Courses of Study at Oxford and Oxford Degrees
To find detailed courses of study (e.g., requirements for a B.A. in English or M. Phil. in economics), consult Examination Decrees and Regulations for the latest year. Other documentation is not as comprehensive.
When reading descriptions of courses of study one often finds a requirement of a certain number of papers; in this context, paper means a written (usually three-hour) examination, not a thesis or term paper.
Those candidates awarded Rhodes or Marshall Scholarships are required to enroll in a recognized degree program. Rhodes and Marshall Scholars are occasionally allowed to complete two separate degrees (e.g., an M.Phil and a D.Phil. in economics or a diploma in statistics and a diploma in anthropology). Those awarded Rotary or Fulbright Scholarships are not required to enroll in a degree program.
B.A. — Normally three or four years (one year fewer if one already has a B.A., even in another discipline). Regulations pertaining to Honor Schools are relevant; those pertaining to Honor Moderations or Preliminary Examinations are largely irrelevant if one has an American B.A.
M.A. — Not an earned degree. A B.A. turns into an M.A. (with the appropriate monetary payment) seven years after matriculation for the B.A.
M.Litt. — Normally two years. Thesis only. The thesis is shorter and less comprehensive than the D.Phil. thesis. A very good thesis submitted for the degree of M.Litt. might be recommended for submission as a D.Phil. instead.
M.Phil. — (B.Phil. for Philosophy only). Normally two years. Examinations and thesis. Awarded in certain disciplines in the social sciences and humanities. This or the M.Sc. are the graduate degrees most often pursued by Americans.
M.Sc. — Normally one or two years. Examinations and thesis. Awarded in certain disciplines in the sciences, mathematics and statistics. Roughly equivalent to the M.Phil.
D.Phil. — Normally three to four years. Thesis only. No exams and no course work. Most persons with American B.A. degrees are not prepared for the Oxford D.Phil. One might be required to complete successfully a probationary year of study (perhaps for a diploma) before being allowed to register for the D.Phil.
Diploma — Normally one year. Examinations. A student wishing to read for an advanced degree such as M.Litt. or D.Phil. may be required first to complete a diploma. Hence, the diploma is often used as a probationary degree. But it may also be a terminal degree. The course of study may be stretched to two years in special circumstances.
M.Stud.—A new one-year degree offered by some faculties, really a truncated version of the M.Phil.