The study of Celtic at Oxford has a long history, the Jesus Professorship of Celtic being the oldest chair in the Modern Languages Faculty (1877) and the only professorship in Celtic in an English university. Previous holders of the chair have been Sir John Rhys, J. Fraser, Sir Idris Foster, E. Evans.
Celtic is available to be studied with another language or in a joint school with another subject. It is not available on its own. The course is designed to be manageable for beginners and to allow students to concentrate either on Irish or on Welsh, as well as to study both together. Those who already have an A Level in one Celtic language will, in the first year, be encouraged to do some introductory work in a different Celtic language.
Beginners may well confine themselves to Welsh, since the main teaching on the language side will be on Welsh. The course for the second and final years allows students to balance medieval and modern papers, but the range of options is more extensive on the medieval side. Anyone wishing to concentrate on modern Celtic literature should not, therefore, choose this course. For anyone with medieval interests, however, the course provides an opportunity to study difficult texts as well as those more commonly read and thus to attain to a good understanding of a language and a literature extending over a thousand years. It also allows medieval Irish and Welsh to be studied together so as to offer a grounding in the two main medieval Celtic literatures.