Jargon buster

Oxford can sometimes seem a bit strange and intimidating because it almost has its own language. But you’ll soon get used to it once you arrive…

This is a guide to just the basics.


That’s us! As an MSc or a DPhil student, you’ll be a member of the Department of Education. It’s where you’ll study, drink coffee and spend most of your time.


Departments are grouped into Divisions by broad academic area. We’re in the Social Science Division!


But you’ll also be a member of a college… Colleges are independent, self-governing bodies. There are 38 of them in total. When you join your college, you’ll be a member of the college MCR which stands for Middle Common Room. This is the college body of graduate students. It may also literally be a room put aside for your use.


An Oxford PhD. It stands for ‘Doctor of Philosophy’.


This stands for Probationer Research Student. It means you are in your first year of your DPhil.


Oxford has three terms, each lasting for 8 weeks. The first term of the year (October through to December) is called Michaelmas. The second term of the year is known as Hilary and usually runs from late January through to March. The last term is called Trinity (usually beginning in May and ending at the end of in June). Each week of term is referred to by a number, from 1 to 8.  Week 0 (noughth week) is the week before term begins and week 9 is the week after term ends.

Just to make it really confusing, the University also sometimes makes a distinction between the dates of term and the dates of full term. Full term is the 8 weeks of teaching.

The long summer between the end Trinity term and the start of the new academic year in October is called the Long Vac.


Before you can become an official member of the University, you have to matriculate. This is a ceremony that takes place near the start of term in the Sheldonian Theatre. It will be arranged by your college.

Sub Fusc

You’ll have to wear this to matriculate, and if you take any formal examinations. It consists of an academic gown, a white shirt and a black suit, and a white bow tie or a black ribbon.

BOD Card

This is simply the Oxford name for your university identification card – it stands for Bodleian Libraries Card.


These are officials in charge of University regulation and discipline.


A member of the academic teaching staff, who is a member of a college (also known as a college Fellow or Don).


A meeting between you and your tutor to discuss your work.


Candidates who satisfactorily complete a DPhil are granted ‘Leave to supplicate’, which means they can go to a degree ceremony and receive their DPhil.

Basically: they passed.  Yay.


Short for Viva Voce: an oral exam. DPhil students are required to have one in order to pass. Sometimes MSc students may be invited to a viva under special circumstances

Page last modified: July 27, 2015