Islamic Art and Archaeology MPhil

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

The MPhil in Islamic Art and Archaeology 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 Archaeology 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.

During the first year, you will attend eight practical classes which introduce techniques to describe and analyse buildings and objects in a range of media (such as ceramics, epigraphy, manuscripts, metalwork, numismatics, and textiles) 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).

You will submit a portfolio containing assignments from these practical classes at the end of the first year, but this portfolio will not be examined until the end of the second year. 

Tutors and language instructors report to your supervisor on your progress at the end of each term, and the supervisor will write a formal report upon your work and progress during the term. The structure of the examinations for the course is as follows:

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 Introduction to Islamic Art and Archaeology, 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 six elements.

  • The first is an extended essay of between 5,000 and 6,000 words on a topic of Islamic art and archaeology or related fields (eg non-Islamic art, architecture and archaeology, Islamic studies, history, museology) to be selected by yourself in consultation with your supervisor.
  • 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 a three-hour written examination on Approaches to Islamic Art and Archaeology, reflecting the seminars on methods, techniques and theory offered during the year. 
  • The fifth element is the portfolio of practical work submitted at the end of the first year.
  • The sixth 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.

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.

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.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

Graduate Destinations

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.

Further Information

For further information please see the Postgraduate Taught Courses Handbook.