DPhil in Oriental Studies | University of Oxford
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(Image Credit: Rebecca Scott / Graduate Photography Competition)

DPhil in Oriental Studies

About the course

The DPhil in Oriental Studies is the Faculty of Oriental Studies' main research degree. Supervision can be offered in the full-range of areas in which the faculty has expertise, namely Chinese studies, Egyptology and the ancient Near East, Eastern Christianity, Hebrew and Jewish studies, the Islamic world, Japanese studies, Korean studies and South and Inner Asia. All topics fall under the general degree title of DPhil in Oriental Studies.

Through independent research, and with the guidance of your supervisor, you will be required to complete a thesis of 80,000 to 100,000 words. 

The DPhil normally takes between three and four years to complete. 

You will have the opportunity to attend faculty seminars, lectures and colloquia, as well as a variety of skills training sessions offered by the faculty, as appropriate to different stages of the graduate career. All research students are offered an opportunity to attend the tutorial teaching day at the faculty in Hilary term. Those completing the training are then placed on the Graduate Teaching Register and may provide teaching for undergraduates if the opportunity arises.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Faculty of Oriental 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 Faculty of Oriental Studies. In such circumstances, a second internal supervisor may be appointed to provide guidance on policy and procedures of the Faculty of Oriental Studies.

You will be assigned a supervisor(s) who has overall responsibility for the direction of your work on behalf of the faculty. Typically, you should expect to have meetings with your supervisor at least twice a term during the period of your study, often more frequently during the earlier stages of the research programme.

Assessment

You will begin your programme as a Probationary Research Student (PRS), applying to transfer to full DPhil status by the start of your second year. A further assessment, to confirm status, will take place during the third year. The transfer of status and confirmation of status assessments are processes handled by academics other than the supervisor, and are an opportunity to receive substantive feedback on your work by experts other than your supervisor(s). The final thesis will be assessed through a viva voce examination, typically with one internal and one external examiner.

Student insights

Graduate destinations

Graduates in Oriental studies have found employment in many diverse fields including business, the civil service, finance, law, government, industry, and journalism and the media.

Many graduates have also undertaken further research into subjects linked with Oriental studies and have pursued successful careers in the academic world, education, libraries, literature and museums.

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.

Courses suggested by the faculty

Oriental Studies MSt

Entry requirements for entry in 2021-22

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

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

  • a master's degree with a good result (an average mark of 67% or above) in a subject closely related to the topic of your research; and
  • a first-class or an upper second class undergraduate degree with honours in any subject, though ideally relevant to the topic of your research.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 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

  • It is expected that applicants for the DPhil will have significant competence in one or more relevant Oriental languages. You should discuss the linguistic competence that you will need for your proposed topic of research with your prospective supervisor.
  • Publications are not expected.

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

During your studies you will have access to the Oriental Institute Library, which is housed in the Oriental Institute.

In addition to this, there are a number of other specialist library collections in Oxford that focus on Oriental studies, such as:

  • Bodleian Oriental collections
  • Institute for Chinese Studies library
  • Eastern Art library
  • Bodleian Japanese library
  • Griffith Institute
  • St Antony’s Middle East Centre library
  • Leopold Muller Memorial library. 

Adjacent to the Oriental Institute is the Ashmolean Museum, which houses superb collections. The Sackler Library includes the principal library for Egyptology and ancient Near Eastern Studies.

You will also have access to the University's centrally provided electronic resources, the department's IT Officer and other bibliographic, archive or material sources as appropriate to the research topic. There is a computing room for the use of graduate students in the Oriental Institute. The provision of other resources specific to your project will be agreed with your supervisor as a part of the planning stages of the agreed project.

When you first arrive, you will be invited to a student party at the faculty in the first week of Michaelmas term. The Oriental Institute and the Chinese Studies Institute both have common rooms where refreshments are available and which students are welcome to use.

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 faculty'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)
£8,290
Overseas (including EU)£22,930

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.

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 following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Oriental Studies:

How to apply

You are strongly encouraged to contact a prospective supervisor, who should be a member of the teaching staff of the Oriental Institute, before you apply to discuss the viability of your proposed research and whether supervision can be offered for your project.

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.

Research proposal:
A maximum of 2,500 words

You should submit a detailed outline of your proposed research, written in English, covering areas such as the background to the research, methodology, expected results and the contribution to the field of learning. 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:

  • your academic reasons for applying, to this course and to the University of 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; and ability to absorb new ideas at a rapid pace
  • the coherence of the proposal; the originality of the project
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course (three or at most four years).

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 qualifications, 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.

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
  • 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 applicants, academic references are requested because it is necessary to establish whether you are intellectually prepared for a course. It is unlikely that this can be established from a professional or personal reference, so you should only use such references if there is absolutely no alternative.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and fitness for chosen course of study.

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 GuideApply

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