The MPhil in Egyptology is a two-year taught graduate degree that offers a satisfying, advanced course of study in the languages, cultures, and history of ancient Egypt. While the MPhil functions as a course in its own right, it is also designed to take students to the stage where they can embark on doctoral research in Egyptology.
The MPhil in Egyptology normally has two paths through the curriculum. The first, Syllabus A, allows those with previous training in Egyptology to pursue their study of the subject to a higher level, to gain specialised expertise, and to begin advanced research in an area of their choice. The second, Syllabus B, enables graduates in another discipline to convert to Egyptology through a graduate level course that offers a certain amount of specialisation, including a significant element of advanced research. In both cases, syllabuses are tailored to the interests of individual students.
The study of ancient Egyptian language and textual culture lies at the heart of the degree and is generally a major component of Syllabus A. The principal focus throughout is on detailed familiarity with the primary sources, studied in the original language and through the original manuscripts where possible, and with various methods and approaches. Use of a range of interpretive and analytical approaches to the primary sources is integral to the course, including, for example, historiographical and/or literary-critical frameworks; overall there is an emphasis on texts as artefacts in a material context.
The syllabus can also be designed with an archaeological and/or material-culture focus. You will have the opportunity to develop your skills in working with Egyptian artefacts from the extensive and diverse collections of the Ashmolean Museum.
The MPhil is a very intensive course. For example, you must treat the university vacations as integral parts of your work time and you will be expected to take relatively limited holidays. From the start of your course you should also think about whether you need to do fieldwork in Egypt or elsewhere and when this will best be done. Where possible, if you have not been to Egypt before you should ideally try to visit before the end of the course, even as a tourist.
The number of students accepted for the course each year is very small. This ensures that teaching can be tailored to the research interests and training requirements of individual students. Teaching is also very much focused around small groups and one-on-one tutorials and supervisions for which small cohorts are vital. In the first year you will share language classes and lectures on history and culture with first year undergraduates. Some other classes may also be shared with undergraduates and graduates on other degrees where appropriate for your research training needs.
Asian and Middle Eastern studies graduates have found employment in many diverse fields including business, finance law, civil service, journalism, government and industry.
Many graduates have also undertaken further research into subjects linked with Asian and Middle Eastern studies and have pursued successful careers in the academic world, education and in museums.
Students on Syllabus A are normally required to sit one or two qualifying examinations in the language(s) and/or language phase(s) they are specialising in, during or after the end of Trinity term of their first year. Students on Syllabus B will sit two qualifying examinations in Middle Egyptian during or after the end of Trinity term of their first year.
During the second year, you will write a dissertation. This will give you the opportunity to identify and design your own research project and to develop advanced research skills. You should expect to spend the Easter vacation finishing your dissertation, which must be submitted half way through Trinity term.
Two research essays developed out of work done for one part of the course must be submitted by the end of Hilary term of the second year. Depending on the course design, there can also be a take-home examination at the start of Trinity term of the second year.
The final examinations are sat towards the end of Trinity term. Different examination provision may be made for students who have chosen options that are offered in other faculties, such as Classics or Archaeology.
Further information on the course, and the examination process, can be found in the course handbook here (information is current for the academic year of publication).
You will have access to the facilities and resources of the Griffith Institute, which is home to one of the most significant Egyptological archives in the world and two major research projects, the Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Statues, Reliefs and Paintings, and the Online Egyptological Bibliography. It is possible for archive holdings to form the basis of dissertation work or special fields.
Volunteering in the archive or for the institute's projects offers excellent training in the management of primary sources as well as archival practices. The Griffith Institute, as well as teaching rooms and staff offices, is located in a wing of the Sackler Library. This library houses the principal collection of books on Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, and is one of the finest libraries for the subject in the world. The Sackler Library also includes general archaeology, Classical civilisation, and Western and Eastern art.
A further vital University resource in Egyptology is the Ashmolean Museum. You will be strongly encouraged to make yourself familiar with the collections, both on display and in the stores. You may like to consider working with a specific category of material in the museum for a special field or dissertation. It may also be possible to gain museum work experience on a voluntary basis in the Department of Antiquities. Artefact classes for Egyptology undergraduates are held in the museum, and MPhil students are strongly encouraged to attend these where possible. Another Oxford museum with an Egyptian collection is the Pitt Rivers Museum. You may wish to explore the possibility of working with its collection, as well as those of other museums in the UK, such as the British Museum.
In addition to this, there are a number of other specialist library collections in Oxford that focus on Asian and Middle Eastern studies, such as:
- Bodleian Asian and Middle Eastern Collections
- Nizami Ganjavi Library
- KB Chen China Centre Library
- Bodleian Japanese Library
- St Antony’s Middle East Centre Library
- Leopold Muller Memorial Library.
The Khalili Research Centre is the University of Oxford's centre for research and teaching in the art and material culture of the Islamic societies of the Middle East and of non-Muslim members and neighbours
You will also have access to the University's centrally provided electronic resources, the department's IT Officer and other bibliographic, archive or material sources as appropriate to the research topic. There is a computing room for the use of graduate students in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, as well as a common room where tea and coffee are available and staff and students can meet.
Sources of funding
Applications received for this course by the January deadline will also be considered for funding if applications fulfill the eligibility criteria. Please use the University's fees, funding and scholarship search tool to find what funding you may be eligible for.
The Faculty has a number of scholarships and funding opportunities across a wide range of subjects. Please see here for a list of these opportunities.