Open days

We strongly recommend that prospective students attend one of the University open days if at all possible. These are not subject specific so if you are potentially interested in more than one subject this is an ideal opportunity to gain some valuable information to help you make your decision. There are both College and Departmental components to the open day, so to make the most of your visit make sure that you have enough time to visit all of the events that you need to – both Colleges and Departments have formal, timetabled talks and events as well as informal opportunities to see displays and talk to tutors, and current students. An advantage of Hertford is that there is no need to book and we never turn away a potential applicant!

There is usually an opportunity to meet with either Prof Barton or Prof Robinson in College, and to meet current students. This is a valuable opportunity to discuss with tutors and students already doing the BA and to get an appreciation of the course and the atmosphere of the College. Departmental events take place in the Archaeology Department (Institute of Archaeology), which is a short walk away in Beaumont Street, next to the Ashmolean Museum. Here there will be another chance to meet teaching staff, attend talks on the degree and be shown around one of the Oxford University Museums.

Application process

If you decide to apply to Hertford to read Archaeology and Anthropology, and we very much hope you do, there are a number of points to bear in mind. In applying to Hertford, this will be your first choice college, but students who express no preference (ie. make an Open Application) will be allocated to a first choice college centrally: ‘second choice' colleges are all allocated centrally. Shortlisted applicants are invited to attend two interviews, one at their ‘first choice' college and one at their ‘second choice' college. In Hertford and most other colleges, interviews are around half an hour, although some colleges may have two shorter interviews. Your second interview may be the same day as your first one, or the next. In general, candidates stay two nights in College during admissions week, arriving the night before their first interview and going home after their second interview.

In preparing for writing an application for Archaeology and Anthropology we would draw your attention to several aspects of the process. In the personal statement we would like to know why you have chosen to do the Archaeology and Anthropology degree. It is useful if you can draw upon any personal experiences such as books you have read or shown initiative in other ways such as taking part in field surveys or excavations, or visiting sites and museums. We use the personal statement as a source of ideas for questions at interview. When sending your application you are required to submit recent examples of written work. This will be in the form of two essays (or equivalent) that have been marked by your school or college. Candidates are also asked to send in a brief statement, the details of which can be found under 'written work' on the 'how to apply' tab on the university website.  

There are presently no admissions tests in Archaeology and Anthropology. Candidates are summoned to interview after a collective decision by all colleges. If you are invited to interview at Hertford it is very much in your interests to attend. We will not know, or ask, if a candidate at interview chose Hertford, or was allocated as an Open Application. Candidates wanting gap years are generally advised to apply post-qualification, due to the uncertainty in the standard of applicants in future years, but some candidates apply before the gap year, and if unsuccessful, apply again later.

Interviews are conducted by two tutors, and do not seek to test specific knowledge: we are interested in how you will benefit from being in Oxford, especially the tutorials. As with Hertford in general, we have a good number of applicants per place for Arch and Anth, but this should not put you off applying: it makes no difference to your getting a place somewhere at Oxford. We also actively seek good candidates who have been interviewed first at other colleges. In all cases, tutors come together as a co-operative during admissions week, working together to ensure that the best candidates get places – at their “first” or “second” choice college – or sometimes even at a college that didn’t interview them. We take the assessments of our colleagues in other Colleges very seriously. Basically, if your application is strong, with your teachers predicting 3 A grades at A Level (or the equivalent) in mainstream subjects then you are very likely to get an interview.

Interviews – what to expect

If you are invited to interview at Hertford it is very much in your interests to attend: we do not guarantee to interview overseas applicants using telephones or other remote links. If you are invited for interview, you will be asked to arrive on a specific day and told in advance how long you will be required in Oxford. All candidates for this degree are guaranteed an interview by two colleges. Once the second interview is complete candidates will normally be free to go home. Exceptionally, candidates may be required to attend a third interview with an ‘Archaeology and Anthropology Panel’. This may be because we or other colleges have not been able to decide and want to talk to you again. This is to ensure the fairest possible chances of getting a place, regardless of the college at which you were first interviewed.

Your interview in Hertford will be with a pair of tutors. We aim to make the interview as comfortable and interesting experience as possible: we want to find the best in you, and to assess your potential as an undergraduate and beyond. We suggest the most useful preparation is to read and observe relevant topics around your general subject.

The interview day will usually begin with a group meeting for all our shortlisted candidates, to help explain the process and to give you the opportunity to get to know us a little and to ask questions. The first interview may be thirty minutes after this meeting, and candidates are seen in no particular order. Typically, the interview lasts half and hour. We will begin by asking a few questions based on a short passage of text that you will be given half an hour beforehand. There is nothing you can do to prepare for this, it is simply to see how quickly you think on your feet but is not designed to trip you up. During your interview we will ask you about your enthusiasm for the degree you wish to study, discuss a few topics in more depth, and give you an archaeological or ethnographical artefact or some data to discuss. The point of this exercise is to test your reasoning abilities. Even if you know nothing about the objects themselves you should be able to argue and speculate on their function or significance. Remember, there are seldom clear ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers, it is more important for us to find out your overall skills in thinking creatively. We often ask questions about your stated interests in your UCAS personal statement, but will likely rapidly move on to other areas as the conversation develops.

We aim to provide all applicants with an enjoyable and stimulating time in Oxford for interview and most students gain a great deal from the experience, regardless of the outcome. Applicants are informed of the decisions by letter in the weeks after the interviews.