MPhil in Global and Area Studies | University of Oxford
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MPhil in Global and Area Studies

About the course

The MPhil in Global and Area Studies draws on the multidisciplinary and area expertise of OSGA's seven regional centres, to deliver an innovative Comparative Area Studies programme, which addresses contemporary global challenges through developing innovative multidisciplinary approaches. 

The overall objectives of the MPhil are:

  1. To equip you with the conceptual and theoretical expertise to interrogate the notions of ‘area’, ‘comparative area’ and the implications for disciplinary enquiry;
  2. To provide you with a multi-/interdisciplinary and comparative understanding of different regions of the world;
  3. To allow you to work on key thematic global challenges from a comparative area studies perspective;
  4. To embed inter-cultural understanding and global citizenship in the study of area;
  5. To develop research methods and skills that are appropriate for the comparative study of areas and regions including through the development of new digital approaches for area studies;
  6. To promote a wider international network of area studies scholars and practitioners

Course structure

The course is structured around six study components, facilitating an interdisciplinary approach to comparative study across two or more regions and a critical approach to area studies. 

Courses are taught through a combination of lectures and classes. You will be required to submit essays and make class presentations. Through a Research Methods element, you will receive relevant training in methodologies to enable you to carry out research and writing for your 30,000 word thesis. The thesis is expected to incorporate a global or comparative area studies approach and/or to address key cross-region global challenges from an area studies perspective.

Option courses will vary from year to year.

In addition, lively programmes of seminars, workshops and conferences throughout OSGA will complement the MPhil and you are encouraged to make the most of these opportunities.

The six study components are:

  1. Theories and Approaches in Global and Area Studies;
  2. Comparative Area Studies;
  3. Research Methods for Social Sciences and Humanities;
  4. Area Studies immersion;
  5. Specialist Area Studies Options;
  6. Comparative Area Studies Research Thesis

First year

In your first year you will study the following:

  • Core Course 1- Competing Approaches in Area Studies
  • One Comparative Area Studies Course from a list of options
  • Area Studies Qualitative Methods
  • One additional research methods course from a list of options
  • One Area Studies course from a list of options

You will also submit a Research Proposal in preparation for the thesis submission

Second year

In your second year, you will study:

  • Core Course 2 - Global Area Studies Seminar
  • Two Area or Comparative Area Studies courses from a list of options

During this year, you will undertake a period of Area Studies immersion. Immersion options include but are not necessarily limited to: a period of overseas or domestic fieldwork research for your thesis; or for the development of advanced language skills; auditing relevant substantive courses delivered at a partner university or approved alternative; an internship period at a relevant organisation.

You will also submit one 30,000 word thesis.

Supervision

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 meet with your supervisor three to four times per term.

You will have one dedicated supervisor allocated according to your initial research and subject interests. The supervisor will typically share the your broad interests and will monitor your overall progress. The supervisor will help you to identify a viable topic and offer guidance regarding secondary literature, primary sources, appropriate methodologies, any fieldwork planned, and a research and writing timetable. With this support you will present an essay setting out your proposed research and you will present this proposal in a thesis workshop involving the programme’s Teaching Committee. This provides an additional opportunity for you to receive feedback from academic members of staff and peers.

By the end of the Trinity term, you will be expected to have developed a thesis outline, identified the means (eg field or archival work) through which you will gather your primary sources, and agreed a timetable for the summer’s work with the supervisor. During the second year, you will present your work in progress thesis in research seminar workshops or webinars convened for this purpose. Further arrangements for feedback and comments on drafts will progress through a series of meetings held by arrangement between you and your supervisor during the Hilary term of the second year.

Assessment

The MPhil in Global and Area Studies is assessed using a range of formative and summative assessments. Whilst many OSGA option courses are assessed through three hour written examinations, other elements of the course involve a range of different assessment modalities.

Core courses

  • Competing Approaches to Area Studies (year one): Assessed by an end of year three hour examination, allowing for integration of the course content with the rest of the programme
  • Global and Area Studies (year two): Assessed by essay submission in Trinity (Summer) term of your second year

Research Methods Courses

  • Qualitative Methods: Assessed by a one week take-home exam in Michaelmas (Autumn) term in your first year
  • Quantitative Methods: Assessed by a one week take-home exam in Hilary (Spring) term in your first year
  • Historical Research Methods: Assessed by submission of a 3,000 word essay in Hilary term of your first year

Research Proposal

A 4,000 word research proposal is to be submitted during Trinity term of your first year for formative purposes, providing an important building block in your thesis preparation.

Comparative Area Studies courses

Courses are typically assessed by an end of year, three hour examination.

Option courses

Courses are typically assessed by an end of year, three hour examination.

Research Thesis

The 30,000 word thesis will be submitted in Trinity term of the second year of the course.

Graduate destinations

This course is entering its first 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 first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any subject or discipline, although preference may be given to candidates who have studied previously in either the social sciences or the humanities

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

  • Publications are not required.

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 nine 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.

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)
£22,930
Overseas (including EU)£27,460

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.

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

Whilst there are no compulsory elements of this programme that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs, students may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips, depending on a student’s choice of research topic and the research required to complete it. Each student will need to meet these additional costs themselves.

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 MPhil in Global and Area Studies:

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 and research proposal:
A maximum of 1,000 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.

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.

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

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.

Your statement will be assessed for:
  • your reasons for applying
  • your ability to present a coherent case in proficient English
  • your commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • your preliminary knowledge of the subject area and research techniques
  • your capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability
  • your ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.

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

For the research proposal, you will be be expected to outline a potential thesis topic that addresses the Comparative or Critical Area Studies themes of the programme.

Your research proposal will be assessed for: 

  • the coherence of your proposal
  • the fit of your research interests with those represented in the department
  • the originality of your project
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • the feasibility of successfully completing your project in the time available for the course

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:
One essay of a maximum of 2,000 words

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, typed and written in English, are required. 

Extracts of the requisite length from a longer work are also permitted if prefaced by a note that puts them in content.

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.

Your written work will be assessed for:

  • comprehensive understanding of the subject area, including problems and developments in the subject
  • your ability to construct and defend an argument
  • your aptitude for analysis and expression
  • your ability to present a reasoned case in proficient academic English.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, all of which must be 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.

Your references will support your academic ability and suitability for the course. All references should be academic.

Your references will be assessed for:

  • your intellectual ability
  • your academic achievement
  • your motivation and interest in the course and subject area

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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