MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies | University of Oxford
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MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies

About the course

The MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies is a 21-month, taught master's course, offered jointly by the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA) and the Faculty of Oriental Studies. You will study this important region, with its rich history and its complex present-day societies, via an intensive language route or a non-language route, culminating in a 30,000-word thesis.

The MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies is an exciting degree bringing together Oxford’s wealth of expertise on South Asia in a single programme. Students gain access to teaching and expert supervision across departments in the Social Sciences and Humanities Divisions. They receive rigorous training in one of three tailored modules in research methods, and have the option to build in Hindi, Urdu, Old Hindi, Persian or other language training.

Students may choose to explore present-day India’s social, economic and political achievements and challenges, and the connections between the country’s democratic and developmental successes and failures, or to range more broadly across the states and societies of the subcontinent over the past five hundred years. Students may pursue any combination of interests, including history, literature, language, religion, economy and interstate relations.

You will also choose between the language track or the non-language track. Language track students may take one of the following intensive courses both at beginner and advanced level: Hindi, Hindi and Urdu, Brajbhasha and Old Hindi, and if the timetable permits Sanskrit, Persian or Tibetan. Students who are interested in any of these three 'substitute' core languages are asked to flag this interest in their personal statement.

Subject to timetabling, students with at least an intermediate or colloquial knowledge of any South Asian language also have the opportunity to take less intensive training in Hindi, Urdu, Old Hindi or Persian either continuing at an advanced level or beginning a new language. Bengali, Gujarati or Marathi may also be studied at an elementary level. Again, students interested in taking Persian either at advanced or beginner level are asked to flag this in their personal statement.

Students on the course will experience a variety of teaching modes, including lectures, seminars, classes, student presentations, and small group teaching. The MPhil is jointly taught by staff within the Social Sciences and Humanities Divisions, who will also assess your application. The application process is administered by the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies. Language teaching will be provided in the Faculty of Oriental Studies.

You will be required to gather relevant materials for your thesis during the course, usually by working in libraries and archives in the UK but potentially also via fieldwork. Assessment is through a combination of coursework, assessed essays, written examinations and the thesis.

First year

During the first year, all students will attend the core course, introducing modern South Asia across the disciplines. All students will also receive training in research methods, through one of the following specially tailored programmes:

  • research methods for area studies, both qualitative and quantitative
  • qualitative and historical methods
  • qualitative methods: literature and language

An important purpose of the research methods course is to help you develop and refine your thesis topic.

You will also choose option papers. If you are taking the language track, you will take one option paper during the first year. If you are taking the non-language track, you will take two option papers. For a full list of option papers, please see the course pages on the department website. Please note that the options will change from time to time, and not all will be run every year.

By the end of the first year, MPhil students will have worked out a thesis proposal, and plans for field or archival work to be undertaken during the summer months between the first and second years.

Second year

In the second year, all students will attend a course on advanced methods, as part of which they will make a presentation of their developing thesis project. Language track students will continue intensive language study, both language and non-language track students. The major focus of the second year will be the 30,000 word thesis, for which you will receive expert supervision.

Supervision

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

All students are assigned a general supervisor at the start of term, who is usually a member of the core teaching staff on the MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies. The role of the general supervisor is to guide you through your course of study and assist you with written assessments. If your research interests fall outside the expertise of your general supervisor, she/he will assist you in identifying appropriate expertise within the university, and help you approach suitable scholars for supervision.

Depending on the range of your research interests, therefore, it is possible for you to have more than one supervisor - a general supervisor who oversees your general academic progress, and a different supervisor for your thesis. Supervision for the thesis will be offered as a series of individual meetings between you and your thesis supervisor. Your supervisor(s) will discuss your progress, give you feedback on drafts (one full draft per assessment) and answer any questions before you submit work to Examination Schools.

In the case of students who require specific help to adjust to an academic programme or to a new range of skills, the supervisor will work with them to ensure that they have additional support. 

Graduate destinations

The department aims to equip its graduates with a range of valuable skills which will enable them to compete successfully within a number of different careers - in the civil service and policy-making bodies in Britain, Europe and further afield, in non-governmental organisations concerned with development, in the charitable sector, in journalism, public and private sector research and consultancy, law and academia. The MPhil is a valuable preparation for students wishing to go on to doctoral research.

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.

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 discipline.

The admissions board will consider the entire application and any qualifications beyond the minimum bachelor's degree will be taken into account. These may include a master's degree or professional qualifications.

