How the course is taught

A typical week for a undergraduate student in Physics consists of:

  • 8-10 hours in lectures
  • 6 hours in lab, plus writing up time
  • 2 hours of tutorials
  • 20 hours of independent study (in preparation for tutorials)

Practical work is compulsory for the first three years; students spend on average one day a week in the laboratories. Some transferable skills training will also be included in years 2 and 3.

Most of the workload above is unsupervised so it is up to the student to organise her or his time effectively. Those who have developed this discipline at school will have a considerable advantage. There are many attractions competing for students’ time at Oxford. Whilst a broad range of interests outside physics is welcomed and encouraged, some leisure activities may prove incompatible with the Physics courses.

The most important component of our teaching is the college-based tutorial, an hour of discussion with a tutor around pre-set work. Typically, students attend tutorials in pairs twice a week. The college physics tutors are also the professors and lecturers in the department. In their college role, they come to know their own undergraduates very well, but they also give lectures in the department which are open to all students regardless of college.

This combination of college, departmental and personal input is a unique feature of the Oxford Physics course. The teaching philosophy is that a student will spend most of his or her time on tutorial work, consulting different books, attending lectures, and coming to a view of the subject which works for him or her. This view will be developed and honed in tutorial discussion. The aim is that the experience should be a preparation for tackling new problems, rather than an exercise in memorizing received knowledge.