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MSt in Comparative Literature and Critical Translation

About the course

The MSt in Comparative Literature and Critical Translation is a nine-month, interdisciplinary course designed to give you critical, theoretical and research expertise in the intersecting fields of comparative and world literature and translation studies.

To take the course, you must be able to work with two languages and literatures, out of Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, modern Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Sanskrit, Spanish, Turkish, and Urdu. If you are interested in studying two European languages comparatively, you may also wish to apply for the MSt in Modern Languages.

The MSt is attached to Oxford’s research centre in Comparative Criticism and Translation (OCCT) and builds on the recent growth in scholarly awareness of the importance of translation to comparative and world literary study. This is what is meant by ‘critical translation’: not translator training, but rather an interest in the role played by translation and re-writing in literary history, and an alertness to the uses of translation in critical practice.

Course structure

Core course

The core course will introduce you to key topics in comparative and world literature and translation studies, and give you the skills needed to develop your own arguments and pursue original research. It is taught by a weekly lecture and seminar in weeks 1-6 of Michaelmas (autumn) and Hilary (spring) terms. You will give presentations in the seminars (usually twice each term), and write a short practice essay (2,000-4,000 words) at the end of Michaelmas term: these formative assignments will not affect your degree result. 

The list below provides an indication of the topics covered in the core course, though please note that it may vary from year to year:

  • histories of comparison
  • theories of comparison
  • worlds of comparison
  • figures
  • genres and forms
  • migration, travel and encounter
  • translation studies and comparative literatures
  • translation and transmediality
  • translation and circulation
  • translingual and multilingual texts
  • untranslatables and universals
  • translational critical practices.

Option courses

You will take one option course in Michaelmas term and one option course in Hilary term. These options are chosen from a wide range available in the faculties of Medieval and Modern Languages, English Language and Literature, and Oriental Studies. The option courses available change from year to year, but the following list is indicative of the types of topics which may be offered by participating faculties:

  • Travel, Belonging, Identity: 1550-1700
  • Utopian Writing from More to Hume
  • Victorian and Edwardian Drama 1850-1914
  • 19th and 20th Century Spanish Women Writers
  • 20th Century German Drama and Theatre
  • Contemporary Brazilian Fiction
  • Francophone Literature
  • Gender and Representation in Russian Culture from 1800
  • Greek Literature & Culture after the 19th century: Themes, Texts and Contexts
  • The Body in 20th- and 21st-Century Spanish American Fiction
  • The Italian Novel in the 19th and 20th Century
  • Translation and Adaptation: Texts, Histories, Practices
  • Topics in Classical Japanese Poetry
  • Womanhood in Korean Literature
  • Authority and Rebellion in Modern Arabic Literature
  • Chinese Fiction After Tiananmen.

Teaching for an option consists of regular 1-1 or small-group meetings, with feedback being given as appropriate. Your options must focus on literature in different languages (eg Arabic in one term, English in the other; or French in one term, Russian in the other). Some options may not have a language requirement, or may span more than one language: in such cases, the course convener will advise you so that your choices cover an appropriate range.


Your dissertation may be on any comparative topic that involves your two languages of focus. You will work closely with a supervisor, starting at the end of Michaelmas term and continuing through Hilary term, though the bulk of the work will be concentrated in Trinity (summer) term. Your 10,000-12,000 word dissertation will be due in at the end of Trinity term.

Alongside the weekly teaching sessions for the core and option courses, students should expect to undertake approximately 30 hours of self-directed study each week.


In addition to the dissertation, you will be assessed on the core course by a 4,000 word essay written at the end of Hilary term and by written work of up to 7,000 words for each of the two option courses, to be submitted after the end of the term in which the option has been taught.

If you wish, you may also choose to study another language at the Oxford University Language Centre. This opportunity is free of charge for students taking the MSt in Comparative Literature and Critical Translation, though it is not an assessed part of your MSt course.


The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the steering committee for the MSt in Comparative Literature and Critical Translation in consultation with faculties in the Humanities Division, 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 Humanities Division.

Graduate destinations

It is anticipated that those who have successfully completed the course may proceed to doctoral work at Oxford or other institutions. Alternative career destinations may include publishing, journalism, teaching, or various kinds of international cultural work.

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.

