Undergraduate Certificate of Higher Education

Course details

A flexible, part-time award from the University of Oxford.

The Certificate of Higher Education is a part-time course in which you study a main subject discipline, but also undertake study in other academic subjects.

The course lasts between two and four years depending on how intensively you want to study. Credits obtained from taking weekly classes, short online courses and attendance at the Oxford University Summer School for Adults count towards your final award.

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. It is possible to study this course mainly online, but you will need to take at least one course face-to-face in Oxford. We are prepared to move this teaching online should circumstances dictate.

Open evening: Tuesday 27 April

An online open evening was held on Tuesday 27 April 2021, from 6pm (UK time). If you missed this event but have questions about the programme, please contact the course team by emailing certhe@conted.ox.ac.uk.

Who is this course for?

You don’t need any formal academic qualifications, but you must be able to demonstrate genuine interest in and enthusiasm for the subjects you propose to study. You will need to have the time and commitment needed to work for a university qualification.

Please note: it is possible to import credit up to a maximum of 30 points from Oxford Continuing Education courses taken in the four years prior to registration.

How you will study

You can decide where and how you study. It is possible to study mainly online, depending on the availability of courses in your subject area, but you must take at least one course face-to-face in Oxford.  The face-to-face element must amount to at least 10 Credit Accumulation Transfer Scheme (CATS) points, and it may consist of one or a combination of the following modules offered by the Department for Continuing Education:

If you are based overseas, attending OUSSA is likely to be the most convenient way to undertake face-to-face study in Oxford. OUSSA gives you the chance to study in a small and informal group and have one-to-one tutorials with your tutor. As well as your classes, you can visit Oxford’s outstanding museums and art galleries, and enjoy concerts and theatre trips in the evenings.

The course in detail

Modules in your main subject area

Our students specialise in one of eight main subject areas. These are Archaeology, Art History, Architectural History, English Literature, Creative Writing, History, Philosophy and Political Economy. To qualify for the award of the Certificate, you will need to obtain at least 60 CATS points (but no more than 80) in your chosen main subject area. 10 of these points will come from taking an introductory course in the main subject area (see below for details of the introductory courses). The remainder of your credits in your main subject area, up to a maximum of 70 points will come from taking weekly classes, short online courses, linked day schools, or classes offered in Oxford University Summer School for Adults (OUSSA).

Modules outside your main subject area

You will need to obtain a further 30-50 CATS points by completing courses outside your main subject area. The course is designed in this way to encourage breadth of study and to enable you to take advantage of the wide range of courses in different subject disciplines that the Department offers. Courses are available in Archaeology, Architectural History, Art History, Classics, Computing and Mathematics, Creative Writing, Economics, Environmental Conservation, Film Studies, History and Politics, Languages, Literature, Local and Social History, Music, Natural Sciences, Philosophy, Psychology and Counselling, Religious Studies and Theology.

Introductory course

During your first year of study you take an introductory course in your main subject area to gain a grounding in the concepts and methods relevant to the subject discipline. All of the introductory courses are available online and others are also offered face-to-face. The introductory classes are listed below; please follow the link to obtain more information about the individual courses:

Academic Literacy module

You will also take the Academic Literacy online course, usually during your first term of study, the cost of which is covered by the programme fee. The 10 CATS points obtained from the Academic Literacy course are included in the 120 CATS points for the Certificate. You will be enrolled automatically on the course.


You will be assessed through coursework you complete for the individual modules that you take, and through additional assignments designed to develop a broader knowledge and understanding of your main subject area.

There are three additional written assignments, two of which are of 2,500 words in length, and one of which is 3,500 words.  There is no written examination at the end of the course.

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.

Certification and credit transfer

Students who successfully complete the course will be awarded Oxford University’s Certificate of Higher Education. Outstanding performance will qualify you for a Distinction. You will be invited to receive your Certificate at the annual Awards Ceremony of the Department for Continuing Education, held at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford.

The Certificate carries 120 Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) points at first year undergraduate level (FHEQ Level 4). It is therefore equivalent to the first year of full-time study. Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education does not offer undergraduate degrees, but students who obtain the Certificate may, if they wish, apply to transfer the credit from the Certificate to another academic institution, such as the Open University, which does offer degrees. The transfer-in of credit is always at the receiving institution's discretion.

Alternatively, students who complete the Certificate successfully and who wish to continue study in their main subject area may be interested in applying for other award-bearing courses within the Department for Continuing Education. The Department offers a number of Undergraduate qualifications (Certificates, Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas), and Postgraduate awards and degrees. For more information about these, please go to the Oxford Qualifications page of the website.

