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Foundation Certificate Program in History 2017, University of Oxford, UK

Publish Date: Apr 03, 2017

Deadline: May 11, 2017

The two-year Foundation Certificate in History is equivalent to the first year of a full-time degree in History at Oxford University.

This history course offers an exciting opportunity for part-time study at degree level, and students who successfully complete it are eligible to apply for second-year entry to undergraduate history courses at the University of Oxford and other institutions.

Past students have progressed from the course to join history degree programmes at second-year level at the University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University, the University of Reading and Royal Holloway, University of London.

Students are introduced to the study of history through extended surveys of periods of modern British and European history. Source-based optional subjects provide an opportunity to explore major topics in greater depth and to develop and refine the skills needed by the historian. Students are also encouraged to reflect upon the nature and purpose of history by tracing the development of historical writing and exploring cross-fertilisations between history and other academic disciplines.

The history course is taught through a programme of weekly seminars, supplemented by individual and paired tutorials.

Over half the students who have successfully completed the Department’s Foundation Certificate in History have transferred to study a full-time degree at Oxford colleges or entered full or part-time degree courses at other universities. Others have opted to pursue their academic interests further within Oxford University's Department for Continuing Education. It is important to note, however, that successful completion of the course does not confer automatic right of entry to any institution. Acceptance by an Oxford college or any other institution will continue to be at the discretion of their Admissions Tutors and will be in competition with applicants for the three-year degree course.

Open evening Thursday 4 May 2017

There will be an Open Evening on Thursday 4 May 2017 at Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA from 5:00pm - 6:30pm. You are invited to visit the Department, meet the Course Director and tutors, and discuss the course. If you would like to attend, please email

Who is this history course for?​

Successful candidates are mature individuals who can show, both in their application and at interview, strong motivation to undertake the course and a keen interest in history. They will also demonstrate an effective command of written English and the ability to discuss historical issues.

Over the past decade students have come from a variety of backgrounds and have taken the course to satisfy a wide range of ambitions and objectives. Relevant qualifications and evidence of recent study will normally be favourably regarded, but formal qualifications are not essential. Academic potential, commitment and other considerations will also be taken into account. Whether it is to progress to a full degree, to change direction through study, or to satisfy a personal ambition, we welcome applications from all students wishing to pursue their interest in history in a structured and disciplined manner.

Entry criteria

If you have little or no recent experience of study or examinations you should not be deterred from applying for a place on the course. Tutors are familiar with the problems faced by those returning to study and are able to provide academic support and guidance. The Course Directors may be contacted at any time during office hours by students wishing to discuss matters relating to the course. The Department runs a programme of Study Skills workshops designed to enable you to develop and improve the skills needed for effective study. For full details, contact 01865 280892.

Tuition and study

In September 2017 there will be an introductory meeting before the course begins in October. The Foundation Certificate in History course consists of 28 weekly seminars of two hours' duration on Wednesday evenings from 7.00-9.00pm.

A variety of teaching methods will be used. In addition to lectures by the tutors, there will be the opportunity to work in small discussion groups and to give short presentations on prepared topics to the class.

Students also attend a compulsory non-residential study week where they receive an intensive introduction to their chosen optional subject. For most students, the study week provides a rare opportunity for full-time study, informal socialising with fellow students and easy access to the wide range of study facilities available at Rewley House and within the University.

Essay writing is an integral part of the course. Students write seven essays during each year of study, and receive written feedback and tutorial support. It is anticipated that, in addition to attending classes, students are likely to need to undertake at least twelve hours of independent study per week. This will involve reading, making notes, preparing for class, writing essays and revising for examinations.

University lectures

In addition to attending the Foundation Certificate’s own weekly seminar programme, students are also entitled, for no extra payment, to attend the wide range of lectures and seminars organised by the University’s Faculty of Modern History.

