About the course
The MSc in Modern South Asian Studies is a nine month, taught master's course, offered jointly by the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA) and the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. You will study this important region, with its rich history and its complex present-day societies, from a number of disciplinary and analytical perspectives, culminating in a thesis.
The MSc 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 two tailored modules in research methods, and subject to timetabling and demand, may have the opportunity to build in Hindi, Urdu, Classical Hindi/Hindavi, Persian, Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi or other language training. Students may pursue any combination of interests, including history, literature, language, religion, economy and interstate relations.
The MSc in Modern South Asian Studies comprises five components: the core course, a module in research methods, two option papers and the thesis. All students attend the core course, introducing modern South Asia across the disciplines. Delivered by faculty members with a range of specialisations, the course explores both individual states within the region and the connections and comparisons between them.
You will receive training in research methods through one of the following specially tailored programmes:
- research methods for area studies, both qualitative and quantitative
- research methods in humanities, including qualitative methods in literature, language and history.
For much of the course, students will work alongside those taking the 21 month MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies.
For parts of the research methods course, you will be taught alongside those studying for other MSc and MPhil courses offered by the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies, as well as doctoral students, opening up further possibilities for interdisciplinary learning and exchange.
You will also choose 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.
Students with at least an intermediate or colloquial knowledge of any South Asian language also have the opportunity to take language training either continuing at an advanced level or beginning a new language. Students interested in taking Persian, either at advanced or beginner level, are asked to flag this in their personal statement.
During the course of Michaelmas term, you will select a topic for your thesis and a thesis supervisor will be appointed from whom you will receive expert supervision for the remainder of the academic year. Applicants are advised to consider the research interests of relevant faculty teaching on the programme and to choose a topic where appropriate supervision can be provided. Applicants with a research interest in art history should note that supervision is only available for research that relates specifically to items held in the Ashmolean's collection.
The MSc is jointly taught by staff within the Social Science and Humanities Divisions, who will also assess your application. The application process is administered by the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies.
Students on the course will experience a variety of teaching modes, including lectures, seminars, classes, student presentations, and small group teaching. Supervision for the thesis will be offered as a series of individual meetings between you and your thesis supervisor.
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.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and 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 Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies.
All students are assigned a general supervisor at the start of term, who is usually a member of the core teaching staff on the MSc in Modern South Asian Studies. The role of the general supervisor is to guide you through your course of study. If your research interests fall outside the expertise of your general supervisor, they 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. Your supervisor(s) will discuss your progress, and answer any questions before you submit assessed work. Your thesis supervisor will read one draft of your thesis provided this is submitted by the deadline agreed (usually Friday of week three of Trinity term).
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.
In order to receive the MSc degree, you must obtain pass marks in all five assessment components:
- Research Methods (comprising two assignments, one in Michaelmas and one in Hilary term)
- Core Course Essay (submitted at the beginning of Trinity term)
- Option 1
- Option 2
- Thesis (submitted by Friday of week 6 of Trinity term)
In addition to this, students are required to undertake formative assessment (essays, presentations etc) throughout the programme.
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 MSc 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. 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.
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.
Courses suggested by the lead school
All graduate courses offered by the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies
All graduate courses offered by the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
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 2023-24
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 (ie top third) upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any discipline.
However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.
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.
- Publications are not required but should be listed in your CV/résumé if this may help indicate the quality of the application. These may be academic works, journalism, blogs or other such writings.
If you wish to transfer from the MSc to the MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies then you must apply to do so by noon on Monday of week 4 of Hilary term. You will need the support of your supervisors, and must satisfy the Teaching Committee that you have good reasons for wishing to change and well thought out plans for the second year of the MPhil including the thesis.
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, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. 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.
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.
Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
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.
Since the MSc 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.
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.
You 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 Asian and Middle Eastern 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 Nizami Ganjavi 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 MSc module convenors will also make use of the University's online sharing platform, known as Canvas, where selected course materials are made available. Many lecturers also share their reading lists via the University’s Oxford Reading Lists Online (ORLO) system.
In addition to the faculties and departments who share in teaching for the MSc, Oxford contains outstanding collegiate centres for study and research in relation to South Asia and its many regions, at Somerville College and St Antony’s College. Research seminars at these collegiate centres are open to all students.
The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. 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 2023-24
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
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.
For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees and Funding section of this website, which includes detailed fee status 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.
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 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 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 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
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 Modern South Asian 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. We recommend that you submit your application well in advance - two or three weeks earlier.
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.
Contacting the department
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.
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.
However, if you would like to check availability of expertise for a proposed topic, you may wish to contact an academic member of staff in the department. Details of academic staff, including their research interests and contact details, can be found on the departmental website.
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. 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, academic preferred
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 provide information on your intellectual ability, academic achievement, and motivation.
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 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:
A maximum of 500 words
The statement of purpose should be written in English and indicate your motivation for applying to the MSc. It could include some of the following:
- what motivated your interest in South Asia or its regions
- why you want to apply for the MSc
- 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 thesis.
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.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying
- your relevant academic experience
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
- how your MSc will help you in your future career.
Two essays of a maximum 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.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
These 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.