DPhil in Area Studies | University of Oxford
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DPhil in Area Studies

About the course

The DPhil in Area Studies offers the opportunity to undertake a doctoral project dedicated to the study of a specific country or region, or else to compare more than one region, using social science approaches whilst also generating theories and propositions that are of value across regions.

The Oxford School of Global and Area Studies is recognised as the top centre for area studies in the world, carrying out cutting-edge research within a vibrant and exciting environment. As a DPhil student at the school, you will have access to outstanding research projects, seminar series, workshops and conferences and will have the chance to develop your work alongside academic staff who are experts in their fields.

Admission to this course is via one of seven strands and you will need to select one stand before starting your application. The strands are:

  • DPhil in Area Studies (Africa)
  • DPhil in Area Studies (China)
  • DPhil in Area Studies (Japan)
  • DPhil in Area Studies (Latin America)
  • DPhil in Area Studies (Middle East)
  • DPhil in Area Studies (Russia and East Europe)
  • DPhil in Area Studies (South Asia)

No matter which strand you choose the course follows the same general structure, which is outlined in more detail below.

Your first year will include participation in the first-year DPhil seminar series and you will have the opportunity to attend other courses offered by the school as identified in your Training Needs Analysis. Your Training Needs Analysis will be discussed with your supervisor and reviewed on a regular basis. During this year, you will focus on developing your research questions, conceptual framework and methodological approaches for your thesis. You will usually have been admitted as a Probationer Research Student (PRS) and should expect to be submitting material for your Transfer of Status as the academic year comes to an end, which will end your probationary period as a research student.

In your second year you will continue to implement your research plan through theoretical engagement and/or fieldwork, data collection and analysis.

If you intend to undertake fieldwork as part of your research, you will be expected to attend a fieldwork safety course available through the Social Sciences Division.

Your third year requires you to participate in at least one conference, in the UK or internationally, presenting your work to a non-specialist audience, and to submit materials for Confirmation of Status during your seventh term as well as working towards the completion of your thesis.

Supervision

For this course, the allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies 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 Oxford School of Global and Area Studies.

You will be assigned one or two supervisors, depending on your thesis subject. These supervisors will advise and guide you as you progress through the different stages of your research, meeting with you on average 2-3 times per term. Ongoing support will be provided by your supervisor(s) during your studies and feedback will be received from peers and faculty members at the first-year DPhil seminars. Written feedback will be provided as part of the Transfer and Confirmation of Status procedures and after the final viva voce.

Assessment

Candidates for the DPhil are normally admitted with Probationer Research Student (PRS) status. As a PRS, you will develop your research proposal and skills, and produce a draft section or sections of your thesis, in order to apply for Transfer of Status which will end your probationary period as a research student. Students who are successful at transfer will also be expected to apply for and gain confirmation of DPhil status, normally within nine terms of admission, to show that your work continues to be on track. Both milestones normally involve an interview with two assessors (other than your supervisor) and therefore provide important experience for the final oral examination.

Once you have been admitted to full DPhil status, you are normally expected to complete your studies by the end of your ninth term as a doctoral student.

After submitting your finished thesis, you will be required to attend a viva voce (viva for short). The viva will be held by two examiners, one internal to the University and one external. The purpose of this is to enable the Examiners to assure themselves that the thesis is your own work, to provide you with an opportunity to defend your thesis and to offer any necessary clarifications. A final copy of the thesis, incorporating any corrections, will be submitted after the viva.

Graduate destinations

This course is completing its third year and there are no alumni as yet. However, area studies graduates have found employment in many and diverse fields including business, finance, law, civil service, journalism, government and industry.

Many OSGA graduates have also undertaken further research into subjects linked with area studies and have pursued successful careers in the academic world and education.

Changes to this course and your supervision

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. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

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 illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

Entry requirements for entry in 2021-22

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • a master's degree with distinction in a relevant subject which includes appropriate research methods training; and
  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any relevant subject.

Where a distinction has not been achieved for the master's degree, an overall grade of 67% or above in the course examinations and a distinction in the thesis element will be considered. 

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.6 out of 4.0.

If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

GRE General Test scores

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

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

  • Applicants will be expected to demonstrate their commitment to a specific region for graduate work, and will have had training appropriate to the doctoral research they wish to pursue.
  • Assessment of language ability at a level required for their doctoral research project will also form part of the admissions process. Applicants will be required to demonstrate that they possess an existing level of ability in the language of the country being studied or the archives to be consulted that is appropriate for the proposed research project, or show that they possess the potential to reach the required level within their first year, by combining existing knowledge with further training offered in the school's master's programmes.
  • Publications are not expected, but if available, details should be provided in your CV/résumé.

