Foundation Certificate in History

Course details

An exciting opportunity to study history at degree level.

Our two-year, part-time Foundation Certificate in History is equivalent to the first year of a full-time History degree at Oxford University.

This course will introduce you to the study of history through extended surveys of periods of modern British and European history. You will also be able to study an optional subject, such as the Spanish Civil War, in more detail. Working primarily from source material on this topic, you will have the chance to develop and refine the skills needed by a historian.

The course is taught through weekly evening seminars, supplemented by individual and paired tutorials. There is also one non-residential study week.

On successful completion of the Foundation Certificate, you will be able to apply for second-year entry to undergraduate history courses at the University of Oxford and other institutions. Over half of our students who have successfully finished the course have done so: their destinations include University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University, the University of Reading and King's College London.

(Please note that completing the course does not give you automatic right of entry to any institution. You will still have to apply for a place, in competition with other applicants.)

Online open event: Tuesday 22 February 2022

Join us on Tuesday 22 February 2022, from 5.30-7.00pm (UK time) for an online open event. Meet the Course Director, find out more about the course and have your questions answered. Find out more and register.

Coronavirus update

The safety of our students and staff is our top priority, and we are following Government guidance and University regulations, which are subject to change. The teaching on this course in the coming year is expected to take place in person, although we are prepared to move this teaching online (either fully or partly) should circumstances dictate. For example, should social distancing be necessary, we may opt to conduct teaching fully online, or to have some participants accessing teaching from home whilst others join us in the classroom. Offer-holders will be kept informed of all developments.

Who is this course for?

To do well in this course, you must have a keen interest in history and a strong motivation to study at undergraduate level. You should have an effective command of written English and enjoy in-depth discussion of historical issues.

Relevant qualifications and evidence of recent study are things we regard favourably, but you don’t have to have formal qualifications. If you have little or no recent experience of study or exams, don’t let this put you off applying. We will take into account your academic potential, your commitment to studying the subject in a structured way, and other considerations.

How you will study

The Foundation Certificate in History course consists of  weekly two-hour seminars (28 per year), usually held on Wednesday evenings.

We use a variety of teaching methods. In addition to lectures by the tutors, you will have the chance to work in small discussion groups and give short presentations on prepared topics to the class.

There is also a non-residential study week, during which you receive an intensive introduction to your chosen optional subject. For most students, the study week provides a valuable chance for full-time study, socialising with fellow students and easy access to our wide range of study facilities at Rewley House and within the University.

Essay writing is an integral part of the course. During each year of study our students write six essays and receive written feedback and tutorial support.

As well as attending classes, you are likely to need to undertake at least 12 hours of independent study per week. This will involve reading, making notes, preparing for class, writing essays and revising for exams.

In addition to attending the Foundation Certificate’s own weekly seminar programme, you can, for no extra payment, experience the wide range of lectures and seminars organised by the University’s Faculty of Modern History.

The course in detail

Course content

The Foundation Certificate in History consists of five elements:

1. British History 1485–1603

The sixteenth century was a period of turmoil and uncertainty but saw the emergence of the powerful Tudor dynasty, the birth pangs of the modern state, the establishment of a national Protestant church, an upsurge in economic growth and a flowering of the arts. Students examine the major political and religious developments of individual reigns and explore long-term changes in relations with Europe, the role of Parliament, economy and society, attitudes towards family and women and the use of culture to promote the image of monarchy.

2. British History 1900–1979

During this period Britain experienced profound political and social change: the themes studied include the impact of the two World Wars, the arrival of the Welfare State, and the end of Empire. Students also look at specific topics such as the Suffragette movement, the political extremism of the 1930s, and the debate over the post-1945 “consensus” in British politics.

3. European History 1815–1914

The nineteenth century saw the emergence of the European nation states amidst war, revolution and social conflict. This comparative course charts the major political developments of the period, but the main focus is on broad themes such as industrialisation, urbanisation and the growth of class and gender consciousness.