Teaching staff and learning support

The Course Director is Marianne Talbot.

The Course Director is on hand to give you academic advice and guidance. She will help you review your progress, plan your academic pathway to completion of the award, and plan your progression to higher levels of study.

If you are studying mainly online, your advice and guidance sessions can be conducted by telephone or email, although every student will be expected to meet the Course Director in person at least once during the period of their registration. In addition, advice and guidance on assignments will be provided by the course tutors and the assessors for additional coursework. There will also be guidance on credit transfer, special circumstances and financial assistance. For further details please email: certhe@conted.ox.ac.uk

There will be an induction day for all new Certificate students at the start of the academic year. This will include an introduction to the Department for Continuing Education and its facilities, to the Departmental Library at Rewley House, and to the other libraries and resources within the University that you will be entitled to use. All Certificate students will receive a University card.

Contact information

If you have questions about the programme you may contact us by email: certhe@conted.ox.ac.uk.

For general guidance and advice, credit transfer, special needs provision and sources of funding: +44 (0)1865 280355 student.support@conted.ox.ac.uk

For information about Study Skills courses: +44 (0)1865 280892 studyskills@conted.ox.ac.uk

All the Department's online short courses are developed by our Technology-Assisted Lifelong Learning (TALL) unit. To learn more, please see the TALL website.

How to apply

Applications for 2021-22 entry are closed.

Applications for 2022-23 entry will open in September 2021.

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 400 words stating why you wish to study your chosen main subject.
  • As part of your application you are required to submit a short piece of written work relevant to the main subject that you are choosing for the programme. Please see here for guidance.
  • Proof of your English language ability if you are a non-native English-speaker (see here for more information).

You will also need to provide 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.

All applicants will be given an interview by telephone or by using Microsoft Teams. The interviewer will be looking for evidence of genuine interest in the subjects selected as the main and secondary subject areas, understanding of the time commitment involved, and whether you have sufficient time to devote to the course.

This a popular course so we recommend you apply by the earliest deadline. Late applications will be considered if there are still places on the course. Please contact the Programme Administrator at certhe@conted.ox.ac.uk to check availability.

Your application will be treated in accordance with the University's Equality Policy. We fully endorse the Equality Policy and our admissions procedures are kept under regular review to ensure compliance with this policy.

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

Fees and funding

There is a basic course fee for each year in which you are registered for the Certificate, up to a maximum of four years. For students starting in 2021-22 the annual programme tuition fee will be £1,300 (Home, Islands, and Republic of Ireland students) or £1,985 (Overseas students). An option to pay the fee in instalments may be available.

In addition, you pay the normal fees for each of the courses you attend including the Oxford University Summer School for Adults (OUSSA).

Programme fees are likely to increase slightly each year.

Following an announcement by the Universities Minister on 23 June 2020, EU fee status students starting a course in 2021/22 will no longer be eligible to pay fees at the ‘Home’ rate and will instead be charged the higher ‘Overseas’ rate. This change will not apply to Irish nationals living in the UK or Ireland, who will continue to be charged fees at the ‘Home’ rate for the duration of their course. 

Please note that the University is still awaiting clarification on the status of EU nationals who are granted Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme and of EU, other EEA and Swiss nationals benefiting from Citizens’ Rights under the EU Withdrawal Agreement, EEA EFTA Separation Agreement or Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement respectively.

Applying for a loan for the Certificate of Higher Education

If you intend to apply for a student loan to cover your programme fee and short course fees for the Certificate of Higher Education, you will need to consider the following points as well as the guidance above:

  • If you are not sure how many courses you plan to take in the year you should apply for the maximum amount available, as you cannot increase your loan later on.
  • Every time you book a course which you would like paid for by your student loan, please notify the Programme Administrator. If your loan has not been confirmed when you book a course, you will have to pay a deposit which will be returned once your loan is agreed. 
  • You may claim the course fee for OUSSA from your student loan, but the loan will not cover accommodation or meal costs.
  • When you have booked all the courses you intend to take, please tell our Student Support Administrator so that your loan amount can be adjusted down.

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


Students who complete the Certificate successfully and who wish to continue study in their main subject area may be interested in applying for other award-bearing courses within the Department for Continuing Education. The Department offers a number of Undergraduate qualifications (Certificates, Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas), and Postgraduate awards and degrees. For more information about these, please go to the Oxford Qualifications page of the website.

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.

English language requirements

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

Applicants are required to have the Higher level scores.