MPhil in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies | University of Oxford
Artefact
Asian artefact in the Ashmolean Museum
(Image Credit: Nicola Mastroddi)

MPhil in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies

About the course

This programme aims to introduce Tibetan and Himalayan studies to students who do not have a background in the subject. Emphasis is on teaching the Tibetan language (both spoken and literary). Students are also introduced to the history and civilisation of the area, including Tibetan history, society, literature and religions.

You will read academic articles and books by way of general background to the region, and will attend weekly lectures on various aspects of Tibetan history and civilisation in the Michaelmas and Hilary terms. Selected topics will be treated in more detail in a set of eight essays/tutorials. You will also be encouraged to attend a series of introductory lectures on Buddhism as well as the weekly graduate seminars. Throughout the whole course, attendance at lectures by visiting scholars will be strongly recommended.

You will be encouraged to use the long summer vacation between the first and second year to attend summer schools abroad or visit Tibetan-speaking communities in Tibet or in South Asia to develop your language skills, and to begin work on your dissertations.

Teaching takes place through language classes, lectures, seminars and tutorials. Students submit their dissertations in the third (Trinity) term of the second year.

For further information on the course you can consult the course handbook via the faculty's course webpage.

Graduate destinations

Many graduates in Oriental studies have undertaken further research and pursued successful careers in the academic world, education, publishing and in museums. Some graduates have also chosen a different career path and found employment in other fields including business, finance, law, civil service, journalism, government and industry.

Graduates of the MPhil in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies often move on to postdoctoral academic positions, research projects in Tibetan studies, or Buddhist translation projects. While teaching and research in an academic context is the most typical career path, it is also possible to find employment in other fields such as charities and NGOs, public education, copy editing for publishers specialising in Buddhism, or film making, to name just a few examples.

Other courses in this area

Changes to the course

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

Entry requirements for entry in 2019-20

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in any subject.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

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

Other appropriate indicators will include:

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.

References/letters of recommendation 

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and fitness for chosen course of study.

Whilst it is appreciated that obtaining academic references will be difficult for some candidates, academic references are requested because it is necessary to establish whether a candidate is intellectually prepared for a course. It is unlikely that this is something that can be established from a professional or personal reference, so you should only submit such references if there is absolutely no alternative.

Written work produced by the student

Two pieces of written work of up to 2,000 words each are required and should be in English only.

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
  • clarity and accuracy of thought and writing
  • conceptual sophistication
  • critical skill
  • control of relevant primary and secondary sources
  • presentation of material in the appropriate scholarly form.

It is helpful if written work relates closely to the proposed area of study, though it is not compulsory, as there are many things that the assessors look for in the written work which are not specific to the subject area, such as ability to construct and defend an argument and presentation of material in the appropriate scholarly form.

Statement of purpose/personal statement 

A statement of purpose should be a maximum of three pages in length (including any bibliography). The statement should be in English only.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying, especially to Oxford
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • commitment to the subject
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques
  • capacity for sustained and intense work at a high intellectual level
  • reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas at a rapid pace.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are not a regular feature of the admissions process, but a Skype interview may be arranged by the assessors if considered helpful; for example, to discuss the suitability of the chosen course. The interview will normally be held by the two assessors, and the date and time will be agreed by email. Candidates would not need to do any additional preparations for their Skype interview.

Publications

Publications are not required. 

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

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

  • The ability of the Faculty of Oriental Studies to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Faculty of Oriental 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.

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, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

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.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

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

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

Resources

You will have access to the Oriental Institute Library, which is housed in the Oriental Institute. In addition to this, you may find useful the Bodleian Oriental collections and the Eastern Art library. The Bodleian Library hosts a collection of Tibetan manuscripts and block prints that can be used for study and research.

Wolfson College is home to an interdisciplinary research group in Tibetan and Himalayan studies. The library of Wolfson College also has a collection of books relevant to Tibetan and Himalayan studies.

The Eastern Art department of the Ashmolean Museum contains collections encompassing art from the Islamic world, the Indian subcontinent, South-East Asia, China, Japan and Korea, and including ceramics, sculpture, metalwork, paintings, prints, textiles and other arts. The collections as a whole outstrip those of any other university museum. The Indian and Himalayan collections are of international importance and particularly strong in sculpture.

The Pitt Rivers Museum holds important collections of ethnographic material from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal and Sri Lanka which can be seen on display in the museum as well as in the reserve collection. The Pitt Rivers also hosts the 'Tibet Album', a unique online resource with early photographs from Tibet.

You will also have access to the University's centrally provided electronic resources and the Faculty IT Officer. There is a computing room for the use of graduate students in the Oriental Institute, as well as a common room where tea and coffee are available and staff and students can meet.

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

Applicants to this course may also be eligible to apply for other scholarship and funding opportunities, including the Ertegun Scholarship Programme.  In order to be considered for this award you will need to complete the scholarships section of the course application form and submit additional supporting material. The programme’s website provides more details about the application process as well as any eligibility criteria which apply.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2019-20

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£12,570
Overseas£25,387

The fees shown above are the annual course fees for this course, for entry in the stated academic year.

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. You may have seen separate figures in the past for tuition fees and college fees. We have now combined these into a single figure.

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.

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, as part of your course requirements, you may 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.

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 2019-20 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,058 and £1,643 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 2019-20, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

How to apply

You are not required to contact a member of staff before you apply. However, you may contact the teaching staff if you have any questions related to the content of 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/personal statement:
Up to three pages

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. The overall page count should include any bibliography. 

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying, especially to Oxford
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • commitment to the subject
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques
  • capacity for sustained and intense work at a high intellectual level
  • reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas at a rapid pace.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,000 words each

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible. 

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
  • clarity and accuracy of thought and writing
  • conceptual sophistication
  • critical skill
  • control of relevant primary and secondary sources
  • presentation of material in the appropriate scholarly form.

It is helpful if written work relates closely to the proposed area of study, though it is not compulsory, as there are many things that the assessors look for in the written work which are not specific to the subject area, such as ability to construct and defend an argument and presentation of material in the appropriate scholarly form.

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.

Whilst it is appreciated that obtaining academic references will be difficult for some candidates, academic references are requested because it is necessary to establish whether a candidate is intellectually prepared for a course. It is unlikely that this is something that can be established from a professional or personal reference, so you should only submit such references if there is absolutely no alternative.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and fitness for chosen course of study.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Carefully read the entry requirements on this course page to make sure you meet all the criteria.

Step 2: Check above what documents are required and prepare to apply by reading our Application Guide.

Step 3: Apply as soon as possible. Consult the Application Guide for more information about deadlines.

Application GuideApply

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