Oxbridge-Style Tutorial Method of Teaching

Teach students to see things as they are, to go right to the point, to disentangle a skein of thought to detect what is sophistical and to discard what is irrelevant.

John Henry Newman


Education has evolved drastically since it was first formalised in the 17th century. There was a time when teachers would teach the way they had learnt, with little regard to the needs of the student. Over time things changed, and education became accessible, with many ways and pedagogical methods available, bringing the possibilities to every student willing to learn.

Nowadays, the very best the British education system has to offer is the Oxbridge-style tutorial method of teaching, which is pioneered by the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and replicated at a pre-university level by Cherwell College Oxford. This is the method of teaching, where students enjoy one-to-one tutorials, supported by small group seminars and discussions. This is seen by many as the gold standard of UK education as students are able to have their unique needs met and engage deeply with their tutors and subject material.

Tutorial method of teaching is rare across universities and colleges as a whole, but originally a technique has been used at Oxford and Cambridge for over 800 years (‘tutorials’ at Oxford and ‘supervisions’ at Cambridge). It is this form of teaching that makes colleges and universities stand out for academic excellence. The difference between the results and knowledge of graduates from the colleges and universities practising tutorial and other graduates from top universities is down to this teaching style. 

The origin of the tutorial system in Oxford was as an independent college-based support and assessment method for Oxford University students taking public exams, assisted only by public lectures. As in Oxford today, the tutors of Cherwell College Oxford teach, set and mark work in support of students’ courses, complementing, extending and challenging students’ expectations.

The Socratic method still holds sway in the tutorial – Cherwell College Oxford is not merely an agency for hire but a complete wrap-around support package for supported learning. Everyone’s educational journey is different, hence the support sessions are driven solely by the needs of the individual student, specific to their course – to develop, encourage and assist in learning.

To quote Alan Carter, the Exams Officer, Academic & UCAS Adviser at Cherwell College Oxford: “Assessments are doors to open for the students, not barriers to be pushed through without fundamental understanding. Tutors are not essay writers or substitute learners, their guidance and knowledge are there to be truly imparted – comprehended, adapted and used independently”.