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

  • Evidence of prior interest in South Asia, including research or working experience in one or more countries of the region, is an advantage.
  • For applicants for the language track, previous experience in a South Asian language is not essential. However, applicants should be able to demonstrate strong experience and aptitude in language learning in other languages.
  • Publications are not required but should be listed if this may help indicate the quality of the application. These may be academic works, journalism, blogs or other such writings.

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

Since the MPhil is taught jointly by staff within the Social Sciences and Humanities Divisions, students will be part of a larger community of teachers, researchers and students with interests in South Asia.  There are some 60 academics in Humanities and Social Sciences with South Asia research interests in Oxford.

For parts of the research methods course, students will be taught alongside those studying for other MPhil courses offered by the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA), as well as students taking the MSc in Modern South Asian Studies and doctoral students, opening up further possibilities for interdisciplinary learning and exchange.

For students who already have a grounding in a South Asian language, there are opportunities to proceed to an advanced level, and to develop reading skills to attain a research proficiency.

For students whose research requires fieldwork, the University offers guidance on safe and ethical approaches to fieldwork and the conduct of interviews with local research participants.

Students will have access to the libraries, study spaces, common rooms and IT facilities of the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies, and of the Faculty of Oriental Studies, as well as to the social and networking events organised by these two university centres.

The Bodleian Libraries offer unparalleled library and archive facilities for South Asia, including one of the richest collections of official archival materials on South Asia in the UK. The main reference collection is accessed via the Charles Wendell David Reading Room at the Weston Library. Other important open shelf collections can be found in the Upper Camera, the Oriental Institute Library and the Social Science Library. Students may access other Bodleian Libraries sites as necessary. 

Oxford also offers a wealth of resources for the study of South Asian art and material culture. The Ashmolean Museum contains collections encompassing art from the Islamic world, the Indian subcontinent and South-East Asia. The Pitt Rivers Museum holds important collections of ethnographic material from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The Museum of the History of Science houses an unrivalled collection of historic scientific instruments, including astrolabes and other instruments, with Persian, Arabic, or Sanskrit inscriptions, manufactured by artisans in India.

Oxford IT Services supports university members in their study and library use, helping students to get the most from their courses in state-of-the-art IT learning rooms. Some of the MPhil module convenors will also make use of the University's online sharing platform, known as Canvas, where selected course readings are made available.

In addition to the faculties and departments who share in teaching for the MPhil, Oxford contains outstanding collegiate centres for study and research in relation to South Asia and its many regions, at Wolfson College, Somerville College and St Antony’s College. Research seminars at these collegiate centres are open to all students.

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)£17,070
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

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 research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses. 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 contact academic members of the department before or after applying but may do so for various reasons such as advice on refining the application, to discuss research topics, or for recommended reading to prepare for the course. 

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:
Statement of 500 words and proposal of 1,000 words

Your statement of purpose and research proposal should be submitted as a single, combined document with a clear subheading for each.

The statement of purpose should be written in English and indicate your reasons for applying to the MPhil. It could include some of the following:

  • what motivated your interest in India or South Asia
  • why you want to apply for the MPhil
  • what particular aspects of the course interest you
  • how the course will help you in your future career
  • whether you hope to study further (perhaps progressing to a PhD/DPhil)
  • if you have a topic of interest to research for the extended thesis.  

If you are applying for the language track, you should indicate the language you wish to study and the nature of any prior experience you have in this language. 

For the research proposal, you should describe the topic of research you hope to pursue for your 30,000-word thesis. This should include the reading you have done in the general field, an outline of the research project, why it is interesting and important, and an indication of the source material to be used for the project. 

The department is not just looking for those of excellent academic potential but also those who will make a significant contribution to the small group teaching and learning experience in Oxford.

The statement and proposal will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • your relevant academic experience
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study, including (where applicable) language study
  • the quality and feasibility of your research proposal
  • how your MPhil will help you in your future career.
It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,000 words each

Essays (usually academic) or other writing samples, written in English, are required. These should be examples of your best written work and need not be related to South Asia. Academic work is preferred to other forms of writing such as journalism, business reports or reportage, but you should include what you have available.   

Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible as long as the context is made clear.  The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for your understanding of a research question, the ability to construct and defend an argument, the use of evidence where relevant, powers of analysis and expression, and capacity to produce a scholarly text.

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.

Three academic references are encouraged, though if necessary you may use one professional reference of the three references required overall provided that it is relevant to the course.

Your references will support your intellectual ability, academic achievement, and motivation. 

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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