MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies | University of Oxford
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MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies

About the course

The MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies is a new 21-month, taught master's course, offered jointly by the Faculty of Oriental Studies and the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies. You will study this important region, with its rich history and its complex present-day societies, via an intensive language route or a non-language route, culminating in a 30,000-word dissertation.

The MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies is an exciting new degree bringing together Oxford’s wealth of expertise on South Asia in a single programme. Students gain access to teaching and expert supervision across departments, the ability to combine courses in both the social sciences and the humanities, rigorous training in one of three tailored modules in research methods, and the option to build in language training.

As a student on the MPhil, you will choose one of two streams: Contemporary India or Modern South Asia.

The first stream, Contemporary India, is intended for students wishing to explore present-day India’s social, economic and political achievements and challenges, and the connections between the country’s democratic and developmental successes and failures.

The second stream, Modern South Asia, is intended for students aiming to range more broadly across the states and societies of the subcontinent. Students within this stream may pursue any combination of interests, including history, literature, language, religion, economy and interstate relations.

You will also choose between the language track, studying a core South Asian language ab initio, or the non-language track. Subject to teaching availability, language track students may take one of the following intensive courses: Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit, Persian, Brajbhasha or Tibetan.

First year

During the first year, all students will attend the core course, introducing modern South Asia across the disciplines. All students will also receive training in research methods, through one of the following specially tailored programmes:

  • research methods for area studies, both qualitative and quantitative (compulsory for the Contemporary India stream)
  • qualitative and historical methods
  • qualitative methods: literature and language

An important purpose of the research methods course is to help you develop and refine your dissertation topic.

You will also choose option papers. If you are taking the language track, you will take one option paper during the first year. If you are taking the non-language track, you will take three option papers. Contemporary India stream students must take at least one of the relevant options over the period of the course. For a full list of option papers, please see the course pages on the department website. Please note that the options will change from time to time, and not all will be run every year.

By the end of the first year, MPhil students will have worked out a dissertation proposal, and plans for field or archival work to be undertaken during the summer months between the first and second years.

Second year

In the second year, all students will attend a course on advanced methods, as part of which they will make a presentation of their developing dissertation project. Language track students will continue intensive language study, and take one further option paper. Non-language track students will take two further option papers. The major focus of the second year will be the 30,000 word dissertation, for which you will receive expert supervision. Students pursuing the Contemporary India stream must select a topic related to contemporary India.

Your application

The MPhil is jointly taught by staff within the Social Sciences and Humanities Divisions, who will also assess your application. The application process is administered by the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies.

Teaching, learning and supervision

Students on the course will experience a variety of teaching modes, including lectures, seminars, classes, student presentations, and small group teaching. Supervision for the dissertation will be offered as a series of individual meetings between you and your dissertation supervisor.

Key study requirements

You will be required to gather relevant materials for your dissertation during the course, usually by working in libraries and archives in the UK but potentially also via fieldwork. 

Assessment 

Assessment is through a combination of coursework, assessed essays, written examinations and the dissertation.   

Graduate destinations

The department aims to equip its graduates with a range of valuable skills which will enable them to compete successfully within a number of different careers - in the civil service and policy-making bodies in Britain, Europe and further afield, in non-governmental organisations concerned with development, in the charitable sector, in journalism, public and private sector research and consultancy, law and academia. The MPhil is a valuable preparation for students wishing to go on to doctoral research.

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 discipline.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.

The admissions board will consider the entire application and any qualifications beyond the minimum bachelor's degree will be taken into account. These may include a master's degree or professional qualifications.

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).

For applicants for the language track, previous experience in a South Asian language is not essential. However, applicants should be able to demonstrate strong experience and aptitude in language learning in 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 required but should be listed if this may help indicate the quality of the application. These may be academic works, journalism, blogs or other such writings.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Evidence of prior interest in South Asia, including research or working experience in one or more countries of the region, is 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 the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies (SIAS) 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 the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies (SIAS) 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 the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies (SIAS).

All students are assigned a general supervisor at the start of term, who is usually a member of the core teaching staff on the MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies. The role of the general supervisor is to guide you through your course of study and assist you with written assessments. If your research interests fall outside the expertise of your general supervisor, she/he will assist you in identifying appropriate expertise within the university, and help you approach suitable scholars for supervision.

