Undergraduate Certificate of Higher Education (from 2025)

Course details

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

You decide what, how and where you study with our Undergraduate Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE).

Credit obtained from taking weekly learning classes (in Oxford and online) and attendance at the Oxford University Summer School for Adults count towards your final award.

The course lasts between two and four years depending on how intensively you want to study. You choose a main subject area to specialise in, from a choice of eight, and then you also undertake study in other subjects that interest you.

If you have completed and gained credit from short course(s) with us in the past three years, or plan to take a short course during the 2024-25 academic year, you may be able to use this credit (10-30 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4) towards this programme.

Please note:

This page is intended as an overview of the course, and some information listed may be subject to change before applications open in September 2024.

Quick links

Online info session

During our online information session, Course Director Dr Stephen Law covered the essential aspects of the course – including course structure, assessment and what you can gain from completing the programme. Watch the recording.

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.

It’s possible to import credit up to a maximum of 30 points at FHEQ Level 4 from Oxford Continuing Education short courses taken in the four years prior to registration. (Those starting the programme in autumn 2024 can import up to 30 credits from short courses completed within 4 years prior of September 2024.)

How you will study

You 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.  

Online courses that can be taken as part of the CertHE:

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 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.

Credit from up to two OUSSA courses per year can count towards the Certificate, as long as the credit gained does not exceed the maximum number of credits you can gain in your chosen subject area. Please see the course in detail for more information.

The course in detail

A total of 120 CATS points are needed to gain the Certificate of Higher Education. These are gained from taking modules (short courses) as outlined below.

Modules in your main subject area (60-80 CATS points)

Certificate of Higher Education students specialise in one of eight main subject areas. These are:

  • Archaeology
  • Art History
  • Architectural History
  • English Literature
  • Creative Writing
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • 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*). The remainder of your credits in your main subject area (a minimum of 50 points, up to a maximum of 70 points) will come from taking weekly learning programmes in Oxford or online classes or classes offered in the Oxford University Summer School for Adults (OUSSA) programme. 

These courses are not included in the programme fee.

*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:

Modules outside your main subject area (30-50 CATS points)

You will need to obtain a further 30-50 CATS points by completing short courses outside your main subject area. The programme 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.

Short courses that can be taken outside your main subject area are available in a wide range of subject areas including archaeology, architectural history, art history, computing, data science, creative writing, economics, film studies, history, literature, local and social history, mathematics, music, natural sciences, philosophy, politics, psychology and counselling, religious studies and theology.

These courses are not included in the programme fee.

Academic Literacy module (10 CATS points)

You will also take the Academic Literacy online course, usually during your first term of study. The 10 CATS points obtained from the Academic Literacy course are included in the 120 CATS points for the Certificate. 

You will be automatically enrolled on this course and this is included in the programme fee.


You will be assessed through coursework you complete for the individual modules (short courses) 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 our website.

Teaching staff and learning support

The Course Director is Dr Stephen Law.

The Course Director is on hand to give you academic advice and guidance. He 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 find this recording of a recent online info session useful. The Course Director, Dr Stephen Law, outlined the programme and answered a range of questions from those attending which included who the course is for, the number of credits you need to gain, credit transfer and more. Watch the recording.

If you have further questions about the programme, please get in touch with the course team by emailing: certhe@conted.ox.ac.uk

For information about disability support or sources of funding: student.support@conted.ox.ac.uk, +44 (0)1865 280355.

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 will open in September 2024.

Once open, clicking the 'Apply' button will automatically notify us that you want a link to the online application. 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 English language ability if a non-native English speaker. Further information on English language requirements can be on the University's website here. Please note that candidates are required to have the higher-level score.
  • 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.

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.

The annual programme tuition fee for 2025 entry will be published once applications open.

Please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For a price guide, the programme fee for last year was: £1,605 (Home, Islands, and Republic of Ireland students) or £2,450 (Overseas students).

An option to pay the fee in instalments may be available.

In addition, you pay the normal fees for all short courses you attend including the Oxford University Summer School for Adults (OUSSA), with the exception of the Academic Literary online course which is covered by the programme fee stated above. 

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.

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.

English language requirements

Please check the information on the specific English language requirements for this course. Applicants are required to have the Higher level scores.


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. We offer 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 our 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.


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