Academic Life

Academic year and terms

The Oxford academic year is divided into three eight-week terms according to the Anglican church calendar:

  • Michaelmas (Winter term) is named after the Feast of Saint Michael, which begins at the end of September
  • Hilary (Spring term) is named after the Feast of Saint Hilary, which takes place the week before the first Sunday of this term
  • Trinity (Summer term) is named after Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after the Feast of Pentecost.

Each week in 'full term' runs from Sunday to Saturday, from weeks 1 to 8, and many committees will meet in a particular week of term. It is worth marking your calendar until you become used to the system: see the dates of term listings. The weeks before and after full term are also numbered, particularly for graduates and staff who continue to work outside of term time. Do not be surprised by references to weeks 9, 10 or 11, or even 'noughth week'.

Academic dress

Like most universities, some members of the University wear academic gowns at graduation ceremonies, however, they may also need to be worn at formal occasions, such as Encaenia (the ceremony when honorary degrees are given), and special college dinners.

Please see the University guidance on full academic dress to know when you need to wear it, and find stockists from whom to buy or rent.

The language of Oxford

One of the first things you will notice when you come to Oxford is that the University has its own peculiar vocabulary. You can familiarise yourself with some of the common terminology by consulting the Oxford Glossary.

Did you know?

During exam periods, you may see students walking around Oxford with white, pink or red carnations pinned to their gowns. The colour symbolises the blood from a scholar’s heart as they 'bleed' knowledge onto the exam paper; the darker the carnation, the closer to the final exam.