOs and international organizations, against slavery and trafficking. Finally they study the socio-cultural consequences of slavery, contrasting the experiences of different parts of the world. 

  • War has been one of the greatest forces for change in human history and continues to shape the world. Violence in the Middle East and Africa, guerilla conflicts in South America and the Far East, and the global ‘War on Terror’ are the most recent examples of mankind’s long history of conflict and combat. While covering military history, this course also examines war from other aspects: the political, economic, social, ethical, and psychological. It examines how and why wars are fought, what has changed, and what has remained the same, from conflicts in Ancient Greece to the war in Syria.

Sciences & Social Sciences

  • Taught by experts, students discover how the economy really works. They cover the evolution of commerce and banking from its ancient origins to the present, including the development of investment banking and venture capital, the financialization of the economy, high speed and algorithmic trading. They learn how money itself is evolving with the emergence of non-fiat cryptographic currencies like Bitcoin. Through visits to financial institutions ranging from local bank branches to the Bank of England and the trading floors in London’s Square Mile, they investigate how money moves and markets operate, as well as what makes a career in finance.

  • HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis alone are thought to result in ten percent of all deaths every year. The ongoing search for new pathogens is being conducted against the backdrop of outbreaks of diseases such as Ebola, SARS, and Zika. This interdisciplinary medical course investigates the biology of disease. Topics include animal models of human disease; cancer; conventional therapy treatment strategies; the genetics of complex and simple traits; the interaction between environment and genetics; Karyotypic analysis; the molecular and cellular basis of genetic diseases; and the role of oncogenes in tumor initiation and treatment.

  • How do business organizations start, grow, and thrive? What analytical, interpersonal, and technical skills are required to make sense of and address the problems facing companies of all sizes? This course includes visits to local businesses and Oxford’s Saïd Business School and covers a diverse range of topics that includes economics, finance management, information technology, marketing, law, and purchasing. It culminates in the design and creation of a business model.

  • Students discover how - from toxicology and fingerprints to DNA samples - forensic science has progressed over the past 150 years to meet ever-changing legal standards. They learn how modern crime scenes are secured and searched, how material is treated in laboratories, and how different types of evidence are used to sort legal fact from criminal fiction. Branching out, they discover how forensic science has achieved breakthroughs in a multitude of disciplines, such as archeology, history, and geology.

  • This course applies economic concepts to social issues facing the developing world. How can corporations and businesses help to promote growth and societal change? How might global markets be restructured to improve the lives of entire populations? Using econometric and statistical tools, students gain a firm understanding of how economics, geography, and sociology can be harnessed to improve the fate of the world while helping them devise development projects of their own.

  • Advised by industry and NGO experts, students address the problems associated with maintaining lifestyles and sustaining growth while eliminating dependency on fossil fuels. They study the history of energy production; analyze the economic benefits of production while assessing its environmental and political consequences; and carry out thorough and precise economic, political, and scientific evaluations of a wide range of alternatives before writing a synthesis of their research.

  • Students learn the principles of engineering science. Both world-renowned and local examples are examined, and the findings applied to a variety of case studies to solve mechanical, structural, and architectural problems. They complete the course by designing a model engineering project of their own.

  • Students discover what drives entrepreneurs, the rules they follow, and the ones they defy. They learn how to identify demand, determine fixed and marginal costs, generate a business plan, canvas for support, calculate overheads, estimate break-even and future value, and manage debts and depreciation. For their final project students launch their own mini-businesses.

  • What are human rights, who determines them, and why? What are the key contemporary human rights issues? How can our thoughts about human rights shape attitudes toward foreign aid, global inequality, intervention, justice, terrorism, and war? How effectively can human rights be defended and enforced? Students address these questions through a mixture of classwork, lectures, and field trips to local NGOs. In so doing they examine the role and importance of human rights in modern society, paying close attention to whether we are ruled by law or by lawyers.

  • Immunology is an increasingly significant area of laboratory medicine that focuses on the immune system and its role in fighting disease. Participants study antigen-antibody reactions, autoimmunity and autoimmune diseases, allergies, the development of the immune system and its deficiencies, hematological malignancy, hypersensitivity, immunoglobulin genetics and structures, and immune responses to infections and tumors.

  • This course introduces students to the world of international business and its practices. They visit institutions such as Oxford’s Saïd Business School and engage with various financial and business topics. Course projects include real-life case studies, a real-time investment game, and the design of a start-up venture.

  • Through classes, discussions, and group activities, students are introduced to the principles of international law and the institutions that animate it (the UN, the WTO, the ICC, and NGOs). They explore topics that include regime change and nation-building in a world in which the enforcement of international law is also the exertion of international power. They conclude by staging mock trials involving topical scenarios.

  • This course addresses International Relations by focusing on key issues of the day. Subjects covered include globalization and its political, economic, and social effects; environmental challenges; new forms of war and peace; the changing nature of security challenges; peacekeeping operations; the regional complexities of areas like the Middle East, Africa, and South-East Asia; and the relationships and rivalries that define global order today.

  • Students examine the British and American legal systems and how they reflect the values and institutions of their respective societies. Emphasis is placed on legal history and modes of thought, precedent-setting cases, current controversies, and the kind of first-hand courtroom observation that brings them to life. Each course includes visits to a court and sessions with lawyers. Major courses culminate in a formal moot court competition.

  • This hands-on course introduces students to key aspects of medicine and modern medical practice. Combining specialist lectures with experiments and class discussions, students learn the main principles of human anatomy and physiology, the pathology and significance of certain diseases, the main challenges that medical science faces today, and the variety and changing nature of careers in medicine.

