About the course
The MSt in Historical Studies is the second year of a two-year part-time graduate course that focuses on British, Western European and imperial history and promotes a broad approach to historical research across the historical disciplines. It provides systematic training in research methods and the opportunity to research a substantial dissertation.
The course forms part of Oxford University Department for Continuing Education's graduate programme in historical studies. Successful completion of the PGCert in Historical Studies is mandatory for admission to this master's year. The MSt course builds upon the skills and knowledge developed in the PGCert and encourages students to engage actively with theoretical and historiographical approaches underpinning modern historical research.
There are three units:
Unit 1: Using Archives and Analysing Sources
In this unit students examine the key documentary and material sources and resources for their specialist period selected from three parallel strands covering the medieval, early modern and modern periods. They are encouraged to sharpen their critical and analytical skills and to reflect upon the challenges and opportunities particular sources or categories of source present to users. They are introduced to the main historical methods informing the design of research projects, for example macro and micro approaches, quantification and the use of material evidence. Training is also offered in the use of electronic search engines, catalogues and databases and guidance provided on using archives and their catalogues.
Unit 2: Theoretical Approaches to History
Students examine themes and theoretical approaches that have provided the critical framework for, or have influenced, approaches to historical research. Four seminars are offered each year. In the first instance, these will cover gender, space, violence and identity. There is assigned reading but students are also encouraged to consider the application of the chosen approaches to their own research and to subjects that interest them. Students are required to give short presentations, for example, introducing key texts.
Unit 3: Writing History
Students are encouraged in this unit to reflect upon the challenges historians face in framing, structuring and presenting their research findings. A visiting lecturer and members of the course team share their experience of planning and writing books and handling conceptual issues such as causation, problem solving and controversy and the challenges of presenting qualitative and quantitative research findings and using digital data. Students give short presentations on their dissertations and take questions and comments from tutors and students. There is a workshop on the organisation and presentation of the dissertation.
Teaching and learning
The units are taught in three weekend residences providing 38 hours of teaching, seminar discussion and presentations. Student additionally receive up to five hours individual supervision for their dissertations. Students are expected to spend at least fifteen hours per week in private study preparing for the weekend residences and researching and writing their dissertations.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department for Continuing Education and this role will usually be performed by the Course Director.
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 Department for Continuing Education.
The graded assessment for these units is provided by the dissertation, supplemented by three summative assessment exercises marked pass/fail, namely a survey of secondary literature for the dissertation, a survey of primary sources for the dissertation and a dissertation proposal.
The final grade awarded for the MSt subsumes the grade awarded for the Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies, with a weighting of 60% applied to the MSt grade and 40% to the PGCert grade.
It is anticipated that about a quarter of students will progress to doctoral study including Oxford and other institutions. Other students study for their own fulfilment or develop their professional career; many of our former students work in government, education, heritage and museums, business and law.
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 department
All graduate courses in the humanities offered by this department
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 upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a relevant subject; and
- applicants must have completed the PGCert in Historical Studies, and it is essential that applicants demonstrate a strong performance (actual or predicted) on the PGCert.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally 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
- Research or working experience in a historical field may be an advantage.
- 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.
|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 normally held as part of the admissions process. These interviews are scheduled to be held in February and April.
All applicants will normally be interviewed. Telephone or Microsoft Teams interviews will be offered to students living overseas or at a considerable distance.
Interviews will be conducted by two members of the course team. The interview will focus on your reasons for wishing to progress to master's study, the essays submitted with your application and your proposed research project.
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.
The department is located in a block of attractive Victorian houses in Wellington Square in central Oxford close to some of the University's major libraries and museums and to the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter. The city's historic sites, colleges, shops and restaurants are only a few minutes' walk away. The modernised and extended site has its own fully-equipped seminar rooms, library, reading room, student computing facility, graduate school study/social room, dining-room, common-room, garden seating areas and short-term student accommodation
The department's Graduate School provides a stimulating and enriching learning and research environment for its 700-strong graduate community. It fosters intellectual and social interaction between graduates of different disciplines and professions from the UK and around the globe.
In addition to Rewley House's well-stocked Continuing Education Library, you will have access to University libraries such as the Bodleian Library, Weston Library, History Faculty Library, and the Sackler Library. Library access includes full online access to history and other journals and to a wide range of historical data bases and document collections, available anywhere.
You will also have access to the extensive range of seminars, lectures and training sessions offered by this department and other departments, faculties and centres within the University. The Humanities Division and History Faculty offer a wide range of graduate seminars, lectures and training and special events. The Bodleian Library Group and IT services run a wide-ranging programme of training workshops.
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 department's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2022-23
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.
This course has residential sessions in Oxford. You will need to meet your travel and accommodation costs in attending these sessions. Further, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. 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.
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.
If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.
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 MSt in Historical 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
Before you apply, you are advised to discuss your application plans with the course director or a member of the course team. You can do this via the contact details provided on this page in the first instant.
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.
References should generally be academic. However, up to one professional reference is acceptable.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and commitment, ability to work in a group.
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.
A maximum of 1,000 words
Your proposal should identify your proposed research subject and outline the scope and treatment of the project. 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.
This will be assessed for:
- the coherence of the proposal;
- the viability of the project;
- the ability to present a reasoned case in English;
- the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course;
- preliminary knowledge of research techniques; and
- capacity for sustained and intense work.
One essay of a maximum of 2,500 words
You will be required to submit written work covering an historical subject and written in English. You are welcome to submit an essay already graded for the Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies or an extract from a longer piece of writing such as your dissertation with the context clearly indicated in an introductory note.
It is not essential for the work to relate closely to the proposed area of master's study. 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.
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.