The Oxford Tutorial

Student working with Oxford professor

In both the Fall and Spring IHON-Oxford programs, students first take an intensive, place-based seminar with the PLU faculty member serving as site director at Oxford for that semester. Later, students take both primary and secondary tutorials, either during Oxford’s Michaelmas (Fall) term or Trinity (Spring) term. The primary tutorials are on a subject of the student’s choosing (often relating to his/her major or minor at PLU), while students choose the secondary tutorial (which counts for IHON 200-level credit) from a list of interdisciplinary topics.

Review examples of tutorials students have completed in the past here.

Learn more about the Oxford tutorial here.


What is a tutorial?

In the tutorial, students meet individually or sometimes in groups of two with an Oxford scholar, who designs a curriculum based on the student’s academic requirements and interests. Sometimes the syllabus is laid out in advance; sometimes the shape of the tutorial is determined by the progress of the conversation between tutor and student. Each week, students spend 10–20 hours working through scientific articles, scholarly literature, or literary works relating to the week’s topic, and then draft an essay of approximately 2,000 words on a question which the tutor has assigned. The tutor and student then discuss the essay during the one-hour meeting.   

What is the difference between a primary and a secondary tutorial?

The primary tutorial meets once a week for one hour during the 8 weeks of Michaelmas or Trinity terms. Before the program begins, students choose specific tutorial topics, and the IHON-Oxford Program Director — along with Dr. Lynn Robson at Regent’s Park and the current IHON-Oxford site director — find a suitable Oxford tutor. The secondary tutorial meets every other week during the 8-week Oxford term. For the secondary tutorial, students choose from among a number of interdisciplinary topics pre-arranged by the IHON-Oxford program with Oxford tutors. The secondary tutorial is otherwise similar to the primary tutorial: students research the week’s topic, write an essay, and discuss it with their tutor.

What are suitable subjects for tutorials?

IHON-Oxford students have completed tutorials in many different disciplines, from Physics to Biology to Forced Migration Studies to English Literature. However, the tutorial system is best suited to topics which involve research and writing: tutorials cannot replace PLU lab classes.

Click here to see what kinds of tutorials students have done in the past.

How do I arrange major or minor credit at PLU for my tutorial?

Students should begin to consult with their major or minor advisors at PLU once they have been accepted to the program. Advisors and students can consult this site for examples of previous IHON-Oxford tutorials in their discipline. Upon returning to PLU, students can present the tutorial syllabus and a portfolio of work to the major or minor department.

Please note that the IHON-Oxford site director’s course, along with the secondary tutorial, have been pre-approved for IHON program credit — students do not need to fill out an assignment of credit form for the IHON classes they will take at Oxford.

Do tutorials have syllabi?

Tutorials sometimes have syllabi which are fixed in advance. But often the assigned work follows the direction of the conversation between the tutor and the student.

How do I document my tutorial for my home (PLU) department?

All tutorials are distinct, and syllabi and weekly work may take many different forms. Students should be prepared to provide to their major or minor department a schedule of topics discussed and readings assigned, as well as copies of completed weekly assignments.

Can I take tutorials only from professors at Regent's Park College or St. Benet's Hall?

No. We can draw on tutors from across all of Oxford’s colleges.

Can I participate in IHON-Oxford if my major includes lots of labs, or practicums, or simply has lots of required classes and credits? (such as Elementary Education, Biology, Chemistry, Nursing, etc.)

Yes! We have had participants in the program from all the above majors and programs, as well as many others. Note that two of your classes in IHON-Oxford will count towards IHON, and one (the primary tutorial) can count towards your major/program — so it’s almost always possible to make space for the program.

Example Tutorials:

Priya McBride, ’16, Biology: 

My Botany Tutorial was led by Oxford Professor Mr. Timothy Walker, Lecturer in Plant Sciences at Somerville College. Each week I was assigned an essay topic and given a list of readings pertaining to that topic. After researching the essay topic, I then wrote an essay of approximately  2,000 to 2,500 words, answering the prompt. For each essay I spent about 10–20 hours researching the topic prior to writing the essay. After writing each essay I would email it to my professor, and we would discuss it at our next meeting. My professor and I met for an hour once a week for the eight week period. Prior to each meeting my professor would email me written comments on each of my submitted essays and those comments generally served as a guide for our discussion that day.


Marc Vetter, ’17, Individualized Major:

My tutorial had two main parts — during the first 4 weeks of the class, topics discussed revolved mostly around the various mechanisms used to provide health care by developed countries, including Singapore, the UK, the US, Canada, France, and Germany. In particular, we discussed to what degree health care provision is privatized, centralized, and efficient in each of these countries. During The last 4 weeks, we focused on becoming familiar with various techniques for measuring the cost-effectiveness of treatments and screening, including both static and dynamic models. The final project revolved around constructing a dynamic Markov model to compare the effects (in terms of Quality Adjusted Life Years) of following a regimen of a new cancer drug compared with simply providing palliative care.

MARC’S TUTORIAL COUNTED AS ECON 323, Introduction to Health Economics

Student Perspectives:

  • Matthew:  In my tutorial, I practiced inquiry into multiple academic disciplines, as I was reading from disciplines including (but not limited to) history, philosophy, english and communication. More importantly, I was able to hone these lessons by consistently writing and engaging in “thoughtful critical analysis.”
  • Rainey: Another thing I loved about the tutorial experience was that although many of these topics were things I had learned about in previous classes, focusing on them in such depth brought greater meaning and detail to my understanding of the issue — something you might otherwise only find in a more focused curriculum, or research-based class.