MSt in Women's Studies | University of Oxford
Taylorian
A student walks between the Ashmolean Museum and the Taylorian Institute
(Image Credit: Rob Judges / Oxford University Images)

MSt in Women's Studies

About the course

The MSt in Women's Studies equips you with the critical and research tools needed for women’s studies in the humanities. It provides a systematic introduction to feminist theory, and enables you to gain the skills necessary to engage in original research into topics in the humanities relating to women and to gender, in a university with excellent facilities for both traditional and computer-age research. 

This nine-month interdisciplinary master's degree equips you with the critical and research tools needed for women's studies in the humanities. It provides a systematic introduction to feminist theory, highlighting women's contribution to culture and history alongside critical analysis and theorisation of the meanings assigned to the category 'woman' in philosophical, literary, socio-cultural and historical thought.

It also provides the practical equipment necessary to engage in original research into topics in the humanities relating to women and to gender, in a university with excellent facilities for both traditional and computer-age researches. Teaching is delivered through close individual supervision, as well as a carefully designed programme of lectures and classes led by specialists from a wide variety of disciplines, promoting collaborative work as well as the development of independent and original scholarship.

You will follow an intensive core course, combining introductions to feminist theory and to methodologies/methods of research. You will take two options, drawn from a list of up to thirty covering a very wide range of topics which are then examined by coursework essay. The options allow deepening of skills acquired in a first degree or the development of new skills under specialist teaching, which can be further practised in the third assessed element of the course, a closely supervised dissertation on a subject of your choice.

Five departments within the Humanities Division contribute option choices and supervision expertise to the degree: the Faculties of English, History, Classics, Philosophy and Modern Languages. The programme does not normally involve departments within the Social Sciences Division but has a close relationship with the International Gender Studies Centre.

Whilst you are pursuing the MSt in Women’s Studies you are also encouraged to go to lectures and seminars organised by individual faculties, which might help you to frame your immediate or future projects.

Graduate destinations

Many of the students who complete the MSt in Women's Studies proceed to doctoral degrees both at Oxford or at other universities. Other graduate destinations include teaching, journalism, NGO work, and the civil service.

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 2016-17

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. Whilst there is no restriction on the subject of the first degree, applicants should be able to demonstrate a clear and well-reasoned commitment to women’s studies.

Entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.75 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).

Whilst there is no  restriction on the subject of the first degree, candidates should be able to demonstrate a clear and well-reasoned commitment to women’s studies.

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

References/letters of recommendation 

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

References should generally be academic. However, if you have been out of full-time study for a period of two years or more, one of the references submitted may be a professional rather than an academic reference. 

Written work produced by the student

Applicants should provide two relevant academic essays or other writing samples from their most recent qualification of 2,000 words each, or 2,000-word extracts of longer work prefaced by a note that puts them in context. Alternatively, applicants to this programme may provide one longer writing sample of 4,000 words. Written work should be in English.

This will be assessed for critical understanding of issues relevant or transferable to the subject area; ability to construct an defend an argument; powers of analysis; and powers of expression.

Statement of purpose/personal statement

The statement should not be longer than 700 words and should be written in English.

The statement should be written with reference to the specific nature of this MSt and, if possible, its course structure and options.

The statement will be assessed with reference to:

  • your reasons for applying
  • the coherence of the statement
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques. 

It is highly desirable to indicate the likely area that your dissertation will cover. 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.

Your statement should focus on your academic qualities rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations (though interests relevant to the course should be included).

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Publications

Publications are not expected

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 Medieval and Modern Languages, in conjunction with other departments in the Humanities Division, 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 provision of supervision is subject to the following factors:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Standing Committee of the MSt in Women’s Studies, in consultation with faculties in the Humanities Division, 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 or co-supervisor may be found outside the departments in the Humanities Division.

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.

For progression from the taught MSt to a research degree, the five participating faculties (Classics, English, Modern History, Modern Languages and Philosophy) accept the MSt in Women’s Studies as equivalent to their respective MSt degrees, though there is no automatic right to acceptance and some faculties demand a distinction in the MSt dissertation. In the case of the Faculty of Philosophy, applications by students who have completed the MSt will be considered for both the BPhil and the DPhil programmes on a case-by-case basis. It is the responsibility of students applying to other faculties within Oxford to clarify any conditions for progression which these faculties may impose.

There is a tremendous wealth of scholarly and community activity in Women’s Studies at Oxford. You will benefit from exposure to a variety of forms of scholarship through a research seminar on gender, literature and culture, and will have access to new initiatives enabled by the research programme Women in the Humanities (WiH), supported and funded by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).

In May 2015, students on the MSt in Women's Studies obtained WiH funding for an international conference celebrating the course’s twentieth anniversary year: ‘Teaching to Transgress: Twenty Years of Women’s Studies at Oxford’. The International Gender Studies Centre hosts a range of talks, workshops and events, as well as playing a part in the annual Oxford International Women’s Festival.

Further opportunities for exchange are provided by the interdisciplinary communities fostered within individual colleges. The Oxford Centre for Research in the Humanities (TORCH) offers a stimulating range of interdisciplinary activities.

Graduates in Oxford have access to over a hundred libraries. The University's core research resource in the Humanities are the Bodleian Libraries, whose combined collections contain more than 11 million printed items, in addition to more than 50,000 e-journals and a vast quantity of manuscripts, maps, music and other materials.

The Bodleian Library has been a library of legal deposit for 400 years. In addition, each faculty and college has a lending library (and reference collection of periodicals). Alongside the resources of individual subject libraries, the Taylor Institution has a special section dedicated to women’s studies. 

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available for courses starting in 2016-17. Full scholarships will cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. Information about the full range of funding available can be found in the Fees and funding section.

For over 70% of Oxford scholarships, nothing more than the standard course application is usually required. If you fulfil the eligibility criteria and apply by the relevant January deadline, you will be automatically considered. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out whether you are eligible for scholarships which require an additional application. If you are, the tool will include links to full details of how to apply.

Divisional funding opportunities

The University is proud to have been awarded a Doctoral Training Partnership, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, for the period 2014-19. Worth £14 million, this award will support at least 200 doctoral students and a number of master’s students in a range of arts and humanities disciplines. It adds to the existing range of postgraduate scholarships in the humanities, including the Ertegun Scholarship Programme, which creates a unique setting that fosters dialogue across academic disciplines, cultures and generations.

Departmental funding opportunities

Additional funding opportunities may also be offered by your department. Department scholarships are included in the funding search tool, with links to further information. More details on funding opportunities may also be available on the department’s website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2016-17

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£6,550£2,933£9,483
Overseas£17,555£2,933£20,488

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 2016-17 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £970 and £1433 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.

You are not expected to make contact with an academic member of staff prior to submitting your application.

The set of materials you should send with an application to this MSt comprises:

  • a statement of purpose/personal statement, of no more than 700 words
  • a CV/résumé
  • three academic references
  • official transcripts detailing your university-level qualifications and marks to date
  • either (i) two relevant academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification of 2,000 words each, or 2,000-word extracts of longer work, or (ii) one longer essay of 4,000 words, or an extract of this length, instead of two shorter works. 

It is highly preferable that your statement indicate the area of research you would like to cover in your dissertation.

References should generally be academic. However, if you have been out of full-time study for a period of two years or more, one of the references submitted may be a professional rather than an academic reference. 

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.

If you choose to send one longer work of 4,000 words rather than two shorter pieces, in applying you should upload as your second piece of work a statement declaring that you are submitting one longer piece, as permitted by the department.