Red, white and black baloons tied to the railings of the library. In the distance, a family is shown around the College by a student helper.

Our doors are always open to schools and pupils interested in studying at Somerville.

Unfortunately, we are currently closed to visitors due to the situation with Covid-19. While we can't welcome schools in person at the moment, we would love to host you for a virtual 'visit' instead. You can book through this form.

In more normal times, we host several open days throughout the year; visits from schools every Wednesday and Thursday of term; an annual Year 12 Study Day and an event aimed at 'Demystifying Interviews' for state school pupils. See below for more information.

Members of the general public can visit us free of charge on most days during the University's terms, once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

Virtual Open Days

The University hosted Virtual Open Days on 1st & 2nd July and 18th September 2020. These included opportunities to virtually attend live Q&As with students and tutors across the university, general information sessions about life at Oxford as well as subject- and college-specific information sessions.

Somerville’s offering included 3 day-long live-streamed Q&A sessions with a range of subject tutors and some of our students:

  • Click this link for English, Physics, Biochemistry, PPE, Biology, Classics/Ancient History, Linguistics, Chemistry, Law, History, Engineering, and Maths.
  • Click this link for Psychology, Music, Maths, Computer Science, Medicine, French, Biology, and Philosophy.
  • Click this link for Maths, Physics, History English, Computer Science, Psychology and Medicine.

We hope to be able to return to in-person Open Days next summer, but watch this space for future updates.

School Visits

Hannah and Nuala, our Access & Outreach Team, host day visits from school groups every week during Oxford term time, offered free of charge.

Students in year 7 and above are welcome to come to Somerville and get a flavour of what studying at Oxford, and University more broadly, is like. Our researchers are experienced in capturing the imagination of young people through taster sessions on subjects ranging from the headaches of translating Harry Potter into French, to the Ancient world, to much more. The day also includes a tour of the College buildings and a free lunch in our beautiful Dining Hall.

We want to work with schools who would like additional support in raising the aspirations and attainment of their pupils regarding Higher Education, including Oxbridge applications. Somerville is linked to schools in Buckinghamshire, Kingston-upon-Thames, Hounslow, Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight and the Forest of Dean through Oxford’s link college outreach system, so we are particularly interested to hear from schools and teachers in those areas.

Our access & outreach work aims to increase the participation of students who are statistically less likely to progress to higher education. We can use our resources to the greatest positive effect if we prioritise schools with higher numbers of disadvantaged students, including those who have been in receipt of or are currently receiving free school meals, as well as care leavers. We're also really keen to help schools with little to no recent history of successful Oxford and Cambridge applications.

We are still very happy to host visits from schools with fewer disadvantaged pupils, if they feel that we can add to the support they already provide to their students. We would encourage such schools to focus opportunities to visit on those of their pupils who are most likely to need extra support, such as those who require financial support, are from less affluent areas (using the ACORN and POLAR metrics), or will be the first in their family to enter Higher Education.

If you're interested in visiting us, please get in touch on or call on 01865 270 592.

We look forward to meeting you soon!

De-Mystifying Oxford

Each year, Somerville gives state school applicants the opportunity to attend a “De-Mystifying Oxford” interview preparation and guidance day. The event features the chance to watch a mock interview between a tutor and one of our current students, as well as a tour of some of the areas of the College used for interviews and an advice session from our Senior Tutor.

The event is held in November following applications but before the invitations to interview are sent out.

More information is available in the email sent to eligible attendees.

Students watch a mock interview during the 2018 Demystifying Interviews day
Students watch a mock interview during the 2018 Demystifying Interviews day


Year 12 Study Day

This year, Somerville is hosting a series of Virtual Study Days in Spring half term (16th-19th February 2021). These are open to all Year 12 students currently at a UK state school or college.

These days will offer a taste of university study, and include group seminars run by Oxford University academics in their own specialisms, which will offer a challenging and entertaining introduction to university-level study of the subject.

The seminars are open to all Year 12 students from state schools who are taking a related subject, and/or who are thinking about going on to study a related subject at university. The students will also have the opportunity to ask questions of current undergraduates in their subject of interest, and to discuss the courses with the college tutors. The events are entirely free of charge, and will include an admissions talk from the Senior Tutor.


