MSc in African Studies | University of Oxford
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MSc in African Studies

About the course

The MSc in African Studies is a three-term course, designed both as a stand-alone interdisciplinary introduction to current debates about Africa, and as a preparation for doctoral research on Africa. This advanced degree programme provides an excellent foundation for those who wish to expand their knowledge of African studies.

There are four components to the MSc in African Studies:

  • two core courses: 'Methodology, Ethics and Research Strategies' and 'Themes in African History and the Social Sciences';
  • an optional paper; and
  • a dissertation of 15,000 words.

The teaching on the MSc programme is built around the two core courses. The first core course examines research methodologies and strategies, including the politics of researching and writing on Africa, and is taught in Michaelmas term through a weekly lecture and seminar. The second is a weekly lecture and seminar over two terms (Michaelmas and Hilary term) covering key questions in African history and the social sciences, giving close attention to critical debates and current issues. The core courses form compulsory elements of the degree programme and are open only to students taking the MSc in African Studies.

In addition to the two core courses, you will take an optional paper on a particular theme and within a specific discipline. A wide selection of optional papers is available each year. Optional papers are taught in Hilary Term, through a weekly lecture and seminar. 

Finally, you will write a research dissertation of 15,000 words on a research topic of your choosing, which must include discussion of the comparative reading, historiography, or theory relevant to the dissertation. You will undertake fieldwork at the end of Hilary term and will be provided with thesis supervision throughout the year. 

Students dedicate six hours per week to classes and lectures and they will meet their thesis supervisor once every fortnight

Supervision

Supervision for the dissertation element of the programme runs through the year.

For this course, the allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the African Studies Centre 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 African Studies Centre. 

Assessment

You will submit examined essays for core course one and your chosen optional paper at the beginning of Hilary term and towards the end of Trinity term respectively. You will sit a written examination for core course two in Trinity term and you will submit your dissertation near to the end of Trinity term.

Graduate destinations

This advanced degree programme provides an excellent foundation for those who wish to expand their knowledge of African studies, prior to working for NGOs, the civil service, international organisations, and the media, or in other professional capacities.

Students who complete the degree to a sufficient standard may transfer to doctoral programmes in disciplinary departments, such as Politics and International Relations, Development Studies, History, Anthropology or Geography, or to the interdisciplinary DPhil in Area Studies (Africa).

Staff with expertise in African studies supervise doctoral theses across all of the main disciplinary departments of the university, and students can continue to work with the same supervisor who has guided their MSc work, where this is appropriate. Students who wish to progress from the MSc to doctoral studies can begin their doctoral research over the summer following completion of the MSc.

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.

Oxford 1+1 MBA programme

This course can be studied as a part of the Oxford 1+1 MBA programme. The Oxford 1+1 MBA programme is a unique, two-year graduate experience that combines the depth of a specialised, one-year master’s degree with the breadth of a top-ranking, one-year MBA.

Entry requirements for entry in 2021-22

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 a relevant discipline in the humanities or social sciences.

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

  • Substantial professional experience in relevant fields, or work in an African country, will be taken into account. 
  • Familiarity with African or other developing countries is desirable but is not essential.
  • Publications are not required.

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.

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. 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.

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 African Studies Centre has a library which offers four workspaces and two computers. You will be able to use this space during the working day. The library has a collection of relevant books and also off-print sources that you may consult. Other teaching material is available online. You will also be expected to use the exceptional library resources provided by colleges and the University.

The centre has its own seminar room used for classes and seminars. When this room is not in use you are welcome to use it to meet with other students and discuss your studies.

Several social and networking events are organised by the department throughout the three-term course. These will allow you to meet colleagues and members of staff, and you will be encouraged to be involved in the organisation of these events. The department runs a weekly seminar series in each term which provides an opportunity for networking with other Africanists.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer up to 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2021-22. 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 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 college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages.

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

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2021-22

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£15,360
Overseas (including EU)£25,900

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 detailed fee status information and the Oxford and the EU webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs. The dissertation component of the course requires conducting original research. This research can be archival only, or can be theoretical, or based on quantitative analysis of data. Students who wish to collect original empirical material through fieldwork can do so during the Easter vacation, and this is a very popular option. The African Studies Centre contributes £500 towards fieldwork and research/travel grants are sometimes available from your college. However, students should be aware that the costs of fieldwork - on average around £1,500, but with great variation depending on country - will typically be higher than the funds available, and that they will be required to fund any shortfall. 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 2021-22 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,175 and £1,710 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 2021-22, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

College preference

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 MSc in African Studies:

How to apply

You may find it useful to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply, though this is not a requirement for admission.

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:
A minimum of 500 words, up to a maximum of 1,000 words

Your statement should include details of your previous academic training, as well as any relevant research and work experience; the proposed area in which you intend to write a dissertation; and evidence of motivation for studying this degree which can include travel and volunteer activities. You should indicate whether you intend to or aspire to pursue doctoral studies.

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

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying, especially to Oxford
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study in general and dissertation topic in particular
  • 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.

Your statement should focus on academic rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

Written work:
One essay of a maximum of 2,000 words

You should submit a piece of academic writing in English with appropriate references. An extract of a longer piece of work may be submitted, but should be accompanied by a note which puts it in context.

Ideally the written work should relate to some aspect of African studies, but other relevant material can be submitted. 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:

  • 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, of which at least two 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 should generally be academic, though you may submit up to one professional reference.

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

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 the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.

Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:

Step 5: Start your application using the relevant button below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application GuideApply

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