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WISC - The Largest Oxford Program

Selective Colleges | Associate Members | Thirteen Week Program | Registered Visiting Students | Twelve-day Orientation | Advice from Former Students

The WISC office in Central Oxford
(Chester House)

Together with cooperating programs of U.S. colleges, WISC is by far the largest overseas study program in Oxford, with over 400 students last year. Since 1985 we have brought to Oxford students from 46 states who had previously studied in over 550 colleges and universities. These students have come from such leading colleges as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, Penn, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, Tufts, Duke, Stanford, the University of Chicago, the University of California, the University of Virginia, etc.

Another example of the diversity of WISC students: Butler University operates one of the biggest study abroad programs and has a large National Advisory Council of 111 colleges and universities from across the U.S. Students who have come through WISC previously studied at 80 colleges (72%) of that group of leading colleges.

Since June 1999, WISC has been offering a prize (now $200,000) to the first reader who can name an equal overseas program anywhere. After over ten years we have not yet received a single entry (please see below).

WISC is also, as far as we know, the only educational institution in the world which offers a money-back guarantee if even one of our 21 specific promises is not kept. We have been doing this since 1994 and no one has asked for a refund. And, no one has emailed us to say "we do that too."


"I was taught by two Professors [holders of Chairs, usually only one don in the University in each subject], both of whom were Fellows of the British Academy. My academic program could not have been better."
AS, Brown University

WISC is also the oldest Visiting Student program (open to all qualified students) in Oxford, founded in 1987.

In addition, the WISC program is unique in several other important ways. The academic program for Visiting Students may be assumed to be essentially of the same quality at every Oxford College. WISC, however, supplies many added benefits, which, as far as we know, are not offered by any other overseas program in Oxford (there are several such programs conducted by U.S. colleges).

No one else offers a wide choice of housing (with photos) in advance or housing with British students in the very center of Oxford (St. Michael's Street, etc), or five educational tours per term as part of a core course on Britain or a medical plan with reduced costs. No other program has a British student adviser (paid by WISC) in each college to provide constant assistance with social integration.


"The academic program was excellent. WISC's organisation has been superior."
SS, Cornell University

WISC is able to supply such added benefits because we have a large office in the center of Oxford with a staff of seven to help students in many ways. No other program has a sizeable office in Oxford. (If anyone knows of another program that offers comparable benefits, we would like to know, and will cite it in our next edition. We have been asking this question since 1999 and have yet to receive a single reply).

Oxford's Medieval Colleges Are Very Selective

Students interested in Oxford may have friends who studied there last year. If so, you have probably noticed that most of the Visiting Student places are in the newer colleges of the University. Many American students prefer the newest colleges (chartered in the last few decades) as they are regarded by American students as more "progressive", more friendly, and more like American colleges.

Other American students have said that they were pleased that WISC, because of its reputation in Oxford (based on over 25 years of experience), could recommend students for Visiting Student places in Medieval colleges. No other overseas program in Oxford open to all qualified students has made similar arrangements.

The nine Medieval, primarily undergraduate colleges have been very selective. These colleges, for instance, admitted about 70 Visiting Students for the 2011-2012 year and many of those students came from all over the world. Probably less than 50 of these Visiting Students places were for Americans. The total number of these scarce places offered by all the colleges to students from many countries was about 400.

Associate Members

A good number of qualified students prefer to apply for Associate Member status (because the College and University fees in Oxford are lower, the costs are substantially less). Many U.S. home colleges which work with WISC have told us that they prefer this status for their own students.

WISC conducts an associate program with several colleges of the University of Oxford for students with minimum indices of 3.2 ( the average index for last year was 3.7). Christ Church requires a 3.7. Although students are degree candidates of their home college and not of the University of Oxford, they are taught the same way and to the same standard by Oxford tutors who normally teach degree candidates. Graduate study is available.

Students may enrol for one term, two terms or the entire academic year. Qualified students recommended by WISC are Associate Members (affiliated members of their Junior Common Room) of their Oxford Colleges.

By prior arrangements, these students are academically supervised by their U.S. home colleges, not their College in Oxford. Students who applied for credit transfer through this system have always been awarded credit toward their home college degree; only the degree-awarding college can do this. These students made proper arrangements with their home college academic departments in advance and future students must do the same. Naturally, some study abroad advisors may not be familiar with WISC-in-Oxford. If so, please let us know right away and we can supply the names of U.S. professors who have recently visited Oxford (some for an academic year) and seen this program for themselves. Students may receive an overseas study transcript from an accredited private U.S. University, the University of the Pacific, in Stockton, California. Associate Members are under the discipline and pastoral care of WISC but they must obey College rules. It is essential to apply in advance of the Oxford term for this transcript.

