About the course
This is a two-year, part-time MSt degree in interdisciplinary studies in literature and arts. The course takes place over four five-day residences and two online modules. You will select two options from each of three periods of British history. Assessment is based on four essays and a dissertation.
This literature and arts course brings together the creative, intellectual, and manufactured output of people in the past. It has a twofold aim: to explore the past through the lens of human creativity, and to inform our understanding of that creativity by studying the context within which it emerged. It is therefore an interdisciplinary programme which encompasses literature, art and architectural history, history, philosophy and the history of ideas.
Based in Oxford, and taking full advantage of the remarkable human and cultural resources which this university has at its disposal, the literature and arts course is designed around three sequential periods of British history, from Early Modern (c. 1500) to the early twentieth century (c.1914).
By studying each period through a range of disciplines, you will have the opportunity to acquire a broad and multi-faceted picture of the past. In this framework giant achievements such as Milton’s poetry or Wren’s architecture can be understood not only as products of their times but also in so far as they stand as uniquely inspired statements, or as harbingers of future developments.
The MSt in Literature and Arts is a part-time two-year course. In year one there are three compulsory five-day residences and one online module consisting of 9 units. In year two there is one compulsory residence and one online module. Although the online modules are not assessed it is a requirement that you engage with the online modules to the satisfaction of the course director. The online modules are fully supported by a dedicated Virtual Learning Environment.
After taking a broad view of British culture in a global context at the first residence, the three subsequent residences enable you to choose from a range of subjects, from different humanities disciplines, which relate to the historical period assigned to the unit. The options are taught in the mornings and afternoons, and represent a range of disciplines, specifically literature, history, visual culture and philosophy/history of ideas.
You will choose two options out of four offered. The periods studied are ‘Early Modern’, ‘The Long Eighteenth Century’ and the ‘The Long Nineteenth Century’. Please note due to timetabling constrictions it is not always possible to allocate you to your first and second choices.
In keeping with the Oxford ethos of tutorial instruction, individual tutorials and supervisions will be an integral part of the programme, most notably with regard to the dissertation. Individual supervision will be undertaken both face-to-face and by email.
Assessment is through four 4,000- to 5,000- word assignments, each assignment following a residential session, and an 11,000-word dissertation. The four assignments contribute 40% of the final mark and the dissertation contributes 60%.
Graduates of the programme have progressed to doctorates at the University of Oxford and also at Cambridge, London, Manchester, Roehampton, Southampton and Warwick. In addition each year, a small number of MLA graduates have been offered places on the DPhil in Literature and Art, which was established by the department to provide a route to part-time doctoral study for graduates of interdisciplinary humanities masters' courses.
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 humanities subject.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.5 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).
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 normally held as part of the admissions process.
On the basis of your application, you may be invited for interview. These will normally take place within four weeks of each closing date, will last about half an hour and will involve at least two interviewers. The interviews may take place face to face or via a Skype or conference call. The interviews are designed to explore your potential to work in an interdisciplinary way, to think openly and objectively and to make imaginative and academically sustainable connections between the subjects you study.
If invited for interview you will be asked to bring with you either a material object or a text which interests you and which you can present to the interviewers and discuss. This part of the interview will take no more than fifteen minutes.
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 Department for Continuing Education 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 Department for Continuing Education 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 Department for Continuing Education.
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.
A computer and reliable internet connection will be required as there are two compulsory online elements to the course. The minimum recommended IT specification can be found on the department's online support website. Please note that mobile devices are not compatible with uploading assignments etc.
The department is committed to supporting you to pursue your academic goals.
The Rewley House Continuing Education Library, one of the Bodleian Libraries, is situated in Rewley House. The department aims to support the wide variety of subjects covered by departmental courses at many academic levels. The department also has a collection of around 73,000 books together with periodicals. PCs in the library give access to the internet and the full range of electronic resources subscribed to by the University of Oxford. Wifi is also available. The Jessop Reading Room adjoining the library is available for study. You will have access to the Central Bodleian and other Bodleian Libraries.
The Graduate School provides a stimulating and enriching learning and research environment for the department's graduate students, fostering intellectual and social interaction between graduates of different disciplines and professions from the UK and around the globe. The Graduate School will help you make the most of the wealth of resources and opportunities available, paying particular regard to the support and guidance needed if you are following a part-time graduate programme. The department’s graduate community comprises over 600 members following taught programmes and more than 70 undertaking doctoral research.
The department provides various IT facilities, including the Student Computing Facility which provides individual PCs for your use. Many of the department's courses are delivered through blended learning or have a website to support face-to-face study. In most cases, online support is delivered through a virtual learning environment.
Depending on the programme you are taking with the department, you may require accommodation at some point in your student career. Rewley House is ideally located in central Oxford; the city's historic sites, colleges, museums, shops and restaurants are only a few minutes’ walk away. The department has 35 en-suite study bedrooms, all with high quality amenities, including internet access.
The Rewley House dining room has seating for up to 132 people. A full meal service is available daily. The department operates a Common Room with bar for students.
There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college 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.
Annual fees for entry in 2019-20
Annual Course fees
|Home/EU (including Islands)||£6,760|
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.
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 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.
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.
How to apply
It is not necessary for you to contact an academic member of staff before you apply.
The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:
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.
Up to 1,000 words
Your statement should be written in English and should explain your reasons for applying and why you think the programme of study is appropriate for you at this stage. It should demonstrate your commitment to the course, your ability to complete it successfully and your understanding of the aims of the programme. You might also discuss what your personal contribution to the experience of the student group as a whole would be.
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
- commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
- capacity for sustained and intense work
- reasoning ability
- ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.
Two essays of 2,000 words each
You should provide examples of your own critical writing on a subject relating to the arts and/or humanities, written in English.
Extracts from longer pieces are welcome but should be prefaced by a note which puts them in context. The department will not accept one long extract in lieu of two shorter pieces. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.
They will be assessed on your understanding of the subject and any methodological problems they present, on your powers of expression and analysis, on your use of source and reference material and on your use of scholarly referencing.
They will also be assessed for a comprehensive understanding of the subject area; your understanding of problems in the area; your ability to construct and defend an argument, powers of analysis and powers of expression.
If you have not studied humanities subjects at a higher education institution or have not written an essay in the humanities in recent years, you may like to consider taking an online course offered by the Department for Continuing Education in literature, history, or art history in advance of making an application to the MLA. These courses can be a valuable way to improve your skills and are a way to explore the relevant subject areas before you apply to the MLA.
References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, academic wherever possible
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.
Your referees should be able to provide an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. If possible the referee should be an academic but otherwise a professional colleague or someone who knows your work in the public sphere and can comment on your intellectual acumen would be acceptable.
If you are a current master’s student or have completed a master’s course, one of your referees should be your supervisor or course director from this course. If you do not provide a reference of the kind, the department will usually ask you to do so before completing the assessment of your application.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, ability to work in a group.
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.