Course content

The Foundation Certificate in History course consists of five elements:

1) British History 1485-1603

From the usurpation of the crown by Henry VII, following his victory at Bosworth field, to the lonely death of Elizabeth I, without a named successor, Tudor Britain saw far-reaching changes in government, church, economy and society. The achievements of the Tudor dynasty were considerable but their years of power were also plagued by turmoil and uncertainty. Students examine the successes and failures of the reigns of individiual Tudor monarchs with particular emphasis upon the development of government; religious reformation; relations with other European states and social and economic policy. The course also explores broad themes spanning the 'long sixteenth century'. These will include: political opposition and rebellion; changing attitudes towards family and women; town and city; population growth and the relief of poverty; and the use of culture to buttress the image of monarchy.

2) British History 1900-1979

During this period Britain experienced profound political and social change: the impact of two world wars, the introduction of universal suffrage, the sudden arrival of the Labour Party as a governing force, the creation of the Welfare State, and the retreat from Empire after 1945. The course examines the nature of these changes, as well as examining the significant elements of continuity, such as the dominance of the Conservative Party in the inter-war years and in the 1950s. There is also an opportunity to assess the role of leading politicians such as David Lloyd George, Stanley Baldwin, Winston Churchill, Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher.

3) European History 1815-1914

The nineteenth century saw the development of the European nation states amid other changes wrought by industrialisation, urbanisation and growing consciousness of class, gender and national identity. Beginning with the Napoleonic Wars, the course also encompasses the “long peace” of the 1820s and 1830s, the Revolutions of 1848, the unification of Germany and Italy, and the struggle for stability in the years before the First World War. Students are provided with a chronological framework for the period, but the main focus is on themes which span many decades and countries. The themes include Liberalism and the middle classes, Socialism and the working classes, and patterns of industrial and urban development.

4) Approaches to History

The study of history has evolved over time. In Year 1, the course examines the evolution of historical writing from early times to the modern day, with particular emphasis upon the development of history as a systematic academic discipline. Students consider the purpose of the study of history, receive an introduction to some aspects of research methodology, and learn how to evaluate the reliability of both the historical record and historical writing.

In year two, students will examine recent developments in historical writing and explore the inter-relationship between history and other disciplines such as archaeology, local history, art history, architectural history and gender studies. Material will be drawn largely, though not exclusively, from the social, political and religious life of the nineteenth century.

5) Optional subject

The optional subjects offer the opportunity for more detailed study of a specific topic. Students work primarily from original source material, where necessary in translation or modern transcription, and learn to evaluate historical evidence in a practical setting.

Option One: The Nobility and Gentry in England, 1560-1640

The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw considerable fluctuations in the fortunes of many noble and gentry families as they struggled to adapt to changing political, economic and social conditions. Whilst some members of the landed elite found the attractions of court life or public service irresistible, others preferred to concentrate upon estate management and family responsibilities. Students use a range of contemporary sources, including diaries, autobiographies, commonplace books, and letters, together with case studies and visual sources such as portraits, to gain an insight into the position, ambitions and lifestyles of the nobility and gentry. Topics covered include: the contemporary preoccupation with status and lineage, political careers at court and in the localities, the chivalric ideal, marital alliances and family relationships, religious nonconformity, and the role of art and architecture in promoting the self-image of the nobility and gentry.

Option Two: The Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939

The Spanish Civil War, which came to be seen as a struggle between Fascism and Democracy, divided not only the Spanish people, but also European and world opinion. Studying the Civil War allows one to understand the ideologies and passions that animated Europe in the 1930s. This course examines the origins of the Civil War within Spanish history, and assesses the reasons for Franco's eventual victory, as well as examining the Civil War's international political and cultural impact. Students work from primary sources, including eye-witness accounts such as George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, extracts from Spanish documents in translation and propaganda posters from the period.

Course structure

Classes meet once a week at 7pm on Wednesday evenings, starting with a pre-course induction meeting on 27 September 2017. There will be ten classes in the autumn and spring terms and eight classes in the summer term. There is also a compulsory study day at the start of the autumn term.