Associate Members are eligible for the same housing (including possible college rooms) in the very center of Oxford (with British students) as Visiting Students. All the added benefits of WISC are included in their program

As we stress in our Student Handbook and elsewhere, there are some limitations on facilities outside students' host colleges, in which they have many privileges, including borrowing rights in the host college's library. They have full use of the University Library (the Bodleian). They may not borrow from the faculty libraries. Most Oxford Colleges we work with offer e-mail and computer facilities. A laptop computer in Oxford might be useful. Students may use e-mail and printers in the WISC office. Wireless internet access exists in all WISC housing.

All WISC Students Now Have Full Use of
the Main Oxford University Library

For several years we (and others) have been talking with officials of the University libraries system. We have tried to convince them that there is no good reason why students with Oxford College privileges should not be permitted to use these libraries on the same basis as degree candidates or Visiting Students (who pay higher fees).

We have offered to pay higher fees to the University Library for greater privileges for our students – this seems only fair.

Starting in the Fall term 2007 the Bodleian (the Main University Library) has agreed to offer full use of this library to Associate Members of Oxford colleges on the same basis as degree candidates, in return for higher fees.

That is, Associate Members will be able to use the Bodleian from 9 am to 10 pm on weekdays and from 9 am to 1 pm on Saturdays. They will also have access to most of the Faculty (Departmental) Libraries, all of which have their own regulations.

Students From U.S. Law Schools May Study in Oxford for One
Semester or For a Summer Session

We have received, over the past 20 years, several graduate students currently enrolled in U.S. Law Schools.

They have been able to study in Oxford tutorials with eminent legal scholars, such as Sir David Yardley, D.Phil. (Oxon)

A good number of courses are useful to U.S. Law students, such as The History of the English Common Law, the Philosophy of Law, Jurisprudence, Human Rights Law, Roman Law, Natural Law, Law of the European Union, International Law, Maritime Law, etc.

If you, or a friend, would be interested in studying Law in Oxford for one semester (usually in the Second Year) please contact our office for more details.

Registered Visiting Students

WISC has made arrangements with several colleges in Oxford to consider one year or one term students who meet certain qualifications and who are recommended by us.

Together with its cooperating programs, the WISC overseas program in Oxford hosts the largest number of students each year (400 last year).

Since 1987, WISC has gradually made arrangements to recommend highly qualified students to study as Registered Visiting Students (with University privileges) in six of Oxford University's 45 colleges and halls. WISC works with more colleges and halls than any other overseas study program.

No other program offers students the opportunity to study as Visiting Graduate Students in three of the graduate colleges of Oxford - St. Antony's, Linacre and St. Cross.

No other program has built up relationships over many years with two of the nine medieval colleges of Oxford University - New College (1379) and Magdalen (1458). The older colleges are collectively more selective than the ten newer colleges which offered about 280 Visiting Student places to Americans in 2011-2012. The nine oldest colleges offered less than 70 of these scarce places to American students.

Registered Visiting Students are full members of their colleges and have university privileges on the same basis as degree candidates. They have full use of the university library (the Bodleian) and the faculty (departmental) libraries and may normally use laboratory facilities. They have the same rights to attend University Lectures, seminars and classes as do candidates for Oxford degrees (which they are not). Students in the natural sciences are definitely welcome. Visiting Students are invited to a Fall orientation provided by the University of Oxford.


"WISC is the best academic study abroad program in Oxford".
KB, Hamilton College

Such qualified students, recommended by WISC, receive letters from college officers officially admitting them to an Oxford College, they are academically supervised by the college and taught in the same way and to the same standards as degree candidates. At the end of their studies they receive academic records directly from the college (not from a U.S. educational institution) authorized by the University, confirming they are registered as Visiting Students.

We must stress that we can only recommend students; admission is always entirely the responsibility of the Oxford college.

Applicants for Magdalen College should have completed two years of university with a minimum GPA of 3.7 and have two strong recommendations from professors. In practice, given the competition among excellent students for the scarce places, successful candidates will probably come from the best U.S. colleges and have GPAs above 3.8 with exceptional recommendations.

Although applicants for the academic year will be given preference, the colleges are aware that some students are only able to study abroad for one term and therefore one-term applicants will be considered. Such students are able to apply for any term, not only the Fall term or for the combined Winter and Spring terms.

Why the WISC Visiting Student Program in Oxford Meets NAFSA's Best Standard

NAFSA: Association of International Educators has said that the ideal overseas study program is one in which the student is fully integrated (academically and socially) into the foreign university and also has the benefit of an American presence nearby to provide added benefits and to make certain that the particular needs of American students are met. This is exactly the program for Visiting Students that we have created in Oxford.

