Application and admission season is upon us. This next spotlight comes from Daniel O. McClellan, a master’s student at Oxford. Enjoy.
Would you recommend Oxford to other LDSs? If so, what advice would you give them in applying to a program there?
I would definitely recommend Oxford to other Latter-day Saints. It’s a great experience, the city is wonderful, and the education is world-class. There are only a handful of LDS students here at any given time, but the ward is diverse and a lot of fun. The weather can be pretty drab, but we have almost six weeks off for Christmas and another five for Easter. The professors are all incredibly nice and most ask you to call them by their first names. The traditions are pretty exciting, and the history is incredible. The Ashmolean Museum just reopened after almost 40 million pounds worth of renovations.
For those interested in applying, I would say getting in touch with the faculty you’d like to work with is a huge priority. I spoke with Martin Goodman, who runs the Jewish Studies unit, before applying. Everyone else in the program spoke with someone on the faculty, and currently a couple students are discussing PhD (DPhil at Oxford) options with professors. Many who do the masters program stay for the DPhil, and if you have a topic and an adviser lined up, it’s quite easy to go straight in.
What is the funding situation?
Funding for American students has gone down considerably in the last few years. Five years ago you were automatically given a full ride upon acceptance. Two years ago half of tuition was covered. This year 1/8 is the standards scholarship. For UK students there are many more scholarships available.
What is the intellectual environment like?
The professors here at Oxford are, for the most part, among the most highly respected scholars in the world. There are seminars and lectures throughout the terms from local and visiting scholars that generally represent the most authoritative voices in the field. The lectures generally include refreshments before or afterward that allow plenty of opportunities to speak personally with the scholars. Masters programs and DPhil programs each require dissertations of 10-15,000 words and around 100,000 words, respectively. These dissertations are supervised by an adviser that the student chooses during the first term. This is a good opportunity to work closely with a scholar that you like.
Are there other strengths or challenges you’d like to mention (college location, spirituality, future job prospects, etc.)?
For the Jewish Studies degree the program is located at Yarnton Manor, about 4 miles northwest of Oxford. Accomodations, irrespective of the individual college assignments, are provided at the manor. This is nice because it’s a quite and beautiful estate in the country, but it’s quite annoying to get around since most don’t bother buying a car. There’s a shuttle that runs several times a day, and on shopping trips twice a week, but the times can be quite inconvenient. The accommodations for married students are much bigger than for single students (single rooms with shared bathrooms), but it’s still pretty small.
The Bodleian is one of the biggest libraries in the UK and students will pretty much have to use it for their classes. It’s tricky because you don’t check books out. You request books and go read them there in the library. It can get aggravating, but they are a copyright library and so have (or are supposed to have) a copy of every book published in the UK. Each college then has its own library and there are libraries connected with different departments across campus. There are over 100 in Oxford.
Being a Latter-day Saint here is not incredibly difficult (well, for me as a married student, anyway). Most people are Church of England or Jewish (especially in my program), and very few are antagonistic toward any faiths. Every event sponsored by the University, the individual colleges, or the Centre (for Hebrew and Jewish Studies) will serve wine, but they also have orange juice and apple juice (it’s the same university-wide). Going to pubs is a popular activity, but no one has ever gotten on my case about not drinking, and it’s often an interesting conversation piece, since they don’t know much about Mormons.