From Albert Einstein and Dr. Seuss to Stephen Hawking and Bill Clinton – not to mention twenty-six British Prime Ministers, more than thirty international leaders, and at least twelve bona fide saints – the register of great and good Oxford graduates has to be one of the more impressive lists around. Funny enough, it’s one that anyone can easily join, too.
Now in its 20th year, The Oxford Experience is a one-week continuing education course taught each summer at Christ Church, one of Oxford’s most prestigious and picturesque colleges. Tutorials cover some 50 subjects and are as varied as The Brontës; Late Victorian and Edwardian Ghost Stories; The Novels of Thomas Hardy; Riot and Rebellion in Shakespeare’s London; Cotswolds Folk Traditions; The Arthurian Stories in Text and Image; Ethics, Questions of Life and Death; and The Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
Back-to-school week starts with a reception in Tom Quad, the largest quadrangle at Oxford, built by Cardinal Wolsey in 1524. While mornings are devoted to course work, most afternoons include excursions to stately homes, cathedrals or museums. Other days feature tours of Christ Church, the city of Oxford, Blenheim Palace and Broughton Castle. In the evenings there may be a pub walk, a lecture, or even Pimms and croquet in the Masters’ Garden. Every student is invited to dine on “High Table” at least once during the week and on the final night there’s a gathering for drinks in the Cathedral Garden followed by a gala farewell dinner in the magnificent Tudor Hall, which might look familiar to fans of Hogwarts.
Three daily meals give lie to rumors about dreary English food. Plus, anybody who’s secretly harbored a British schoolboy fantasy is in luck: accommodations are in student dorms, only some of which have private baths. The deadline for registration is May 1, but early application is encouraged as some courses are already full. The all-inclusive price for the week is £1,090, or approximately $1,730. Posh digs, private bog, and stiff upper lip are extra.