Stimulate your mind in pursuit of knowledge as you immerse yourself in the lifestyle of Oxford University for a week. Choose a fascinating course of study, live at historic Merton College, sample life as a student again, and explore the charming town of Oxford.

Starting at: $5,550 * Price includes special offer Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 Merton College, Oxford University  Oxford tutors (July 2018). Credit: Wade Jennings  Welcome reception at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings  The dining experience at Merton College, with High Table. Credit: Wade Jennings  Conversation over dinner. Credit: Wade Jennings  The dining experience at Merton. Credit: Wade Jennings  Introduction to Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings  Smithsonian Journeys travelers at a lecture. Credit: Wade Jennings  Merton College Library  The quadrangle at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings  The chapel at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings  Interior of the Merton College chapel. Credit: Wade Jennings  Smithsonian Journeys travelers at Oxford. Credit: Wade Jennings  Smithsonian Journeys travelers during a lecture break. Credit: Wade Jennings  Smithsonian Journeys traveler at Merton. Credit: Wade Jennings  Enjoying a few moments at a local pub. Credit: Wade Jennings  Smithsonian Journeys travelers during lecture break. Credit: Wade Jennings  Lecture break at Merton. Credit: Wade Jennings  The beautiful Oxford skyline  Housing at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings  Garden walkway at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings  The gardens at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings  An evening walk near Merton. Credit: Wade Jennings  Oxford  The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford  Bridge of Sighs landmark, Oxford University  View near Oxford's Main Street  Loch along the Thames River, Oxford  Sculptural detail found in Oxford

Smithsonian at Oxford

8 days from $5,550

Stimulate your mind in pursuit of knowledge as you immerse yourself in the lifestyle of Oxford University for a week. Choose a fascinating course of study, live at historic Merton College, sample life as a student again, and explore the charming town of Oxford.

or Call 855-330-1542

Tour Details

TOUR BROCHURE

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WHAT OUR TRAVELERS SAY

The Smithsonian at Oxford provides an accessible educational experience, nicely balanced with opportunities to visit nearby sites of interest. The Smithsonian at Oxford also provides an opportunity to experience true student life again.

- Christopher B.

Living and studying in a centuries old setting that famous people have lived is just...awesome!!

- Philip P.

The warm reception we received at Merton College made us feel that we really were Oxford students -- a very special sense of belonging.

- Lyn G.

I love Shakespeare; I love to study and to study Shakespeare at Oxford and to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform is a dream come true!

- Blanche M.

The Oxford University tour was an extraordinary chance to delve into the history, architecture, and erudition of Oxford. The Merton College tutor was prepared and dedicated. Fellow travelers provided the extra inspirational touch! Amazing....

- Katherine M.

JOURNEYS DISPATCHES

See All Journeys Dispatches ››

Overview

2023 Course Decriptions 

Spend your mornings learning from an expert from Oxford's Merton College. Choose from five featured course subjects: The Rise & Fall of the British Empire; The Monarchy and the British Constitution, 1660-2023; Archaeology of Britain; The Beatles, Popular Music and Sixties Britain (July 2023 only); Jane Austen’s Novels and Contexts (September 2023 only). Please indicate your top three choices of course subject at the time of booking, with final assignments to be determined based on traveler interest. Enrollment is limited. Information on experts can be found on the Enrichment tab.

Classes will be interspersed with excursions, including a discussion about the UK university system and a visit to Pembroke College, which was attended by James Smithson—the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution. Each course will also feature an additional special excursion tailored to its theme.

The Rise & Fall of the British Empire

This course will examine the rise and fall of the British Empire, from its unlikely and unplanned origins in an age of piracy, through its rivalry with other powers, its Victorian zenith, and two world wars, to its decolonization in the second half of the twentieth century. Such concepts as formal and informal empires, imperial structures, and methods of control, including collaboration, will be discussed.

Field Trip: Travel to Sezincote House in Gloucester, constructed in 1805 when British India was becoming the “jewel in the crown” of the world’s largest empire.

The Monarchy and the British Constitution, 1660-2023

Queen Elizabeth II has now served seventy years as the British sovereign and it is timely to consider how this institution has survived into the 21st century and why it just might continue for considerably longer. Taking the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II as our starting point, we will explore the long process of constitutional reforms through which the divine and hereditary rights of earlier monarchs were successively eroded and the powers of sovereignty ultimately transferred to the Houses of Parliament. As we will find, this did not mean that British monarchs were ever powerless. Royal influence and patronage continued to operate at the very heart of British politics, shaping the course of events both at home and abroad. Today, the monarchy faces an uncertain future: can it still have a role to play in British public life through the twenty-first century? 

Field Trip: Visit Windsor Castle in Berkshire, the royal residence associated with the English and succeeding British royal family, with a rich architectural and cultural history.

The Archaeology of Britain

The archaeology of Britain is rich in culture and heritage from its earliest presence of hunter-gatherers from the Upper Palaeolithic (ca. 40,000-10,000 BCE) to the present day. In this course, students will reference artifacts, landscapes, burials, settlements, and monuments to explore the significant changes in the lifeways and material worlds of the people who arrived, moved around and dwelt in the British Isles. Explore Britain’s archaeological history and gain unique insight into the culture and stories of this unique island archipelgo from the introduction of the great stone henge monuments of the Neolithic (e.g. Orkney, Scotland), rich burial evidence that demonstrates migration and cultural identities (e.g. Amesbury Archer, Wiltshire), ritual and religious practices (e.g. Roman Baths, Bath), and heritage.  

