MSt in Islamic Studies and History | University of Oxford
Jordan
Master's students on a break from fieldwork in Jordan
(Image Credit: Kim Wilkinson / Graduate Photography Competition)

MSt in Islamic Studies and History

About the course

The MSt in Islamic Studies and History is a one-year degree for students who already possess substantial knowledge of the field and who are able, without further language training, of working with pre-modern Arabic, Persian and Turkish primary sources as appropriate to their particular research interests. 

You can take specialised classes and undertake independent research under the supervision of a faculty member. Students often progress to doctoral work after completing the MSt.

The course focuses on the political, social, and intellectual history of the central Islamic lands (Egypt, the Fertile Crescent, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Central Asia, and Anatolia) up until c. 1500. The course is characterised by a strong emphasis on research methods and primary sources, thus making it a very good entry gate for subsequent doctoral study. You will already possess substantial general knowledge of Islamic or Middle Eastern studies and history.

You will receive specialised teaching in two elective papers, taught during their first two terms, while also working on a dissertation (or on two extended research essays) under the supervision of a suitable member of the faculty. You will also be required to demonstrate your research skills by means of a week-long take-home examination on methods and research materials.  You will be assigned a supervisor who is responsible for offering academic guidance throughout the course.

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 Middle Eastern studies, Islamic studies or a relevant cognate field.

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).

Applicants must already possess substantial general knowledge of Islamic or Middle Eastern studies and history and be capable of working, without additional language instruction, with pre-modern Arabic and/or Persian and/or Ottoman Turkish texts. 

Applicants from the US and others who hold Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are recommended to submit these with their application. GMAT scores are not 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.

Selection is normally on the basis of your written application and supporting documents. If interviews take place, they would be held either in person or by video in order to clarify queries arising from the application and to ensure your suitability for the course. Interviews would be conducted by a minimum of two interviewers, though not usually more.  

Publications

Publications are not expected.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

In view of the degree's strong research component, it is vital that the candidate's specific interests tally with the expertise of at least one faculty member. Applicants are therefore strongly encouraged to contact potential supervisors in advance of applying for admission to the degree. 

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.

Resources

You will have access to the Oriental Institute Library, which is housed in the Oriental Institute. In addition to this, you will also find useful the Bodleian Oriental collections and St Antony’s Middle East Centre library. St Antony's Middle East Centre library has a collection of around 45,000 volumes of books, periodicals, journals and pamphlets, including a rich collection of microfilms of old Arabic newspapers. The collection offers publications in vernacular languages, ie Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, as well as European languages, with a geographical coverage spanning the whole of the Middle East and North African countries.

Adjacent to the Oriental Institute is the Ashmolean Museum, which houses superb collections. You will also have access to the University's centrally provided electronic resources and the faculty IT Officer. There is a computing 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)
£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

In view of the degree's strong research component, it is vital that your specific interests tally with the expertise of at least one faculty member. You are therefore strongly encouraged to contact potential supervisors in advance of applying.

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.