MSc in Modern South Asian Studies

MSc in Modern South Asian Studies


The MSc in Modern South Asian Studies is a wide-ranging and flexible nine-month degree bringing together Oxford’s wealth of expertise on the different states, societies, economies, languages and cultures of South Asia within a single programme. You will gain access to teaching and expert supervision across departments in social sciences and humanities, receive rigorous training in one of two tailored modules in research methods, and have the option to build in language study.  You will graduate with skills and understanding that will give you a competitive edge as you pursue your career beyond Oxford.

Course Structure

As a student on the MSc, you may choose to explore the social, economic and political achievements of, and challenges faced by, the contemporary states in the region, and the connections between the countries' democratic and developmental successes and failures, or to range more broadly across the modern and early modern states and societies of the subcontinent.  Students may pursue any combination of interests, including history, language and politics, religion, economy and interstate relations.

The course comprises five components: the core course, a module in research methods, two option papers, and the thesis.

Teaching, learning and assessment

All students attend the core course, introducing modern South Asia across the disciplines. Delivered by faculty members with a range of specialisations, the course explores both individual states within the region and the connections and comparisons between them.

You will also receive training in research methods, though one of the following specially tailored programmes:

•   research methods for area studies, both qualitative and quantitative

•   research methods in humanities, including qualitative methods in literature, language and history 

You will also choose two option papers from the list below.

·  Gender and Society in India, c. 1800 to the present

·  Societies and Economies in India, c. 1600-1800

·  Themes in the History of Pakistan

·  Economic Development of South Asia 1947 to the present

·  International Relations of South Asia

·  Trade and Exchange in South Asia: Transcultural Objects, Relations and Identities

·  Education, State and Society in South Asia

·  Social History of Colonial India 1800-1947

·  History and Politics of South Asia

·  The Anthropology of South Asia

·  Themes in the Study of South Asian Religions

·  The Anthropology of Buddhism

·  Unmasking the State: civil society activism in South Asia

·  Advanced language (for students who already have a grounding in a South Asian language). Languages offered include: Hindi (elementary); Literary Hindi; Urdu Prose Texts; Classical Hindi/Hindavi; and, subject to availability and demand, Bengali (elementary or classical); Gujarati (elementary of classical); Marathi (elementary or classical); Persian (elementary or advanced - subject to timetabling)

Please note that options will change from time to time, and not all will be run every year.

As at September 2023, it is expected that the following options will run in the academic year 2023-24: Gender and Society in India c. 1800 to the present; The Economic Development of South Asia 1947 to the present; The International Relations of South Asia; Social History of Colonial India 1800-1947; Themes in the history of Pakistan; Unmasking the State: civil society activism in South Asia;  Anthropology of South Asia; and Anthropology of Buddhism; as well as the main advanced language options.

Students may alternatively apply to take an 'approved option' from elsewhere within the University, subject to the agreement of both the Modern South Asian Studies Teaching Committee and the Graduate Studies Committee of the hosting department. Such options may include options run as part of OSGA's new MPhil in Global and Area Studies.

During the course of the year, you will select a topic for your thesis and receive expert supervision. 

The MSc is jointly taught by staff within the social sciences and humanities, who will also assess your application. The application process is administered by the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies.

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

You will be required to gather relevant materials for your thesis during the course, usually by working in libraries and archives in the UK, but potentially also via fieldwork.

Assessment is through a combination of submitted essays and examinations (which may be in-person or online) and the thesis.


Future careers

We aim to equip our 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 MSc is a valuable preparation for students wishing to go on to doctoral (PhD/DPhil) research.  Whatever your career plans, Oxford offers valuable resources and advice to graduating students.

Applications must be submitted by noon on one of the following dates: Friday 10th November 2023 and Friday 19th January 2024.