Buddhist Studies MPhil

Vajravarahi Mandala. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

This two-year degree aims to give you a comprehensive training in one of the main Buddhist canonical languages, along with in-depth explorations of Buddhist history, philosophy, and literature. You will choose to specialise in Sanskrit, Classical Tibetan, or Classical Chinese, and may select another of these languages as an optional subject. This degree can be a standalone qualification or preparation for doctoral research.

You will be requested to select a primary Buddhist canonical language. The options currently available are Sanskrit, Classical Tibetan and Classical Chinese.

The first year focuses on intensive training in all aspects of your chosen language, without presuming previous knowledge of it, and takes advantage of the world class linguistic expertise available at Oxford. This is assessed by a qualifying written examination at the end of the first year in Trinity term.

Study of the chosen language is complemented by training in various aspects relevant to the study of Buddhism, including historical, literary, and philosophical. Teaching happens through lectures and tutorials, utilising the small group practice characteristic of Oxford, and is assessed by a qualifying exam at the end of the first year, ensuring that you have fully comprehended the first year’s teaching activities.

This solid base of training is built on in the second year with the in-depth study of important Buddhist texts in the original language in which you are specialising.

You are also required to choose one optional paper. Possible options are a second primary Buddhist language (Sanskrit, Tibetan or Chinese) or a paper chosen from a list published annually. These optional courses are subject to availability of teaching each year. Your assessment at the end of the second year is specified by the given course instructor.

The final examination, administered in Trinity term of the second year, consists of a thesis and three papers, as follows:

  • an advanced language paper consisting in a translation from seen and unseen texts in the chosen primary Buddhist language, to be assessed by a three-hour examination;
  • a thesis of not more than 20,000 words on a subject approved by the Faculty Board;
  • a paper on approaches to the study of Buddhism, to be assessed by three-hour examination;
  • either
    • a language paper in a second primary Buddhist language (either Sanskrit, Tibetan, or Classical Chinese), to be assessed by three-hour examination. The second primary Buddhist language can be studied either at a basic or at an advanced level. The former will be assessed by a three-hour examination in the chosen second primary Buddhist language; the latter by a translation from seen and unseen texts in the chosen second primary Buddhist language, to be assessed by a three-hour examination. If you intend to study a second primary Buddhist language at an advanced level you must satisfy the Faculty Board that you possess an adequate knowledge of your chosen language; or
    • a paper chosen from a list published annually, assessed as specified by the course instructor. Applications for approval of the chosen topic must be sent to the Secretary of the Board on or before the Monday in second week of Michaelmas term preceding the examination.

The examiners may examine any candidate by viva voce.


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.

Entry Requirements

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 any subject.

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, 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.

Graduate Destinations

Oriental studies graduates have found employment in many and diverse fields including business, finance, law, civil service, journalism, government and industry. Many graduates have also undertaken further research into subjects linked with Oriental studies and have pursued successful careers in the academic world, education and in museums.

Further Information

For further information please see the Postgraduate Taught Courses Handbook.