Georgia, 2011 -
Studying biological sciences at Oxford is a great experience in itself, however studying at Hertford College makes it even more enjoyable. If you apply to Hertford College you can be sure to receive exciting and interesting tutorials from the best tutors the university has to offer that really aim to challenge and enhance you as a biologist. Variety is one of the features why studying biological sciences at Hertford is so good, tutorials cover a wide variety of topics from plants to microorganisms that certainly put you in a great position for the honour moderations examination at the end of first year. In addition to this, the students you will be studying alongside are like-minded individuals and the college itself is one of the friendliest Oxford has to offer.
Steven, 2010 -
Hertford is a college with a unique blend of a friendly atmosphere and academic prowess. Opting to study Biology at Hertford gives students access to both of these great qualities, and much more. Hertford's library, for example, is often cited as one of the best-stocked college libraries in Oxford, and is very generous with its unlimited loans system. Being five minutes away from the Zoology department, and even less to the Radcliffe Science Library, Hertford is very well situated for Biology students. At Hertford, students have tutorials with tutors of wide ranging disciplines, such as Martin (a Professor of Molecular Epidemiology), Clive (a tutor of Ecology), and Alison (a tutor of genetics). All of the tutors take a keen interest in their students and are always able to offer them a helping hand. The tutors, students, and a vibrant social life make Hertford an excellent choice for any student of Biology.
Sarah, 2010 -
I very much emphasise that we have tutorials from a variety of tutors in the first year, meaning that we cover a diverse range of topics. It seemed that we had tutorials with a larger range of people than other colleges did in the first year, which I think is a good thing. It meant that all of our interests were covered, and that we got the opinions of many different people about our essay styles etc. I would also add that the library is great, as it almost always has the books we need and enough of them, and if not, then college are more than willing to provide the books for us by what is a very quick service.
David, 2009 -
The thing which has always attracted me to biology is the variety of applications which the subject has to the real world. Coming into Hertford I wanted to see how this application is done and how students can benefit from this wealth of expertise. Even now in 3rd year I am still overwhelmed by the amount of cutting edge research done and the amount of that knowledge which is passed on to students. Every tutor with whom you work is an expert in his or her area, and while they are busy, for example fighting meningitis in Africa, genetically modifying disease resistant rice or providing insights into human evolution, the incredible thing is that they are always available to help you on your journey. While developing a broad base of knowledge is encouraged, you are free to find your own way and choose the modules which interest you the most, meaning that you will have never completed the same degree as another student. I for example have specialised in plant and human evolutionary development but the choice is totally free.
My favourite aspect of the degree course was my opportunity to complete my FHS project in a leading lab in Plant Sciences, working with some of the leading lights in plant pathology. This not only gave me an insight into how biology is done in the real world, but it also helped me bridge the gap between the theory learnt in lectures and the breakthroughs announced everyday on the news.
Studying at Hertford has taught me a variety of skills which I shall cherish in years to come. Firstly, in tutorials, I have learnt to defend my opinions, challenge others and reflect on what has been said to form conclusions. From my projects and course assignments, I have learnt the importance of drive and the pleasure of immersing yourself in a topic area where new insights can be found. Finally, feedback and self-evaluation has taught me to reflect on what I know and where to prioritise improvement. Biological Sciences at Hertford is truly fulfilling experience, one not to be missed
Choosing Hertford College as a base through which to study Biological Sciences at Oxford was one of the best decisions I made about my university education. I chose the college because of the outstanding academic and personable reputation of the tutors and the range of their research interests (from ecology, to conservation, to human science, to disease, to biochemistry!). I found tutorials at Hertford to be challenging, stimulating and a lot of fun. The tutors arrange your tutorial timetable for the first couple of years with absolute dedication and you can be sure of being taught by the best people in the department when not taught within house. The character of your tutors and their commitment to your education can make a real difference to your experience at Oxford and it is worth getting a good recommendation like this. I hope you enjoy studying here as much as I did.