  • This course focuses on recent advances in molecular medicine and genetics. After reviewing the molecular structure and mechanisms of DNA, students analyze the genetic factors underlying diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. They examine how information gained at the molecular level translates into treatments and address issues such as genetic engineering, cloning, and gene therapy. Prerequisites: One year each of Biology and Chemistry.

  • Using cognitive, experimental, and clinical approaches, students explore the structure and function of the brain as it relates to cognitive process and behavior. Students address the principles of neuroscience, neurology, and psychiatry, learn select diagnostic techniques, and study brain injuries and mental disorders. Classroom experiments are complemented by visits to laboratories.

  • Students are exposed to university-level physics, including Newtonian mechanics, electromagnetism, and thermodynamics, Einstein’s theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, and string theory. Touching on such diverse areas of knowledge, students look at theoretical advances in science as a means of imagining the future. Prerequisite: At least one year of Physics.

  • Oxford’s famous undergraduate degree, Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE), is adapted for our students. They examine the institutions and policies of modern Britain and contrast the British, American, European, and East Asian approaches to global problems. Students engage in practical exercises such as a fantasy stock portfolio competition and complete the month by participating in a mock Parliament.

  • Students examine the behaviors, tastes, and technologies that influence the entertainment industry, commercial enterprise, and cultural trends – what we call pop culture. Fame and celebrity, fashion, music, dance, and popular protest are all examined as means of understanding consumption. Students explore their own notion of culture to gain perspectives on the forces that shape their lives.

  • How will robots develop in the future? What roles might artificial intelligence have in education, entertainment, and healthcare? This course combines theory with practice to give students problem-solving skills and an understanding of analogue and digital electronics, hardware, microprocessors, and software. It culminates with the design and construction of their own robot. Materials fee of $150 US for the Major, $75 US for the Minor.

  • This syllabus is built from the type of course typically taught on MBAs. Students learn to organize their lives, to create realistic schedules, to manage time-tables, and to define priorities. They learn how to collect and manage information, how to take notes, and how to condense and file them. They learn how to build their profiles, not least how to leverage their growing experience and expertise as they take their first steps into the job and university markets.

  • This course focuses on behavior and development in a social context. Students are introduced to major themes, including stereotyping and prejudice, cross-cultural differences, the dynamics of cooperation and conflict, conformity and persuasion, attraction, and the role of the individual in the crowd. Through case studies and interactive experiments, participants gain an introduction to psychology and learn to analyze their own peer-group dynamics.

Production & Workshop

  • With its stunning variety of architectural styles, Oxford provides students with the perfect environment to find inspiration, appreciate architectural history and aesthetics, and improve their design and model-making skills. They develop a portfolio of sketches before turning ideas and designs into three-dimensional models to display at the program exhibition. Materials fee of $150 US for the Major; $75 US for the Minor. 

  • Students compose fiction and poetry under the guidance of a published writer, with Oxford’s rich literary history as their inspiration. They explore their own potential by experimenting with new forms and styles of writing. Successful authors give workshops in which students learn about the creative process and the practicalities of publication. Students develop a portfolio of their best writing and collaborate to design, edit, and publish a literary magazine.

  • Taught by classically-trained actors and directors, and addressing areas as diverse as theory, technique, improvisation, voice, mime, movement, and script analysis, students master the nuances of Shakespearean verse and interpretation as they prepare for a full performance at the end of the program. From auditions and casting to the final curtain call, Major class students participate in a full-scale Shakespeare production in the same way as a professional repertory company. Production fee of $175 US for the Major.


  • With instruction from professional screenwriters and directors, students work in small groups to brainstorm, conceive, write, and produce short films (fiction, non-fiction, documentary, or experimental), which they shoot with digital video cameras and edit with professional software. Students screen their films at the end of the program. Lab fee of $300 US for the Major; $150 US for the Minor.

  • Students become full-time journalists, acquiring and perfecting their research, composition, editing, and formatting skills as they publish a class magazine and blog. They address key topics in contemporary journalism as well as ethical issues surrounding journalistic responsibility and risk. Interview access to outstanding guest speakers deepens this fascinating introduction to the world of the working journalist. Production fee of $100 US for the Major; $50 US for the Minor.

  • Photographers of all levels of expertise spend much of their time in the field, pursuing assignments designed to improve their landscape, portraiture, art, and fashion photography skills. Students exhibit their best work at the end of the program. They require their own DSLR camera with USB cable, charger, manual, and at least one 8 GB memory card. Lab fee of $175 US for the Major; $100 US for the Minor.

  • Using examples drawn from a wide range of fiction, students discover how screenwriters interpret, innovate, and reinvent original works. They also look at how adaptations shape the perceptions of an audience, examine parodies of original texts, ideas, and genres, and conclude the course by scripting and storyboarding their own adaptations of a famous work. 

  • Students explore major debating styles and strategies, engage in daily speaking exercises, orations, and dialogues, and prepare and present regular debates. The culmination of the course is a formal debate in the historic debating chamber of the Oxford Union Society, founded in 1823 and one of the oldest university debating societies in the world.

  • Beginners and more advanced students receive instruction in a variety of media. They spend much of their time outside, sketching medieval towers, capturing pastoral landscapes, practicing their portrait skills, or discovering masterpieces in locations such as the Christ Church Picture Gallery. Students exhibit their best pieces at the end of the program. Materials fee of $250 US for the Major; $150 US for the Minor.