MPhil in Eastern Christian Studies | University of Oxford
Talin
Cross stone in the Kuys Sandukht Chapel, Talin
(Image Credit: Armen Manukov / Wikimedia Commons)

MPhil in Eastern Christian Studies

About the course

The MPhil in Eastern Christian Studies is a two-year degree which is intended to give you experience in reading and interpreting a wide range of Eastern Christian texts in one of three options - Greek, Armenian with Greek, or Syriac with Greek. All students also prepare a 30,000 word thesis. This degree can be a stand-alone qualification or preparation for doctoral research.

Before arrival in Oxford you will be required to choose to study for papers in ONE of the three following options:

  • Greek (Patristic and Byzantine)
  • Armenian with Greek
  • Syriac with Greek

Teaching for each option may not be available in every year and you will be advised of this when you apply.

Please note that the Armenian stream will not be available for 2017-18 study.

A list of set texts in each language is included in the Course Handbook, which can be accessed via the faculty's course webpage. Set texts are agreed with candidates at the beginning of the academic year, and a list of these can be obtained from the Course Director.

Teaching takes the form of text classes, supervisions and/or seminars, and background lectures. The Armenian and Syriac set texts are read in the first year in text classes, for which you will be expected to prepare, while the Greek set texts will normally be left to you to work through alone. You will also be required to write and present essays, either for supervisions or for seminars. The second year is normally left for work on the thesis, the subject of which must be approved by the Faculty Board, and for this your supervisor will provide general guidance.

The examination towards the end of Trinity term in the second year takes the form of four papers. These consist of:

  • essay questions on the development of doctrine and the history of the Church in the Christian East to AD 717
  • specified Armenian or Syriac historical texts
  • specified Armenian or Syriac theological texts
  • Greek ecclesiastical texts

For the specified Armenian and Syriac historical and theological texts, besides passages for translation and comment, there may also be essay questions associated with the set texts. The paper on Greek ecclesiastical texts will include some passages from unspecified, as well as specified, texts.

The thesis (of not more than 30,000 words) must be presented at the end of the second week of the same Trinity term. You will be examined viva voce unless you have been individually excused by the examiners.

Graduate destinations

Oriental studies graduates have found employment in many 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 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 subject, though applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have the skills and training necessary to follow the course.

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).

Applicants must have a working knowledge of Classical Greek and, for those taking options in Armenian or Syriac texts, a working knowledge of either Armenian or Syriac, ie you must be able to read the language with the aid of a dictionary. 

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.  

However, in some cases they may be required. If interviews are held, shortlisting will be based on academic excellence, and academic skills and training which match the requirements of the degree and they would be held via Skype. Timing for interviews would depend on the date of application and deadlines for scholarships. If an interview were held, there would normally be two interviewers, but if required more might be involved.

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.

Resources

The University of Oxford is a world leader in the study of the history and culture of the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, and the Caucasus, from the beginnings of civilisation through to the present day.

Within the Faculties of Oriental Studies, Classics, History, Theology, Philosophy and the School of Archaeology, there are unparalleled numbers of scholars and research students working on the region, and bringing with them knowledge of an extraordinary range of disciplines. This research has been further boosted in recent years by the founding of the Oxford Centre for Late Antiquity, the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research, the Khalili Research Centre for the Art and Material Culture of the Middle East, and the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. These faculties and centres provide the outstanding seminar culture for which Oxford is famous.

The University has excellent library holdings of original manuscripts and secondary literature in all of the ancient and modern languages of the region, including those of the Oriental Christian populations, as well as in all major related disciplines. The Bodleian Library is the main research collection which students for the MPhil in Eastern Christian Studies will use. The Oriental and Theology Faculties both have their own libraries, with lending facilities, and one of the world’s most important collections of books and journals relating to archaeology and the ancient world is located in the Sackler Library, next door to the Oriental Institute. Further large Oriental Christian manuscript collections are within easy reach in the British Library in London, and in the Mingana Collection in Birmingham.

You will also have access to the University's centrally provided electronic resources and the faculty’s IT Officer. There is a computing room for the use of graduate students in the Oriental Institute, as well as a common room where tea and coffee are available and staff and students can meet.

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.

The Ertegun Scholarship Programme and the Humanities Research Council (AHRC) each provide a number of awards every year, to support graduate students across a range of disciplines. To be considered for these studentships you must apply by the relevant January admissions deadline.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£8,715£3,021£11,736
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).

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 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 not expected to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply.

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.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
Up to three pages

Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in. The overall page count should include any bibliography.

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.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,000 words each

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, 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 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.

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