MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies
About the course
The MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies is a two-year master's degree programme offered jointly by the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA) and the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, which combines intensive study of the Chinese language with thorough training in the study of modern China.
The course is suitable for graduates who have developed an interest in China and now want to take that to a level where it could be useful for their future careers. It can be taken either as a terminal degree in preparation for professional work in which knowledge of China and Chinese is an advantage, or in preparation for further research as part of a doctoral degree in either the humanities or social sciences.
The aims of the MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies are to provide a strong grounding in modern Chinese language, both written and spoken, a strong foundation in understanding modern Chinese society and culture, and advanced training in conducting and reporting on independent and original research.
You will spend the first year of the course in Oxford, studying Chinese language alongside core classes in the interdisciplinary study of China and either research methods in the social sciences or Modern China Humanities. You will choose from a range of options, shared with the MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies, which allow you opportunities to acquire advanced knowledge of the society, politics, economics, international relations, history, literature and art of modern China.
Knowing the Chinese language is essential for anyone who wants to understand China and the course is designed to provide this at both elementary and intermediate levels. You will be allocated to the appropriate level by a placement test on arrival.
Elementary level will be for students who are complete beginners or are false beginners, but not up to the next level. Students are taught reading, writing and translation skills as well as speaking and listening. Intermediate level will be for students who have excelled at the beginner level, are confident in daily communication and able to recognise and write about 500 to 550 Chinese characters. Students must have learnt most of the main grammar points to enter the intermediate level. Due to the intensive language teaching element of the course, this degree is not appropriate for applicants with fluent or native Chinese language ability. Instead they are encouraged to apply for the MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies degree.
The first part of the second year consists of a period of at least three months on an approved course of language study in mainland China or Taiwan. In addition, the second year consists of continued coursework as well as independent research that culminates in a thesis.
Because this course involves language learning in addition to core and option courses students will have a large number of classroom hours. The exact number of hours per week varies according to the level of language learning. However, whatever the level students will find that most of their time throughout the two years is taken up with classes and the regular preparation and homework required for those classes.
The overall structure of the course is as follows:
(a) Chinese Language at level 1 (elementary) or level 2 (intermediate). Candidates will be allocated to these levels by a placement test.
(b) Compulsory core course on The Study of Contemporary China (SOCC).
(c) Methodology Training: Candidates can choose between two courses focused on either social sciences or humanities approaches to modern China.
(d) Elective papers: Candidates must choose two option papers, one per year.
(e) Thesis of 20,000 words.
Handwriting as a competence standard
Mastering the ability to handwrite in Chinese has been identified as a competence standard for a mandatory core element of this course. This means that students will be required to produce handwritten work for assessment and it will not be possible to complete the assessment in an alternative format.
If you are interested in this course and your personal circumstances mean that handwriting may present a challenge, please contact the school/faculty for further information using the contact details provided in the Further information and enquires section of this page.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and 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 Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and Oxford School of Global and Area Studies. Students would normally expect to be allocated their supervisor for their dissertation in Trinity Term of their first year, and can expect to meet with their supervisor approximately eight to nine times up until they submit their dissertation early in Trinity Term.
The Chinese language course is assessed by written and oral examinations.
Assessment for Research Methods (Social Science track) comprises two parts, each weighted equally: a take-home test in the collection and analysis of qualitative data at the end of Michaelmas Term, and a take-home test in quantitative analysis at the end of Hilary Term.
Assessment for Modern China Humanities (the humanities Research Methods course) comprises two essays, each weighted equally, with the first essay being submitted at the end of Michaelmas Term and the second at the end of Hilary Term.
The Study of Contemporary China core course is assessed by one unseen exam at the beginning of Hilary Term. Option courses are assessed by either unseen exams or officially submitted essays in Trinity Term.
Finally, students complete a dissertation in their second year which includes the requirement to conduct research using original Chinese language sources.
Modern Chinese studies graduates have found employment in many and diverse fields including business, finance, law, civil service, journalism, government and industry.
Many graduates have also undertaken further research into subjects linked with Asian and Middle Eastern and Area studies and have pursued successful careers in the academic world, education and in 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 lead school
Asian and Middle Eastern Studies MSt
Traditional China MSt
Traditional East Asia MPhil
All graduate courses offered by the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies
All graduate courses offered by the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24
Proven and potential academic excellence
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 studies 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
- Research or working experience in China or Greater China may be an advantage.
- Publications are not expected, but if available, details should be provided.
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.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*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.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. 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 published 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.
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.
Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
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:
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 Dickson Poon Oxford China Centre, based on Canterbury Road, brings together academics drawn from across a range of disciplines, who have in common research and teaching interests related to China. The building has a lecture theatre, a dining area and a range of conference and seminar facilities. These facilities provide opportunities for interaction with students on a range of China-related degrees as well as lectures and other academic activities.
The Oxford China Centre organises weekly seminars during term-time. You should regard attendance at these seminars as an integral part of your programme. In addition, research seminars about China are organised in departments and colleges across Oxford.
The Bodleian Chinese Studies Library and the Bodleian Social Library are the main read-only and lending services respectively, for the material you will require. Reading lists and copies of course PowerPoint slides will be made available to you on Canvas across the academic year. In addition to this, there is a world-renowned collection of Chinese rare books housed in the Bodleian Oriental collections and the superb collections of the Ashmolean Museum.
You will have access to the University's centrally provided electronic resources and the faculty's IT officer. You will be sent information on IT access as part of your induction material. IT Services run many courses for the department’s students.
A department induction programme is organised to introduce you to the MPhil course and graduate study at Oxford. It is also an opportunity for you to meet staff and talk further with them about your research and option course interests.
The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. 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 following faculty websites:
- Funding information from the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies
- Funding information from the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Annual fees for entry in 2023-24
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.
The period between September and December of the second year (covering Michaelmas term) will be spent on full-time language study at Peking University. You will continue to pay tuition fees to the University of Oxford and college fees to your college in Oxford. The Faculty of Oriental Studies will meet the cost of the fees charged by Peking University. You will be expected to cover your own travel costs and living expenses in China. The faculty estimates that the cost of return airfare to Beijing from the UK to be approximately £900. You may be eligible to apply for modest financial assistance from your college. You may also need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, depending on your choice of 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 should factor this into their planning for fieldwork.
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 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 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 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
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 Modern Chinese Studies:
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. 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.
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.
General questions about the course should be directed to the course administrator via the contact details provided on this page.
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. 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, academic preferred
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 the three required references may be professional.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and ability to work in a group.
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.
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.
A maximum of 1,500 words
Your 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.
It should include a preliminary outline of your research interests and your proposed dissertation project.
This will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
- commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
- capacity for sustained and intense work.
Your statement should focus on your research interests rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
Two essays of a maximum of 2,000 words each
Your work should be written in English and must be in the form of academic essays rather than business or consultancy reports. Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are permissible but should be prefaced by a note that puts them in context.
The work does not necessarily need to relate closely to the proposed area of study. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for:
- comprehensive understanding of the subject area
- understanding of problems in the area
- ability to construct and defend an argument
- powers of analysis
- powers of expression.
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.