4. An optional subject

The optional subjects provide the opportunity for more detailed study of a specific topic using original source materials. Options previously offered include The Nobility and Gentry in England 1560-1640, The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 and The Age of Bede

5. Approaches to History

What is history?  Why do societies record and preserve their past? Students look at the evolution of history and at what historians can learn from other related disciplines such as art history, sociology and gender studies with particular reference to the social, political and religious life of nineteenth-century Britain.

Course structure

Classes meet once a week, usually on Wednesday evenings, starting with a pre-course induction meeting in September. There will be ten classes in the autumn and spring terms and eight classes in the summer term. There is also a study day at the start of the autumn term of the first year.

Year 1

  • Pre-course induction session

Michaelmas term

  • Historical skills day
  • Introduction to History (Week 1), British History 1485–1603 (Weeks 2–10)
  • 2 assessed essays

Hilary term

  • British History 1485–1603 (Weeks 1–3), European History 1815–1914 (Weeks 4–10)
  • 2 assessed essays

Trinity term

  • European History 1815–1914 (Weeks 1–6), Revision and exam preparation (Weeks 7–8)
  • 2 assessed essays
  • Examination in British History 1485–1603
  • Examination in European History 1815–1914

Year 2

  • Study week (optional subject) - provisionally 4-8 September 2023
  • 1 assessed essay

Michaelmas term

  • Optional subject (Weeks 1–5), Approaches to History (Weeks 6–10)
  • 2 assessed essays

Hilary term

  • Approaches to History (Weeks 1–5), British History 1900–1979 (Weeks 6–10)
  • 2 assessed essays

Trinity term

  • British History 1900–1979 (Weeks 1–6), Revision and exam preparation (Weeks 7-8)
  • 2 assessed essays
  • Examinations in optional subject and British History 1900–1979


Assessment is based both on coursework (essays) and on written examinations held at the end of each of the two years.

Examinations: at the end of each year there will be two unseen written exams.

IT requirements

To study at this level you are expected to have some IT skills, access to a computer and the internet. Your course requires you to engage with the Virtual Learning Environment for course materials and uses the Department’s online assignment submission system. Students need to have regular access to a computer and the internet, and some level of experience and skill including the use of Microsoft Word or similar word-processing package, email and internet browser such as Firefox or Google Chrome.

The computer you use should meet our recommended minimum computer specification.

Teaching staff

The Course Director is Professor Tom Buchanan.

Tom Buchanan is Professor of Modern British and European History at OUDCE and a Fellow of Kellogg College. He primarily teaches British and European history since 1815. He has a particular research interest in the Spanish Civil War and is the author of three books which examine the impact on Britain of that conflict. He has recently published a book on ‘Amnesty International and Human Rights activism in postwar Britain.

Andrew Hopper is Professor of Local and Social History at OUDCE and a Fellow of Kellogg College. He primarily teaches early modern British history. He is an expert on the British and Irish Civil Wars of the mid-seventeenth century. He is the Principal Investigator of the Civil War Petitions project and is currently researching a book entitled Widowhood and Bereavement in the English Civil Wars.

Much of the academic support you receive will come from the Course Directors, whom you can contact at any time during office hours. In addition, the Department runs a programme of Study Skills workshops, for full details of the programme please contact +44 (0)1865 280892.

Credit transfer scheme

Students who successfully complete this two-year course will be awarded an Oxford University Foundation Certificate in History, equivalent to 120 CATS points at first-year undergraduate level (FHEQ Level 4) in the Department’s Qualifications and Credit Framework. These credit points are widely recognised in terms of credit for transfer to other higher education institutions, including the Open University and modular universities such as Oxford Brookes University. Opportunities vary for the transfer of credit, so students who are considering taking this course in order to transfer credit are advised to discuss the possibilities with the Course Administrator on +44 (0)1865 280154.

