Degrees of the University of Oxford

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The system of academic degrees in the University of Oxford can be confusing to those not familiar with it. This is not merely because many degree titles date from the Middle Ages, but also because many changes have been haphazardly introduced in recent years. For example, the (medieval) BD, BM, BCL, etc., are postgraduate degrees, while the (modern) MPhys, MEng, etc., are undergraduate degrees.

In postnominals, "University of Oxford" is normally abbreviated "Oxon.", which is short for (Academia) Oxoniensis: e.g. MA (Oxon.), although within the university itself the abbreviation "Oxf" can be used.[1]

Undergraduate degrees[edit]

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Fine Art (BFA)

The Bachelor's degree is awarded soon after the end of the degree course (three or four years after matriculation). Until recently, all undergraduates studied for the degree of Bachelor of Arts. The BFA was introduced in 1978. Holders of the degrees of BA and BFA both proceed in time to the degree of Master of Arts (MA). Note that the BA is still awarded even for some science courses, such as the three-year Physics degree. The degree of Bachelor of Science (BSc) has never been awarded as an undergraduate degree at Oxford; it used to be awarded as a graduate qualification, however.

  • Bachelor of Theology (BTh)
  • Bachelor of Education (BEd)

The BTh is awarded primarily to students of the various Theological Colleges and Halls enjoying some sort of associate status with the University, such as Wycliffe Hall, St Stephen's House, Ripon College (Cuddesdon)[2] and the former Westminster College, Oxford. Usually, these students are candidates for the ordained ministry of one of the mainstream Christian denominations, but may be drawn from any faith background or none at the discretion of the College or Hall. It should not be confused with the degree of bachelor of divinity (BD), which is a postgraduate degree.

The BEd was formerly awarded to students residing at Westminster College, Oxford, Culham College of Education, The Lady Spencer Churchill College of Education and Milton Keynes College of Education (formery the North Buckinghamshire College of Education)who read concurrently at the University.

Undergraduate Master's degrees[edit]

In the 1990s the degrees of Master of Engineering, etc., were introduced to increase public recognition of the four-year undergraduate science programmes in those subjects:

The holders of these degrees have the academic precedence and standing of BAs until the twenty-first term from matriculation, when they rank as MAs. From 2014 graduates with these degrees wear the same academic gown as a Master of Studies, with a black silk hood lined with sand fabric.[3] Previously the academic dress was simply the BA gown and hood, (from 2009, even after achieving MA status). In contrast, science undergraduates at Cambridge may be granted the additional degree of Master of Natural Sciences (MSci) while continuing to be awarded the BA (and the subsequent MA). Note that biology and physiology undergraduates are still awarded the BA/MA, as these are currently three-year courses. All other undergraduates, whether their degree courses last three years or four years, are awarded the BA/MA

The degree of Master of Arts[edit]

The degree of Master of Arts is awarded to BAs and BFAs seven years after matriculation, without further examination, upon the payment of a nominal fee. Recipients of undergraduate masters' degrees are not eligible to incept as MA, but are afforded the same privileges after the statutory twenty-one terms. This system dates from the Middle Ages, when the study of the liberal arts took seven years.

Postgraduate degrees[edit]

Bachelors' degrees[edit]

In medieval times a student could not study some subjects until he had completed his study in the liberal arts. These were known as the higher faculties. The degrees in Science and Letters were added in the 19th century, and the degree in Philosophy was added in 1914. The higher bachelor's degree programme is generally a taught programme of one or two years for graduates. In Medicine and Surgery this corresponds to the clinical phase of training, after which they are accorded the courtesy title "Doctor". The BD and BMus are open only to Oxford graduates who have done well in the BA examinations in divinity and music, respectively. The BPhil/MPhil is a part-taught, part-research degree which is often a stepping stone to the DPhil.

Masters' degrees[edit]

The MCh is the higher degree in surgery, and is awarded on similar conditions to higher doctorates such as the DM, e.g., ten years must have passed since the lower degree in the faculty. In medieval times the distinction between a master and doctor was not significant, and both words signified the higher degree in a faculty. The title "master" is used instead of "doctor", as surgeons in England are traditionally known as "Mr" rather than "Dr".

