Tips for Studying in Oxford as an International Student

Feb 7, 2020Blog Articles, Get the Edge

Oxford has arguably been one of the world’s most famous university destinations for centuries. And with a wide range of world-class courses and a really beautiful setting, it’s unsurprising that 21,500 people applied for undergraduate study in 2018.

Coming to study in Oxford as an international student not only offers the opportunity to maximise your academic potential, but the chance to become a member of a global family.

Maybe you’ve always had your heart set on the University, or maybe you attended our Oxford summer school and fell in love with the city. But whatever your reasons for applying, we know it can be a bit daunting if you live outside the UK. So, we’ve put together a guide of what you can expect as an international student at Oxford University.

An international student skateboarding on the Oxford University campus

Things to know before applying to Oxford as an international student


Weird and wonderful local traditions

Chances are if you’re applying to Oxford, the city’s quirkiness is at least part of the reason. Oxford is incredibly unique, with traditions and festivities you’d be hard pushed to find anywhere else. A brilliant example of unique Oxford traditions this is the May Day (or May Morning), when the Magdalen College choir sing from the top of their college’s tower at dawn. Sometimes you’ll see crowds of students in gowns filling up the streets, making their way to the Sheldonian Theatre for Matriculation or Graduation ceremonies, or to the Examination Schools to take their exams. If you don’t know anything about these traditions, don’t worry! Even the students from the UK will be in the same boat as you, as many of the things that make Oxford so distinctive don’t happen anywhere else in the UK! 


Oxford is tiny!

This might surprise you, especially if you come from a large metropolis. Compared to the number of students and tourists it gets, Oxford is actually quite small, especially the city centre. Most of the University’s colleges are crammed in the same three streets: Broad Street, Turl Street, and the High Street. A lot of the libraries are very close by too. This may feel quite claustrophobic at times, particularly if it’s not what you’re used to. But for the small space that it occupies, Oxford hosts a huge variety of people, uniquely managing to make the small, old town just as vibrant and bustling as a big, modern city.


Making friends 

As an international student, you may be worried about making friends in Oxford. How will you get along with the home students? Will you be able to meet people from your own country?

In a city so busy and full of young people, the possibilities for making friends really are endless. For many students at the University of Oxford, the starting place for getting to know people is their own college. This is where they sleep, eat and often have their tutorials. There, you will meet a mix of both British students and fellow international students. Another good way to meet people is through university societies. There’s an International Society, as well as groups representing many different countries or regions. There are also sports teams, student newspapers, subject societies and many more; you can find a full list of Oxford student clubs here


There are a lot of international students

As an international student at Oxford, you really won’t be alone! The University of Oxford says that international students make up 43% of their undergraduate intake. On graduate courses, international students make up more than half (64%) of the intake. There are also visiting students, who attend another university abroad and come to Oxford for up to a year to experience studying here.

Oxford has had innumerable famous alumni, and a lot of them have been international students. These impressive ranks include HM King Abdullah II of Jordan, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto, and former US President Bill Clinton. More examples of famous Oxonians can be found here


Applying to Oxford as an international student


So you’ve decided that Oxford is for you. What next?


Two universities

Firstly, it’s important to note that there are two universities in the city of Oxford: the University of Oxford, and Oxford Brookes University. These offer very different courses and have slightly different locations. Brookes is a campus university and has four sites a little further away from the city centre, which is more dominated by the University of Oxford.


The EU and university fees

Another essential difference is that between EU students and non-EU students. Currently, EU students pay ‘Home fees’ of £9,250  a year, and are eligible for a loan from the Student Loans Company, while non-EU students (often referred to simply as International Students) pay annual fees of £26,235 and do not have access to UK government funding. However, the fee status for EU students may be subject to change in the next few years due to the UK’s exit from the EU. The University of Oxford has a fee calculator and scholarship search available here.


The University application process

Guidelines to the application process for international students can be found on the Oxford University and the Oxford Brookes websites. A couple of important things to note are that all undergraduate applications to university in the UK are done through the online platform UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). UCAS is quite easy to use – just make an account and it will guide you through the application process. 

If you’re applying to Oxford University, the first stage of application will often involve sitting an exam. For international students, this may require a bit of travelling to reach your nearest test centre, depending on where you live. If you are successful in this stage of the application, you will be called for an interview. For international students, there is the option for Skype interviews, to save you the cost of flights. These are usually organised by the college you’ve applied to and your current school, to ensure you have the same interview conditions as everybody else.

Coming to Oxford from overseas

Tips for arriving in Oxford


Congratulations on your successful application! What do you need to know before arriving in the city of dreaming spires?



Check with your college about things like access to kitchen facilities. They will tell you what you can and can’t bring, and whether you need to bring your own bedding. When travelling by plane, all of this adds up! So consider buying the bulkier items when you arrive.

Remember plug adaptors! They’re small and easy to forget, but can be bought at most airports. It’s easier to get them before you reach the UK, as many shops here only stock adaptors from UK plugs to international ones.

Consider getting a UK bank account once you arrive. This will make handling your finances a lot easier.



When getting to and from London Heathrow airport, Gloucester Green bus station is your friend. Train journeys in the UK can be very expensive, and while coaches sometimes take a bit longer, they’re comfortable and convenient. And they’re usually a lot cheaper.



Oxford terms are quite short at only eight weeks, and vacations are comparatively long. This is ideal if you have a long flight home, or are feeling homesick.

Typically, college accommodation requires students to completely move out of their rooms at the end of every term. This may seem inconvenient, but most colleges do also offer storage space, particularly for international students. It’s unlikely that you’ll have to take every possession all the way home with you three times a year. If you rent privately, as some students do in their second and third years, your tenancy will probably last 11 or 12 months. This means you can leave as much as you like during the vacations.

Not everyone rushes straight back home. Some international students choose to use their vacations to make the most of being in Europe and travel around the continent. What you do with your vacation is your choice, as long as you don’t forget everything you’ve learned!


How to make the best of international student programs


So how can you make the most out of being an international student? You have three or four years, depending on your course length. How can you ensure that you’ll leave feeling fulfilled and prepared for the next chapter? 

One of the best ways to get stuck in to any kind of university life is to join student groups and societies. From music groups, choirs, sports clubs and subjects, to more niche societies for people who are into Lego, Harry Potter or Ultimate Frisbee, there truly is something for everyone.

If you want to get to know the city of Oxford, start a project or do some volunteering. Not only is it a great excuse to get a break from the library, but it introduces you to the local community outside of the university walls. The Oxford Hub website is the best place to start, showcasing opportunities ranging from hosting tea parties with the elderly to tutoring in schools.

Finally, don’t forget to throw yourself into the local opportunities you’ll be given to do some typically ‘Oxford’ things. There really is nowhere else like it, so take full advantage of the traditions that make the city such a uniquely enchanting and ancient place of learning. 




Everyone’s Oxford experience is unique, so try not to fixate on one particular idea you have of the University and keep an open mind. Chances are, you’ll love it! Also, remember it will be helpful to maintain a strong support system outside of your studies. So don’t neglect your home friendships and remember to call your family every once in a while.

If you are considering Oxford as an international student, know that you will be one of many others, and while it may seem intimidating, you have nothing to be afraid of. When applying, be aware of the application process and any information that will be relevant to you, such as the fees you will have to pay.

If you are successful in your application and choose to come to Oxford, adopt a practical mindset, make sure you organise your packing well, and have a great time!


Next Steps for International Students


Want a taste of Oxford life?

Our summer schools are situated in the heart of the city, making them a great choice to try out Oxford life before you apply!