We have a staff of seven in our Oxford office, including two who work on housing alone (there are always repairs to be made, etc.) We are able to deal with students' problems quickly. We also are able to facilitate many opportunities for the students (language study, practical art, internships, future graduate study, visits to Parliament, etc.) as well as educational tours, a core lecture course on Britain, a thorough orientation, pastoral care, a medical plan, etc., etc..

Thirteen Week Program

The colleges that we are working with are aware that American students often are only able to study abroad for one term or semester (due to course requirements at home, finances, etc.) If they accept a Visiting Student for one term they naturally wish to be sure that he or she will receive a substantial and coherent academic program.

The eight week period is that part of the Oxford term during which the University lectures are given. As an example, according to the Oxford University Calendar (p. iv) the Michaelmas (Fall) Term 2000 starts on October 1 and ends on December 17. Degree candidates normally arrive in zero week (the week before the first week of the eight weeks period) to meet with their supervisor regarding the term's courses, etc. Tutorial courses may extend into ninth or tenth week. According to experienced tutors, most degree candidates do academic work for at least 39 weeks a year (an average of 13 weeks a term). An important point is that Oxford degree candidates normally work on reading lists during the three vacation periods. The Oxford Classics Handbook says that "vacation study is vital" (p.11).

The Vice-Chancellor recently confirmed this view of the Oxford academic year in the Oxford Gazette. He wrote "... attention is being given to ways in which existing practices may be formalized to make explicit the fact that the academic year at Oxford is more nearly the thirty week year of other institutions, and not, as is commonly assumed, a twenty-four week year."

WISC will ensure that Visiting Students will be in residence for 13 weeks a term and will (depending on the individual college) normally study in two primary tutorial courses of nine tutorial sessions each. Alternatively, in some cases, three secondary courses of six tutorials each might be educationally desirable. Senior fellows also expect to consult with the Visiting Student's U.S. professors to work out the best academic program for him or her.

Associate Members are also guaranteed residence for at least thirteen weeks.

This will mean that a Visiting Student could properly earn 13-14 U.S. semester credits over the 12-13 weeks of intensive academic work.

One year or two-term students do not have to move in the two 'vacation' periods and there is no extra charge for that vacation housing. Students may remain in their housing in the summer (after July 8) for a subsidised fee.

If you are considering applying through another U.S. overseas program (as some students do), you should ask them specifically how many weeks of residence you will have. (Most offer only 8-9 weeks and students often must get their own housing in vacation periods if they come for two or three terms.) Also ask how many tutorials you will have (most offer only 12 tutorials in 8 weeks). Also, ask if the other program has an office and staff in Oxford to help you. (Several have no Oxford office.) The academic rankings of the colleges they work with may also be of interest. Ask about the "Norrington Tables."

You could also ask how many tours they offer, do they have a medical plan, is the housing with British students, what is the location, Is there a British student adviser in each college?

Twelve-day Orientation

We have found in our own experience in Oxford since 1985 that a 12-day orientation in Oxford is absolutely essential for overseas study. The students must learn about living in Oxford (banks, housing, transport, etc.) We also teach students how to write an Oxford essay (a particular art form), and how to use the libraries - there are many and they are very complex. They also should know something about the history of Oxford and how to get along with the British students and tutors ("understatements", "reserved at first", etc., etc.). We also provide tours of the art museum led by an art history tutor, of the Oxford colleges, of the surrounding countryside, etc. The Freshers' Fair introduces students to 300 clubs and teams. Colleges have their own induction activities which are important to help Visiting Students and Associate Members become better integrated into college life.

In this orientation period students meet their academic adviser to confirm the details of their courses and then with their personal tutors to plan jointly the particular topics. They start reading for their courses (which have been set up in advance, often in close consultation with home college professors) immediately upon arrival. For students who arrive in January or April, the same WISC orientation is provided.

Freshers' Fair and a full college orientation, as well as an orientation provided to Visiting Students by the University of Oxford, are offered at the start of the academic year only.

Advice From Former Students

We are able to put students who are interested in touch with alumni who are now back at their home colleges. They are always happy to discuss life in Oxford, as well as the academic program. We can usually connect you with a student from your own college or your academic subject. You may also contact Visiting Students who are now studying in Oxford. We also have many written evaluations from recent terms which are available.

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WISC Washington International Studies Council
Address: Crystal Plaza One • Suite 503A
2001 Jefferson Davis Highway
Arlington, VA 22202
Phone: (703) 418-3531
Fax: (703) 418-8109
Email: wisc@europe.com