Human Sciences

The Human Sciences course studies humans as a biological, social and cultural species and provides a challenging alternative to some of the more traditional courses offered at Oxford. The degree was conceived in a series of discussions in the 1960s among a group of Oxford academics from the biological and social sciences who recognized the value of inter-disciplinary studies in their various specializations to address issues such as genetic diversity, population growth, ethnicity, the spread of disease and the use and misuse of natural resources. The last half-century has witnessed unprecedented environmental, social and technological change creating an even greater need for an integrated approach to further our understanding of some of the problems we face today. Recent graduates have gone on to research careers in the genetics of AIDS, nutritional problems in developing world, population ageing, and environmental conservation, as well as in finance, the media, overseas development, and film.

Advantages of Keble

Human Sciences is part of a larger subject group at Keble including Archaeology & Anthropology and Classical Archaeology & Ancient History, creating a wider and friendly community in which to work and study. This also enhances the opportunities for learning from students in different subjects.

Keble is well situated between the main centres where lectures are given (the Pauling Centre and Zoology), is directly adjacent the Radcliffe Science Library, and a short walk to Libraries at the Pauling Centre, Social Sciences and the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology.  Keble Fellows and Lecturers provide tutorials in Social Anthropology.

Course structure

Up-to-date information on the course structure and how to apply can be found on the subject's page in the Oxford University Undergraduate Prospectus. The degree course is divided into two parts: Prelims, which are examined at the end of the first year, and Final Honours, which are examined at the end of the third year. 
The first year combines a variety of introductory courses, which are designed to ensure that students gain a core knowledge of the main subject matter

  1. The Biology of Organisms including Humans (Ecology and Physiology)
  2. Genetics and Evolution
  3. Culture, Society and Environment (Anthropology and Geography)
  4. Sociology and Demography
  5. Quantitative Methods for the Human Sciences

In the second and third years you will go more deeply into subjects taking five core papers and plus two optional papers and writing a dissertation. The Core papers are:

  1. Behaviour and its Evolution
  2. Human Genetics and Evolution
  3. Human Ecology
  4. Demography and Population
  5. Anthropological Analysis and Interpretation OR Sociological Theory

In addition, each student must take two optional papers chosen from a very wide range including regional anthropology (such as Asia, Europe, Japan, South Asia, West Africa); Archaeology of Southern African Hunter-Gatherers; Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology; Cognition and Culture, Gender and Feminism; Health and Disease, Medical Anthropology; Physical and Forensic Anthropology, Quantitative Methods; Sociology of Post-Industrial Societies; and several Psychology options. Students also write a 10,000-word interdisciplinary dissertation in their third-year on a subject of their choice drawing on at least two approaches to Human Sciences.

Typical pattern of teaching

Teaching is by a combination of tutorials, lectures and practicals based in the Pauling Centre for Human Sciences and other departments in the university. Tutors and lecturers are drawn from many colleges.

Qualities sought for entry

There are no mandatory subject requirements for Human Sciences. Maths and Biology A levels are useful but not obligatory.

Applications from both pre- and post-A level candidates are welcome, and from those taking Scottish Highers, the International Baccalaureate, or other equivalent qualifications

Written test: All applicants must now take the Thinking Skills Assessment Test, for which there is separate registration. See for further details.

Interview: In interviews, candidates may be shown texts, graphs, pictures, objects, or other material for discussion. This will be to test relevant skills rather than specific knowledge, and no special preparation will be required. The specific selection criteria can be found on the Institute's website.

For more information, see the Human Sciences page on the Oxford Undergraduate Prospectus.


Approx yearly intake Keble: 3
Department Website Institute of Human Sciences


Via the College Office.


Dr Morgan Clarke MA, MPhil, DPhil, is University Lecturer in Social Anthropology. He is an anthropologist of the Arabic-speaking Middle East, interested in medical ethics, kinship, religion and law. His research has focused on contemporary Islam, especially Islamic law and its relationship to positive law, secular ethics and the civil state, to date through fieldwork in Lebanon.

Dr Lambros Malafouris MA, MPhil, PhD, teaches archaeology, anthropology and human evolution. His research interests lie broadly in the archaeology of mind and the philosophy of material culture.

Dr Fiona Ferbrache PhD, teaches human geography and is interested in Transport Geography and intra-European migration.