Students successful in early examinations are rewarded with scholarships and exhibitions, normally the result of a long-standing endowment, although when tuition fees were first abolished the amounts of money available became purely nominal: much larger funded bursaries are available on the basis of need for current and prospective students. "Closed" scholarships, which were accessible only to candidates from specific schools, exist now only in name. Scholars, and exhibitioners in some colleges, are entitled to wear a more voluminous undergraduate gown; "commoners" (i.e., those who had to pay for their "commons", or food and lodging) being restricted to a short sleeveless garment. The term "scholar" in relation to Oxbridge, therefore, has a specific meaning as well as the more general meaning of someone of outstanding academic ability. In previous times, there were "noblemen commoners" and "gentlemen commoners", but these ranks were abolished in the 19th century.
Until 1866 one had to belong to the Church of England to receive the BA degree from Oxford, and "dissenters" were only permitted to receive the MA in 1871. Knowledge of Ancient Greek was required until 1920, and Latin until 1960. Women were admitted to degrees in 1920.
Degrees of Oxford University
For other degrees, see Academic degree or Degree (disambiguation)
This article concerns the Degrees of Oxford University. The system of academic degrees in the University of Oxford can be confusing to those not familiar with it. This is not merely because many degree titles date from the Middle Ages, but also because many changes have been haphazardly introduced in recent years. For example, the (mediaeval) BD, BM, BCL, etc. are postgraduate degrees, while the (modern) MPhys, MEng, etc. are undergraduate degrees.
In postnominals Oxford University is normally abbreviated Oxon. which is short for (Academia) Oxoniensis, e.g. MA (Oxon.)
1 Undergraduate degrees
1.1 Undergraduate masters degrees
2 The degree of Master of Arts
2.1 Significance of the MA
3 Postgraduate degrees
3.1 Bachelors' degrees
3.2 Masters' degrees
4 Order of academic standing
5 See also
6 External links
Bachelor of Arts (BA)
Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
The Bachelor's degree is awarded soon after the end of the degree course (three or four years after matriculation). Until recently, all undergraduates studied for the degree of Bachelor of Arts. The BFA was introduced in 1978. Holders of the degrees of BA and BFA both proceed in time to the degree of Master of Arts (MA). Note that even in science courses, such as the three-year Physics degree, students are awarded the BA. The degree of Bachelor of Science (BSc) has never been awarded as an undergraduate degree at Oxford, however it used to be awarded as a graduate qualification.
Bachelor of Theology (BTh)
Bachelor of Education (BEd)
The BTh is awarded primarily to students of the various Theological Colleges and Halls enjoying some sort of associate status with the University, such as Wycliffe Hall, St Stephen's House, Ripon College, Cuddesdon  and the former Westminster College, Oxford. Usually, these students are candidates for the ordained ministry of one of the mainstream Christian denominations, but may be drawn from any faith background or none at the discretion of the College or Hall. It should not be confused with the degree of bachelor of divinity (BD), which is a postgraduate degree.
The BEd was formerly awarded to students at Westminster College, Oxford, when that course was validated by the University.
Undergraduate masters degrees
In the 1990s the degrees of Master of Engineering, etc., were introduced to increase public recognition of the four-year undergraduate science programmes in those subjects:
Master of Engineering (MEng)
Master of Physics (MPhys)
Master of Chemistry (MChem)
Master of Biochemistry (MBiochem)
Master of Mathematics (MMath)
Master of Earth Sciences (MEarthSc)
The holders of these degrees have to the academic dress and standing of BAs until the twenty-first term from matriculation, when they rank and dress as MAs. In Cambridge the same purpose has been accomplished more elegantly by granting science undergraduates the additional degree of Master of Natural Sciences (MSci) while continuing to award them the BA (and the subsequent MA). Note that biology undergraduates are still awarded the BA/MA, as are all other undergraduates, whether their degree courses last three years or four years.
The degree of Master of Arts
Master of Arts(MA)
The degree of Master of Arts is awarded to BAs and BFAs 21 terms (7 years) after matriculation without further examination, upon the payment of a nominal fee. Recipients of undergraduate masters' degrees are not eligible to incept as MA, but are afforded the same privileges after the statutory 21 terms. (currently only 9 terms)
This system dates from the Middle Ages, when the study of the liberal arts took seven years. In between matriculation and the licence to teach which was awarded at the end of an undergraduate's studies (whereafter he incepted as a Master of Arts), he took an intermediate degree known as the baccalaureate, or degree of Bachelor of Arts. In the University of Paris the baccalaureate was granted soon after responsions (the examination for matriculation), whereas in Oxford and Cambridge the bachelor's degree was postponed to a much later stage, and gradually developed a greater significance. While the requirements for the bachelor's degree increased, those for the master's degree gradually diminished. An examination along modern lines was introduced for the MA degree in 1800, but this was abolished in 1807.
While the length of the undergraduate degree course has been shortened to three or four years, the University of Oxford still requires seven years to pass before the awarding of the MA. The universities of Cambridge and Dublin have similar systems. In the four ancient universities of Scotland, the BA has become obsolete, and the MA is awarded on completion of the four-year undergraduate degree course in the arts.
The shortening of the degree course reflects the fact that much of the teaching of the liberal arts was taken over by high schools, and undergraduates now enter university at a much older age. In France today students get their baccalaureate at the end of secondary school.
Despite the fact that no greater academic achievement is involved, the MA remains the most important degree in Oxford. Traditionally the MA represented full membership of the University: until 2000, only MAs (as well as doctors of divinity, medicine and civil law) were members of Convocation, the main legislative assembly of the University, which today only elects the Chancellor and the professor of Poetry. Prior to then, members of the university who had not yet been made MA were known as "junior members" while those who were MAs were "senior members". This conveniently excluded most postgraduate students from the privileges the university and colleges accord to dons as well as their graduate alumni, such as the right to dine at High Table.
Members of the University who are MAs still outrank any person who does not have the degree of MA, other than doctors of divinity, medicine and civil law. Hence, a doctor of philosophy who is an MA outranks someone who is simply an MA, but the MA outranks a doctor of philosophy who is not an MA.
Whilst recently there has been increasing criticism of being awarded a Masters degree whilst not doing any additional academic work, supporters assert that the academic workload of a three-year Oxford undergraduate degree exceeds that of a four-year Masters course at many other British universities.