From studying Biology at GCSE and A Level where you are spoon fed in formation in ‘exam question’ sized chunks and safely steered away from straying too far from the syllabus, starting a university course in the subject where you have to think, research and decide you’re opinions for yourself can be a scary concept - let alone then having to write an essay longer than 500 words about it all! Hertford could not be a better place to be with all this milling around in your head – Martin and the other tutors at Hertford are simply brilliant, not only do they seem to have infinite knowledge they are with you every step of the way from your first nervous tute to your final exams and all the hiccups and problems you may have along the way – both academic and pastoral. Whatever you need help with they are always ready with a word of advice and saint-worthy patience (especially with three giggling girls in their tutorials!). From an academic perspective I don’t think we could have asked for better – not just in terms of the breadth of knowledge the tutors themselves have but also in knowing exactly who to get in contact with to get the best tutorials for areas of the course outside of their specialisms.
I loved my time at Hertford – from the huge range of topics we studied to the friendships I made and the panicked, self-inflicted essay crises in the middle of the night – if I could, I would do it all again in a second!
I chose to study Biology at Hertford College due to its academic reputation and its close proximity to the science faculty, university buildings, libraries and shops. Coming from a state school background, I was reluctant before starting Oxford, but I found everyone at Hertford College to be extremely welcoming and able to put me at ease straight away. Compared to the teaching at A-Level, the tutorial system at Oxford was hard to get to grips with at first, but the college tutors were able to provide an encouraging and supportive atmosphere so that soon I was able to develop my thoughts and ideas independently. Biology is a vast discipline that encompasses many topics, but the tutors were able to ensure we gained a detailed understanding of many subjects, whilst still allowing us to concentrate on those that interested us most. I found I formed a special bond with the people in my subject group, and I this was key in carrying me through some of the tough times. I look back at my time at Hertford with overwhelmingly positive memories; I thought the quality of teaching was outstanding, the social life was excellent, and the breadth of knowledge I acquired was second to none. Above all, studying Biology at Hertford College provided me with lifelong friends, lasting memories, a solid foundation for the future and vital life skills.
My process of choosing a college was not especially sophisticated. I looked at the map in the back of the prospectus: Hertford seemed pretty central. I read the blurb: it had a nice bridge and a cat. I was sold.
If you don’t know Oxford very well choosing a college is always going to be difficult. The thought of applying at all is quite intimidating, without the extra hassle of selecting between 28 all seemingly very lovely, very distinguished institutions. As someone who’s worked a lot with applicants both as an undergraduate and now as a teacher, I’ve always advised not worrying too much about college choice – you’ll love wherever you end up – but I can talk about some of the ways Hertford helped me.
Academics come first. I always say I got my place at Oxford when they asked me about viruses and I smiled. The tutors Hertford engages to teach Biological Sciences are approachable, rigorous and faultlessly generous with their time. I’ve often explained how hard it is to come out of Oxford and go in at the bottom of somewhere else, because you’ve spent the last three years being told by very eminent professors that they’d like to hear more about your ideas, thoughts and opinions – not always the case in the outside world! A traditional Oxford course can look more restrictive than a modular degree, but small student numbers mean your personal academic interests are easily followed if you make them known. I was fortunate to make many good friends across the biology course, and cannot say any other college offered better teaching.
As I reflect though, I can see it’s probably not the tuition that really made Hertford the right choice for me. I was fortunate enough to take part in lots of extra-curricular activities during my course. I could never have fitted them all in during 24 weeks of term. Hertford’s willingness to accommodate junior members through vacations long and short gave me the opportunity to take part in so many enriching, CV-building activities which gave me the best possible start to my later career. Be it spending my second summer genetically engineering fungus or several Easter vacs squirreled away in the student union publishing house, Hertford saw that I wanted to make the most of university and went out of the way to support and encourage that. From little things like smoothing the way to join the post-graduate rowing crew because scheduling meant I couldn’t make undergraduate training, to big things like agreeing to store all my belongings in various cupboards and cellars because there was no way I could get them home, if I wanted to do it they would help find a way to get it done. And, at the end of a long day reading, writing, rowing and reporting, it was always nice to come home to Simpkins, our friendly college cat.
