It hears papers on 'intelligence', as part of academic 'intelligence studies' and their connections with political science, international relations, and modern history. The main focus is understanding on intelligence's place in the modern world, in the UK and overseas. The Group seeks to have both official and academic speakers, and particularly values papers on foreign intelligence systems and on subjects that link 'intelligence studies' with other academic fields.

The main programme normally combines a late afternoon paper and seminar by a visiting speaker with a dinner and discussion afterwards. The aim is to hold these meetings twice a term. Dinner attendances vary between 15 and 30. Speakers in recent years have included two JIC Chairmen and a Chief of Defence Intelligence, other senior members and ex-members of British and foreign intelligence organizations, MPs and others with particular intelligence connections, and distinguished intelligence scholars.

Occasional small afternoon meetings are also held in term-time on more specialised topics, often to present recent research on subjects of intelligence history. An important activity of the Group is also to hold a one day 'expert' workshop each year on a subject of particular interest. Since these began the subjects have been Intelligence and the Media (jointly with the Reuters Foundation), Intelligence and Ethics (including a presentation on interrogation), and a Reassessment of Bletchley Park's Wartime Contributions and Current Lessons.

Attendance is by invitation, but the net is cast quite widely. Those attending include current senior university members and students, retired practitioners and other government officials, and officials and academics from London and elsewhere. Speakers' expenses are reimbursed and overnight accommodation can be provided.

The origin of the Oxford Intelligence Group was in small seminars held in Nuffield for some years after Michael Herman retired from government service and was given a niche there in 1987. After a successful international conference on intelligence in 1999 the group was reformed on a larger scale at St Antony's College, and met there for a three-year programme financed by a generous benefactor. After a subsequent year at Rhodes House it migrated to Nuffield College in 2004.

The Director is Gwilym Hughes, Head of the Endowment Office and Fellow of Nuffield College. The Founder Director is Michael Herman, Associate Member of Nuffield. A Steering Group is chaired by Dennis Trevelyan, formerly Principal of Mansfield College.