A typical week

A Week In The Life Of…
MSc Education Students

For many of those who come to study for an MSc at Oxford, their actual experience is very different from what they imagined or expected. So here goes: a typical week for an MSc Education student during the first (Michaelmas) or second (Hilary) term of the academic year.


On Mondays, our PGCE students have classes all day, and they fill most of our seminar rooms. So if you are an MSc student, you don’t have any taught sessions on a Monday. Therefore, today is a chance to complete the reading for the week ahead, and prepare any presentations or classwork that has been requested.

The department has a weekly public seminar on Mondays at 5pm during term.  This offers an opportunity to hear a visiting speaker talk about their current research or policy developments. If you are feeling brave, you could also ask a probing question. Often they are ‘big names’ in their field, but that does not mean they have all the answers.


Every MSc Education student attends one of their core courses this morning. Most teaching starts at 9.30, and the taught courses last for between 2 to 3 hours, some with breaks midway. These classes will have between 10 and 20 students, and will involve a mix of lectures, group work, discussions and student presentations. There may also be a further class in the afternoon, depending on whether you are taking one of the non-compulsory courses. Lunch might be a sandwich in our Common room, a walk to North Parade for a snack, or a chance to go back to your college.


This morning, all the MSc Education students squeeze into our biggest lecture theatre for a shared lecture on the Foundations of Educational Research course. This lasts an hour, and is designed to equip you with the basic knowledge of social research, from ethics to access, designing questionnaires to analyzing data. After the lecture is the department’s weekly coffee morning, where staff and students alike come to chat and meet new faces. Then there is a 90-minute follow-up session, and the chance to discuss the lecture further within your course groups.

We try not to timetable too much teaching on Wednesday afternoon, so there may be time to get to the library or to go to one of the many seminars, reading groups or visiting speaker events organised by the research groups in the department. Don’t forget to check what else is on in the university, and to attend relevant research seminars and talks in other departments.


More taught courses today, usually in the morning, and sometimes in the afternoon too. No rest just yet.  There are also classes, lectures and seminars held all over the university – lots of our students go to the Oxford Learning Institute on a Thursday afternoon to attend the public seminar series.


No MSc classes today, as the PGCE students are often back in the department from their school placements.  Friday is the chance to catch up with reading or prepare for the following week. It may also be a chance to meet your supervisor or work on your research dissertation.

Saturday and Sunday

Because the term is so short, you will find yourself reading and working each weekend. Our library is open in the afternoons. But don’t forget to take some time off, and to make the most of what Oxford has to offer.

MSc ALSLA Students

The typical week will feel rather different for MSc ALSLA (Applied Linguistics) students, mainly because many of your courses are timetabled for the late afternoon (to cater for some of the part-time students). There are also a series of full-day training sessions. If you are an MSc ALSLA student, nearly all your classes are taken together across the street in our Bruner building, so you’ll never feel lost.

DPhil Students

What if you are a DPhil student? Your first PRS (Probationer Research Student) year is equally demanding of time, as you take a range of required research training courses, usually held on Wednesday and Thursdays.  You’ll join the MSc Education students for Foundations of Educational Research, as well as Qualitative and Quantitative method seminars.

After that, you are much more on your own. Whether in term or the vacation, each week will involve independent work preparing and carrying out your research. All the more reason to go to seminars and events during term, and to find as many opportunities as possible to present your ideas.

A Final Word

Oxford terms are intense and jam-packed. Most of the teaching happens in the first two terms – Michaelmas and Hilary. Each is only 8 weeks long, and there is always lots happening: classes, seminars, visiting speakers. The trick is to not get too overwhelmed. Do as much reading and preparation as possible before term starts. Plan which speakers you want to hear. And don’t forget to fit in the rest of life too.

What of the weeks before and after term? 0th week and 9th week are also demanding. You are likely to have written assignments due for each course you have taken, either at the end of term or the start of the next. So that means reading, thinking, writing and more reading. And 10th week? A chance to catch up on sleep.

The third and final term (Trinity) is a bit different. It has little formal teaching timetabled. Instead you will be busy carrying out research and/or writing up your dissertation. Empirical research takes time and energy, and the final submission deadline (mid-August, or the end of August for ALSLA students) comes up all too quickly.

Finally, lots of time to go punting.

Page last modified: July 27, 2015