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What is a Tutorial College?

Many of the independent sixth form colleges in Oxford and Cambridge work on a tutorial system, and are often referred to as tutorial colleges. On this page will we explain what a tutorial college is and what the benefits of the tutorial system are.

A tutorial college works on a similar system to the Oxford University teaching system, though the amount of work set for A level or GCSE students will be significantly less than for university undergraduates, and they will have many more tutorials per week than a university student. Also there is traditional school style teaching for A level or GCSE tutorials, so although there will be discussion based around the homework that has been done, there will also be a significant element of teaching, often occupying the vast majority of the tutorial time.

Tutorial colleges are also sometimes referred to as retake or resit college, or private sixth form colleges; though it should be noted that the name tutorial college implies that they use the tutorial systems, whereas, for example, a private sixth form does not necessarily use the tutorial system. Although calling them retake or resit colleges is quite common, it is a misleading name, as retake students are frequently in the minority at such colleges.

The tutorial system originates from Oxford and Cambridge Universities so is a very highly regarded and much tested system; it is still used today and is the cornerstone of an Oxbridge education.

There are a number of tutorial style colleges in Oxford who cater for GCSE/IGCSE and A level students, such as the aptly named Oxford Tutorial College, Cherwell Tutorial College, d’Overbroecks, Greene’s Tutorial College, our own Oxford International College and others too. There are of course similar organisations in Cambridge, London and various other locations throughout the UK. Compared to most traditional sixth form colleges most tutorial colleges are small, most with between 30 and 100 students.

If you are wondering how to differentiate between all these different tutorial colleges, then please see our page on choosing a tutorial college.

What are the advantages of the tutorial system?

The most obvious advantage is the personal attention the student receives with the syllabus being covered at a rate that suits the student. It is also much easier for students to ask questions without having to worry about looking “stupid” in front of their classmates. Furthermore the student has to concentrate – you can hardly sit at the back and stare out of the window if you are the only student in the room. Often tutors will go through the homework as part of the tutorial – this has the advantage that the student can easily see how any problems they had can be addressed and, of course, can ask further questions. Marked homework may only tell the student what they got right or wrong and not necessarily given many clues on how to improve the work.

Who goes to these tutorial colleges?

Tutorial colleges have a diverse range of students. In spite of its name, Oxford International College has many British students and all tutorials are taught in English (other than A level languages). A percentage of the students will be retaking GCSE/IGCSEs or A levels, though this is not the majority of the students. Many students are in the tutorial system because it’s the system that suits them best. If you wish to get a better idea of the students who go through the tutorial college system please see our student profile page.

Are tutorial colleges part of the university?

The short answer to this is no. A few of the fly-by-night organisations like to give the impression that they are an integral part of Oxford University this is not true – at present Oxford University only teaches at undergraduate and graduate level and his is unlikely to change. Courses may well be held in university building –for example Oxford Science Studies (our sister organisation) holds it’s Christmas revision courses at St. Peter’s College which is one of the University colleges – this does not mean that the course is run by the university. The advantage of being in Oxford is that we have access to a large pool of well qualified and experienced tutors; a fair percentage of them will have tutored or are currently tutoring for the university.