Islamic Art and Architecture MPhil

L0033272 Persian prince with his attendants Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

The MPhil in Islamic Art and Architecture is a two-year course combining comprehensive training in the history of Islamic art, architecture and archaeology, research, and language instruction. The course is designed for students with little or no background in Islamic art and archaeology who wish also to learn Arabic or Persian or Ottoman Turkish. 

The MPhil in Islamic Art and Architecture is suitable either as a stand-alone course or as a stepping stone to doctoral research. 

You will have a supervisor at the Khalili Research Centre, who will guide your progress through the course and who will agree with you a programme of work and a timetable for each term of the course, including: general skills and research specific training, formal teaching and instruction, attendance at lectures and seminars, and regular meetings (normally at least twice per term) with the supervisor for detailed discussion on your progress. You will be expected to attend tutorials, classes, lectures and seminars regularly, and your tutors and language instructors will give you regular assignments of written work.

In the first year, you will take a broad survey course over three terms entitled History of Islamic Art and Architecture, and a brief seminar series on Approaches to Islamic Art and Architecture. During the second year, you will attend eight practical classes (known as the ‘Portfolio’). Using the collections of the Ashmolean Museum, Bodleian Library, and other Oxford resources, this course introduces techniques to describe and analyse buildings and objects in a range of media (such as manuscripts, ceramics, metalwork, and coinage) and which provide training with basic academic skills (such as presentation of work in a lecture or seminar, and writing museum display and book reviews). During both years, you will also build up your independent research and critical skills by writing an Extended Essay then a longer Dissertation while continuing to receive intensive language training.

At the end of the first year of the course you must sit the qualifying examination, consisting of two elements.

The first is a three-hour written examination on the History of Islamic Art and Architecture, reflecting the lectures, seminars and tutorials offered during the year. The second element is a language examination in Arabic or Persian or Ottoman Turkish, which will test progress in the elementary study of the relevant language made during the year.

At the end of the second year, the final examination is taken, which consists of five elements.

  • The first is an extended essay of 5,000 words on Approaches to Islamic Art and Architecture, reflecting the historical topics and seminars on methods, techniques and theory studied in the first year.
  • The second and third elements are two three-hour written examinations, in Arabic or Persian or Ottoman Turkish, one on language and the second on prepared texts.
  • The fourth element is the Portfolio of Practical Work.
  • The fifth element is a dissertation of not more than 30,000 words.

You will be expected to spend part of the vacation between years one and two engaged in language study and/or fieldwork in a region appropriate to your area of interest.


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.


Many graduates have pursued doctoral study in Oxford and elsewhere, and/or successful careers at universities, museums, and in business-related fields worldwide. Examples of alumni’s current positions can be found on the Khalili Research Centre’s website.

The Faculty of Oriental Studies has a number of scholarship and funding opportunities across a wide range of subjects. Please see here for a list of these opportunities.

Use the University's fees, funding and scholarship search tool to see what funding you might be eligible for. Apply by the January deadline to be automatically considered for most funding.