MPhil in Egyptology | University of Oxford
Artefact
Hieroglyphs inscribed on an artefact in the Ashmolean Museum
(Image Credit: Adrian Pratt / Flickr)

MPhil in Egyptology

About the course

The MPhil in Egyptology is a two-year taught graduate degree that offers a satisfying, advanced course of study in the languages, cultures, and history of ancient Egypt. While the MPhil functions as a course in its own right, it is also designed to take students to the stage where they can embark on doctoral research in Egyptology.

The MPhil in Egyptology has two paths through the curriculum. The first, Syllabus A, allows those with previous training in Egyptology to pursue their study of the subject to a higher level, to gain specialised expertise, and to begin advanced research in an area of their choice. The second, Syllabus B, enables graduates in another discipline to convert to Egyptology through a graduate level course that offers a certain amount of specialisation, including a significant element of advanced research. In both cases, syllabuses are tailored to the interests of individual students.

The study of ancient Egyptian language and textual culture lies at the heart of Syllabus B and is generally a major component of Syllabus A. The principal focus throughout is on detailed familiarity with the primary sources, studied in the original language and through the original manuscripts where possible, and with various methods and approaches. Use of a range of interpretive and analytical approaches to the primary sources is integral to the course, including, for example, historiographical and/or literary-critical frameworks; overall there is an emphasis on texts as artefacts in a material context.

The syllabus can also be designed with an archaeological and/or material-culture focus. You will have the opportunity to develop your skills in working with Egyptian artefacts from the extensive and diverse collections of the Ashmolean Museum. The MPhil dissertation, written during the second year, will give you the opportunity to identify and design your own research project and to develop advanced research skills.

Both syllabuses of the MPhil are very intensive. For example, you must treat the university vacations as integral parts of your work time and you will be expected to take relatively limited holidays. From the start of your course you should also think about whether you need to do fieldwork in Egypt or elsewhere and when this will best be done. Where possible, if you have not been to Egypt before you should ideally try to visit before the end of the course, even as a tourist.

In the second year, you should expect to spend the Easter vacation finishing your dissertation, which must be submitted half way through Trinity term. Depending on the course design, there can also be a take-home examination by the end of Hilary term of the second year. Research essays that are to be revised and assessed for another element in the course must also be completed and handed in during that term.

The final examinations are sat during and/or after the end of the term. In some cases the syllabus may be varied to enable students to take and be examined in options that are offered at the same time for other courses. Similarly, different examination provision may also be made for students who have chosen options that are offered in other departments, such as Classics or archaeology.

The number of students accepted each year for either pathway through the MPhil in Egyptology is very small. This ensures that teaching can be tailored to the research interests and training requirements of individual students, especially for syllabus A and the second year of syllabus B. Teaching is also very much focused around small groups and one-on-one tutorials and supervisions for which small cohorts are vital. If you are in the first year of syllabus B, you will share language classes and lectures on history and culture with first year undergraduates. For either syllabus, some other classes may also be shared with undergraduates and graduates on other degrees where appropriate for your research training needs.

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 either Egyptology, for applicants wishing to enter on Syllabus A, or in any subject for students wishing to enter on Syllabus B.

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:

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 normally held as part of the admissions process.

All applicants who meet the criteria are usually interviewed and the timing will be agreed on an individual basis. You will be invited to come to Oxford but, if this proves impossible, you will be interviewed by phone or Skype. The interview takes up to 45 minutes and may include a short passage of ancient text in English translation for discussion. If a passage is used, it will be given to you ten minutes before the interview begins (no knowledge of the original language is required). A minimum of two interviewers will be present.

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

You will have access to the facilities and resources of the Griffith Institute, which is home to one of the most significant Egyptological archives in the world and two major research projects, the Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Statues, Reliefs and Paintings, and the Online Egyptological Bibliography. It is possible for archive holdings to form the basis of dissertation work or special fields.

Volunteering in the archive or for the institute's projects offers excellent training in the management of primary sources as well as archival practices. You may also purchase Griffith Institute publications at student rates. 

The Griffith Institute, as well as teaching rooms and staff offices, is located in a wing of the the Sackler Library. This library houses the principal collection of books on Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern studies, and is one of the finest libraries for the subject in the world. The Sackler Library also includes general archaeology, Classical civilization, and Western and Eastern art.

A further vital University resource in Egyptology is the Ashmolean Museum. You will be strongly encouraged to make yourself familiar with the collections, both on display and in the stores. You may like to consider working with a specific category of material in the museum for a special field or dissertation. It may also be possible to gain museum work experience on a voluntary basis in the Department of Antiquities. Artefact classes for Egyptology undergraduates are held in the museum, and MPhil students are strongly encouraged to attend these where possible. Another Oxford museum with an Egyptian collection is the Pitt Rivers Museum. You may wish to explore the possibility of working with its collection, as well as those of other museums in the UK, such as the British Museum.

As well as these facilities, you will also be able to use the Oriental Institute Library, which is housed in the Oriental Institute, and the Bodleian Oriental collections. You will also have access to the University's centrally provided electronic resources and the faculty’s IT Officer. There is a computer 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.

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)
£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.

Your statement should focus on your research rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

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 skills
  • 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 the qualities listed above.

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.