MPhil in Buddhist Studies | University of Oxford
Statue
Statue in the Ashmolean Museum
(Image Credit: Nicola Mastroddi)

MPhil in Buddhist Studies

About the course

This two-year degree aims to give you a comprehensive training in one of the main Buddhist canonical languages, along with in-depth explorations of Buddhist history, philosophy, and literature. You will choose to specialise in Sanskrit, Classical Tibetan, or Classical Chinese, and may select another of these languages as an optional subject. This degree can be a standalone qualification or preparation for doctoral research.

You will be requested to select a primary Buddhist canonical language. The options currently available are Sanskrit, Classical Tibetan and Classical Chinese.

The first year focuses on intensive training in all aspects of your chosen language, without presuming previous knowledge of it, and takes advantage of the world class linguistic expertise available at Oxford. This is assessed by a qualifying written examination at the end of the first year in Trinity term.

Study of the chosen language is complemented by training in various aspects relevant to the study of Buddhism, including historical, literary, and philosophical. Teaching happens through lectures and tutorials, utilising the small group practice characteristic of Oxford, and is assessed by a qualifying exam at the end of the first year, ensuring that you have fully comprehended the first year’s teaching activities.

This solid base of training is built on in the second year with the in-depth study of important Buddhist texts in the original language in which you are specialising.

You are also required to choose one optional paper. Possible options are a second primary Buddhist language (Sanskrit, Tibetan or Chinese) or a paper chosen from a list published annually. These optional courses are subject to availability of teaching each year. Your assessment at the end of the second year is specified by the given course instructor.

The final examination, administered in Trinity term of the second year, consists of a thesis and three papers, as follows:

  • an advanced language paper consisting in a translation from seen and unseen texts in the chosen primary Buddhist language, to be assessed by a three-hour examination;
  • a thesis of not more than 20,000 words on a subject approved by the Faculty Board;
  • a paper on approaches to the study of Buddhism, to be assessed by three-hour examination;
  • either
    • a language paper in a second primary Buddhist language (either Sanskrit, Tibetan, or Classical Chinese), to be assessed by three-hour examination. The second primary Buddhist language can be studied either at a basic or at an advanced level. The former will be assessed by a three-hour examination in the chosen second primary Buddhist language; the latter by a translation from seen and unseen texts in the chosen second primary Buddhist language, to be assessed by a three-hour examination. If you intend to study a second primary Buddhist language at an advanced level you must satisfy the Faculty Board that you possess an adequate knowledge of your chosen language; or
    • a paper chosen from a list published annually, assessed as specified by the course instructor. Applications for approval of the chosen topic must be sent to the Secretary of the Board on or before the Monday in second week of Michaelmas term preceding the examination.

The examiners may examine any candidate by viva voce.

Graduate destinations

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

Many graduates have also undertaken further research into subjects linked with Oriental studies and have pursued successful careers in the academic world, education and in 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 2016-17

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 subject.

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

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:

References/letters of recommendation 

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

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

Written work produced by the student

Two pieces of written work of up to 2,000 words are required and should be in English only.

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.

Statement of purpose/personal statement

A statement of purpose should be a maximum of three pages in length (including bibliography). The statement should be in English only.

You should make clear in their statement of purpose which primary Buddhist language you intend to study in this MPhil.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying, especially to 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
  • ability to absorb new ideas at a rapid pace.

Performance at interview(s)

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

Publications

Publications are not expected.

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.

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.

Oxford has excellent library resources for Buddhist studies, which are kept in collections associated with the different parts of Asia. For South and Inner Asian studies these resources are supported by the Bodleian Library which includes the Indian Institute Library.

The Oriental manuscripts department at the Bodleian possesses one of the finest collections of pre-modern South Asian manuscripts in the world. For East Asian studies, there are, in addition to the main Bodleian collection, special libraries both for Japanese and for Chinese studies. Other relevant collections are located in the Sackler Library and the Theology Faculty.

Additionally, the Oriental Institute and certain colleges (for example, Wolfson College) also have substantial stocks of books related to Buddhism and primary Buddhist languages.

The Ashmolean Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum offer classes which can provide important resources for the study of Buddhist art and material culture.

In addition to facilities available in your college, in enrolling on this course you will have access to the facilities available to other graduate students in the faculty's graduate computer room and common room.

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available for courses starting in 2016-17. Full scholarships will cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. Information about the full range of funding available can be found in the Fees and funding section.

For over 70% of Oxford scholarships, nothing more than the standard course application is usually required. If you fulfil the eligibility criteria and apply by the relevant January deadline, you will be automatically considered. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out whether you are eligible for scholarships which require an additional application. If you are, the tool will include links to full details of how to apply.

Divisional funding opportunities

The University is proud to have been awarded a Doctoral Training Partnership, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, for the period 2014-19. Worth £14 million, this award will support at least 200 doctoral students and a number of master’s students in a range of arts and humanities disciplines. It adds to the existing range of postgraduate scholarships in the humanities, including the Ertegun Scholarship Programme, which creates a unique setting that fosters dialogue across academic disciplines, cultures and generations.

Departmental funding opportunities

Additional funding opportunities may also be offered by your department. Department scholarships are included in the funding search tool, with links to further information. More details on funding opportunities may also be available on the department’s website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2016-17

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£6,550£2,933£9,483
Overseas£17,555£2,933£20,488

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).

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 course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs.  However, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, depending on your choice of 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 2016-17 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £970 and £1433 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.

You are not expected to make contact with an academic member of staff prior to submitting your application.

The set of materials you should send with an application to this MPhil comprises:

  • a statement of purpose/personal statement, of up to three pages in length (including bibliography)
  • a CV/résumé
  • three academic references
  • official transcripts detailing your university-level qualifications and marks to date
  • two relevant academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification of 2,000 words each, or 2,000-word extracts of longer work, ideally related to your proposed area of study.

You should make clear in the statement of purpose which primary Buddhist language you intend to study.

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.