Year 1

  • Pre-course induction session September 2017

Michaelmas term 2017 (4 Oct - 6 Dec 2017)

  • Introduction to History (1), British History 1485-1603 (2-10)
  • 2 assessed essays
  • Introduction to History and Historical Skills Day 30 September 2017

Hilary term 2018 (10 Jan - 14 Mar 2018)

  • British History 1485-1603 (1-3), European History 1815-1914 (4-10)
  • 2 assessed essays

Trinity term 2018 (11 April - 30 May 2018)

  • European History 1815-1914 (1-6), Revision & exam preparation (7-8)
  • 2 assessed essays
  • Examination in British History 1485-1603
  • Examination in European History 1815-1914

Year 2

  • Study week (Optional subject) September 2018
  • 1 assessed essay

Michaelmas term 2018

  • Optional subject (1-5), Approaches to History (6-10)
  • 2 assessed essays

Hilary term 2019

  • Approaches to History (1-5), British History 1900-1979 (6-10)
  • 2 assessed essays

Trinity term 2019

  • British History 1900-1979 (1-8), Revision & exam preparation (9-10)
  • 2 assessed essays
  • Mid-late June 2019
  • Examinations in Optional Subject and British History 1900-1979

Course aims

The Foundation Certificate in History course is designed to provide a structured introduction to the study of history and to enable students to develop both historical skills and knowledge.

  • By the end of the course it is anticipated that students will have:
  • Acquired a broad knowledge and understanding of the periods of British and European history studied
  • Investigated key topics in greater depth
  • Undertaken a source-based study of a selected period or topic
  • Explored the problems surrounding the interpretation of historical sources and acquired some of the skills needed to evaluate them critically
  • Developed the analytical and communication skills needed to present historical argument orally and in writing

Credit transfer scheme

Students who successfully complete this two-year course will be awarded an Oxford University Foundation Certificate in History, equivalent to 120 CATS points at first-year undergraduate level (FHEQ Level 4) in the Department’s Qualifications and Credit Framework. These credit points are widely recognised in terms of credit for transfer to other Higher Education institutions, including the Open University and module universites such as Oxford Brookes University. Opportunities vary for the transfer of credit, so students who are considering taking this course in order to transfer credit are advised to discuss the possibilities with the Department’s Registry on 01865 280355.


Assessment is based both on coursework (essays submitted during the period of study) and on written examinations, held at the end of each of the two years. Full attendance is required at a minimum of 75% of the total number of the weekly seminars, and during the study week.


This will account for 30% of the total marks; 15% for each year. Students are required to write six essays of up to 2,000 words each in Year 1, of which the five highest marks are taken into account. In Year 2, students are required to write a further five essays, of which the four highest marks are taken into account. In addition, students write an extended essay of up to 4,000 words for the Optional Subject, and its grade is given double weight in the coursework assessment for the second year.


At the end of each year there will be two three-hour written examinations. Students are required to answer three questions on each paper. The examinations set at the conclusion of Year One account for 35% of the total marks for the course; the examinations set at the end of Year Two account for a further 35%.

University lectures

In addition to attending the Foundation Certificate’s own weekly seminar programme, students are also entitled, for no extra payment, to attend the wide range of lectures and seminars organised by the University’s Faculty of History.

IT requirements

This course uses the Department’s online assignment submission system. In order to prepare and submit your course assignments you will need access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification. Students of this course may use the student computing facilities provided in Departmental buildings.

Teaching staff

The course directors are Professor Tom Buchanan and Dr Christine Jackson. Where appropriate, additional teaching staff are recruited by the Department.

Tom Buchanan is Professor of Modern British and European History at OUDCE and a Fellow of Kellogg College. He primarily teaches British and European history since 1815. He has a particular research interest in the Spanish Civil War, and is the author of three books which examine the impact on Britain of that conflict.

