The Oxford MJur/BCL: Term Ends – Looking Back

The first term (Michaelmas) has now come to an end. That means one third of the programme is already over. Needless to say, time went by quickly. Also, the weather was surprisingly good for the last three months.

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Looking back, I totally underestimated the workload and ended up working more than I initially planned doing readings and preparing for seminars and tutorials, especially during the last weeks of the term.

Speaking of which, I have now completed three tutorials. In these, you discuss particular topics in small groups of three to four students in the professor’s office. It is expected that you prepare for tutorials by writing and handing in papers (four pages, double spaced). Obviously, a lot of work goes along with this. Nevertheless, I am confident I have taken away a lot from them. And although I was very nervous before the actual tutorials, all three turned out to be fine in the end. Rathing than grilling you on specific issues, professors try to get a discussion going and involve all students. Nerd that you probably are (to a certain extent that seems to be a requirement to be accepted in the first place), you might even find joy in a friendly talk about mandatory disclosure rules in IPO scenarios.

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A tutorial situation might look like this (Photograph: Dan Waite, cherwell.org)

I am pumped for the next term (Hilary). I have met a number of great people that I am looking forward to seeing again (for instance my wonderful housemate Emily, who needs to be mentioned here due to her formidable task of correcting my terrible writing). However, it appears that things will get even more intense. A fourth course will be added to my schedule. As I continue rowing, my mornings are about to become even earlier. Also, I want to finally visit all of the great coffee shops that are spread over the city! But firstly I’ll enjoy my remaining two weeks of Christmas holidays.

The Oxford MJur/BCL: Christmassy Oxford

Suffice it to say that as a German, I think I know how to properly celebrate Christmas (after all, we invented the Christmas tree). However I must admit that the British do quite a good job as well in this respect. On the island, Christmas seems to be not only about „Gemütlichkeit“ (cosiness) and winding down; it’s also taken as a opportunity to party and be with your friends.

Christmas parties are happening everywhere. Be it in restaurants with friends, in the boat club or with your fellow students and professors in college, traditional turkey dinners, Christmas crackers and mulled wine are omnipresent. I definitely recommend buying Christmas jumpers. The supply is wide-ranging and quite playful. For instance, I got myself a jumper and these complementary pairs of socks.

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Even the city is decorated Christmassy.

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While the „Winter Wonderland“ in London gives you a nice impression of how an actual German Christmas Market (that got crossed with the Oktoberfest) might look, Oxford has a smaller and arguably nicer market.

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Oxford Street (in London)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Oxford MJur/BCL: Rowing

When you tell your friends or family you are coming to Oxford as a student for a longer period of time, sooner or later there you will certainly be asked one question: Are you going to row? Well, it’s just one of the things that ordinary people just expect Oxonians to do. Rowing conjures up images of you beating the guys from „the other place“ (read Cambridge University). You will be told you have to get up at 5.30 am to get on the boat by 6 am even in winter and that your body will ache after four/five sessions on the Isis (read the Thames) a week. But don’t be fooled by that (although you probably won’t be given the opportunity to beat Cambridge): Rowing is actually quite fun!

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Yes, a tiny part of the preparation also takes place indoor (the “tank”)

Firstly, basically everyone else in your boat will be new to rowing. So don’t be frightened by your lack of experience.

Secondly, rowing is organised at college level. This is why it will give you the opportunity to get to know your fellow students from college even better. After all, there’s nothing more fulfilling than jointly getting that eight-seated beast moving with coordinated strokes.

Thirdly, you will get up at 5.30 am to be on the boat by 6 am even in winter! While others still sleep in their cozy beds, you are taking on the real world. This means that come 9 am, you will be one of the few students attending the Corporate Finance Lecture who is actually right in thinking he is master of the universe.

