Oxford University Cuts Pomona Study Abroad Program

Pomona students hoping to spend next fall in Oxford, England will need to rethink their plans. The Office of Study Abroad (OSA) announced in November that, effective fall 2012, the Oxford University study abroad program will be discontinued.

Established in 1973, Pomona College’s Oxford Program allowed a few students each year to live in Oxford during the fall semester and participate in small seminars and tutorials with Oxford scholars.

This year, Oxford will change its policy to admit only “degree-seeking students taking a full program of University-validated courses,” wrote Rhoda Borcherding, the Director of OSA, in an e-mail to Pomona faculty.

Pomona’s program sought to combine aspects of both Pomona and Oxford educational philosophies. Offering instruction in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, the program consisted of a core seminar, a group tutorial, and individual tutorials. A distinctive feature of the program was the one-on-one tutorial with an Oxford scholar, during which students engaged in specialized fields of study not traditionally offered at Oxford.

“I think that the courses we took were the greatest strengths of the entire program,” said Theresa Pfister PO ’13, who participated in the Oxford program last fall. “Oxford is just an amazing and magical place filled with innumerable treasures and opportunities. It’s really a tragedy that this program has been cut.”

Students had considerable autonomy in designing the focus of their one-on-one tutorials and were required to create and submit proposals for their tutorials before acceptance to the program.  

This highly specialized program differed from many other American colleges’ Oxford study abroad programs. Scripps, Claremont McKenna, and Harvey Mudd all offer year-long programs in Oxford through private trip providers, such as the Institute for Study Abroad at Butler University. These programs differ from Pomona’s program in that participating students enroll directly in Oxford University courses rather than in specialized tutorials and group seminars.

“Oxford wants you to be enrolled in their classes and they want you to be there for a year,” said Lena Connor PO ’13, who also participated in the program last fall.

Borcherding said she was shocked at Oxford’s decision to discontinue the Pomona program. 

“It is a loss for Pomona College and the study abroad program,” she said.

Despite eliminating the Oxford program, Pomona students still have opportunities to study abroad in England, through programs at Cambridge University and University College London. Borcherding said that the Study Abroad Committee is interested in developing another comparable Oxford program, but the idea “is still in its early stages.”

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