Contact information

If you would like an informal discussion on academic matters before applying you may contact:

Professor Tom Buchanan: +44 (0)1865 270382

Applications and admissions: +44 (0)1865 280154

For general guidance and advice, credit transfer, special needs provision and sources of funding: +44 (0)1865 280355

For information about Study Skills courses: +44 (0)1865 280892

How to apply

Please click on the ‘Apply’ button which will automatically notify us that you want a link to the online application form. We will email you that link together with a code to waive the application fee, and guidance on completing and submitting your application.

You will need to upload the following documents as part of your application:

  • A written statement of about 300–400 words stating why you wish to undertake the course.
  • Your CV
  • proof of English language ability if a non-native English speaker. Further information on English language requirements can be found here.
  • contact details for one referee

If possible, your referee should be someone who can comment on your academic ability and background, but where this is not appropriate, please choose a referee who can vouch for your motivation, commitment and potential. A reference from a family member is not acceptable.

Admissions decisions will be based on an assessment of knowledge, relevant experience, academic ability, potential and suitability for a course of study. We welcome applicants without traditional qualifications, including those with relevant career or life skills.

Selection criteria

Even if a course has no specific academic entry requirements then: (a) assessment of an applicant’s academic ability and suitability for the course of study will still take place and (b) since applications for many courses often significantly exceed places available, each application will be judged against the gathered field of applicants for each course each year.

The University is committed to promoting diversity, equality, inclusion, and widening access, including during the admissions process. We fully endorse the Equality Policy and our admissions procedures are kept under regular review to ensure compliance with this policy.

Short-listed applicants will be invited for interview.

The final decision on admission to the course rests with the Department.

Award and credit transfer

A Foundation Certificate will be awarded on completion of the course. Outstanding performance will qualify for a Distinction. You will be invited to receive your Foundation Certificate at the annual Awards Ceremony of the Department for Continuing Education, held at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre.

The syllabus and teaching of the course are aimed at first-year undergraduate level (FHEQ Level 4). A Foundation Certificate in History (120 CATS points) will be awarded to students on completion of the two years of the course. If you require information about transfer of credit, please contact the Course Administrator on +44 (0)1865 2800154 or


The fee for 2022-23 is £3,050 (Home, Islands, and Republic of Ireland students) or £5,230 (Overseas students). An option to pay the fee in instalments may be available. Please be aware that fees will usually increase annually.

Information for applicants from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

On 11 May 2021 the UK Council for International Student Affairs published new regulations and guidance to be used in assessing the fee status of students commencing courses in August 2021 and later. We will be using this guidance to carry out fee status assessments for students commencing courses in 2021/22 and later, including students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland. 

If you are an EU national and do not live in the UK then you are likely to be charged Overseas fees. Students with settled and pre-settled status in the UK and some other categories of students who work in the UK can qualify for Home fee status as long as they meet the residence criteria.

Students from outside the UK/Republic of Ireland

If you are from outside the UK/Republic of Ireland, you will be classed either as an ‘Overseas’ or 'Islands' student.

Information on financial support can be found on our website here.


The Department for Continuing Education offers history day and weekend courses, weekly classesonline short courses and summer schools. In the Undergraduate programme we offer the Foundation Certificate in History, the Certificate of Higher Education, the Diploma in English Social and Local History and the Advanced Diploma in Local History. At Postgraduate level we offer a Postgraduate Certificate in Architectural HistoryPostgraduate Certificate in Historical StudiesMSt in Historical StudiesMSt in the History of DesignMSt in Literature and Arts, and MSc in English Local History along with the DPhil in Architectural HistoryDPhil in English Local History and DPhil in Literature and Arts.

You may also be interested in studying History of Art.

If you are planning on embarking on a new career as a result of your studies, or hope to progress in your current field, you can access help and advice through the University Careers Service.

Overseas students

This course is not suitable for overseas students who do not already live in the UK before the course begins. For information, refer to

English language requirements

Check information on the specific English language requirements for this course.

Applicants are required to have the Higher level scores.