MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies


The MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies is an exciting new two-year degree bringing together Oxford’s wealth of expertise on the different states, societies, economies and cultures of South Asia, within a single programme. There is also the option to build in intensive language training. Students gain access to teaching and expert supervision across departments, the ability to combine courses in both the social sciences and the humanities, and rigorous training in one of three tailored modules in research methods.

Course Structure

As a student on the MPhil, you will choose one of two streams: Contemporary India or Modern South Asia.

The first stream, Contemporary India, is intended for students wishing to explore present-day India’s social, economic and political achievements and challenges, and the connections between the country’s democratic and developmental successes and failures.

The second stream, Modern South Asia, is intended for students aiming to range more broadly across the states and societies of the subcontinent. Students within this stream may pursue any combination of interests, including history, literature, language, religion, economy and interstate relations.

You will also choose between the language track, and study a core South Asian language ab initio, or the non-language track.  Subject to teaching availability, language track students may take one of the following intensive courses: Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Sanskrit, Persian, Brajbhasha or Tibetan. 

Teaching, learning and assessment

During the first year, all students will attend the core course, introducing modern South Asia across the disciplines. All students will also receive training in research methods, though one of the following specially tailored programmes:

• research methods for area studies, both qualitative and quantitative (compulsory for the Contemporary India stream)

• qualitative and historical methods

• qualitative methods: literature and language

An important purpose of the research methods course is to help you develop and refine your thesis topic. 

You will also choose option papers.  If you are taking the language track, you will take one option paper during the first year.  If you are taking the non-language track, you will take three option papers.  Contemporary India stream students must take at least one of the option papers marked with an asterisk in the list below over the period of the course. 

Option papers include:

·  Gender in Indian History and Society, c. 1800 to the present

·  Societies and Economies in India, c. 1600-1800

·  Themes in the Study of South Asian Religions

·  Themes in the History of Pakistan

·  Culture and Society in Contemporary India: The South Asian Anthropocene*

·  History and Politics of South Asia*

·  Economic Development of South Asia 1947-2017

·  International Relations of South Asia

·  The Anthropology of South Asia

·  The Indian State: From Developmentalism to Liberalisation*

·  India as a ‘Great Power’: Economics and International Relations*

·  Trade and Exchange in South Asia: Transcultural Objects, Relations and Identities

·  Environment, Human Development and Public Policy in Contemporary India*

·  Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka: Contemporary Themes

·  Advanced language (for students who already have a grounding)

Please note that option papers will change from time to time, and not all will be run every year.

By the end of the first year, MPhil students will have worked out a thesis proposal, and plans for field or archival work to be undertaken during the summer months between the first and second years. 

In the second year, all students will attend a course on advanced methods, as part of which they will make a presentation of their developing thesis project.  Language track students will continue intensive language study, and take one further option paper.  Non-Language track students will take two further option papers.  The major focus of the second year will be the 30,000-word thesis, for which you will receive expert supervision. Students pursuing the Contemporary India stream must select a topic related to contemporary India.

The MPhil is jointly taught by staff within the Social Sciences and Humanities Divisions, who will also assess your application. The application process is administered by the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies.

Students on the course will experience a variety of teaching modes, including lectures, seminars, classes, student presentations, and small group teaching. Supervision for the thesis will be offered as a series of individual meetings between you and your thesis supervisor.

You will be required to gather relevant materials for your dissertation, usually by working in libraries and archives in the UK but potentially also via fieldwork.

Assessment is through a combination of coursework, assessed essays, written examinations and the thesis.

The Course Handbook for 2017-18 is attached below.  (Please note information in the handbook relates specifically to the current year and may change in future years.)

Future careers

We aim to equip our graduates with a range of valuable skills which will enable them to compete successfully within a number of different careers – in the civil service and policy-making bodies in Britain, Europe and further afield, in non-governmental organisations concerned with development, in the charitable sector, in journalism, public and private sector research and consultancy, law and academia. The MPhil is a valuable preparation for students wishing to go on to doctoral (PhD/DPhil) research. Whatever your career plans, Oxford offers valuable resources and advice to graduating students.

The application deadlines for 2018/19 entry are 17 November 2017, 12 noon UK time; 19 January 2018, 12 noon UK time; and 9 March 2018, 12 noon UK time.  

How to Apply

Apply online

Fees and Funding