Extenuating circumstances

If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.

English language requirement

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.57.0

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

110Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*191185
C2 Proficiency191185

*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.

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

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

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. 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. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements: 

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.

Resources

The Bodleian Libraries form the integrated library service of the University of Oxford, offering over 9 million volumes, 26 site libraries, 3,800 study places, 48,000 online journals, hundreds of research databases, document supply services, information skills training programmes and world-class staff expertise.

The Bodleian Social Science Library (SSL) is the main library for Area Studies.  The SSL is housed on the ground floor of the Manor Road Building, and is open seven days a week during term-time.  The library offers a variety of study spaces including graduate study rooms, individual study carrels, and two group discussion rooms which are available for booking. Oxford college libraries also offer collections and services to their own members. 

You will have the use of IT facilities within your college and at IT Services. IT Services runs courses on various computer programmes and can offer help and guidance. There is also a room at the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies which is available to students for study purposes.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer up to 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2021-22. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. 

For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources. Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages.

Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the school's website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2021-22

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£17,760
Overseas (including EU)£25,900

Course 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 course fees). 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.

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our detailed fee status information and the Oxford and the EU webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of research 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. Standard travel insurance can be provided by the University. However, students may be required to pay any additional insurance premiums associated with travel to areas with an increased level of risk and/or for travel of more than 12 months duration, and should factor this into their planning for fieldwork.

Living costs

In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2021-22 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,175 and £1,710 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2021-22, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

College preference

All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs). 

For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges. 

The colleges accepting students on the DPhil in Area Studies vary according to your specialism:

DPhil in Area Studies (Africa) - RD_DE1

DPhil in Area Studies (China) - RD_DJ1

DPhil in Area Studies (Japan) - RD_DH1

DPhil in Area Studies (Latin America) - RD_DD1

DPhil in Area Studies (Middle East) - RD_DA1

DPhil in Area Studies (Russia and East Europe) - RD_DB1

DPhil in Area Studies (South Asia) - RD_DF1

How to apply

Students are admitted to this course via one of seven strands, so you must decide which strand you would like to follow and select it when you choose your course.

You are encouraged to make contact with potential supervisors before you apply to discuss your research interests. Initial general and admissions enquiries can be made via email to admissions@area.ox.ac.uk.

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 and research proposal
Statement of a maximum of 1,000 words and proposal of a maximum of 2,500 words

Your personal 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 research proposal should make clear the research topic, detail the questions the research would seek to address, and indicate the methods and data sources that would likely be drawn upon to do this. The proposal should be written in English.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

The word count should include any footnotes or appendices but may exclude your bibliography of cited works.

Please note that you will be required to combine the personal statement and research proposal into a single file before uploading them to your application. 

The personal statement and research proposal will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • coherence
  • originality and relevance of the project to area studies
  • commitment to an interdisciplinary and/or comparative way or working and indication of what would be the major and minor disciplinary focuses within the research
  • evidence of competency in research methods needed to carry out the proposed research
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course
  • capacity for sustained and intense work, reasoning ability and ability to absorb new ideas.
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, a maximum of 2,000 words each

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts from longer pieces may be submitted but should be prefaced by a note putting them in context.

The work does not necessarily need to relate closely to the proposed area of study. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

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; familiarity with the literature on the subject; and evidence of a keen interest and understanding of a specific region(s).

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.

References should generally be academic, though one of your required three references may be professional or other non-academic provided that it covers work experience or skills relevant to the course.

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

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.

Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.

Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.

Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:

Step 5: Start your application using the relevant button below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application Guide

Students are admitted to this course via one of seven strands, so you must decide which strand you would like to follow:

DPhil in Area Studies (Africa) - RD_DE1

Apply

DPhil in Area Studies (China) - RD_DJ1

Apply

DPhil in Area Studies (Japan) - RD_DH1

Apply

DPhil in Area Studies (Latin America) - RD_DD1

Apply

DPhil in Area Studies (Middle East) - RD_DA1

Apply

DPhil in Area Studies (Russia and East Europe) - RD_DB1

Apply

DPhil in Area Studies (South Asia) - RD_DF1

Apply

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