Howe's connection with Oxford University began when he matriculated at Magdalen College to read Modern History in 1960; he received the M.A. in 1965. In 1989–1990 he was Harmsworth Visiting Professor of American History at Oxford and a Fellow of The Queen's College. In 1992 he became a permanent member of the Oxford History Faculty and a Fellow of St Catherine's College until his retirement in 2002. Brasenose College elected him an Honorary Member of its Senior Common Room.