Buddhist Studies MPhil

Vajravarahi Mandala. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

This two-year degree aims to introduce you to the study of Buddhism primarily in its diverse Asian forms, give you a comprehensive training in one of the main Buddhist canonical languages, and guide you through in-depth explorations of Buddhist history, philosophy, literature and practice.

This degree can be a standalone qualification or preparation for doctoral research.

You will be requested to select a primary Buddhist canonical language. The options currently available are Pali, Sanskrit, Classical Tibetan and Classical Chinese. You may select another of these languages as an optional subject.

The first year focuses on intensive training in all aspects of your chosen language, without presuming previous knowledge of it, and takes advantage of the world class linguistic expertise available at Oxford.

Study of the chosen language is complemented by training in various aspects relevant to the study of Buddhism, including historical, literary, philosophical and ethnographic. Teaching happens through lectures, seminars and tutorials, utilising the small group practice characteristic of Oxford. Your training is also supported by a rich provision of visiting lectures, research seminars and workshops.

This solid base of training is built on in the second year with the in-depth study of important Buddhist texts in the original language in which you are specialising and an analytical approach to Buddhist studies as an academic discipline.

You are also required to choose one optional paper. Possible options are a second primary Buddhist language (Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan or Chinese) or a paper chosen from a list published annually such as, for example, Buddhist philosophy or Anthropology of Buddhism. These optional courses are subject to availability of teaching each year.

Asian and Middle Eastern studies graduates have found employment in many and 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.


The first year is assessed by a qualifying exam in Trinity term, ensuring that you have fully comprehended the first year’s teaching activities.

Your assessment at the end of the second year is specified by the given course instructor.

The final examination, administered in Trinity term of the second year, consists of the following four components:

  • a thesis on a subject approved by the Faculty Board;
  • an advanced language paper consisting of a translation from seen and unseen texts in the chosen primary Buddhist language, to be assessed by a timed examination;
  • a paper on approaches to the study of Buddhism, to be assessed by a timed examination; and


  • a language paper in a second primary Buddhist language, to be assessed by a timed examination. The second primary Buddhist language can be studied either at a basic or at an advanced level. The former will be assessed by a timed examination in the chosen second primary Buddhist language; the latter by a translation from seen and unseen texts in the chosen second primary Buddhist language, to be assessed by a timed examination. If you intend to study a second primary Buddhist language at an advanced level you must satisfy the Faculty Board that you possess an adequate knowledge of your chosen language;


  • a paper chosen from a list published annually, assessed as specified by the course instructor. This paper will be chosen at the beginning of Michaelmas term preceding the examination.

The examiners may examine any candidate by viva voce if they have concerns about the standard of written examination assessment. 

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).

Oxford has excellent library resources for Buddhist studies, which are kept in collections associated with the different parts of Asia. For South and Inner Asian studies these resources are supported by the Bodleian Libraries which includes the Indian Institute Library.

The Bodleian Asian and Middle Eastern Collections possesses one of the finest collections of pre-modern South Asian manuscripts in the world. For East Asian studies, there are, in addition to the main Bodleian collection, special libraries both for Japanese and for Chinese studies. Other relevant collections are located in the Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library and the Theology Faculty.

Additionally, the Nizami Ganjavi Library at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and certain colleges (for example, Wolfson College) also have substantial stocks of books  related to Buddhism and primary Buddhist languages.

The Ashmolean Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum offer classes which can provide important resources for the study of Buddhist art and material culture.

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:

The Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library includes the principal library for Egyptology and ancient Near Eastern Studies. 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 meet 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.