Middlebury-CMRS Oxford Humanities Program


The Middlebury-CMRS semester program is rooted in the liberal arts tradition. The academic curriculum is carefully devised so that students develop skills in critical reading and writing, while they receive specialized training in medieval, renaissance, early modern or modern subjects. Courses are primarily offered in Humanities disciplines (e.g. Literature, History, Art History, Philosophy, Religion, Politics), although qualified students from all disciplines are welcome to apply. The research paper hones students’ abilities in critical thinking, the seminar illuminates new readings through a group discussion, and the Oxford tutorial system ensures the closest possible cooperation between teachers and pupils.

Students take four courses at Middlebury-CMRS. During Oxford term they take one seminar and two one-on-one tutorials each week. Students also take a research course, which is scheduled at the start of the term in the Autumn semester, and the end of the term in the Spring semester.

Note that once you arrive in Oxford, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to change courses. 

The Tutorials

Students select two tutorial courses each semester from a wide range of options. A tutorial is a weekly meeting of one or, very occasionally, two students with the tutor responsible for a particular area of studies. The tutorial is a creative and flexible teaching method that enables the teacher to adapt a course to the precise requirements of a particular student, and to give that student individual attention and supervision.

At the weekly meeting with each tutor the student presents a formal essay, based on reading in primary and secondary sources. The tutor will point the student to the most important books and articles relevant to a topic, while also encouraging initiative and judgement in their selection.

The preparation and writing of an essay is a time-consuming and exacting process, so the student must be prepared to devote the greater part of each week to this work. The purpose of this exercise is not merely to test a student’s ability to amass facts, but to develop powers of critical analysis so that he or she can identify and interpret significant information and present facts and conclusions in a clear and precise form.

The Seminar Course

Each student attends one of the seminars offered each semester.  These courses complement the one-to-one work of the tutorial by fostering students’ presentation skills, by encouraging students to learn from each other as well as from the tutor, and by requiring a substantial essay at the end of the course.

Considerable importance is attached to the final essay. The seminar tutor provides a list of prompts, advises on the use of resources, including the Bodleian Library, and monitors progress. The essay is expected to be a substantial and exemplary piece of writing which should be valuable in future applications to postgraduate or professional program.

Seminar sessions are one and a half to two hours long, and vary in format and style according to the requirements of the subject and the needs of the participants.  They range from one-hour formal lectures followed by a discussion period, to sessions where students present the points for discussion and explore them under the guidance of their tutor.

(Note: Students are required to choose a first and second choice of seminar, because each seminar is run only if a sufficient number of students select it.)

The Research Course

The research course focuses on a specific topic, chosen by the student with the assistance of the regular academic staff.  The topics span the history, literature, spirituality and scholarship of the middle ages and early modern eras. Topics are researched through the extensive Bodleian Library system as well as the many world-class museums of Oxford.  Students receive individual supervision from an academic expert while carrying out their research.  The course culminates is a long essay that will be double-marked by the supervisor as well as by a second tutor.

The purpose of the research course is to encourage independent research and critical thinking as well as to prepare students for senior-year projects they may have to write at their home institutions.  In addition, the Autumn research course gives students preparatory training in the type of academic writing that will be required in tutorials, while the Spring research course is a capstone experience that winds up the semester.

The Autumn research course, entitled The Making of Europe, 400 to 1750, considers the European history from the end of the western Roman Empire to the eve of modernity. The Spring research course, Europe and the World, considers European interaction with the wider world, and how European understanding (and misunderstanding) of the rest of the world contributed to the formation of European self-identities.

Lectures from renowned Oxford academics combine with other academic and experiential elements to provide a background to issues and events, and multiple approaches to discovery.

Experiential Learning

Oxford is a vital resource, and students engage with its wealth through talks, visits, or hands-on experiences.  In addition, a specialist tutor leads field trips to other places of historical importance within easy reach of Oxford.


Tutors write detailed reports on their students’ work and assign grades. Tutorials are evaluated on the quality of essays and the contribution to tutorial discussion. Seminars are graded on the quality of essays (50%) and on class participation and presentations (50%). The most important factors in grading the research paper are critical thinking and research.  The research paper is graded by the supervisor as well as by a second tutor.  At the end of each semester, a transcript, reports and grades are sent to the student’s university or college by Middlebury College.


Middlebury-CMRS grades are expressed in American terms to facilitate the transfer of credit. A student’s work is graded by letter (plus and minus) as follows:

A = Excellent work of consistently high quality with few weaknesses, showing notable understanding, insight and scholarly ability.

B = Good work of fine quality, showing understanding, insight and scholarly aptitude.

C = Satisfactory work that is adequate, but lacking distinction.

D = Poor work of minimal value.

F = Failing work unworthy of credit.

I = Incomplete course work at the end of term.

W = Withdrawal from a course with the approval of M-CMRS.

Please Note: Middlebury-CMRS courses are not designed to be taken on a Pass/Fail basis.

Essay Writing at M-CMRS

Please thoroughly read the Middlebury-CMRS Plagiarism Policy.

The academic staff at Middlebury-CMRS will be available throughout the semester to answer your questions; do not hesitate to contact them.