MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies | University of Oxford
View of the Radcliffe Camera
View of the Radcliffe Camera
(Image credit: Yusuf Bahasoan / Graduate Photography Competition)

MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies

About the course

The MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies is a three-term, twelve-month course offered jointly by the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA) and the Faculty of Oriental 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 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. There is limited one-to-one teaching on the MSc course. However, staff members will be available to advise you on reading, literature and topics. You will also be given a supervisor to help guide you through your dissertation research through regular one-to-one meetings. Students normally have some familiarity with Chinese language.

The teaching on the MSc course is built around the two core courses. The first core course, Research Methods, will introduce you to the strengths and weaknesses of contrasting discipline-based approaches to the study of Asia.

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 of 12,000 words on a research topic of your choosing, subject to approval by the Graduate Studies Committee.

Assessment for Research Methods comprises two parts, each weighted equally: a practical exercise in the collection and analysis of qualitative data, and a take-home test in quantitative analysis.

The Study of Contemporary China core course is assessed by one unseen three-hour exam, as are most of the option courses.

Supervision

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

Graduate destinations

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 and international consulting.

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.

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 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 studied 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.
  • 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 their personal statements. 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 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

You will be sent information on IT access as part of your induction material. In particular it outlines the many courses run by IT Services that have proved to be valuable to the department’s students.

The Bodleian Chinese Studies Library and the Bodleian Social Studies 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 WebLearn across the academic year.

The Institute for Chinese Studies-Contemporary China Studies Programme 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.

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.

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

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.

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 prior to submitting your application. 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:
One essay 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.

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.

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

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, 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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