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View through Exeter College grounds into Radcliffe Square
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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 the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies' (OSGA) 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 to:

  1. provide you with a multi-/interdisciplinary and comparative understanding of different regions of the world;
  2. allow you to work on key thematic global challenges from a comparative area studies perspective;
  3. equip you with the conceptual and theoretical expertise to interrogate the notions of ‘area’, ‘comparative area’ and the implications for disciplinary enquiry;
  4. embed inter-cultural understanding and global citizenship in the study of area;
  5. 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; and
  6. 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, transnational 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. Area Studies Options
  6. Comparative Area Studies Research Thesis.

First year

In your first year you will study the following:

  • Core Course One - Competing Approaches in Area Studies
  • One Comparative Area Studies Course from a list of options
  • Research Methods: Qualitative Methods
  • One additional research methods course: Quantitative Methods or Historical Methods
  • 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 Two - Global Area Studies Seminar
  • Two Area (or Comparative Area, or other approved) 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; 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.


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 typically meet with your supervisor three to four times per term.

You will initially be allocated a supervisor according to your initial research and subject interests. The supervisor will typically share 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. The supervisor will also oversee your integration into OSGA and the course. With this support you will present an essay setting out your proposed research and you will present this proposal in a thesis workshop during Trinity term of the first year. This provides an additional opportunity for you to receive feedback from academic members of staff and peers. At this point, if your thesis topic has progressed in a different direction to that anticipated, your supervisory arrangements may be reviewed.

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 and Michaelmas term work with your 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.


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 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 written 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 your second year.

Research Methods Courses

  • Qualitative Methods: Assessed by submission in Michaelmas (Autumn) term in your first year.
  • Quantitative Methods: Assessed by submission in Hilary (Spring) term in your first year.
  • Historical Research Methods: Assessed by submission of an essay in Hilary (Spring) term of your first year.

Research Proposal

A 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 written examination or essay submission.

Option courses

Courses are typically assessed by an end of year written examination or essay submission.

Research Thesis

The thesis will be submitted in Trinity term of the second year of the course.

Graduate destinations

The first intake of this course was in October 2021 and so 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, 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.

Entry requirements for entry in 2024-25

Proven and potential academic excellence

The requirements described below are specific to this course and apply only in the year of entry that is shown. You can use our interactive tool to help you evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive.

Please be aware that any studentships that are linked to this course may have different or additional requirements and you should read any studentship information carefully before applying. 

Degree-level qualifications

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

  • 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.

English language proficiency

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.

Declaring 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.


You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

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

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements described under that heading.

References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed

Shortlisting and selection

Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:

  • socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
  • country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
  • protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.

Processing your data for shortlisting and selection

Information about processing special category data for the purposes of positive action and using your data to assess your eligibility for funding, can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

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.

Other factors governing whether places can be offered

The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
  • the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
  • minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.

Offer conditions for successful applications

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about offers and conditions

In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also 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.


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.

Oxford School of Global and Area Studies

Join the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA) as a graduate student and become part of a community devoted to innovative research and graduate teaching using a range of academic disciplines which seek to understand the complexity and the interrelatedness of societies and regions.

The work in the school takes into account both insights provided by the separate social science disciplines of anthropology, economics, politics, international relations, history and sociology, and the contextualisation provided by in-depth knowledge of specific regions and countries.

If you are fascinated by a particular area and wish to explore it further and understand it and its people more, then the school is likely to have the graduate course for you. OGSA admits about 150 graduate students each year, across a range of area-based master's courses, the multidisciplinary and comparative MPhil in Global and Area Studies, and the doctoral programme in area studies.

You will find library materials, seminar series, workshops and lectures in abundance in Oxford. Studying a particular region here means mixing with a group of leading academics in their fields and becoming a part of the school's vibrant research community. Join the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies for an inspiring graduate experience.


The University expects to be able to offer over 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2024-25. 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 December or 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 any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:

Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.

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


Annual fees for entry in 2024-25

Fee status

Annual Course fees


Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

Information about course fees

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 changes 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.

Where can I find further information about fees?

The Fees and Funding section of this website provides further information about course fees, including information about fee status and eligibility and your length of fee liability.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of immersion, research topic and the research required to complete the thesis, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although a GAS Immersion Grant will be available for students to apply to and you may be able to apply for small grants from your 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 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 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 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. The current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.

College preference

Students enrolled on this course will belong to both a department/faculty and a college. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 43 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as societies and permanent private halls (PPHs). 

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. Before deciding, we suggest that you read our brief introduction to the college system at Oxford and our advice about expressing a college preference. For some courses, the department may have provided some additional advice below to help you decide.

The following colleges accept students on the MPhil in Global and Area Studies:

Before you apply

Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. You can use our interactive tool to help you evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive.

If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines and when to apply in our Application Guide.

Application fee waivers

An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:

  • applicants from low-income countries;
  • refugees and displaced persons; 
  • UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and 
  • applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.

You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.

Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?

You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.

Completing your application

You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents.

For this course, the application form will include questions that collect information that would usually be included in a CV/résumé. You should not upload a separate document. If a separate CV/résumé is uploaded, it will be removed from your application.

If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.

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

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.

Statement of purpose and research proposal:
Statement of a maximum of 1,200 words and proposal of a maximum of 800 words

Your statement of purpose/personal statement and research proposal should be submitted as a single, combined document with clear subheadings. Please ensure that the word counts for each section are clearly visible in the document.

Statement of purpose

Your statement of purpose should explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education. It should be written in English and should be a maximum of 1,200 words. 

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

Your statement of purpose will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying for a Comparative Area Studies programme
  • 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
  • your reasoning ability
  • your vision of how the programme fits into your career plans. 

Research proposal

For the research proposal, you will be expected to outline a potential thesis topic that addresses the Global or Comparative or Critical Area Studies themes of the programme. The research proposal should explain the specific global and/or comparative and/or critical area studies topic you intend to research. It should also indicate why you are well-matched with the requirements and expectations of this programme.

Your research proposal should be written in English and should be a maximum of 800 words. 

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

Your research proposal will be assessed for:

  • the coherence of your proposal and the value added through a Comparative or Global perspective
  • the fit of your research interests with those represented in the department
  • the originality of your project
  • evidence of your 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 is to be expected that your ideas will evolve substantially once the programme begins but you should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment – and explain the fit with the Global and Area Studies programme objectives.

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.

Start or continue your application

You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please refer to the requirements above and consult our Application Guide for advice. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application Guide Apply

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