Field Trip: Visit the ceremonial World Heritage sites of Stonehenge and Avebury, which present evidence from the earliest presence of human interaction to the present day. Also visit Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum of art and archaeology.

The Beatles, Popular Music and Sixties Britain (July 2023 only)

Revered and reviled in almost equal measure, the Sixties continue to fascinate. One musical group dominates accounts of the decade’s music. We will explore how the Beatles made that music, tracing its development from the relatively simple recordings of their first album to the layered techniques of Abbey Road. We will hear new details in familiar songs and identify how the group developed their expressive musical vocabulary. The course also includes some British poetry and articles from the decade, as well as archive film of Swinging London and other clips, and touches on some key events in British art and politics. However well-known you think the Beatles’ music is, you’ll hear more than before. A fab time is guaranteed for all! 

Field Trip: To be announced soon!

Jane Austen’s Novels and Contexts (September 2023 only)

Jane Austen jokingly declared that “I think I may boast myself to be, with all possible vanity, the most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress.” But even just a quick perusal of her novels shows this to be laughably inaccurate. She was deeply learned in the art of novels and incredibly informed about the intricacies of social interactions. As Virginia Woolf opined in “The New Republic” (January 30, 1924), “Of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness.” This course aims to catch Austen in the act of greatness by analyzing the style and techniques that make her writing so distinctive and compelling, and still so enduringly popular over two-hundred years after her death. We will consider Austen’s literary, historical, social, and cultural contexts, which will enhance your knowledge, understanding, and (most importantly) enjoyment of the novels Sense and SensibilityPride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion.

Field Trip: Visit the Jane Austen House Museum, where Austen lived for the final eight years of her life, along with the nearby Chawton House Library, a historic Elizabethan home, which serves as the The Centre for the Study of Early Women’s Writing. 

The Smithsonian at Oxford provides an accessible educational experience, nicely balanced with opportunities to visit nearby sites of interest. The Smithsonian at Oxford also provides an opportunity to experience true student life again.

- Christopher B.

Living and studying in a centuries old setting that famous people have lived is just...awesome!!

- Philip P.

The warm reception we received at Merton College made us feel that we really were Oxford students -- a very special sense of belonging.

- Lyn G.

I love Shakespeare; I love to study and to study Shakespeare at Oxford and to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform is a dream come true!

- Blanche M.

The Oxford University tour was an extraordinary chance to delve into the history, architecture, and erudition of Oxford. The Merton College tutor was prepared and dedicated. Fellow travelers provided the extra inspirational touch! Amazing....

- Katherine M.

Itinerary

2022 course selections include: The English Garden in History; The Age of Winston Churchill; The Archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England; The Rise and Fall of the British Empire; Myths and Legends of the British Isles; and Shakespeare's English History Plays: Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V.

2023 course selections include: The Rise & Fall of the British Empire; The Monarchy and the British Constitution, 1660-2023; Archaeology of Britain; The Beatles, Popular Music and Sixties Britain (July 2023 only); and Jane Austen’s Novels and Contexts (September 2023 only).

Please indicate your top three choices of course subject at the time of booking, with final assignments to be determined based on traveler interest. Enrollment is limited.  

Day 1 — Depart the U.S for London

Depart the U.S. for London on individual flights.

Day 2 — London, Oxford

Arrive in London this morning and transfer to Oxford. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner and plenary talk. (D)

Days 3–7 — Oxford

Lectures take place at Merton College, Oxford UniversitySee Course Descriptions under the Tour Details tab for course details.

Excursions: Explore highlights of Oxford, including an exploration of the British educational system and the connection between James Smithson (the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution) and the university, which he attended as a student. Alternative afternoon excursions are available for return travelers. Plus, take an additional special excursion tailored to your specific course.

2022 Excursions:

Those enrolled in The English Garden in History will visit Rousham Gardens, a country house with a walled garden and herbaceous borders first built in 1635 and remodeled in the 18th century in Oxfordshire, England. The Age of Winston Churchill features a field trip to Chartwell, Churchill’s country house, and home for over four decades. Those in the Archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England will visit the House of Wessex and Dorchester-on-Thames. The House of Wessex is a recently discovered Anglo-Saxon building in south Oxfordshire in the midst of a historic reconstruction. Dorchester-on-Thames is a charming village at the confluence on the rivers Thame and Thames, which has been inhabited since the Neolithic period 12,000 years. The excursion for The Rise and Fall of the British Empire will be a trip to Sezincote House, Gloucestershire. Travelers in Myths and Legends of the British Isles will visit three pre-historic sites (the White Horse, Uffington Castle, Dragon Hill) along the ancient route that ran from the southeast of England to the Wash in the Northwest. Participants in Shakespeare’s English History Plays will visit Stratford-upon-the Avon, the Bard’s childhood home.

2023 Excursions:

Those enrolled in The Rise & Fall of the British Empire will travel to Sezincote House in Gloucester, constructed in 1805 when British India was becoming the “jewel in the crown” of the world’s largest empire. Students in The Monarchy will visit Windsor Castle in Berkshire, the royal residence associated with the English and succeeding British royal family, with a rich architectural and cultural history. Students in The Archaeology of Britain will visit the ceremonial World Heritage sites of Stonehenge and Avebury, as well as Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum of art and archaeology. Participants in Jane Austen will visit the Jane Austen House Museum, where Austen lived for the final eight years of her life, along with the nearby Chawton House Library, a historic Elizabethan home, which hosts The Centre for the Study of Early Women’s Writing. 

Remaining 2023 excursions to be announced soon.

(B,L,D) 

Day 8 — Oxford

After breakfast transfer to Heathrow Airport for individual flights back to the U.S. or travel to London for the optional extension. (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)