DPhil in Oriental Studies | University of Oxford
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DPhil in Oriental Studies

About the course

The Faculty of Oriental Studies offers a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) research degree and is able to offer supervision over the full range of regions in which its academics have expertise.

The DPhil in Oriental Studies is the faculty’s main research degree. Supervision can be offered in the full-range of areas in which the faculty has expertise, namely Chinese studies, Egyptology and the ancient Near East, Eastern Christianity, Hebrew and Jewish studies, the Islamic world, Japanese studies, Korean studies and South and Inner Asia. All topics fall under the general degree title of DPhil in Oriental Studies.

You will be assigned a supervisor(s) who has overall responsibility for the direction of your work on behalf of the faculty. Typically, you should expect to have meetings with your supervisor at least twice a term during the period of you study, often more frequently during the earlier stages of the research programme. Through independent research, and with the guidance of your supervisor, you will be required to complete a thesis of 80,000 to 100,000 words. 

The DPhil normally takes between three and four years to complete. You will begin your programme as a Probationary Research Student (PRS), applying to transfer to full DPhil status by the start of your second year. A further assessment, to confirm status, will take place during the third year. The transfer of status and confirmation of status assessments are processes handled by academics other than the supervisor, and are an opportunity to receive substantive feedback on your work by experts other than your supervisor(s).

You will have the opportunity to attend faculty seminars, lectures and colloquia, as well as a variety of skills training sessions offered by the faculty, as appropriate to different stages of the graduate career. All research students are offered an opportunity to attend the tutorial teaching day at the faculty in Hilary term. Those completing the training are then placed on the Graduate Teaching Register and are able to provide teaching for undergraduates if the opportunity arises.

Student insights

Graduate destinations

Graduates in Oriental studies have found employment in many diverse fields including business, the civil service, finance, law, government, industry, and journalism and the media.

Many graduates have also undertaken further research into subjects linked with Oriental studies and have pursued successful careers in the academic world, education, libraries, literature and museums.

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 an upper second class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications) as a minimum in any subject, though ideally relevant to the topic of their research.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

Applicants for the DPhil are also normally expected to have a good master's degree in a subject closely related to the topic of their research.

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.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

It is expected that applicants for the DPhil will have significant competence in one or more relevant Oriental languages. You should discuss the linguistic competence that you will need for your proposed topic of research with your prospective supervisor.

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 Oriental Institute 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 Oriental Institute 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 Oriental Institute. In such circumstances, a second internal supervisor may be appointed to provide guidance on policy and procedures of the Oriental Institute.

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

During your studies you will have access to the Oriental Institute Library, which is housed in the Oriental Institute.

In addition to this, there are a number of other specialist library collections in Oxford that focus on Oriental studies, such as:

  • Bodleian Oriental collections
  • Institute for Chinese Studies library
  • Eastern Art library
  • Bodleian Japanese library
  • Griffith Institute
  • St Antony’s Middle East Centre library
  • Leopold Muller Memorial library. 

Adjacent to the Oriental Institute is the Ashmolean Museum, which houses superb collections. The Sackler Library includes the principal library for Egyptology and ancient Near Eastern Studies.

You will also have access to the University's centrally provided electronic resources, the department's IT Officer and other bibliographic, archive or material sources as appropriate to the research topic. There is a computing room for the use of graduate students in the Oriental Institute. The provision of other resources specific to your project will be agreed with your supervisor as a part of the planning stages of the agreed project.

When you first arrive, you will be invited to a student party at the faculty in the first week of Michaelmas term. The Oriental Institute and the Chinese Studies Institute both have common rooms where refreshments are available and which students are welcome to use.

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 awards are available from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) each year, to support graduate students in a range of disciplines. To be considered for any of these studentships you must apply before the January admissions deadline.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
c. £4,250£3,021c. £7,271
Overseas£15,755£3,021£18,776

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

There are no compulsory elements of this programme that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs.  However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of 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.

How to apply

You are strongly encouraged to contact a prospective supervisor before you apply to discuss the viability of your proposed research and whether supervision can be offered for your project.

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:
Up to 2,500 words

You should submit a detailed outline of your proposed research, written in English, covering areas such as the background to the research, methodology, expected results and the contribution to the field of learning.
The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for:

  • your academic reasons for applying, to this course and to the University of Oxford
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • commitment to the subject
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques
  • capacity for sustained and intense work at a high intellectual level
  • reasoning ability; and ability to absorb new ideas at a rapid pace
  • the coherence of the proposal; the originality of the project
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course (three or at most four years).

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 each

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualifications, written in English, are required. Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible. 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
  • clarity and accuracy of thought and writing
  • conceptual sophistication; critical skill
  • control of relevant primary and secondary sources
  • presentation of material in the appropriate scholarly form.

It is helpful if written work relates closely to the proposed area of study, though it is not compulsory, as there are many things that the assessors look for in the written work which are not specific to the subject area, such as ability to construct and defend an argument and presentation of material in the appropriate scholarly form.

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.

Whilst it is appreciated that obtaining academic references will be difficult for some applicants, academic references are requested because it is necessary to establish whether you are intellectually prepared for a course. It is unlikely that this can be established from a professional or personal reference, so you should only use such references if there is absolutely no alternative.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and fitness for chosen course of study.