Christine Jackson is University Lecturer in History at OUDCE and Fellow of Kellogg College. She teaches modern British history c1500-1900 and writes on the social and economic history of the 16th and 17th centuries. She has a particular interest in urban history and has published articles and a recent book on Berkshire towns and articles on the historical writings of Lord Herbert of Cherbury.

Academic support

Much of the academic support will come from the Course Directors, who may be contacted at any time during office hours by students wishing to discuss matters relating to the course. In addition, the Department runs a programme of Study Skills workshops designed to enable you to develop and improve the skills needed for effective study. These workshops are free to students enrolled on the Foundation course. For full details of the programme please contact 01865 280892.

Contact information

Course Directors

If you would like an informal discussion on academic matters before making your application you may contact:

Professor Tom Buchanan 01865 270382

Dr Christine Jackson 01865 270295 

Applications and admissions 01865 280154 / 270369

How to apply

Please use the apply button on this page to download the application form. You should complete this, and submit your additional materials:

  • A written statement of about 300 to 400 words stating why you wish to undertake the course. 
  • You will also need to provide a reference. If possible, your referee should be a person who can comment on your academic ability and background, but where this is not appropriate, please name a referee who can vouch for your motivation, commitment and potential. A reference from a family member is not acceptable.
  • Proof of your English Language Ability if you are a non-native English-speaking applicant.

Please read the instructions on the reference form carefully. When you have received your reference, please return the sealed envelope with your application form and written statement (referred to above) to:

Award Programme Administrator
Rewley House
1 Wellington Square
Oxford OX1 2JA

The closing date for all applications is 11 May 2017, but please do not leave it too late to contact us - we suggest you apply in advance of the application deadline.

Interviews will take place in April, June and September (if places remain). Late applications will be considered if places are available. The final decision on admission to the course rests with OUDCE.

Use the apply button on this page to download the application and reference forms.

Non-EU students

This course is not suitable for non-EU students who do not already live in the UK before the course begins. 

English language requirements

English is the language of instruction for all courses offered at Oxford. If your first language is not English, or if your first language is English but you are not a national of the UK, Ireland or a majority English-speaking country recognised by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), you must supply suitable evidence that you have reached the required level.

The University only accepts certain standardised test results (see list below). Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. The score requirements in each test are as follows:

  • IELTS: overall score of 7.0 (with at least 7.0 in each of the four components) or
  • TOEFL (paper based): overall score of 600, with a Test of Written English score of 5.5 or
  • TOEFL (internet-based): overall score of 100 with component scores of at least: Listening 22, Reading 24, Speaking 25, and Writing 24, or
  • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE): grade A or
  • Cambridge Certificate for Proficiency in English (CPE): grade B or
  • English Language GCSE, IGCSE or O-level: grade B (for IGCSE, please see * below) or
  • International Baccalaureate Standard level (SL): score of 5 in English (as Language A or B) or
  • European Baccalaureate: score of 70% in English.
    * (We do not accept IGCSE in either First Language English or English as a Second Language as proof of English proficiency.)

Exemptions from this requirement will be considered for applicants who have

  • studied the International Baccalaureate programme, if it is taught in English
  • studied the Singapore Integrated Programme (SIPCAL)
  • been educated full-time in the medium of the English language throughout the two most recent years before the application deadline, and who remain in full-time education conducted in the English language until the end of the school year in their home country.


The fee for 2017-2018 will be £2,535 (EU students) or £4,335 (non-EU students), payable in instalments with a non-refundable deposit of £200 being required on acceptance. The fee includes all tuition as well as participation in the six day schools (including meals) and, on a non-residential basis, the summer school. Lunches and the end-of-term dinner on Friday evening during the summer school are also included in the fee; accommodation can be provided at an additional cost. There may be a small increase in the fee for the second year of the course. 

For more information please click "Further Official Information" below.

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