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For more about the MJur program, please see Oxford’s Full Profile on LLM GUID

The Oxford MJur/BCL: Oxford Union

One of the great institutions of Oxford is the Oxford Union. And we are not talking about an institution that organises labour but the world’s most famous debating society. Although independent from the University, the Union claims students as the overwhelming majority of its members. For the amount of around 230 pounds (!) one can become a lifetime member. That is obviously a huge amount, especially for MJur/BCLs who stay for only a year. Judging from my experience so far, it may be worth it though.

Founded in 1823, the Union’s magnificent facilities are centrally located in Oxford. These include a bar for members, a beautiful library, pool tables and – of course – debating chambers. Main events are either debates or talks with distinguished guests.

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Debates take place every Thursday and are fought between one side of three debaters proposing a motion (e.g. „This House Believes the State Should Not Recognise Marriage“ or „This House Believes the UK Has Surrendered Too Much Liberty in Pursuit of Greater Security) and an opposition comprising an equal number of speakers. Eventually, the audience decides whether the motion will be accepted by leaving the chamber through a YEA or NAY door.

Talks are less contentious, although some speakers have have indeed stirred controversy in the past (e.g. Marine Le Pen). Notable guests include big names like the Dalai Lama, Albert Einstein, Shakira and Kermit the Frog. This term brings us a speaker who would probably love to be mentioned in the same breath as these. Being German I will only reluctantly do him this favour: Yanis Varoufakis.

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For more about the MJur program, please see Oxford’s Full Profile on LLM GUIDE

The Oxford MJur/BCL: Matriculation

I am finally an official member of the University of Oxford. In other words: Matriculation took place last weekend. Matriculation is another peculiar event from the perspective of a continental European law student that produces plenty of opportunities to take Facebook-suitable photos. The event’s idiosyncracy bascially draws on the „subfusc“ dress, that is mandatory and consists of the following elements:

  1. One of
  • Dark suit with dark socks, or
  • Dark skirt with black tights or stockings, or
  • Dark trousers with dark socks
  1. Dark coat if required
  2. Black shoes
  3. Plain white collared shirt or blouse
  4. White bow tie, black bow tie, black full-length tie, or black ribbon.

On top, you have to wear a gown and are supposed to carry your mortarboard (= academic hat). But beware, you are not allowed to actually wear that hat. For that, you have to graduate first!

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The procedure seems not to have changed over the past centuries. Students meet in their respective colleges and walk in procession to the Bodleian. Here, the president of the university gives a speech in Latin (in our case at least for some minutes) before joking aroun d. This is something that strikes me as emblematic of Oxford life: tradition is valued highly in form but mostly not taken too seriously in content (typically British, one might say).

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After the speech (and even more photos), students march back to their colleges, where they take group photos: the kinds of photos they may someday have framed and hung up on the wooden walls in their private libraries.

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For more about the MJur program, please see Oxford’s Full Profile on LLM GUIDE.

The Oxford MJur/BCL: Classes finally begin

After some weeks of settling in (read: having beers with new friends, organising myself and attending several induction lectures), classes have finally started. There are a great variety of classes, ranging from „International Law of the Sea“ and „Company Law“ to „Law and Medieval Society“. The faculty often recommend attending an undergraduate option (though only MJurs are allowed to, BCLs not) to get a firsthand-look at the „real“ common law. I am more intrigued, for my extra options, by the rather specialist courses of „Corporate Finance Law“, „Comparative Corporate Law“ and „Principles of Financial Regulation“ and „International Law and the Use of Force“.

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“The Cube” is arguably our nicest class room.

While lectures will introduce the topic and alert students to which topics are important, seminars are where actual participation and discussion take place. Students receive reading lists, which they ought to prepare for seminars. Likewise, debates revolve around a list of questions given to students beforehand. Also, each class will have four tutorials. In those, a professor will meet up with groups of two to four students and discuss a particular topic in detail.

I have to admit: This seems to be a very tough and time consuming schedule. This holds even more true, if you consider that you constantly get bombarded by interesting events and activities to attend and participate in Oxford. I will keep you posted on how this actually works out!

