MSt in Korean Studies | University of Oxford
Tomb of King Tongmyong
The Tomb of King Tongmyong in Pyongyang, North Korea
(Image Credit: Kok Leng Yeo / Flickr)

MSt in Korean Studies

About the course

This course aims to build on a basic knowledge of modern Korean and classical Chinese or modern Japanese.

The MSt aims:

  • to build your capability in using at least modern Korean for research purposes;
  • to acquaint you with many of the most important classical texts from Korean history, in modern Korean translation or the original Classical Chinese or Old or Middle Korean;
  • to enable you to understand and use a range of classical references and historiographical and linguistic research methods for the treatment of primary sources; and
  • to allow you to engage in specialised study from a wide range of options and exercise your new skills.

You should expect to attend up to ten hours per week of tutorials and should expect to spend an additional thirty to forty hours a week, perhaps more, during each full term for preparation. In addition, you should expect to be set a considerable amount of work during the vacations.

Language instruction, the reading of prescribed texts, and bibliographic or methodological exercises are usually conducted in tutorials for which you are expected to prepare thoroughly in advance. Lectures are provided for instruction on general themes of Korean and East Asian history and critical issues in contemporary and classical Korean linguistics. You are advised to take advantage of public lectures offered on China and Japan, since they also supply historical context, comparative linguistic information, regional background, and comparative perspectives for work in tutorials.

Teaching takes place in tutorials. You are required to prepare thoroughly for whatever is required: language exercises, prescribed readings, essays, bibliographic or methodological exercises, and you should be able to present your preparation in finished form. Depending on the task, the finished form may be written language exercises, essays on linguistics, historical, literary, or cultural topics, or translation from Korean (or Chinese or Japanese) into English.

Outstanding students typically view themselves as ‘researchers in training’ and consciously set about building their competence in the body of secondary reference materials available (in Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese) as an additional aspect of tutorial preparation.

All preparation is for a set of final examinations in the following three areas:

  • Prescribed texts
  • Either Modern Korean unprepared translation or Classical Chinese or Modern
    Japanese*
  • Methodologies for Classical Koreanology or Korean Linguistics

* Candidates who already possess a sufficient knowledge of Modern Korean will be required to choose Classical Chinese or Modern Japanese.

Candidates are also required to submit a dissertation of not more than 15,000 words on a topic approved by the Board of the Faculty of Oriental Studies.

Aside from the dissertation, the course is examined by two, three-hour examinations to be sat at the end (eighth week) of the third term (Trinity) in June, and one examination to be completed in the Bodleian Library over the course of three and one-half days, also during eighth week at the end of the third term. The dissertation deadline is the end of the sixth week of the third term.

All examination papers and the dissertation will be reviewed by examiners, one of whom is from outside the University. The external examiner shall have the final decision as to whether to award the degree. You will be examined viva voce unless you have been individually excused by the examiners.

The examiners ordinarily award a pass/fail mark but may award a distinction grade for excellence in the whole examination. A distinction grade should be viewed as a strong recommendation to continue research at the DPhil level.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Faculty of Oriental 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 Oriental Studies.

Graduate destinations

Graduates from this degree have gone on to pursue DPhil and PhD degrees in Oxford and elsewhere and some now hold academic posts in leading universities in the UK, Europe and Korea.

Others have gone directly into business, finance, law, civil service, journalism, government, and industry.

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.

Courses suggested by the faculty

Oriental Studies MSt
Traditional East Asia MPhil
Oriental Studies DPhil

Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should normally 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 any subject.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 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

  • Applicants must be able to read modern Korean. Applicants must submit scores from the Standard Test of Proficiency in Korean (S-TOPIK) with a target level of 4.
  • Publications are not required.

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 may be conducted. If interviewing takes place, candidates will be shortlisted based on their qualifications and appropriateness for the course. Interviews will be held at times convenient to both staff and applicant.

The interview will be held by Skype if you are outside Oxford, and will consist of around 30 minutes of question and answer and around 30 minutes of a short language examination. There will be a minimum of two interviewers, usually three.

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

'The Bodleian currently holds about 36,000 books (Korean language), 12,000 books (non-Korean languages), and about 1,000 Japanese-language books as well as about 100 volumes of pre-modern Korean books and a small collection of manuscripts.

The ‘Window on Korea’ project, sponsored by the National Library of Korea, provided the Bodleian Library with around 4,000 volumes in 2012 and will provide 200 volumes per year until 2017.

The National Library of Korea also provided funding to help create a Korean Studies Library with an audio/visual/seminar room at the Oriental Institute Library. This will provide the opportunity to expand the collection as well as bringing all necessary Korean materials (reference, newspapers, teaching, audio visual and research materials) into one location at the Oriental Institute. Oxford has now the largest Korean collection in the United Kingdom and is one of the very few places in Europe to have a dedicated library to the study of Korea.

Adjacent to the Oriental Institute is the Ashmolean Museum, which houses superb collections including some rare and important Korean artefacts.  Nearby, the Sackler Library houses the Eastern Art Library which includes the Korean collection of arts and archaeology; the Weston Library houses the Korean collection of pre modern books and manuscripts.  The library has subscription to the e-Korean Studies which includes the Korean studies Information Service System (KISS) and eight other databases. 

As well as the Bodleian Library and the Oriental Institute Library, you will have access to the University's centrally provided electronic resources and the faculty IT Officer. There is a computing room for the use of graduate students in the Oriental Institute and a common room where tea and coffee are available and staff and students can meet.

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)£17,070
Overseas£26,405

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.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
Up to three pages

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. The overall page count should include any bibliography.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying, especially to Oxford
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • commitment to the subject
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques
  • capacity for sustained and intense work at a high intellectual level
  • reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas at a rapid pace.

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 word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for:

  • ability to construct and defend an argument
  • powers of analysis
  • powers of expression
  • clarity and accuracy of thought and writing
  • conceptual sophistication
  • critical skill
  • control of relevant primary and secondary sources
  • presentation of material in the appropriate scholarly form.

It is helpful if written work relates closely to the proposed area of study, though it is not compulsory, as there are many things that the assessors look for in the written work which are not specific to the subject area, such as ability to construct and defend an argument and presentation of material in the appropriate scholarly form.

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.

Whilst it is appreciated that obtaining academic references will be difficult for some candidates, academic references are requested because it is necessary to establish whether a candidate is intellectually prepared for a course. It is unlikely that this is something that can be established from a professional or personal reference, so you should only submit such references if there is absolutely no alternative.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and fitness for chosen course of study.

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

Was this page useful?*