MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies | University of Oxford
Great Wall
MPhil students visiting the Great Wall of China
(Image Credit: Kelly Tang / Oriental Institute)

MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies

About the course

The MPhil 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 Oriental 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 Chinese society and culture and/or research methods. 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, 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 China. In addition, the second year consists of continued coursework as well as independent research that culminates in a thesis.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Faculty of Oriental 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 Oriental Studies and Oxford School of Global and Area Studies.

Graduate destinations

Oriental studies and area 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 Oriental 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. In certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

Courses suggested by the lead school

Oriental Studies MSt
Traditional East Asia MPhil

Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

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

  • a 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 3.6 out of 4.0.

If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

GRE General Test scores

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

  • Research or working experience in China or Greater China may be an advantage.
  • Applicants who have not previously studied any Chinese should be able to demonstrate an aptitude for language learning, for example through their experience in learning other languages.
  • Evidence of some competency in Mandarin will be required. This may include records from formal language training successfully undertaken, or evidence of residence in China or Greater China over an extended period for work, study, or family reasons, or other evidence that shows some existing language competency. Previous travel just as a tourist within China or Greater China is unlikely to meet this requirement.
  • Research assistance or related working experience in universities, think tanks, NGOs, the media and other agencies may be an advantage.
  • Publications are not expected, but if available, details should be provided.

English language requirement

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement.

Detailed requirements - higher level

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

IELTS Academic7.5Minimum 7.0 per component
TOEFL iBT110

Minimum component scores:

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

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

Supporting documents 

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

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

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements: 

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.

Resources

The Dickson Poon University of 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 100-seat lecture theatre, a 200-seat 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 China Centre also houses the Chinese Studies Library and the Bodleian Library's China Collection. 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.

Funding

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

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£20,920
Overseas£24,910

Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Additional information

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.

Living costs

In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

How to apply

You are not expected to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply. However, you may wish to communicate with the department via email to chinesestudies@area.ox.ac.uk to discuss course content, teaching, assessment or any other course-related questions. Admissions enquiries should be addressed to admissions@area.ox.ac.uk.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Personal statement:
Up to 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.

Written work:
Two essays 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.

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.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

References should generally be academic though one of the three required references may be professional.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and ability to work in a group.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.

Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.

Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.

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

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

Application GuideApply

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