MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies

MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies


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

Course Structure

As a student on the MPhil, you may choose to explore the social, economic and political achievements of, and challenges faced by, the contemporary states in the region, and the connections between the countries' democratic and developmental successes and failures, or to range more broadly across the modern and early modern states and societies of the subcontinent.  Students may pursue any combination of interests, including history, literature, language, religion, economy and interstate relations.

You will choose between the language track, and study a core South Asian language either ab initio or at an advanced level, or the non-language track.  Subject to teaching availability, language track students may take one of the following intensive courses: Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit, Persian, Classical Hindi or Tibetan. Please note that Classical Hindi may not be available in 2022-23. Please inquire closer the date.

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
  • qualitative methods in: literature, and language and history

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 two option papers.  

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

As at September 2021, it is expected that the following options will run in the academic year 2022-23: Gender and Society in India c. 1800 to the present; Societies and Economies in India c. 1600-1800; The Economic Development of South Asia 1947 to the present; The International Relations of South Asia; History and Politics of South Asia; Trade and Exchange in South Asia: transcultural objects, relations and identities; Social History of Colonial India 1800-1947; Education, State and Society in South Asia; and the Anthropology of South Asia; as well as most of the advanced language options (with the possible exception of Classical Hindi).

Students may alternatively apply to take an 'approved option' from elsewhere within the University, subject to the agreement of both the Modern South Asian Studies Teaching Committee and the Graduate Studies Committee of the hosting department. Such options may include: the Anthropology of Buddhism (run by SAME) or options run as part of OSGA's new MPhil in Global and Area Studies.

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.  Both language track and non-language track students will take one further option paper and language track students will additionally continue their intensive language study.  The major focus of the second year will be the 30,000-word thesis, for which you will receive expert supervision. 

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 Oxford School of Global and 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 thesis, 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 2020-21 is attached below.  (Please note information in the handbook relates specifically to the year for which it was published and information 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.