Depending on the range of your research interests, therefore, it is possible for you to have more than one supervisor - a general supervisor who oversees your general academic progress, and a different supervisor for your dissertation. Your supervisor(s) will discuss your progress, give you feedback on drafts (one full draft per assessment) and answer any questions before you submit work to Examination Schools.

Language teaching will be provided in the Faculty of Oriental 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.

In the case of students who require specific help to adjust to an academic programme or to a new range of skills, the supervisor will work with them to ensure that they have additional support.

Resources

Since the MPhil is taught jointly by staff within the Social Sciences and Humanities Divisions, students will be part of a larger community of teachers, researchers and students with interests in South Asia.  There are some 60 academics in Humanities and Social Sciences with South Asia research interests in Oxford.

For parts of the research methods course, students will be taught alongside those studying for other MPhil courses offered by SIAS, as well as students taking the MSc in Modern South Asian Studies and doctoral students, opening up further possibilities for interdisciplinary learning and exchange.

For students who already have a grounding in a South Asian language, there are opportunities to proceed to an advanced level, and to develop reading skills to attain a research proficiency.

For students whose research requires fieldwork, the University offers guidance on safe and ethical approaches to fieldwork and the conduct of interviews with local research participants.

Students will have access to the libraries, study spaces, common rooms and IT facilities of the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies, and of the Faculty of Oriental Studies, as well as to the social and networking events organised by these two university centres.

In its Bodleian Library, Oxford offers unparalleled library and archive facilities for South Asia, including the Indian Institute Library, which is the richest collection of official archival materials on South Asia in the UK, second only to the British Library. The libraries of the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies and of the Faculty of Oriental Studies are the main libraries for students on the course. Students may also access other faculty libraries as necessary.

Oxford also offers a wealth of resources for the study of South Asian art and material culture. The Ashmolean Museum contains collections encompassing art from the Islamic world, the Indian subcontinent and South-East Asia. The Pitt Rivers Museum holds important collections of ethnographic material from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The Museum of the History of Science houses an unrivalled collection of historic scientific instruments, including astrolabes and other instruments, with Persian, Arabic, or Sanskrit inscriptions, manufactured by artisans in India.

Oxford IT Services supports university members in their study and library use, helping students to get the most from their courses in state-of-the-art IT learning rooms. Some of the MPhil module convenors will also make use of the University's online sharing platform, known as WebLearn, where selected course readings are made available.

In addition to the faculties and departments who share in teaching for the MPhil, Oxford contains outstanding collegiate centres for study and research in relation to South Asia and its many regions, at Wolfson College, Somerville College and St Antony’s College. Research seminars at these collegiate centres are open to all students.

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)
£12,300£3,021£15,321
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 contact academic members of the department before or after applying but may do so for various reasons such as advice on refining the application, to discuss research topics, or for recommended reading to prepare for the course. 

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 and research proposal:
Statement of 500 words and proposal of 1,000 words

Your statement of purpose and research proposal should be submitted as a single, combined document with a clear subheading for each.

The statement of purpose should be written in English and indicate your reasons for applying to the MPhil. It could include some of the following:

  • what motivated your interest in India or South Asia
  • why you want to apply for the MPhil
  • what particular aspects of the course interest you
  • how the course will help you in your future career
  • whether you hope to study further (perhaps progressing to a PhD/DPhil)
  • if you have a topic of interest to research for the extended dissertation.  

If you are applying for the language track, you should indicate the language you wish to study and the nature of any prior experience you have in this language. 

For the research proposal, you should describe the topic of research you hope to pursue for your 30,000-word dissertation. This should include the reading you have done in the general field, an outline of the research project, why it is interesting and important, and an indication of the source material to be used for the project. 

The department is not just looking for those of excellent academic potential but also those who will make a significant contribution to the small group teaching and learning experience in Oxford.

The statement and proposal will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • your relevant academic experience
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study, including (where applicable) language study
  • the quality and feasibility of your research proposal
  • how your MPhil will help you in your future career.
It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,000 words each

Essays (usually academic) or other writing samples, written in English, are required. These should be examples of your best written work and need not related to South Asia. Academic work is preferred to other forms of writing such as journalism, business reports or reportage, but you should include what you have available.   

Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible as long as the context is made clear.  The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for your understanding of a research question, the ability to construct and defend an argument, the use of evidence where relevant, powers of analysis and expression, and capacity to produce a scholarly text.

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.

Three academic references are encouraged, though if necessary you may use one professional reference of the three references required overall provided that it is relevant to the course.

Your references will support your intellectual ability, academic achievement, and motivation.