About the course
The MSt in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies has been devised as a multi-purpose introduction to the Roman world in Late Antiquity, to Byzantium, the medieval successor of the East Roman Empire, and to neighbouring peoples and their cultures.
This is a nine-month taught course that can be taken as a free-standing degree, or as the first step towards doctoral research.
You have the option of selecting a focus of study dependant on your knowledge of languages or on your primary interests in the field. Two basic pathways lead into each field of study, and you are expected to choose between them at the beginning of the course.
The first is the language training pathway, which offers intensive training in any one of the following ancient and medieval languages:
The second pathway, is designed for those who already have considerable competence in their chosen language and are able to read primary sources. You will receive instruction in one or two of a range of specialist auxiliary disciplines of papyrology, epigraphy, palaeography, numismatics, sigillography or artefact studies and you will choose a special subject from a list in your preferred subject area, ie in either history, art and archaeology, literature or religion.
Teaching and examination comprises three papers:
- for all students, a core paper on history, art and archaeology or history and Byzantine literature comprising two sets of weekly classes taken in the first two academic terms and examined on the basis of two 5,000-word essays on topics of your choosing, subject to the approval of your supervisor, submitted at the end of Trinity term; and
- for those taking the language pathway, intensive courses in both language and literature with examinations at the end of the year; or
- for those taking the other pathway, instruction in one or two auxiliary disciplines and also in a special subject 10,000-word dissertation on a topic of your choosing, subject to the approval of your supervisor, submitted at the end of Trinity term.
Language and literature as well as auxiliary disciplines will normally be examined by unseen examinations at the end of Trinity term, while attainment in other subjects are assessed on the basis of submitted essays or dissertations submitted at the end of Trinity term.
Please note that not every optional subject listed may be on offer every year, depending in part on levels of student demand. Full details of core and optional papers available are available on the course webpage.
Although the two components of the course, Late Antiquity and Byzantium, have been designed to the same specification and are conjoined in a single course, you are expected to concentrate on one or other of the fields. If you wish to proceed to a research programme you will be encouraged to develop your doctoral proposal during the first few months of the programme, so that you will be well placed to make a doctoral application.
You should not apply to both the MSt and MPhil in this research area. Both courses have the same entry requirements.
About a quarter of master’s students proceed to doctoral work at Oxford; others continue academic study at other institutions. Other career destinations are as diverse as, but broadly in line with, undergraduate history career destinations: law, finance, management consultancy, civil service etc.
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 a relevant discipline in the humanities or social sciences.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.75 out of 4.0.
Applicants are normally expected to have a previous degree in history, but for master's applications a number of candidates may be accepted with a degree in a different subject area. You will need to ensure that you link your proposed dissertation topic with your previous expertise when you present it in your research proposal, or that you explain why you want to switch to study history, and to show that you have already done some background research into it. Your submitted written work should show your writing and research skills in their best light, as it will be important to show that you have the necessary skills required for historical research.
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).
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other appropriate indicators will include:
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.
Assessors may get in touch with an applicant by email in case of any queries, but this is very rare.
Publications are not required.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
In the case of mature students/intended career changes professional experience in cognate areas may compensate for shortcomings in the formal academic record.
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 Faculty of History 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 Faculty of History and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff.
- Under some circumstances a supervisor outside the Faculty of History may be nominated.
An Oxford academic’s pre-application indication of willingness to supervise an enquiring applicant is not a guarantee that the applicant will be offered a place, or that the supervisor in question has capacity in that particular year.
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.
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.
Intellectual life and community
Working as an Oxford graduate student is an exhilarating experience. History at Oxford stretches from around 300 AD to the present and embraces an exceptionally broad geographical range. It comprises an active research community of up to 800 academics and graduate students.
The faculty’s research is organised around historical periods, research centres, or in collaborative and individual research projects, and graduates are key participants in the wide range of seminars, workshops and conferences run by the History Faculty.
Further opportunities for exchange are provided by the interdisciplinary communities fostered within individual colleges, which also offer dedicated support for graduates by means of personal advisors. The Oxford Centre for Research in the Humanities (TORCH) offers a stimulating range of interdisciplinary activities. You are also encouraged to join the Oxford History Graduate Network (OHGN), which fosters friendships, conversations and collaboration.
The Oxford environment provides a unique opportunity to develop intellectual curiosity whilst remaining focused on your own work without becoming blinkered - an integral part of a successful graduate career.
Libraries and archives
Graduates in Oxford are fortunate in having access to over a hundred libraries. The University's core research resource in the humanities are the Bodleian Libraries, whose combined collections 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 Bodleian has been a library of legal deposit for 400 years. The Bodleian Libraries’ Special Collections Department attracts scholars from all over the world. Further strengths include the countless databases and digital resources currently offered by the Bodleian and being developed through Oxford’s Digital Humanities programme.
You are also able to draw on the specialist resources offered by the Bodleian History Faculty Library which provides dedicated support and training courses for all graduates. They also have access to the many college libraries and to college archives which can house significant collections of personal papers as well as institutional records dating back to the middle ages.
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.