MSt in Traditional China | University of Oxford
Close up of Chinese art of plants
EA1962.225 Gai Qi, 'Epidendrum, bamboo, and rocks'
(Image Credit: Ashmolean Museum)

MSt in Traditional China

About the course

The MSt in Traditional China provides students with an opportunity to develop the skills needed for research on pre-modern and early modern China. It is designed to stand independently as a one-year qualification which can lead on to further study elsewhere, but also to provide the standard training required of graduate students here in Oxford aiming at a thesis degree in pre-modern and early modern Chinese Studies.

On the course you will work closely with certain members of Oxford’s internationally renowned team of specialist researchers from the China Centre, who will help you to tailor your master's degree to suit your needs and interests. The course involves a number of different elements.

The first is the close reading of selected texts which bear on your area of special interest. The selection will be carefully worked out during the first term of the course, and will balance your particular needs with those of other students working in similar areas.

The second is a basic course in Japanese or another specialist language relevant to the research topic, if taught at Oxford. Time is obviously too short to do real justice to this most difficult language, profoundly different from Chinese. So, teaching focuses on the essential need – to bring you to the point at which you can begin to tackle publications by Japanese specialists in your field. Once basic script and grammar have been covered, instruction moves straight on to readings with a Chinese focus. (There is no time to spare for the skills of speaking and listening.) The teacher for the Japanese course will be a native Japanese instructor.

The third element is an introduction to Sinology. This deals with the procedures of chronology, geography, bureaucracy, biography and bibliography in the context of traditional Chinese studies. The aim here is not so much to transmit information as to lead you away from a dependent, passive approach towards a questioning and free-standing research style.

The final element is a dissertation. Time is short and length is restricted, but this part of the course will still aim to bring out your powers of exposition and analysis, and you will document your work according to professional academic standards.

Most of the teaching will be on an individual basis or in very small groups.

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.

Assessment

Evaluation of the course normally takes place entirely during the third term, through a combination of examination papers in prepared texts and unprepared translation in Classical Chinese or another approved Asian language, a take-home research exercise, and a dissertation of 15,000 words on an approved topic of your choice, based on primary sources. An oral examination (viva voce) may also be required.

Further information on the examination procedure for the MSt in Traditional China can be found in the Course Handbook, which can be accessed via the faculty's course webpage.

Graduate destinations

The MSt in Traditional China is designed to prepare students for doctoral research. The majority of students go on to careers in the academic world, education and in museums. However, there are also students who have found employment in business, the media and diverse other fields.

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.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding 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

Modern Chinese Studies MPhil
Traditional East Asia MPhil
Oriental Studies DPhil
Contemporary Chinese Studies DPhil

The MSt in Oriental Studies is often taken by candidates working in modern Chinese literature and culture. The MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies includes modern history.

Entry requirements for entry in 2021-22

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 Chinese studies.

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

  • You should also have a good knowledge of Classical Chinese.
  • Publications are not required.

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.

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. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.57.0

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

110Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*191185
C2 Proficiency191185

*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.

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 normally 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

Most of the lectures and classes for the MSt in Traditional China are organised and conducted at the Dickson Poon University of Oxford China Centre Building.

The China Centre, brings together academics drawn from across a range of disciplines, who have in common research and teaching interests related to China. The building has a 100-seat lecture theatre, a 200-seat dining area and a range of conference and seminar facilities.  It also has a dedicated library with study carrels and a reading room, which holds books from the Bodleian Library's China Collection.

In addition to this, you will also find useful the Bodleian Oriental collections and the Oriental Institute Library. Adjacent to the Oriental Institute is the Ashmolean Museum, which houses superb collections. You will also have access to the University's centrally provided electronic resources and the Faculty IT Officer.  The facilities at the China Centre provide opportunities for interaction with students on a range of China-related degrees as well as lectures and other academic activities.

A Classical Chinese reading group meets every week in Full Term. The China Centre also organises its own weekly seminar, at which speakers include visiting international scholars, members of the Oxford academic staff, and graduate students. The talks are given in English or Chinese, and discussions are always critical and lively. Other graduate seminar groups with more specialised focus, for instance modern history or art and archaeology, also meet regularly.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer up to 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2021-22. 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 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 college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages.

Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the faculty's website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2021-22

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£17,760
Overseas (including EU)£27,460

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 detailed fee status information and the Oxford and the EU webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.

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 2021-22 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,175 and £1,710 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 2021-22, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

College preference

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 Traditional China:

How to apply

It is not necessary to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply, but you may contact Professor Henrietta Harrison if you have any further questions about the course.

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 and research proposal:
Statement of a maximum of 500 words, proposal of a maximum of 1,000 words

Your research proposal and personal statement should be submitted as a single, combined document with clear sub-headings. These should both be written in English only.

Your statement should explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in.

Your research proposal should cover areas such as the background to the research, methodology, expected results and the contribution to the field of learning. The word count for the research proposal does not need to include your bibliography.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

The personal statement and research proposal will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • coherence of the proposal
  • originality of the research project
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques
  • capacity for sustained and intense work at a high intellectual level.

Written work:
Two essays of a maximum 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.

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
  • 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 your 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 the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.

Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:

Step 5: Start your application using the relevant button below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application GuideApply

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