Islamic Art and Architecture MPhil

L0033272 Persian prince with his attendants Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

The MPhil in Islamic Art and Architecture is a two-year course combining comprehensive training in the history of Islamic art and architecture, research, and language instruction. The course is designed for students with little or no background in Islamic art and architecture who also wish to learn Arabic, Persian, Turkish, or another relevant language.

The MPhil in Islamic Art and Architecture is suitable either as a stand-alone course or as a stepping stone to doctoral research. 

You will have a supervisor at the Khalili Research Centre, who will guide your progress through the course and who will agree with you a programme of work and a timetable for each term of the course, including: general skills and research specific training, formal teaching and instruction, attendance at lectures and seminars, and regular meetings (normally at least twice per term) with the supervisor for detailed discussion on your progress. You will be expected to attend tutorials, classes, lectures and seminars regularly, and your tutors and language instructors will give you regular assignments of written work.

In the first year, you will take a broad survey course over three terms entitled History of Islamic Art and Architecture. During the second year, you will attend eight practical classes (known as the ‘Portfolio’). Using the collections of the Ashmolean Museum, Bodleian Library, and other Oxford resources, this course introduces techniques to describe and analyse buildings and objects in a range of media (such as manuscripts, ceramics, metalwork, and coinage). You will also build up your independent research and critical skills by writing a dissertation while continuing to receive intensive language training.

Many graduates have pursued doctoral study in Oxford and elsewhere, and/or successful careers at universities, museums, and in business-related fields worldwide. Examples of alumni’s current positions can be found on the Khalili Research Centre’s website.


At the end of the first year of the course you must sit the qualifying examination, consisting of a language examination in Arabic or Persian or Turkish, which will test progress in the elementary study of the relevant language made during the year.

In the second year, the final examination is taken, which consists of five elements:

  • An examination on the History of Islamic Art and Architecture
  • A language examination, in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, or another relevant language
  • An option paper to be selected in consultation with your supervisor (either take-home research paper or written examination)
  • The Portfolio of Practical Work
  • The dissertation.

You will be expected to spend part of the vacation between years one and two engaged in language study and/or fieldwork in a region appropriate to your area of interest.

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).


Islamic Art and Architecture is based at the Khalili Research Centre (KRC), where you will have most of your classes, lectures and tutorials. The KRC 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 their non-Muslim members and neighbours. The KRC houses some members of faculty staff, and you will be given your own workspace. The centre has a lecture room with audio-visual and IT equipment; an image digitisation room (available by appointment only); common room, kitchen facilities and a computing officer, as well as a wide range of IT facilities which can be used by staff and students, including network laser printing, audio visual equipment, and scanning equipment. You will also have access to the Asian and Middle Eastern studies common room and computing rooms.

The KRC adjoins the world-class specialised collections of the Bodleian Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library and the Nizami Ganjavi Library for the history and literatures of the Islamic world. Some colleges (such as Wolfson College) have additional lending collections of books on Islamic Art and Architecture. The Ashmolean Museum and Weston Library, with their superb collections of Islamic art and manuscripts, are a few steps away.

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:

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, 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.