M.Phil. in Modern Chinese Studies
Two women wear Shanghai-styled qipao while playing golf in this 1930s advertisement from Shanghai.
The M.Phil. in Modern Chinese Studies is a two-year master's degree programme combining intensive study of the Chinese language with a thorough training in the study of modern China.
The aims of the programme are to provide:
- A strong grounding in modern Chinese language, both written and spoken;
- A strong foundation in understanding modern Chinese society and culture;
- Advanced training in conducting and reporting on independent and original research.
Students spend the first year of the course in Oxford where they study Chinese language alongside core classes in Chinese society and culture. They also choose from a range of options (shared with the MSc Contemporary China Studies) which allow them opportunities to acquire advanced knowledge of the society, politics, economics, history, literature and art of modern China. The first part of the second year consists of a four-month intensive Chinese language programme at Peking University during which students also have the opportunity to do research in China for their dissertations. After this students return to Oxford to prepare for the final examination in June.
The programme is suitable for graduates who have developed an interest in China and now want to take that to a level where it could be useful for their future careers. It can be taken either as a terminal degree in preparation for professional work in which knowledge of China and Chinese is an advantage, or in preparation for further research as part of a doctoral degree in either the Humanities or Social Sciences.
Knowing the Chinese language is essential for anyone who wants to understand China and the programme is designed to provide this at both elementary and intermediate levels. Students will be allocated to the appropriate level by a placement test on arrival.
- Elementary level will be for students who are complete beginners or are false beginners, but not up to the next level. Students are taught reading, writing and translation skills as well as speaking and listening.
- Intermediate level will be for students who have excelled at the beginner level, are confident in daily communication and able to recognise and write about 500-550 Chinese characters. Students must have learnt most of the main grammar points to enter the intermediate level.
The course is not designed for people with a first degree in Chinese Studies, or those who otherwise already have advanced knowledge of modern Chinese. Such students are advised to apply to one of the following courses:
- M.Sc. in Contemporary China Studies run by the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies for students with an interest in contemporary China.
- M.St. in Chinese Studies run by the Faculty of Oriental Studies for students preparing to enter a doctoral program for the study of premodern or early modern China.
Student Comment on the MPhil Modern Chinese Studies
I realized how much I wanted to engage with ideas, to delve into in historical research, and especially to eventually teach. This led me to apply to Oxford Chinese Studies M.Phil. It was exactly what I desired—an excellent preparatory degree for a doctoral work, small in size with extraordinary scholars and an intensive language program aimed at facilitating in original research.
Second year M.Phil. 2013
I chose the MPhil degree because of its strong emphasis on language training: the semester of classes at Peking University is a particular highlight. However, what makes the course unusual is the combination of this language training with the opportunity to take classes in Modern China with Oxford scholars from multiple disciplines.
I returned to study at Oxford after two years of work in public policy, and an MA in Politics. However, I decided to take opportunity to receive graduate training in history, which I had studied as an undergraduate. Because of the multidisciplinary structure of the course, I have been able to choose options in Modern Chinese history and in Classical Chinese. Moreover, the Humanities Track includes an excellent seminar introducing the study of Modern China from the perspective of several scholars in the Department.
I began my MPhil studies at Oxford with some background in Chinese (I had been interested in China since teaching English in Jiangsu after before starting university). I had studied the language during the last year of my undergraduate degree, but did not have the opportunity to continue. The pace and rigour of the language training at Oxford meant that this background, whilst helpful, was soon irrelevant. The quality of language teaching at Oxford is very high, and classes progress correspondingly fast.
Second year M.Phil. 2013
This M.Phil is not for the language shy – intensive Chinese language lessons form a central part of the course. Students receive five hours of teaching a week, but make up much more through self guided study and online resources are provided to structure this. The first year introduces approximately 800 characters, alongside comprehensive grammar lessons. Year two progresses to newspaper translation, with Chinese primary sources making up the main body of dissertation research.
Beginners in Chinese should not be dissuaded from applying to the M.Phil. The course is designed to cater for those without a prior background in Mandarin. Before starting the M.Phil, I had no experience of Chinese, but had specialised in Chinese studies during my History BA and international year abroad at Hong Kong University.
For those looking to continue a fascination with China, this course provides the necessary grounding in Chinese language to assist postgraduate study.
First Year M.Phil. Student