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.

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. 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.

As a DPhil student at the school, 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.

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 and you should expect to be submitting material for your Transfer of Status as the academic year comes to an end.

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.

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.

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.

Graduate destinations

This course is in its second 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. 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 sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information, please see our page on 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 2020-21

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.

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.

Detailed requirements - higher level

The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are:

IELTS Academic7.5Minimum 7.0 per component
TOEFL iBT110

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced191Minimum 185 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency191Minimum 185 per component

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

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

There are over 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£17,070
Overseas£24,910

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 dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

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 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 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 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

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 1,000 words and proposal 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.

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 of 2,000 words 

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.

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 plan your time to submit your application well in advance.

Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.

Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).

Application Guide

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

Course and strandFull-time study
DPhil in Area Studies (Africa)Apply
(RD_DE1)
DPhil in Area Studies (China)Apply
(RD_DJ1)
DPhil in Area Studies (Japan)Apply
(RD_DH1)
DPhil in Area Studies (Latin America)Apply
(RD_DD1)
DPhil in Area Studies (Middle East)Apply
(RD_DA1)
DPhil in Area Studies (Russia and East Europe)Apply
(RD_DB1)
DPhil in Area Studies (South Asia)Apply
(RD_DF1)
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