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A Day In The Life Of An Oxford Humanities Student

2nd September 2019

Studying a humanities or social science at university makes for a very different lifestyle as compared to a science student. Work is mostly done independently, and you have much more flexibility in your schedule.

This blog post details a typical humanities or social science student's day.


Most humanities and social science students have around 5 or 6 lectures per week. Economics lectures for example start at 10am or 11am. These are held in your faculty department, or sometimes in the Examination Schools building. Lectures are attended by students from any college who take your subject, and are often shared between a few degree courses. For example, Economics lectures are attended by PPE students, Economics & Management students, and by History & Economics students. Lectures tend to last an hour or two, and it is advised that you bring a laptop or notebook with you. You might have even done some pre-reading for your lectures.

Summer school students touring Oxford University college
University building in Oxford


Learning via lectures is one of the key differences between school and university. Lectures take place in a large lecture hall, and are generally attended by a lot more students than a typical A-level class. In first year lecturers may even print out hand outs for you, and you might choose to print these out yourself in later years to follow along. You can usually ask questions as they go along, although sometimes the lecturer will prefer you to wait until the end.

Top tip: timetable half an hour for yourself to go over a lecture and write it up as soon as possible after it’s finished. This way the content will still be fresh in your mind, and you can ask questions to clear up any misunderstandings. This will help with the jump in difficulty from A-level to university, and your future self will thank you when it comes to exams!


Once you've cycled (or walked!) back from your lecture, students tend to eat in hall (your college cafeteria). Meals tend to cost around £3, and each college has some vegetarian and meat options, with staff often able to cater for other needs if you let them know in advance. This is an opportunity to see friends who don't do your subject, or perhaps those who slept in this morning...

After lunch lots of students tend to sit in college quads, which can be especially nice during the summer. Some colleges even allow you to walk on the grass! This is often where Oxford University prospectus photos come from. It's also a good window to grab coffee with friends and get caffeinated for an afternoon of reading or writing. 

Oxford university formal dinner laid out in hall

1PM - LIbrary

Its now time to start or continue your reading for your next essay or worksheet. This is the most time consuming part of your Oxford experience, as you will need to have read a real range of sources just to produce one essay (and you normally write two essays per week). The amount of reading required means that you should be sure that you're interested enough in your subject to spend hours alone learning about it. Not sure what you're interested in? Have a look at our subjects page.

Oxford has a brillaint variety of libraries available for you to work in. Every college has its own library with books for every subject, and then some departments has an individual library with more in depth reading materials. For those without their own department, there are materials in libraries such as the social science library, or the radcliffe science library. Pictured is also the Bodleian library, Oxford Universities central library. For students at Hertford and Brasenose, its entrance is a stones throw away from your door!

Oxford university students playing lacrosse


Most students will get involved in something extra curricular during their time at Oxford. Both Oxford and Cambridge are unique in that both universities operate a college based system. Each college is its own little community, and each has a few sports teams that you can join for some not too serious running around! Typical sports teams include football, netball, rugby, and in summer hockey or rounders.

For those who are less sporty, there is often far more available at Oxford than you could possibly fit into your schedule. 

5PM - HEAD back to college

Head back to your college accommodation for a shower, and to get some more reading in before dinner.


This might again be in you college hall, or perhaps you'll branch out and cook for yourself, or have a meal out with friends. College accommodation can really vary in terms of whether there are kitchens or places to sit and eat that aren't your desk, but generally facilities get better as you move up to 2nd and 3rd year.

There is a wide selection of restaurants and quick eateries around Oxford. Many will also offer a student discount, so you don't have to worry about ever going hungry! 

Mission Burrito cafe in Oxford


 Depending on when your next deadline is, you may spend the evening working to prepare work for your next tutorial. Each student generally has 2 per week, though your deadline may be before this. If there’s no looming deadlines then students will often start to socialise at around 9, heading to the college bar, a “bop” (a party in college) or out into town. Having this to look forward to is a great motivator to finish the week’s work in time.

Getting used to managing your days more independently than you would at school is a challenge, and it can often be a shock to students who are used to having a structured timetable. The students who tend to react best to this change are those who really care about their subject, and want to learn, otherwise, a cycle of procrastination and stress can be quite tiring. Once you're on top of your degree, Oxford life becomes far more rewarding, and a work-life balance is definitely achievable.