MSt in Film Aesthetics | University of Oxford
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MSt in Film Aesthetics

About the course

The MSt in Film Aesthetics equips you with the skills and knowledge necessary for analysing film as an art form. It concentrates on film criticism, detailed film analysis, film theory and philosophy insofar as they related to film aesthetics. It teaches the history and the contemporary developments in the scholarly literature relating to these aspects. It encourages analytical, thoughtful and imaginative engagement with film as a medium and with individual films.

The MSt in Film Aesthetics is a degree in the humanities run by the Humanities Division.

The course concentrates on film from the point of view of aesthetics, including:

  • the detailed study of film style and form, and the articulation of it in writing - for example, narrative structure, use of camera, colour, performance, sound, music, editing and composition;
  • matters of philosophical aesthetics, and their particular application to film - for example, value and evaluation, appreciation, ontology, medium, intention, expression, meaning/interpretation, creativity, metaphor, symbolism, fiction, storytelling, convention, stylistic groupings and histories, emotion and the relation between ethics, morality and aesthetics; and
  • classic and contemporary film theory and philosophy as they relate to film aesthetics.

Many master's programmes concentrate on historical, cultural, geographical, or political approaches to film and may only contain an aesthetic component. This programme is dedicated to the specialist study of form, and film as an art form.

The course runs from late September to June, from two weeks before the first term to the end of the last term.

Two weeks before term officially begins, you will attend a practical film workshop for one week. Although the degree itself is not practical, this week acts as an introduction to film techniques and allows the group to work with each other before the degree begins. This part of the course is not assessed. 

In the first two terms the course is taught by seminar only, although there will be individual meetings with tutors to discuss essay preparation and feedback.  In the third term the course is taught by individual supervision.

The first term of the course will look at the analysis of film style and film form, train techniques of film analysis and look at key concepts in film form, film criticism, film theory and philosophy.

The second term consists of four short segments, each covering a particular aesthetic topic. Each segment is compulsory and there are no optional components. This part of the course provides you with the opportunity to engage with four different areas of specialisation.

The topics for the second term change from year to year but may include:

  • aesthetics of Italian cinema
  • spaces of American cinema
  • film and modernism
  • contemporary theories of spectatorship - embodiment, ethics and politics
  • cinema of the non-human
  • the film-philosophy of Stanley Cavell
  • contemporary Chinese cinema

In the first two terms there will be two seminars per week. Seminars vary in length depending on the module. In the third term there will be individual tutorial supervision of the dissertation. You will be expected to read quite extensively for seminars and supervisions, and also view films. All the staff involved in delivering the course have doctoral degrees (most are at professorial or associate professorial level), in many cases are leaders in their fields and have extensive experience of teaching their area of film studies. 

Assessment is by two 6,000-word essays, one 3,000-word essay and a 10, 000-word dissertation. The dissertation, written in the final term, provides an opportunity to work with a tutor in your chosen area of specialisation.

Graduate destinations

The analytical skills taught in the course are applicable in a wide range of jobs concerned with film and visual media, for example film programming, film reviewing, film production, design and teaching. The course is especially suitable as a foundation for further scholarly research into film.

Other courses in this area

Changes to the course

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. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2019-20

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in the humanities, fine art or social sciences. 

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

A formal background in film studies is not a requirement, and many successful applicants do not have a film studies degree; however, high achievement in the field of film studies is desirable. You should also show an interest in, and if possible a  knowledge of, aesthetics, and more specifically the aesthetics of film.

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

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(s)

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.  


Publications are not expected

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Humanities Division to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of 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.

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, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

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.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.


Opportunities for exchange are provided by the interdisciplinary communities fostered within individual colleges, which also offer you dedicated support by means of personal advisors. The Oxford Centre for Research in the Humanities (TORCH) offers a stimulating range of interdisciplinary activities. History graduates are also encouraged to join the Oxford History Graduate Network (OGHN), which fosters friendships, conversations and collaboration.

The Oxford environment provides a unique opportunity to develop intellectual curiosity whilst remaining focused on one’s own work without becoming blinkered - an integral part of a successful graduate career.

The two main Bodleian Libraries Film Studies collections of books, journals and films are at the Taylor Institution Library and the English Faculty Library, with additional film studies books and periodical accommodated in the main Bodleian and its off-site book storage facility. The film collections are predominantly DVDs: currently the collection stands at approximately 8,000 films. All the DVDs from the major labels are acquired - Master's of Cinema, Criterion, Second Run, Artificial Eye. In 2012, the Taylor Library opened a new viewing room for watching films, accommodating around six viewers and equipped with a flat screen television and Blu-ray player. There is also now a small designated area where film students can gather, sit and read the latest journals.


There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

Applicants to this course may also be eligible to apply for other scholarship and funding opportunities, including the Ertegun Scholarship Programme.  In order to be considered for this award you will need to complete the scholarships section of the course application form and submit additional supporting material. The programme’s website provides more details about the application process as well as any eligibility criteria which apply.


Annual fees for entry in 2019-20

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£10,460

The fees shown above are the annual course fees for this course, for entry in the stated academic year.

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. You may have seen separate figures in the past for tuition fees and college fees. We have now combined these into a single figure.

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.

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.

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 2019-20 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,058 and £1,643 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 2019-20, 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 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.

Personal statement:
Up to two pages

Your personal 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 think of the personal statement as also a statement of academic purpose. You should go beyond expressing an enthusiasm for film and be as specific as possible about studying film in an academic context. It is also important that you should be specific about why you wish to study film from an aesthetic point of view as distinct from other approaches to film study.

This will be assessed for your reasons for applying; evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study; the ability to present a reasoned case in English.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,000 words each

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.

The written work need not relate to film, but show abilities to discuss ideas or texts in detail. Extra-curricular essays on film, written especially for the application, are accepted but at least one specialist piece of work from your degree, even if not related to film, is strongly encouraged.

This will be assessed for the ability to analyse/close read a text or artwork, and/or the ability to theorise/philosophise about aesthetic issues; good understanding of the subject area; ability to construct an defend an argument; powers of analysis; and powers of expression.

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.

Academic references are strongly recommended, although one professional reference of the three required overall is also acceptable.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, suitability for the specific degree.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Carefully read the entry requirements on this course page to make sure you meet all the criteria.

Step 2: Check above what documents are required and prepare to apply by reading our Application Guide.

Step 3: Apply as soon as possible. Consult the Application Guide for more information about deadlines.

Application GuideApply

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