Biology is taught using a mixture of lectures, skills training (including field courses), classes, and tutorials. Lectures are designed to tell you about the important issues, theories, and research in biology, while skills training gives you the tools you need to become a modern biologist.
We also use small group teaching for experimental design and quantitative data analysis. Extra reading is encouraged, and this should increase as the course progresses.
Oxford University’s greatest asset is the tutorial system. This system means that you are likely to receive much more personal tuition and greater pastoral support than other universities can offer. The tutorial usually consists of a one-hour meeting, once a week, between the tutor and two/three students.
The tutorials are beneficial to students as they help develop key transferable skills, particularly evidence-based communication, critical thinking, and problem solving. The skills developed during tutorial teaching are indispensable for a number of diverse careers. Tutorials can vary in style but often, before the tutorial, your tutor will set you an essay to write and provide you with a reading list. You hand in the essay before the tutorial, which is read and commented on by your tutor, and handed back at the start of the tutorial.
The discussion during the tutorial goes beyond the original topic, giving you a chance to talk about your own ideas and opinions. Most first-year tutorials take place in your college with your college tutors. In later years, most students have tutorials with a wide range of tutors, depending on their interests.
You will be required to perform a range of lab, field, and computer-based investigations in the first three years of the biology course. These provide essential practical skills and knowledge to prepare you to engage with your own research in the optional MBiol year. Most lab practicals include a pre-lab session that must be completed before you enter the lab. In the first year, there are a small number of carefully selected dissections that have been designed with animal welfare and conservation principles in mind.
For the second-year skills courses, you choose from the different courses on offer — though due to limitations on the number of places, we cannot guarantee that you will get your first-choice course.