 

 

The Oxford MJur/BCL: Visiting the English Countryside

Amazingly, the English sky has been blue and the sun has been shining for the last five days at least. That gave us the opportunity to take our rental car out for an outing into the English countryside, namely Broadway. Broadway is a village in the county of Worcestershire and is part of the Cotswolds, an area of rolling hills. Justifiably called the „Jewel of the Cotswolds“, it is a lovely place to spend a sunny afternoon strolling through small medieval streets or having a beer in the various pubs.

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To give you an idea of the surrounding countryside, it looks like a mixture of New England and the Hobbington we know from Peter Jackson’s movies. I think it is actually fair to assume that it has influenced and inspired artists and writers like JRR Tolkien and JK Rowling. But see for yourself:

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Starting from Broadway tower, you may satisfy your wanderlust by following the pathways leading you through woods, fields and herds of goats and sheep. Even those who are not that much into walking: It is worth the effort (and it is easy to walk back after an hour or so).

For more about the MJur program, please see the Oxford’s Full Profile on LLM GUIDE.

The Oxford MJur/BCL: Settling in

The first few days of my stay in Oxford have now passed by. Somehow however, I am still finding myself in the organisation-process. Apart from getting your university card and moving into your residence, you will have to navigate through the huge ocean of possibilities and events that are inherent to the collegiate system. Induction and social events are presented to you by either the law faculty, your college or the university itself. Suffice it to say that the number of new faces you’ll see, the social and professional backgrounds you’ll hear about and the names you ought to memorise (or just ought to try to) is overwhelming.

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Judging from my first days, it is highly recommendable to buy a bike. I guess, the sooner, the better, since undergrads and other graduate students will begin to settle in and empty the market for used bikes. I found this wonderful thing on www.gumtree.com:

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Biking seems to be easy around Oxford. Drivers are probably used to both cyclists in general and foreign (read: continental-style) bikers. After some days, even the roundabouts are manageable.

For more about the MJur program, please see the Oxford’s Full Profile on LLM GUIDE.

The Oxford MJur/BCL: Getting to Oxford (Driving on the left)

Coming from Germany, I have to admit that travelling to the UK is not too much of a hassle compared to what other students from places further away actually have to get through to travel here. That said, I thought it useful to have a car in the first days of travelling here (which turned out to be true). What I didn’t take into sufficient consideration when booking a rental car at Heathrow Airport was that the British drive on the left. However, except for nearly causing an accident literally right after leaving the rental agency’s parking area, it was totally manageable to travel to Oxford this way. On the highway, I found it to be calming to find a truck and stick to it’s rear so you can focus entirely on driving on the left.

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I would recommend anyone new to Oxford to rent a car for the first days. It will give you the opportunity to do all the things necessary to settle in: Depending on your accommodation, you might have to buy furniture, bedding, a bike and groceries etc. More importantly, it will give you the opportunity to see the beautiful English countryside (to be continued).

For more about the MJur program, please see the Oxford’s Full Profile on LLM GUIDE.

The Oxford MJur/BCL: About

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Welcome to this blog!

I’m a law graduate from Germany, and I have joined the Magister Juris (MJur) program at Oxford University. In Oxford, clocks still run at a different pace. This is why the Oxford law graduate programme is not called LLM but – for students with a common law background – BCL and – for students who come from civil law countries – MJur respectively. Also, Oxford University is organised in a collegiate system, meaning that students are members of one of the colleges or private halls as well as members of a department or faculty (e.g. the law faculty). This makes possible what I consider one of Oxford’s unique advantages: Even though you are studying towards a law degree, you will also meet lots of fellow students from different disciplines in your college.

This blog aims to provide insights from my year on the Oxford MJur programme for those interested in Oxford/Law/Graduate studies in general. It also aims to compile useful information for future MJur/BCL students (on diverse issues such as the local pub scene, social events etc.) by combining my own experiences with those of fellow students.

My blog is featured on LLM GUIDE, a global, online community for prospective graduate students, and a directory of programs offered worldwide.