Modern South Asian Studies MPhil

The Bombay Stock Exchange in Mumbai. Image taken by Nichalp on Sun, Aug 7, 2005. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies is a new 21-month, taught master's course, offered jointly by the Faculty of Oriental Studies and the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies. You will study this important region, with its rich history and its complex present-day societies, via an intensive language route or a non-language route, culminating in a 30,000-word dissertation.

The MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies is an exciting new degree bringing together Oxford’s wealth of expertise on South Asia in a single programme. Students gain access to teaching and expert supervision across departments, the ability to combine courses in both the social sciences and the humanities, rigorous training in one of three tailored modules in research methods, and the option to build in language training.

As a student on the MPhil, you will choose one of two streams: Contemporary India or Modern South Asia.

The first stream, Contemporary India, is intended for students wishing to explore present-day India’s social, economic and political achievements and challenges, and the connections between the country’s democratic and developmental successes and failures.

The second stream, Modern South Asia, is intended for students aiming to range more broadly across the states and societies of the subcontinent. Students within this stream may pursue any combination of interests, including history, literature, language, religion, economy and interstate relations.

You will also choose between the language track, studying a core South Asian language ab initio, or the non-language track. Subject to teaching availability, language track students may take one of the following intensive courses: Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit, Persian, Brajbhasha or Tibetan.

First year

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, through one of the following specially tailored programmes:

  • research methods for area studies, both qualitative and quantitative (compulsory for the Contemporary India stream)
  • qualitative and historical methods
  • qualitative methods: literature and language

An important purpose of the research methods course is to help you develop and refine your dissertation 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 three option papers. Contemporary India stream students must take at least one of the relevant options over the period of the course. For a full list of option papers, please see the course pages on the department website. Please note that the options will change from time to time, and not all will be run every year.

By the end of the first year, MPhil students will have worked out a dissertation proposal, and plans for field or archival work to be undertaken during the summer months between the first and second years.

Second year

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 dissertation project. Language track students will continue intensive language study, and take one further option paper. Non-language track students will take two further option papers. The major focus of the second year will be the 30,000 word dissertation, for which you will receive expert supervision. Students pursuing the Contemporary India stream must select a topic related to contemporary India.

Your application

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.

Teaching, learning and supervision

Students on the course will experience a variety of teaching modes, including lectures, seminars, classes, student presentations, and small group teaching. Supervision for the dissertation will be offered as a series of individual meetings between you and your dissertation supervisor.

Key study requirements

You will be required to gather relevant materials for your dissertation during the course, 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 dissertation.

Graduate destinations

The department aims to equip its 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 research.

Related courses

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