4.00-4.30pm: Welcome & Admissions Talk
4.30-5.30pm: Academic Taster Session & Subject Q&A
5.30-6.00pm: Plenary Q&A with Access Officers, Admissions Tutor & Student Ambassadors

Please see below for details of the academic taster sessions available:

Tuesday 16th 

POLITICS: Water Politics

This session will discuss what water politics is, including reflecting on water wars, making peace and cooperation through water, the water to produce what we eat (virtual water), and the role of power in understanding how water is allocated between countries sharing a river. This is an introductory class that students doing PPE (Politics, Philosophy & Economics) or Geography could find themselves studying. 

EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY: The Psychology of Flavour

Why does food not taste of anything when your nose is blocked? Why do we say that vanilla smells sweet when it actually tastes bitter? Can you really fool a wine expert by miscolouring a white wine red? And what is it like to work with world-leading chefs like Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck restaurant? This session will take a look at the psychology and neuroscience of flavour, one of our most multisensory experiences.

The session should be of interest to anyone considering a degree involving experimental psychology. You do not have to have studied Psychology at school to attend.

Wednesday 17th

ENGLISH: ‘Tell me what I am!’ Some Old English Riddles and their Solutions 

In this taster session, I will introduce you to some of the oldest writings in English. We will think about some of the differences – and similarities – between poetry written in the past and poetry written today, and will investigate what these ancient texts can tell us about the people who wrote and read them. 

MUSIC: Intro to Theories of Film Music

In this interactive taster lecture students will be introduced to two ways that film music is analysed and written about: narrativity and ideology. How does music work to tell stories, convey emotion and position the audience’s perspective of events? What does this positioning of the audience reveal about the relationship between the filmic text and the world ‘outside’ the story? How does film music construct ideas about race and gender, what is ‘normal’ and what is ‘different’? 
NB You do not have to have experience with playing music or music theory to participate in this lecture.

MEDICINE:  Diversity in Medical Imaging

In this taster session, we will interactively explore a number of imaging technologies that have revolutionised medicine. The diverse and inclusive nature of medical imaging and of its researchers will be highlighted.

Thursday 18th

MATHS: Equations and Symmetries

The general solution to a quadratic equation ax2+bx +c = 0 is given by a simple formula involving square roots. But is it possible to give a general formula for the solution of a cubic equation (degree three) in terms of radicals? What about higher degrees? This was a prominent question in Mathematics for hundreds of years until the beginning of the 1800's when the Norwegian mathematician Niels Abel proved that this was impossible for a general equation of degree five (quintic equations). But the real breakthrough came about the same time when the French mathematician Evariste Galois created a general theory that explains this phenomenon. Galois' ideas led to the development of two beautiful branches of mathematics in algebra (group theory) and number theory (Galois theory, algebraic number theory) which are fundamental parts of modern Mathematics.


How does poetry work? What is the relationship between language, form, and sound within a poem? And how do these elements create humour? By looking at Ernst Jandl’s experimental lyric, we will discuss these questions and explore the creativity of his unique style. There is no need for any knowledge of German (although helpful) but the session is open for everyone interested in a degree in Modern Languages. There will also be time for Q&A.

Friday 19th

MEDICINE: Clinical Diagnostic Approaches to Pain

How can we use how someone describes a pain to tell us more about what might be wrong? Medical problems often manifest with a pain, and we can tell a lot about what might be wrong by asking detailed questions about the pain. In this session, we will explore how doctors ask questions about pain. We will then talk through what might be wrong, drawing on background knowledge of anatomy and physiology. We call this process ‘history-taking to reach a diagnosis’, and the same principle can be applied to all aspects of medicine, which medical students learn during the clinical part of the course.

ENGINEERING: Future Vehicle Propulsion Systems

There has been a lot of publicity about the switch to electric vehicles, but what is the true impact for carbon emissions and the UK economy?

Use our booking form here to sign up for a place. The deadline for applications is 15th February at midday.

Contact our Access team

Schools and prospective applicants can get in touch by emailing or phone us on 01865 270592 to find out more about applying to Somerville and organise a visit.

Schools may also be interested in joining our mailing list in order to find out more about the opportunities offered by Somerville and other parts of the University to help your students discover more about studying at university, regardless of their plans after secondary school. Please email us if you'd like to receive our regular newsletter.

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