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.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course 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.

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.

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.

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 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 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 

  • 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.
  • Publications are not expected.

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 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

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.

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)£11,605
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.

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 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.

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 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: 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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