MPhil in Islamic Art and Archaeology | University of Oxford
Islamic art
Islamic art from the Khalili Collections
(Image Credit: Khalili Family Trust 2014)

MPhil in Islamic Art and Archaeology

About the course

The MPhil is a two-year course combining comprehensive training in the history of Islamic art, architecture and archaeology, research, and language instruction. The course is designed for students with little or no background in Islamic art and archaeology who wish also to learn Arabic or Persian or Ottoman Turkish. It is suitable either as a stand-alone course or as the first two years of doctoral research.

You will have a supervisor who will guide your progress through the course and who will agree with you a programme of work and a timetable for each term of the course, including: general skills and research specific training, formal teaching and instruction, attendance at lectures and seminars, and regular meetings (normally at least twice per term) with the supervisor for detailed discussion on your progress. You will be expected to attend tutorials, classes, lectures and seminars regularly, and your tutors and language instructors will give you regular assignments of written work. Tutors and language instructors report to your supervisor on your progress at the end of each term, and the supervisor will write a formal report upon your work and progress during the term. The structure of the examinations for the course is as follows:

At the end of the first year of the course, you must sit the Qualifying Examination, consisting of three elements. The first is a three-hour written examination, 'Introduction to Islamic Art and Archaeology', reflecting the tutorials, lectures and seminars offered during the year. The second element is a portfolio containing reports on practical work completed during the year. During the year, eight practical classes introduce the basic techniques of describing and analysing material culture across a range of different media, which may include any of the following: architecture, ceramics, epigraphy, manuscript painting, metalwork, numismatics, and textiles; classes on presentation of work in a lecture or seminar, and on developing a personal website are also offered. The third element is a language examination in Arabic or Persian or Ottoman Turkish, which will test progress in the elementary study of the relevant language made during the year.

At the end of the second year, the final examination is taken, which consists of five elements.

The first is an extended essay of between 5,000 and 6,000 words on a topic of Islamic art and archaeology or related fields (eg non-Islamic art, architecture and archaeology, Islamic studies, history, museology) to be selected by yourself in consultation with your supervisor.

The second and third elements are two three-hour written examinations, in Arabic or Persian or Ottoman Turkish, one on language or unprepared texts, the second on prepared texts.

The fourth element is a three-hour written examination, 'Approaches to Islamic Art and Archaeology', reflecting the seminars of theory, methods and techniques offered during the year. The fifth element is a dissertation of not more than 30,000 words.

Further information on the course, and the examination process, can be found in the Course Handbook, which can be accessed via the course webpage.

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 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 (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:

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.  

Candidates will be short-listed based on their qualifications and appropriateness for the course. Interviews are held as soon as possible after an application has been assessed by academics. Interviews are normally conducted by phone, and no further material is normally required of candidates. There will be a minimum of two interviewers for each interview.

Publications

Publications are not required. 

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 onto Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision is subject to the following factors:

  • 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.

You will be expected to spend part of the vacation between years one and two engaged in language study and/or fieldwork in a region appropriate to your area of interest. 

Resources

Islamic Art and Archaeology is based at the Khalili Research Centre (KRC), where you will have most of your classes, lectures and tutorials. The KRC is the University of Oxford's centre for research and teaching in the art and material culture of the Islamic societies of the Middle East and of non-Muslim members and neighbours. The KRC houses some members of faculty Staff, and you will be given your own workspace. The centre has lecture rooms with audio-visual and IT equipment; an image digitisation room (available by appointment only); common room, kitchen facilities and a computing officer, as well as a wide range of IT facilities which can be used by staff and students, including network laser printing, audio visual equipment, and scanning equipment. You will also have access to the Oriental Institute Library and Oriental Institute common room and computing rooms.

The KRC adjoins the Sackler Library with its extensive holdings of books and journals on Middle Eastern art and visual culture, and also adjoins the Ashmolean Museum, with its superb collection of Islamic art.

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.