The Center For Biblical Studies

The Oxford Educational Model

Photo: Radcliffe Camera
For 28 years St. Alcuin House has offered educational programs associated with several resources including Ligonier Ministries, The Teaching Company and major research libraries in North America and the United Kingdom. Our focus is research combined with occasional class work. Philosophically, we are in tune with The Tutorial Method which has been used at Oxford for more than 500 years. It is a rigorous, individualized method of learning and is designed with the adult student in mind. Each student has an academic tutor (a Fellow or Professor). The Oxford model emphasizes thinking through a research project and writing. Students are responsible for planning their own time ensuring the requisite work is accomplished.
The Oxford Method has characteristics not usually seen at American seminaries and colleges, among them:
  • Students are treated as individuals
  • It is easy to consult with faculty members, even senior ones
  • Independent learning is emphasized as opposed to teaching by the faculty
  • Learning is accomplished through research and writing
  • Students are expected to discuss their written work with their tutors one-on-one
Conversely, most American universities offer their programs and courses with:
  • Large lecture classes
  • Standardized courses
  • Negligible writing assignments
  • Little one-on-one contact with faculty
  • Little customization of an individual student's program
Photo: Oxford Divinity School Ceiling
St. Alcuin House uses the Oxford Tutorial Method, the Internet and email. Student-scholars work with Fellows and Tutors by email or telephone. If the student-scholar lives near a Faculty member, they can arrange to meet. This personal approach to learning features interaction and affords the student researcher more flexibility than do conventional schools.

St. Alcuin House student-researchers must be able to present and defend their own opinions. Developing topics in depth and defending the arguments in written work sharpens thinking. Our online adaptation of the Oxford method develops these skills: 

  • Time management: the ability to organize your own work schedule rather than have it imposed on you
  • Argumentation: the ability to present a point of view
  • Critical assessment: the ability to understand, evaluate and respond to the ideas of others

Doctoral students must be prepared to defend dissertations. They must also obtain one referee who is an expert on the subject matter, so serve along with faculty readers. 

The student’s success depends on the ability to study independently. The primary purpose of the Oxford Tutorial Method is that you teach yourself. To this end, we encourage use of local libraries and periods of residency at selected university libraries, including The Bodleian Library, Oxford University; Princeton Theological Seminary Library; Friends of Princeton Libraries; Oxford Graduate School Library and the University of Notre Dame Library. We require scholarly participation at the Karl Barth Conference held at Princeton every June and/or the University of Notre Dame, Center for Ethics and Culture seminar in November of each year or other similar programs at the Center for Ethics and Culture. We also encourage participation in research trips to Oxford and the Library of Congress sponsored by Oxford Graduate School and the Oxford Society of Scholars. From time to time, we offer courses in theology, philosophy and ethics and Christian literature. We recommend and accept course work offered by the University of Notre Dame STEP program.

To enroll, submit an application. Attach a detailed resume (a portfolio which lists all of your academic work, college credits, continuing education, and work history. Indicate whether you are ordained clergy or seeking ordination. If you are in either category, we suggest you involve your bishop or superior in the decision to study with us). 

One way we explain our admissions criteria would be to describe a typical student at our school. For example:

  • We look for bright, motivated student dedicated to academics. However, we also want a well-rounded individual. Interests outside of school are important, along with a strong desire to be involved in community events.