DPhil in Area Studies

Do you want to learn how to ask and help to answer key questions about some of the most important and exciting regions of the world?

Looking beyond the big picture of globalisation and development, researchers at the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies (SIAS) examine the interplay between the local, the national, the regional, and the global to offer a better understanding of the contemporary world. Exploring a broad range of area-specific issues such as urbanisation in China, gender in Japan, sovereignty in East Asia, ethnicity in South Asia, reconciliation in Africa, democracy in Latin America, security in the Middle East, and presidentialism in Russia, the School’s students and scholars closely engage with particular problems such as these to bridge gaps in the universalising theories of the social sciences.

If this sparks your interest then our DPhil in Area Studies might be right for you. The School’s DPhil (the name given to the PhD degree at the University of Oxford) is a full-time three year programme of doctoral study, offering the opportunity to undertake a project dedicated to researching a specific country, a particular region, or else to examining more than one country or region in a comparative context, using social science approaches whilst also generating theories and propositions that are of value across regions.

Aims and Objectives

The DPhil in Area Studies aims to empower you to achieve the following learning outcomes:

  • Develop research skills in ways that are relevant to the study of areas and regions
  • Build an interdisciplinary and/or comparative understanding of different regions
  • Undertake original research which makes a significant contribution to the literature
  • Communicate research to non-academic audiences in ways that ensure real-world impact
  • Present a lucid and scholarly thesis for examination

Throughout your studies, you will be able to draw on the resources offered by the School’s vibrant research community as well as from across the Social Sciences Division and the Language Centre. You will have access to the University’s outstanding library resources and a connection to an unrivalled network of likeminded students, scholars, and practitioners that engage with the work of the School on a day-to-day basis. Complementing a dedicated Research Seminar series designed specifically to support the School’s DPhil cohort in their studies is a huge range of further lectures, workshops and conferences organised by Area Studies academics that overlap with the department’s areas of expertise.

Course Overview

Our doctoral programme is especially distinctive in that it is designed to meet the needs of students seeking particular interdisciplinary approaches to regions of the world, as well as those who perhaps fall between or across disciplinary boundaries.  It also caters for those whose work cuts across a number of fields including history, cultural studies, anthropology, politics, political economy, international relations, environmental studies and development studies.

Candidates for the DPhil will normally be admitted with Probationer Research Student (PRS) status. As a PRS, you will develop your research proposal and skills, and produce a draft section or sections of your thesis in order to apply for the Transfer of Status that will end your probationary period as a research student and give you full DPhil status. Once you have been admitted to full DPhil status, you are expected to complete your studies by the end of your ninth term as a doctoral student.

You will participate in the 1st Year DPhil Seminar Series and you will have the opportunity to attend other courses offered by the School as identified in your Training Needs Analysis, which will be discussed and agreed with your supervisor and reviewed on a regular basis. As a DPhil student at SIAS, you will be assigned one or two supervisors, depending on your thesis subject. These supervisors will advise and guide you as you progress through the different stages of your research.

Research Timelines and Milestones

During year 1, you will focus on developing your research questions, conceptual framework and methodological approaches for your thesis. You should expect to be submitting material for Transfer of Status as the academic year comes to an end.

In your second year you will continue to implement your research plan through theoretical engagement and/or fieldwork, data collection and analysis. If you intend to undertake fieldwork as part of your research, you will be expected to attend a fieldwork safety course available through the Division.

Your third year requires you to participate in at least one conference, in the UK or internationally, presenting your work to a non-specialist audience, and to submit materials for the Confirmation of Status as a doctoral researcher, as well as working towards the completion of your thesis.

The final oral examination – the viva voce – represents the culmination of the DPhil programme at which specialist examiners explore your subject knowledge and your thesis arguments through in-depth discussion with you to determine whether to grant the award of Doctor of Philosophy.