DPhil in Area Studies | University of Oxford
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DPhil in Area Studies

About the course

The DPhil in Area Studies offers the opportunity to undertake a doctoral project dedicated to the study of a specific country or region, or else to compare more than one region, using social science approaches whilst also generating theories and propositions that are of value across regions.

The School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies is recognised as the top centre for area studies in the world, carrying out cutting-edge research within a vibrant and exciting environment. As a DPhil student at the school, you will have access to outstanding research projects, seminar series, workshops and conferences and will have the chance to develop your work alongside academic staff who are experts in their fields.

Candidates for the DPhil are normally admitted with Probationer Research Student (PRS) status. As a PRS, you will develop your research proposal and skills, and produce a draft section or sections of your thesis, in order to apply for Transfer of Status which will end your probationary period as a research student. Once you have been admitted to full DPhil status, you are normally expected to complete your studies by the end of your ninth term as a doctoral student.

As a DPhil student at the school, you will be assigned one or two supervisors, depending on your thesis subject. These supervisors will advise and guide you as you progress through the different stages of your research.

Your first year will include participation in the first-year DPhil seminar series and you will have the opportunity to attend other courses offered by the school as identified in your Training Needs Analysis. Your Training Needs Analysis will be discussed with your supervisor and reviewed on a regular basis. During this year, you will focus on developing your research questions, conceptual framework and methodological approaches for your thesis and you should expect to be submitting material for your Transfer of Status as the academic year comes to an end.

In your second year you will continue to implement your research plan through theoretical engagement and/or fieldwork, data collection and analysis.

If you intend to undertake fieldwork as part of your research, you will be expected to attend a fieldwork safety course available through the Social Sciences Division.

Your third year requires you to participate in at least one conference, in the UK or internationally, presenting your work to a non-specialist audience, and to submit materials for Confirmation of Status during your seventh term as well as working towards the completion of your thesis.

Ongoing support will be provided by your supervisor(s) during your studies and feedback will be received from peers and faculty members at the first-year DPhil seminars. Written feedback will be provided as part of the Transfer and Confirmation of Status procedures and after the final viva voce.

Graduate destinations

This course is in its first year and there are no alumni as yet. However, area studies graduates have found employment in many and diverse fields including business, finance, law, civil service, journalism, government and industry.

Many SIAS graduates have also undertaken further research into subjects linked with area studies and have pursued successful careers in the academic world and education.

Related courses

Changes to the course

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2017-18

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in any relevant subject.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.6 out of 4.0. 

Applicants are also normally expected to be predicted or to have achieved a distinction grade at master's level in a relevant subject which includes appropriate research methods training. Or where a distinction has not been achieved, an overall grade of 67% and above in the master's degree course examinations and a distinction in the thesis element of that master's course will be considered. 

Applicants will be expected to demonstrate their commitment to a specific region for graduate work, and will have had training appropriate to the doctoral research they wish to pursue.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Publications

Publications are not expected, but if available, details should be provided in your CV/résumé.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Assessment of language ability at a level required for their doctoral research project will also form part of the admissions process. Applicants will be required to demonstrate that they possess an existing level of ability in the language of the country being studied or the archives to be consulted that is appropriate for the proposed research project, or show that they possess the potential to reach the required level within their first year, by combining existing knowledge with further training offered in the school's master's programmes.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

Resources

The Bodleian Libraries form the integrated library service of the University of Oxford, offering over 9 million volumes, 26 site libraries, 3,800 study places, 48,000 online journals, hundreds of research databases, document supply services, information skills training programmes and world-class staff expertise.

The Bodleian Social Science Library (SSL) is the main library for Area Studies.  The SSL is housed on the ground floor of the Manor Road Building, and is open seven days a week during term-time.  The library offers a variety of study spaces including graduate study rooms, individual study carrels, and two group discussion rooms which are available for booking. Oxford college libraries also offer collections and services to their own members. 

You will have the use of IT facilities within your college and at IT Services. IT Services runs courses on various computer programmes and can offer help and guidance. There is also a room at the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies which is available to students for study purposes.

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

A number of Research Council awards are available each year from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (further details will be announced in October 2016), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£12,300£3,021£15,321
Overseas£19,335£3,021£22,356

The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).

Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.

For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details on the impact of the result of the UK referendum on its membership of the European Union.

Additional information

While there are no compulsory elements of this programme that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs, students may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips, depending on the choice of research topic and the research required to complete it. The School will offer travel grants of up to £500 towards these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2017-18 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £1,002 and £1,471 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page.

Colleges

The colleges accepting students on the DPhil in Area Studies vary according to your specialism:

DPhil in Area Studies (Africa) - RD_DE1

The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Area Studies (Africa):

DPhil in Area Studies (China) - RD_DJ1

The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Area Studies (Africa):

DPhil in Area Studies (Japan) - RD_DH1

The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Area Studies (Japan):

DPhil in Area Studies (Latin America) - RD_DD1

The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Area Studies (Latin America):

DPhil in Area Studies (Middle East) - RD_DA1

The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Area Studies (Middle East):

DPhil in Area Studies (Russia and East Europe) - RD_DB1

The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Area Studies (Russia and East Europe):

DPhil in Area Studies (South Asia) - RD_DF1

The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Area Studies (South Asia):

How to apply

You are encouraged to make contact with potential supervisors before you apply to discuss your research interests. Initial general and admissions enquiries can be made via email to admissions@area.ox.ac.uk.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Research proposal:
2,500 words

The research proposal should make clear the research topic, detail the questions the research would seek to address, and indicate the methods and data sources that would likely be drawn upon to do this. The proposal should be written in English.

The word count should include any footnotes or appendices but may exclude your bibliography of cited works.

This will be assessed for:

  • coherence
  • originality and relevance of the project to area studies
  • commitment to an interdisciplinary and/or comparative way or working and indication of what would be the major and minor disciplinary focuses within the research
  • evidence of competency in research methods needed to carry out the proposed research
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course
  • capacity for sustained and intense work, reasoning ability and ability to absorb new ideas.
It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,000 words 

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts from longer pieces may be submitted but should be prefaced by a note putting them in context.

The work does not necessarily need to relate closely to the proposed area of study. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for comprehensive understanding of the subject area; understanding of problems in the area; ability to construct and defend an argument; powers of analysis; powers of expression; familiarity with the literature on the subject; and evidence of a keen interest and understanding of a specific region(s).

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

References should generally be academic, though one of your required three references may be professional or other non-academic provided that it covers work experience or skills relevant to the course.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, academic writing ability and career motivation.

When you apply for this course, you will need to select the code and title for the area you intend to study, eg DPhil in Area Studies (Japan).