I am currently studying for a Dphil in cardiovascular science at Oxford, after completing my biochemistry degree in 2010. I chose to read biochemistry at Hertford as studying the molecular mechanisms underlying cell function seemed exciting and very relevant. The course is broad and challenging in the first year, but taught me many skills that were useful throughout the rest of the course. In the second and third years, the work is largely essay-based, which I enjoyed as it enabled me to learn a lot about a given subject, and taught me valuable skills in reading and understanding scientific papers. I found the tutorials offered invaluable for really understanding a topic, and we were lucky to be given tutorials with experts in a diverse range of fields, which helped me to realise which areas of biochemistry interested me. One of my favourite parts of the course was the fourth year lab project, which showed me how useful the skills learned from the course are in research. I really enjoyed applying my biochemical skills to physiological models and decided to stay in the same lab for a four-year Dphil; something that I had never envisaged myself doing. Overall, I enjoyed my time at Hertford, and found the interactions with biochemists in all four years a real advantage of the college environment. This puts you in contact with students who have already covered an area you are struggling with, so you can quickly get help with any work-based problems you are encountering. At the same time, you are surrounded by students studying a range of subjects, which enables you to establish a diverse and interesting friendship group. The combination of a challenging course and an incredibly friendly college environment made me really enjoy my four years at Hertford, and gave me the best possible foundation for my Dphil.
Studying Graduate Entry Medicine at The University of Liverpool
I’m not entirely sure how I ended up studying Biochemistry at Hertford. I guess I thought biochemistry would be interesting, which it was, and Hertford would be as good a place as any. I was wrong; it was better. I’ll admit it took me a while to settle in but the fact that the college had such a diverse mix of people from various backgrounds gave the place a nice community feel and ensured that there were people who had the same interests.
The support of the tutors was excellent and I don’t think that I could have done as well at a different college. It was a privilege to study Biochemistry at Herford and whilst I subsequently found out that life in a lab isn’t for me and life on the wards probably is, I think that my time in Oxford has prepared me better for my current course than any other degree could.
My experience of Biochemistry was a rigorous investigation of how life works within; nowadays I am working in India on an initiative to transform lives of disadvantaged children by pioneering new ways of learning. The Biochemistry course was an exceptional journey of exploring intensive learning processes. The pungent smells of the organic chemistry laboratory defined my first year, where I had a powerful tutorial each week going through chemical mechanisms. I failed the first end of term test and then re-doubled my efforts and tried new ways to solve the problems. The tutorials continued and by the end of the year I could find patterns and solutions to complex problems and the smell of acetone reminded me of success, not failure. The course ensured interaction with experts at the frontiers of their field that stretched intelligence like no other experience. In the third year no matter how deeply I read about the metabolic processes of the body, it was the tutorials where my thinking was most extended about how the body deals with breaking and making key components. The exposure of working on an extended research project in the fourth year gave an understanding of the minute care required to handle DNA, and the importance of invention and imagination as key modes of thinking to produce original research. I found that learning happens through failure, challenge and hardship, as well as through enjoyment, discovery and imagination. Hertford was the perfect environment that supported learners with college tutors that were always there to offer guidance and solutions for us to be progressing through the challenging course and to keep us learning happily.
Biochemistry, as many a UCAS personal statement will attest, is the natural choice for those who enjoy biology but also have an interest in chemistry. The reality is, of course, much more complex and compelling than the simple overlap of these two subjects and biochemistry represents a dynamic and rapidly expanding field of science. The course at Oxford encompasses a wide range of topics, from the atomic detail of structural biology to whole-organism physiology and metabolism with substantial scope, especially in the fourth year, to focus on those areas that interest you most. The second half of the final year is a six-month research placement which is a great experience for anyone contemplating a PhD and will give you both basic bench skills and a familiarity with the laboratory environment, making a transition to further research much smoother.
Looking back, the tutorial system is probably the most remarkable aspect of an Oxford education as it allows a depth of discussion and thought about a topic that results in a real understanding of the material in a way textbooks and lectures alone struggle to capture. Tutorials are frequently with people who are leaders in their fields and therefore impart not just solid information but unique viewpoints and ways of thinking about a subject.
Waugh boasted of his time at Hertford that "I do no work here and never go to Chapel" and, naturally, left with a Third. Since then, things have got somewhat more rigorous, reflected in Hertford's performance in the University rankings, and in the encouragement to push for the best quality of work from students. Despite this, something of Waugh's relaxed attitude remains: academic pressures are never prioritised over student well-being. This stance is backed up by strong pastoral care, a broad social calendar and a sense of camaraderie among the student body making Hertford a fantastic place to study.