MSc in African Studies | University of Oxford
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MSc in African Studies

About the course

The MSc in African Studies is a three-term course, designed both as a stand-alone interdisciplinary introduction to current debates about Africa, and as a preparation for doctoral research on Africa. This advanced degree programme provides an excellent foundation for those who wish to expand their knowledge of African studies.

There are four components to the MSc in African Studies:

  • the core courses - Methodology, Ethics and Research Strategies, and Themes in African History and the Social Sciences,
  • an optional paper, and
  • a dissertation of 15,000 words.

The teaching on the MSc programme is built around the two core courses. The first core course examines research methodologies and strategies, including the politics of researching and writing on Africa, and is taught in Michaelmas term. The second is a weekly lecture and seminar over two terms (Michaelmas and Hilary term) covering key questions in African history and the social sciences, giving close attention to critical debates and current issues. The core courses form compulsory elements of the degree programme and are open only to students taking the MSc in African Studies.

In addition to the two core courses, you will take an optional paper on a particular theme and within a specific discipline. A wide selection of optional papers is available each year.

Finally, you will write a research dissertation of 15,000 words on a research topic of your choosing, which must include discussion of the comparative reading, historiography, or theory relevant to the dissertation. You will undertake fieldwork at the end of Hilary term.

Supervision for the dissertation element of the programme runs through the year, the dissertation being submitted near to the end of Trinity term. You will submit examined essays for core course one and your chosen optional paper at the beginning of Hilary term and towards the end of Trinity term respectively. You will sit a written examination for core course two in Trinity term. 

Graduate destinations

This advanced degree programme provides an excellent foundation for those who wish to expand their knowledge of African studies, prior to working for NGOs, the civil service, international organizations, and the media, or in other professional capacities.

Students who complete the degree to a sufficient standard may transfer to doctoral programmes in disciplinary departments, such as Politics and International Relations, Development Studies, History, Anthropology or Geography, or to the interdisciplinary DPhil in Area Studies (African Studies).

Staff with expertise in African studies supervise doctoral theses across all of the main disciplinary departments of the university, and students can continue to work with the same supervisor who has guided their MSc work, where this is appropriate. Students who wish to progress from the MSc to doctoral studies can begin their doctoral research over the summer following completion of the MSc.

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 a relevant discipline in the humanities or social sciences.

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

Substantial professional experience in relevant fields, or work in an African country, will be taken into account. 

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.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Familiarity with African or other developing countries is desirable but is not essential. 

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 African Studies Centre 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 African Studies Centre 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 African Studies Centre.

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 African Studies Centre has a library which offers four workspaces and two computers. You will be able to use this space during the working day. The library has a collection of relevant books and also off-print sources that you may consult. Other teaching material is available online (Weblearn). You will also be expected to use the exceptional library resources provided by colleges and the University.

The centre has its own seminar room used for classes and seminars. When this room is not in use you are welcome to use it to meet with other students and discuss your studies.

Several social and networking events are organised by the department throughout the three-term course. These will allow you to meet colleagues and members of staff, and you will be encouraged to be involved in the organisation of these events. The department runs a weekly seminar series in each term which provides an opportunity for networking with other Africanists.

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)
£10,230£3,021£13,251
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 dissertation component of the course requires conducting original research. This research can be archival only, or can be theoretical, or based on quantitative analysis of data. Students who wish to collect original empirical material through fieldwork can do so during the Easter vacation, and this is a very popular option. The ASC contributes £500 towards fieldwork and research/travel grants are sometimes available from your college. However, students should be aware that the costs of fieldwork - on average around £1,500, but with great variation depending on country - will typically be higher than the funds available, and that they will be required to fund any shortfall.

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 may find it useful to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply, though this is not a requirement for admission.

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:
500 to 1,000 words

Your statement should include details of your previous academic training, as well as any relevant research and work experience; the proposed area in which you intend to write a dissertation; and evidence of motivation for studying this degree which can include travel and volunteer activities. You should indicate whether you intend to or aspire to pursue doctoral studies.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying, especially to Oxford
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study in general and dissertation topic in particular
  • 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 academic rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

Written work:
One essay of 2,000 words

You should submit a piece of academic writing in English with appropriate references. An extract of a longer piece of work may be submitted, but should be accompanied by a note which puts it in context.

Ideally the written work should relate to some aspect of African studies, but other relevant material can be submitted. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for:

  • 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, of which at least two must be 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.

Your references should generally be academic, though you may submit up to one professional reference.

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