MSt in Korean Studies | University of Oxford
Tomb of King Tongmyong
The Tomb of King Tongmyong in Pyongyang, North Korea
(Image Credit: Kok Leng Yeo / Flickr)

MSt in Korean Studies

About the course

This course aims to build on a basic knowledge of modern Korean and classical Chinese or modern Japanese.

The MSt aims:

  • to build your capability in using at least modern Korean for research purposes;
  • to acquaint you with many of the most important classical texts from Korean history, in modern Korean translation or the original Classical Chinese or Old or Middle Korean;
  • to enable you to understand and use a range of classical references and historiographical and linguistic research methods for the treatment of primary sources; and
  • to allow you to engage in specialised study from a wide range of options and exercise your new skills.

You should expect to attend up to ten hours per week of tutorials and should expect to spend an additional thirty to forty hours a week, perhaps more, during each full term for preparation. In addition, you should expect to be set a considerable amount of work during the vacations.

Language instruction, the reading of prescribed texts, and bibliographic or methodological exercises are usually conducted in tutorials for which you are expected to prepare thoroughly in advance. Lectures are provided for instruction on general themes of Korean and East Asian history and critical issues in contemporary and classical Korean linguistics. You are advised to take advantage of public lectures offered on China and Japan, since they also supply historical context, comparative linguistic information, regional background, and comparative perspectives for work in tutorials.

Teaching takes place in tutorials. You are required to prepare thoroughly for whatever is required: language exercises, prescribed readings, essays, bibliographic or methodological exercises, and you should be able to present your preparation in finished form. Depending on the task, the finished form may be written language exercises, essays on linguistics, historical, literary, or cultural topics, or translation from Korean (or Chinese or Japanese) into English.

Outstanding students typically view themselves as ‘researchers in training’ and consciously set about building their competence in the body of secondary reference materials available (in Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese) as an additional aspect of tutorial preparation.

All preparation is for a set of final examinations in the following three areas:

  • Prescribed texts
  • Either Modern Korean unprepared translation or Classical Chinese or Modern
    Japanese*
  • Methodologies for Classical Koreanology or Korean Linguistics

* Candidates who already possess a sufficient knowledge of Modern Korean will be required to choose Classical Chinese or Modern Japanese.

Candidates are also required to submit a dissertation of not more than 15,000 words on a topic approved by the Board of the Faculty of Oriental Studies.

Aside from the dissertation, the course is examined by two, three-hour examinations to be sat at the end (eighth week) of the third term (Trinity) in June, and one examination to be completed in the Bodleian Library over the course of three and one-half days, also during eighth week at the end of the third term. The dissertation deadline is the end of the sixth week of the third term.

All examination papers and the dissertation will be reviewed by examiners, one of whom is from outside the University. The external examiner shall have the final decision as to whether to award the degree. You will be examined viva voce unless you have been individually excused by the examiners.

The examiners ordinarily award a pass/fail mark but may award a distinction grade for excellence in the whole examination. A distinction grade should be viewed as a strong recommendation to continue research at the DPhil level.

Graduate destinations

Graduates from this degree have gone on to pursue DPhil and PhD degrees in Oxford and elsewhere and some now hold academic posts in leading universities in the UK, Europe and Korea.

Others have gone directly into business, finance, law, civil service, journalism, government, and industry.

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.

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.

Applicants must be able to read modern Korean. Applicants must submit scores from the Standard Test of Proficiency in Korean (S-TOPIK) with a target level of 4.

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 may be conducted. If interviewing takes place, candidates will be shortlisted based on their qualifications and appropriateness for the course. Interviews will be held at times convenient to both staff and applicant.

The interview will be held by Skype if you are outside Oxford, and will consist of around 30 minutes of question and answer and around 30 minutes of a short language examination. There will be a minimum of two interviewers, usually three.

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 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 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

'The Bodleian currently holds about 36,000 books (Korean language), 12,000 books (non-Korean languages), and about 1,000 Japanese-language books as well as about 100 volumes of pre-modern Korean books and a small collection of manuscripts.

The ‘Window on Korea’ project, sponsored by the National Library of Korea, provided the Bodleian Library with around 4,000 volumes in 2012 and will provide 200 volumes per year until 2017.

The National Library of Korea also provided funding to help create a Korean Studies Library with an audio/visual/seminar room at the Oriental Institute Library. This will provide the opportunity to expand the collection as well as bringing all necessary Korean materials (reference, newspapers, teaching, audio visual and research materials) into one location at the Oriental Institute. Oxford has now the largest Korean collection in the United Kingdom and is one of the very few places in Europe to have a dedicated library to the study of Korea.

Adjacent to the Oriental Institute is the Ashmolean Museum, which houses superb collections including some rare and important Korean artefacts.  Nearby, the Sackler Library houses the Eastern Art Library which includes the Korean collection of arts and archaeology; the Weston Library houses the Korean collection of pre modern books and manuscripts.  The library has subscription to the e-Korean Studies which includes the Korean studies Information Service System (KISS) and eight other databases. 

As well as the Bodleian Library and the Oriental Institute Library, you will 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 and 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.

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)
£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 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. 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:

  • 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.