MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies | University of Oxford
Great Wall
MPhil students visiting the Great Wall of China
(Image Credit: Kelly Tang / Oriental Institute)

MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies

About the course

The MPhil Modern Chinese Studies is a two-year master's degree programme offered jointly by the Faculty of Oriental Studies and the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies which combines intensive study of the Chinese language with thorough training in the study of modern China.

The course is suitable for graduates who have developed an interest in China and now want to take that to a level where it could be useful for their future careers.  It can be taken either as a terminal degree in preparation for professional work in which knowledge of China and Chinese is an advantage, or in preparation for further research as part of a doctoral degree in either the humanities or social sciences.

The aims of the MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies are to provide a strong grounding in modern Chinese language, both written and spoken, a strong foundation in understanding modern Chinese society and culture, and advanced training in conducting and reporting on independent and original research.

You will spend the first year of the course in Oxford, studying Chinese language alongside core classes in Chinese society and culture. You will choose from a range of options, shared with the MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies, which allow you opportunities to acquire advanced knowledge of the society, politics, economics, history, literature and art of modern China.

Knowing the Chinese language is essential for anyone who wants to understand China and the course is designed to provide this at both elementary and intermediate levels. You will be allocated to the appropriate level by a placement test on arrival.

Elementary level will be for students who are complete beginners or are false beginners, but not up to the next level. Students are taught reading, writing and translation skills as well as speaking and listening. Intermediate level will be for students who have excelled at the beginner level, are confident in daily communication and able to recognise and write about 500 to 550 Chinese characters. Students must have learnt most of the main grammar points to enter the intermediate level. 

The first part of the second year consists of a period of at least three months on an approved course of language study in China or Taiwan.

Graduate destinations

Oriental studies and area 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 and area 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 or discipline, although preference may be given to candidates who have studies previously in either the social sciences or the humanities.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.6 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 who have not previously studied any Chinese should be able to demonstrate an aptitude for language learning, for example through their experience in learning other languages.

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, but if available, details should be provided.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

  • Research or working experience in China or Greater China may be an advantage.
  • Evidence of some competency in Mandarin will be required. This may include records from formal language training successfully undertaken, or evidence of residence in China or Greater China over an extended period for work, study, or family reasons, or other evidence that shows some existing language competency. Previous travel just as a tourist within China or Greater China is unlikely to meet this requirement.
  • Research assistance or related working experience in universities, think tanks, NGOs, the media and other agencies may be an advantage.

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 Faculty of Oriental Studies and School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies 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 Faculty of Oriental Studies and School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies, 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 Faculty of Oriental Studies and School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies.

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 Dickson Poon University of Oxford China Centre, based on Canterbury Road, brings together academics drawn from across a range of disciplines, who have in common research and teaching interests related to China. The building has a 100-seat lecture theatre, a 200-seat dining area and a range of conference and seminar facilities. These facilities provide opportunities for interaction with students on a range of China-related degrees as well as lectures and other academic activities.

The China Centre also houses the Chinese Studies Library and the Bodleian Library's China Collection. In addition to this, there is a world-renowned collection of Chinese rare books housed in the Bodleian Oriental collections and the superb collections of the Ashmolean Museum. You will have access to the University's centrally provided electronic resources and the faculty's IT officer.

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 Research Council awards are available each year from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (further details will be announced in October 2016), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£15,755£3,021£18,776
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

The period between September and December of the second year (covering Michaelmas term) will be spent on full-time language study at Peking University. You will continue to pay tuition fees to the University of Oxford and college fees to your college in Oxford. The Faculty of Oriental Studies will meet the cost of the fees charged by Peking University. You will be expected to cover your own travel costs and living expenses in China. The faculty estimates that the cost of return airfare to Beijing from the UK to be  approximately £900. You may be eligible to apply for modest financial assistance from your college. 

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. However, you may wish to communicate with the department via email to chinesestudies@area.ox.ac.uk to discuss course content, teaching, assessment or any other course-related questions. Admissions enquiries should be addressed to admissions@area.ox.ac.uk.

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.

Personal statement:
Up to 1,500 words

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.

It should include a preliminary outline of your research interests and your proposed dissertation project.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • capacity for sustained and intense work.

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

Written work:
Two essays of 2,000 words each

Your work should be written in English and must be in the form of academic essays rather than business or consultancy reports. Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are permissible but should be prefaced by a note that puts them in context.

The work does not necessarily need to relate closely to the proposed area of study. 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.

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.

References should generally be academic though one of the three required references may be professional.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and ability to work in a group.