We usually take around 7 students a year for History and our History Joint Schools. This means that at any given time there are approximately twenty undergraduate historians at Regent’s Park. We are highly committed to Joint Schools degrees, so apart from Single Honours History, we also offer:
Here at Regent’s Park, we believe that historical study is serious fun! It is serious because we like to push each other hard, ask difficult questions, and engage with the worldviews of people and societies very different from us. It is also serious because we have high standards: we want you to reach the absolute peak of your ability, and we will not be afraid to push you hard to get you there. But it is also fun because we are a mutually supportive and highly collaborative community, because we have a passion for what we do, and because we try to make teaching and learning an energising and mind-expanding experience. We all learn from each other, just as we learn from our historical subjects – whether it is an illiterate peasant in a thirteenth-century rural commune or a monarch in a glittering seventeenth-century court, we believe that everyone has something to teach us. This also means that the History tutors at Regent’s Park are especially interested in what our students think. We never stop learning, and tutorials at university level should involve both tutors and students learning from each other. For this reason, we seek out candidates who are both passionate about History and independent-minded – young people who are not afraid to take their own view, even if that means standing out from the crowd.
The academic culture that we have created among the historians at Regent’s Park is one that encourages teamwork and solidarity, while also nurturing and developing our students as talented individuals. Some of the most important work that we do is in groups. In the first year, we offer a choice of Approaches to History or Historiography, but whichever you choose you will be taught as part of a class, where you will be expected both to contribute and to learn from the contributions of others. This method of learning is deepened in your second and third years when our History students engage with the Disciplines of History paper, which encourages a thematic and comparative approach to study, and in which we pool our knowledge and ideas to answer some of the biggest questions that a historian can ask – for instance: Why do empires decline? What causes revolutions? Why have societies so often been run by men? Perhaps the highlight of an undergraduate degree, though, is the final-year thesis, which is a 12,000-word project on any subject that interests you. It is here that your own individuality and personal interests become central. Some of our students’ recent thesis projects have been on subjects as diverse as: the colonial and gendered identities of female travel writers in nineteenth-century India, heretical beliefs about the afterlife in the English Reformation, the expression of grief in eighteenth-century diary writing, attitudes to disability in medieval Europe, and the relationship between left-wing film directors and government censors in the 1950s. Clearly with the thesis project, almost anything is possible!
Of course, all Oxford University colleges follow broadly the same academic syllabus, as laid out by the Faculty of History. But we think that there are five specific reasons why you should think very seriously about applying for History or one of our History Joint Schools at Regent’s Park:
1) Exceptional results. Regent’s Park may not be as famous as some other colleges, but our historians do incredibly well, and in recent years have significantly out-performed the majority of other colleges. For instance, this year we achieved 60% First Class results in Finals – an improvement on the 33% we attained the previous year, which itself was well ahead of the University-wide average of around 20%. One of our students recently won the University-wide prize for best thesis in American history, and this year one of our first years achieved the highest History marks of any Oxford University student in their Prelims exams. We are delighted by these results, but we are not surprised – our students are highly talented and are developed by a programme which places their individual needs at the forefront.
2) An admissions policy that focuses on talent, not privilege. It is well known that Oxford University is often perceived as one of the last bastions of the traditional elite secondary schools. This is changing, slowly. But among the historians at Regent’s Park, it has already changed. Among our current cohort, over 70% of the students were educated at a state school, and a significant proportion of these also come from an ‘access’ or ‘outreach’ background – in other words, we attract fantastic young women and men who might once have thought that Oxford was not for people ‘like them.’ But, to the contrary, they have found that as historians at Regent’s Park they are part of a diverse, energetic cohort of people who are now exactly where they deserve to be. We take every application extremely seriously, whatever the background of the candidate. We have two guiding principles. The first is that if you were a ‘fly on the wall’ at every stage of the interviewers’ deliberations, then you would be impressed and reassured – whatever our decision – by the time and empathy that we devoted to every aspect of your application, from your UCAS form, to written assessments, to your communication with us in the interviews. And second, we are not interested in where you come from, but in where you are going. Whether you come from an excellent school or a poor one, we will always think primarily about your potential, and how much we think that you can benefit from the ethos and intellectual community that we have created among our cohort of wonderful historians.
3) An interdisciplinary emphasis. One of the great benefits of Regent’s Park is that we specialise as a college in the humanities and social sciences. This means that all of our students are engaged in fields of study which contain comparable and over-lapping elements, which in turn encourages productive interdisciplinary discussion. As a historian, you can always learn a great deal from informal discussions – perhaps over a pint or informal meal – with students who study English, Classics, PPE, or Theology. We are a small college, and this has its advantages academically – one of these is that our students get to know each other well, and quickly learn to mix socially as well as mix together their ideas and theories in a genuinely inter-disciplinary environment. This focus on interdisciplinary collaboration is also at the heart of our History programme. Most colleges admit only a small proportion of their students for History Joint Schools degrees, but at Regent’s the figure is around 50%. This means that you will often be paired in a tutorial with someone who is also studying Economics, English, or Politics, and this cross-fertilisation of knowledge and theories can often be both challenging and interesting. In other words, serious fun!
4) A small college with University-wide reach. Regent’s Park is a small college, and our History cohort is also smaller than that of most colleges. There are significant advantages to this arrangement. Perhaps the most important, internally, is that you always know who is responsible for the administration of your degree – unlike at many other colleges, you will have one Director of Studies for your whole degree. We understand that going to university is a big and potentially stressful change, especially if you are leaving your home for the first time. But at Regent’s, our students have firm and consistent moorings, and in your Director of Studies a ‘go-to’ person if you have any questions or uncertainties. Your education will also be in safe hands. As you will see below, we have a brilliant team of tutors based at, or intimately associated with, Regent’s Park. You will receive outstanding ‘in-house’ tuition. However, we do not try to do everything ourselves. Instead, we make a virtue of our connections with the very best tutors at other colleges. At Regent’s, you will have full and free choice of any option on the History Faculty syllabus: if we do not have a specialist tutor here, then we will find the best tutor for you at another college. Some colleges have inflexible teaching arrangements. At Regent’s, we understand that different students have different needs. For instance, some students need someone who will argue with them, while others require tuition that focusses more on the nuts and bolts of how to write an essay.
5) Outstanding tutors. We are proud to say that we have an excellent team of ‘in-house’ tutors.
Leif Dixon is the Director of Studies for History and for our History Joint Schools. He is a tutor in early modern history, specialising in religious ideas and culture in the English Reformation. He teaches British and European History papers covering the period between around 1400 and 1700. He also teaches a specialist paper on European witchcraft.
Yvonne Cornish, who is based at St Benet’s Hall, is our tutor in modern history, specialising in celebrity culture in the eighteenth century. She teaches British and European History papers covering the period between around 1700 and 1900.
Matthew Mills is our tutor in medieval history, specialising in religious and intellectual history, including the beliefs and practices of the monasteries. He teaches British and European History papers covering the period between around 1000 and 1500.
Rowena Archer, who is based at Christ Church, teaches medieval history, and specialises in the lives of noble women in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. She teaches British and European History papers covering the period between around 1000 and 1500. She also teaches specialist papers on Joan of Arc and the Wars of the Roses.
Our tutors have different skills and styles, but we are all committed to teaching our students in an engaging and accessible way, and to making the study of History both actively enjoyable and highly challenging. We are dedicated to making History serious fun for you.
An indication of the quality of teaching offered for historians at Regent’s Park is that Leif Dixon won the award for ‘Outstanding Tutor in the Humanities’ in 2016, awarded by the Oxford University Student Union, and based on nominations by students across every college at the university.