Courses suggested by the Humanities Division

Medieval Studies MSt
World Literatures in English MSt
Modern Languages MSt
Oriental Studies MSt

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 2022-23

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

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.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.75 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

  • You must provide evidence of proficiency in at least two languages (one of which may be English) to at least level B2 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, or an equivalent standard for Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
  • You will need to provide evidence of competence in the study of literature corresponding to your language skills. You may do this in your letter of application and submitted written work, as well as by the qualifications you have obtained.
  • Publications are not expected.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Interviews may be held with candidates whose application requires clarification or further information in relation to one or more aspect of the entry requirements, such as those identified below as other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience.

References outlining academic potential and suitability to study for the intended course are secured before discussion with the applicant takes place. Interviews will be conducted by either telephone, face-to-face or Skype and there will be a minimum of two interviewers. Applications may be rejected without further direct contact with the applicant.


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. The After you apply section of this website provides further information about the academic assessment of your application, including the potential outcomes. Please note that any offer of a place may be subject to academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions may vary depending upon your individual academic circumstances.

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 on selection procedures 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.

Further information about processing special category data for the purposes of positive action and information about using your data to assess your eligibility for funding, can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

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, your offer letter will give full details of your offer and any academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course.  In addition to any academic conditions which are set, 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.


You will be able to participate in the rich research culture of Oxford’s Comparative Criticism and Translation research centre (OCCT). This includes the lively postgraduate-led discussion group, regular research seminars and workshops, the public events of Oxford Translation Day, and lectures by the Weidenfeld Visiting Professor in Comparative European Literature (recent incumbents have included Javier Cercas, Ali Smith, Mario Vargas Llosa, Elif Shafak and Umberto Eco).

You will have common room/study space in the centre. The academic mentor and the graduate teaching assistant who are attached to the course will help you to orient yourself in the research culture of OCCT and the wider university; and you will present your dissertation work-in-progress at a seminar day organised jointly with the OCCT discussion group in Trinity term.

You will also be able to attend seminars and other events from across the faculties of Medieval and Modern Languages, English Language and Literature, and Oriental Studies, thereby encountering a wide range of leading writers, critics, and theorists from within and beyond the University.

Oxford has internationally renowned libraries and archives. The combined collections of the Bodleian Libraries contain more than 11 million printed items, in addition to more than 50,000 e-journals and a vast quantity of manuscripts, maps, music and other materials. The libraries of the Taylor Institution, English Faculty, and Oriental Institute, as well as the Leopold Muller Library, hold focused collections within the area of the MSt in Comparative Literature and Critical Translation; every college also has a well-stocked library.

The Bodleian Libraries, the University’s Research Skills Toolkit, IT Services and the Humanities Researcher Development Programme provide training in study and IT skills and career development. You can also learn an additional language at the Oxford University Language Centre.


The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2022-23. 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 Humanities division website.


Annual fees for entry in 2022-23

Fee status

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 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 the course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living expenses. However, it is possible that work towards the dissertation, depending on the choice of topic, may require additional expenditure, for example on travel to a library where an archive is held.

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 2022-23 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,215 and £1,755 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 2022-23, 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 for full-time study on the MSt in Comparative Literature and Critical Translation:

How to apply

You are not required to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply.

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.


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 1,000 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.

You should describe the nature of your knowledge of two (or more) languages and literatures if this is not already obvious from your CV and qualifications. You should explain what interests you about the MSt in Comparative Literature and Critical Translation, and indicate the areas in which you are likely to want to take option courses. You should also describe the topic on which you hope to write your dissertation, showing an awareness of current scholarship in the field, and delineating the scope of the project and the research questions you wish to pursue.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • your ability to present a coherent case in proficient English
  • your preliminary knowledge of the subject area and research techniques
  • your description of the work you wish to do within the course, including the dissertation.

It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.

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

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

Written work:
Two essays of a maximum of 2,000 words each or one essay of a maximum of 4,000 words

The written work should consist of an academic essay or essays, to be submitted in English. The essay or essays should give evidence of your competence in the study of literature in two or more languages (one of which may be English). Clearly-highlighted extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible. Where necessary, a cover note may be attached placing an extract in a larger context.

Work should be submitted in English. 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.

To submit one longer piece of work in your application, upload your work as written work in your application and for the second piece of written work, upload the following text as a PDF or Word document:

"I have included one long essay in lieu of the two short essays as permitted by the department."

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

References should generally be academic, though if you are returning to study after extended periods of non-academic employment then you are welcome to nominate professional referees where it would be impractical to call on your previous university tutors.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, ability to work in both a group environment and independently.

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 link 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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