About the course
The MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies is a three-term, nine-month course offered jointly by the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA) and the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies designed to provide high quality graduate research training with an emphasis on an appreciation of research methods and on deepening your understanding of contemporary China.
You will develop or extend your knowledge and understanding of:
- the key approaches to the social scientific study of modern and contemporary China
- research methods, strategies and ethics that will be of relevance to the social scientific study of China
- critical analysis of sources and ability to present findings effectively, both verbally and in sustained writing exercises
- framing and executing a workable research topic
- interdisciplinary research and its potential.
Modules involve lectures as well as seminar or class discussions, for both of which you will receive reading lists. It is a fundamental component of the Oxford educational system that you engage in individual reading and study in order to broaden and deepen your knowledge of your chosen field. You will also be given a supervisor to help guide you through your dissertation research through regular one-to-one meetings. In addition to your supervisor, other staff members will be available to advise you on reading, literature and topics. Students normally have some familiarity with Chinese language.
The teaching on the MSc course is built around two core courses. The first core course, Research Methods, will introduce you to the strengths and weaknesses of contrasting discipline-based approaches to Area Studies, and the study of China. It explores both qualitative and quantitative research methods. The second core course, The Study of Contemporary China, teaches foundational knowledge of modern Chinese history, politics and society needed for further study or research in all disciplines, and introduces the different disciplinary approaches to the study of modern China.
In addition to the two core courses you will choose two option courses and complete a research dissertation.
The overall structure of the course is as follows:
(a) Compulsory core course on The Study of Contemporary China
(b) Compulsory core course in Research Methods for Area Studies
(c) Elective papers: Candidates must choose two option papers from a list published annually by the Contemporary Chinese Studies Management Committee
(d) Research supervision in preparation for a 12,000 word thesis.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies and the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern 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 Oxford School of Global and Area Studies and the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Students would normally expect to have 9-10 meetings with their supervisor s from the start of the course until thesis submissions at the end of week 6 of Trinity Term.
Assessment for Research Methods comprises two parts, each weighted equally: a take-home submission in the collection and analysis of qualitative data at the end of Michaelmas Term, and a take-home submission in quantitative analysis 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, from the start of Michaelmas term and continuing across the next two terms, including during the Easter vacation, until submission on Friday of Week 6 of Trinity term, you will research and write a dissertation on a topic of your choosing, subject to approval by the Graduate Studies Committee. Your research topic for your dissertation will be formally approved by your supervisor and Course Director during Michaelmas term.
Graduate pathways after the MSc typically fall into one of three categories. The first group move on to further academic study, either in China in order to further enhance their language and cultural skills at leading universities, or by pursuing doctoral study in key disciplines, either here at Oxford or at other top-ranked universities worldwide.
The second path taken by the department’s graduates involves government and public service at international institutions, government agencies and prominent NGOs, usually with a direct focus on China or the East Asia region as part of the brief for their positions.
The third pathway chosen by graduates typically involves major private sector firms in industry or finance, commercial research agencies, international consulting and journalism.
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, 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.
Entry requirements for entry in 2024-25
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 studied 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.
- You should have some familiarity with Chinese language. You should indicate this familiarity with Chinese language either though records from formal language training or else by means of an explanation in your personal statement. This may include acquisition of language capacity through an extended period of residence in China or Greater China for work, study or family reasons.
- 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 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. 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. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
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.
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 University of Oxford China Centre building, 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 Science 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 materials, IT Services run many courses for the department’s students.
A department induction programme is organised to introduce you to the MSc 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.
Departments offering this course
This course is offered jointly by the following departments:
Oxford School of Global and Area Studies
Join the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA) as a graduate student and become part of a community devoted to innovative research and graduate teaching using a range of academic disciplines which seek to understand the complexity and the interrelatedness of societies and regions.
The work in the school takes into account both insights provided by the separate social science disciplines of anthropology, economics, politics, international relations, history and sociology, and the contextualisation provided by in-depth knowledge of specific regions and countries.
If you are fascinated by a particular area and wish to explore it further and understand it and its people more, then the school is likely to have the graduate course for you. OGSA admits about 150 graduate students each year, across a range of area-based master's courses, the multidisciplinary and comparative MPhil in Global and Area Studies, and the doctoral programme in area studies.
You will find library materials, seminar series, workshops and lectures in abundance in Oxford. Studying a particular region here means mixing with a group of leading academics in their fields and becoming a part of the school's vibrant research community. Join the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies for an inspiring graduate experience.
Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Among subjects in the Humanities, Asian and Middle Eastern studies is unique in offering advanced study of cultures and civilisations in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.
The courses offered by the faculty present both the major traditions of the regions studied and, in most cases, their modern developments. All courses include language, literature, history and culture, and there are a wide range of options in such fields as art and architecture, archaeology, history, literature, philosophy, religion and modern social studies. The following are the principal areas of study:
- The Islamic World
- Hebrew and Jewish studies
- Eastern Christianity
- Egyptology and Ancient Near East
- South and Inner Asia
- East Asian studies.
Asian and Middle Eastern Studies has a long history in Oxford: the Laudian Chair of Arabic, for instance, was established in 1636. The Bodleian and other libraries have acquired magnificent collections. The Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, China Centre, Bodleian Japanese and Indian Institute libraries offer loan collections in their respective fields. Adjacent to the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies is the Ashmolean Museum, which houses superb collections. The Bodleian Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library includes the principal library for Islamic Art, Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern studies.
The University expects to be able to offer over 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2024-25. 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 2024-25
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.
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. 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 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 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. The current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
Students enrolled on this course will belong to both a department/faculty and a college. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 43 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as societies and permanent private halls (PPHs).
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. Before deciding, we suggest that you read our brief introduction to the college system at Oxford and our advice about expressing a college preference. For some courses, the department may have provided some additional advice below to help you decide.
The following colleges accept students on the MSc in Contemporary 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.
Admissions enquiries should be addressed 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.
For this course, the application form will include questions that collect information that would usually be included in a CV/résumé. You should not upload a separate document. If a separate CV/résumé is uploaded, it will be removed from your application.
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, of which at least two must be academic
References should generally be academic though one of the three required references may be professional.
Your references will indicate intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, ability to work in a group.
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 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 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.
One essay of a maximum of 2,000 words
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 but should be prefaced by a note which puts it in context.
The work must be an academic essay rather than a business or consultancy report or media brief though the topic of 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.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.