Due to pressure from employers and overseas applicants to conform with United States practice, which is also that of most other UK universities, the BLitt, BSc, and BPhil (in degrees other than philosophy) were re-titled masters' degrees.

The MJur and MBA are awarded after taught courses, the MJur being the equivalent of the BCL for students from non-common-law backgrounds. The MSt is a one-year hybrid research/taught course which is the equivalent of the taught master's degree in most other UK universities. The MTh is an applied theology course for those intending to enter holy orders. The degree of Master of Education was formerly awarded to students at Westminster College, when that course was validated by the University.

Doctorates[edit]

Bachelors in the higher faculties other than Medicine can proceed to a doctorate in the same faculty without further examination, on presentation of evidence of an important contribution to their subject, e.g., published work, research, etc. Doctorates in the higher faculties may also be awarded honoris causa, i.e., as honorary degrees. It is traditional for the Chancellor to be made a DCL jure officio (by virtue of his office). Until the 19th century all bishops who had studied at Oxford were made DDs jure officio.

The DPhil is a research degree, modelled on the German and American PhD, which was introduced in 1914. Rather atypically, Oxford was the first university in the UK to accept this innovation.

The new degrees of DClinPsychol and EngD are professional degrees in the American model. The EngD is the only Oxford degree to use the Cambridge abbreviation format.

Order of academic standing[edit]

Members of the University of Oxford are ranked according to their degree. The order is as follows:[4][5]

  • Doctor of Divinity
  • Doctor of Civil Law
  • Doctor of Medicine if also a Master of Arts
  • Doctor of Letters if also a Master of Arts
  • Doctor of Science if also a Master of Arts
  • Doctor of Music if also a Master of Arts
  • Doctor of Philosophy if also a Master of Arts
  • Doctor of Clinical Psychology if also a Master of Arts
  • Doctor of Engineering if also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Surgery if also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Science if also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Letters if also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Philosophy if also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Studies if also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Theology if also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Education if also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Business Administration if also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Fine Art if also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Public Policy if also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Arts, or Master of Biochemistry or Chemistry or Computer Science or Earth Sciences or Engineering or Mathematics or Mathematics and Computer Science or Mathematics and Philosophy or Physics or Physics and Philosophy with effect from the twenty-first term from matriculation
  • Doctor of Medicine if not also a Master of Arts
  • Doctor of Letters if not also a Master of Arts
  • Doctor of Science if not also a Master of Arts
  • Doctor of Music if not also a Master of Arts
  • Doctor of Philosophy if not also a Master of Arts
  • Doctor of Clinical Psychology if not also a Master of Arts
  • Doctor of Engineering if not also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Surgery if not also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Science if not also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Letters if not also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Philosophy if not also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Studies if not also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Theology if not also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Education if not also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Business Administration if not also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Fine Art if not also a Master of Arts
  • Master of Public Policy if not also a Master of Arts
  • Bachelor of Divinity
  • Bachelor of Civil Law
  • Magister Juris
  • Bachelor of Medicine
  • Bachelor of Surgery
  • Bachelor of Letters
  • Bachelor of Science
  • Bachelor of Music
  • Bachelor of Philosophy
  • Bachelor of Arts, or Master of Biochemistry or Chemistry or Computer Science or Earth Sciences or Engineering or Mathematics or Mathematics and Computer Science or Mathematics and Philosophy or Physics or Physics and Philosophy until the twenty-first term from matriculation
  • Bachelor of Fine Art
  • Bachelor of Theology
  • Bachelor of Education

Within each degree the holders are ranked by the date on which they proceeded to their degree. In the case of people who graduated on the same day they are ranked by alphabetical order.

If the Degree of Master of Biochemistry or Chemistry or Computer Science or Earth Sciences or Engineering or Mathematics or Mathematics and Computer Science or Mathematics and Philosophy or Physics or Physics and Philosophy is held together with a higher degree, the holder will rank in precedence equally with a person who holds the same higher degree together with the Degree of Master of Arts.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

External links[edit]