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.

Online open event

An online open event was held on Thursday 13 April 2023, from 6pm (UK time). If you missed this event but have questions about the course, please get in touch with the course team by emailing: certhe@conted.ox.ac.uk

Quick links

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

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

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*). 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 the Oxford University Summer School for Adults (OUSSA) programme.

*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

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.

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 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 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

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 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. For students starting in 2023-24 the annual programme tuition fee will be £1,460 (Home, Islands, and Republic of Ireland students) or £2,230 (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.

Information for applicants 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 granted under the EU Settlement Scheme 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. For more information about fee status criteria please visit the UK Council for International Students' (UKCISA) website as well as the Oxford and the EU webpage.

Information for applicants from the Republic of Ireland

Irish nationals who have been living in the Republic of Ireland or the UK can qualify for Home fees as long as they meet the residence requirements which can be found on the UK Council for International Students' (UKCISA) website.

UK nationals who have been living in the EEA, Switzerland or Gibraltar and are returning to England to study

UK nationals living in the EEA, Switzerland or Gibraltar from December 2020 until the first day of their course and for the three years before the first day of their course will also be charged Home fees subject to the requirements on the UK Council for International Students' (UKCISA) website. Children of UK nationals will also be eligible on the same terms, even if they are not themselves UK nationals, as long as both they and their parent meet the above criteria.

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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