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M.St. and M.Phil. degrees
D.Phil degree
Visiting ("Recognised") Students
Supervision & Training

M.St. and M.Phil. degrees

The M.Phil. and M.St. are taught courses offering a range of options for graduates seeking a higher academic qualification in language studies and wishing to specialise in General Linguistics (including Phonetics but not Applied Linguistics), in Historical and Comparative Philology, or in the linguistics of a specific language. All candidates must work in Oxford under supervision for at least one year for the M.St., and two years for the M.Phil. Most of the teaching is done through lectures, seminars and individual tutorials.

For the M.St. and the M.Phil. students may specialize in various branches of linguistics (option B), or in the Comparative Philology of the Indo-European languages (option C), or in the History and Structure of One Language, or of Two or More Historically Related Languages (option D). In addition to the examinations chosen from those listed under B, C, or D, all students are expected to take the same written examination in Linguistic Theory (A). The regulations governing the M.St. and M.Phil. degrees, with a complete list of the various subjects which can be offered for examination, are detailed in the Graduate Handbook, available on the graduate web pages (www.ling-phil.ox.ac.uk/grad_intro).

Both, the one-year M.St. and the two-year M.Phil. provide firm grounding in the main areas of linguistics: phonetics, phonology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics, and they can both be stand-alone qualifications for further study and careers outside academia. The main difference is that the M.Phil. requires the study of a wider range of options and the completion of a substantial M.Phil. thesis (see below). It is, therefore, longer and normally the preferred pathway to D.Phil. Applying for re-admission to the D.Phil. after the M.St. is possible in principle, but the length of standard University fee liability for a Master’s course followed by D.Phil. is the same in all cases: 12 terms (see also the page on Funding). If you are in doubt which course may be more suitable, it is advisable to enquire with the Faculty via Graduate Studies Enquiries (see the page Contact).

Student background

Most students admitted to read for the M.St. or M.Phil. have some background in linguistics or philology, but few will have taken a full undergraduate course in these subjects. The backgrounds of entering students vary considerably, and the first-year curriculum is designed to bring every student to a firm general understanding of all core areas of linguistic research, whilst allowing for progress in fields of special interest. Both courses, therefore, are also suitable for applicants with an undergraduate degree in general linguistics or philology, but students who intend to progress to doctoral research are normally encouraged to apply for the M.Phil.

In their first term students preparing for the General Linguistics (B) or Selected Languages (D) options will follow a basic course consisting of lectures on syntax, semantics, phonology, phonetics (including laboratory work), and a practical class on research methods. Students in Comparative Philology (C) will also follow the basic course, while possibly taking courses specifically intended from them. In succeeding terms more specialised lectures are offered. In each term there are regular graduate seminars in General Linguistics, in Comparative Philology, in Phonetics/Phonology, and in Romance Linguistics, a number of other seminars or mixed graduate/undergraduate classes, and a Thesis Workshop in general linguistics for advanced M.Phil. students and those reading for research degrees.


Tutorial teaching is a distinctive feature of Oxford education, and plays an important role in the M.St. and M.Phil. programmes. Besides lecture courses and seminars, students will have individual tutorials, arranged according to their interests and the availability of teaching staff. Tutorials typically involve close reading and discussion of the student's weekly essays on the chosen subject.


For the M. Phil, four final examinations must be offered, of which one is on general theory and is taken by all candidates. The other three examinations must be chosen from the range of options set out below. Candidates for the M.Phil. must in addition offer a thesis of not more than 25,000 words. 

The examinations set for the M.St. will be the same as those set for the M.Phil. but the number of option papers is two. Candidates for the M.St. may offer a thesis of not more than 15,000 words in lieu of one of the papers; permission to offer a M.St. thesis is subject to the approval of the topic by the Faculty Board, who must be satisfied that there is appropriate supervision available for the topic and that the student has the appropriate background to carry it out.

The schedule for the examinations to be offered for the M.Phil. and M.St. comprises:

  • one general examination as indicated in A
  • two or three examinations from those listed in B, C or D.

  1. Linguistic Theory
  1. Phonetics and Phonology
  2. Syntax
  3. Semantics
  4. Historical and Comparative Linguistics
  5. Psycholinguistics and Neurolinguistics
  6. History and Structure of a Language
  7. Experimental Phonetics
  8. Sociolinguistics
  9. Computational Linguistics [may be discontinued in 2017/2018]
  10. Any other subject which from time to time the Faculty Board at its own discretion may consider suitable.
  1. The comparative grammar of two Indo-European languages or language-groups
  2. The historical grammar of the languages or language-groups selected
  3. Translation from, and linguistic comment upon, texts in the languages selected
  1. The history of one language, or of two or more historically related languages
  2. The structure of the language or languages selected
  3. Either
    a) Translation from, and/or linguistic comment upon, texts in the language or languages selected
    b) Any examination from B above, except for History and Structure of Language
    c) A project on an aspect of the structure of history of the language, or family of related languages, studied.

Some of the papers listed under B require background knowledge that is difficult to acquire in a single year, and M.St. students are advised to choose these papers only if they already have substantial previous training in relevant background subjects: these include Experimental Phonetics, Computational Linguistics, and the thesis option in Sociolinguistics.

The language or languages selected by candidates who wish to offer the papers listed under C should normally be ancient Indo-European languages, whilst for those listed under D the languages may be ancient (e.g. Ancient Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Akkadian) or Modern (e.g. French, Italian, German, English, Turkish, Russian, Polish, Czech).Only languages for which teaching is available at the time may be offered.

All Master's students take the examination in the compulsory paper A in General Linguistics at the end of the third term. All other examinations are regulary taken at the end of term for the M.St., and at the end of the sixth term for the M.Phil. though the M.Phil. thesis must be submitted at the beginning of that term. The examinations are not classified (that is, they are graded pass or fail ony) though for exceptionally good results it is possibe to obtain a distinction. For the M.Phil. the thesis is an integral part of the examination. Students who have taken the written papers for their degrees must present themselves for an oral (viva voce) examination, unless they are dispensed in advance. By Oxford convention, the results of a viva can only improve, not worsen, the candidate's chances of success.

D.Phil. degree

The D.Phil. is an advanced research degree for qualified students who are ready to begin thesis work in General Linguistics (including Phonetics but not Applied Linguistics), in Historical and Comparative Philology and Linguistics, or in the linguistics of a specific language. Though the degree does not have a coursework requirement, D.Phil. candidates are encouraged to attend lectures and seminars in the Faculty.

Successful applicants for the D.Phil. degree who have completed an M.Phil. under the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology, and Phonetics may be admitted directly into the D.Phil. programme; they are required to spend one additional year in residence in Oxford. Candidates without an Oxford M.Phil. are expected to have a background in Linguistics comparable to the M.Phil, and successful applicants are admitted as Probationer Research Students. Probationer Research Students normally transfer to D.Phil. status in the third term of their first year at Oxford.

Examiners for the D.Phil. thesis must certify that the thesis makes a significant and substantial contribution to knowledge or understanding in the field of learning within which the subject of the thesis falls, that it demonstrates a good general knowledge of the field of learning within which the subject of the thesis falls, and that it is presented in a lucid and scholarly manner. The examiners are required to bear in mind what may reasonably be expected of a capable and diligent student after full-time study for three or at the most four years. The thesis for the D.Phil. shall not exceed 100,000 words in length.


Recognised Students

Recognised Student status is a special status for visiting postgraduate research students.  Recognised Student status can be held from one to three terms.

You must be registered with another university, and can then be admitted by a University faculty or department at Oxford to undertake research under the guidance of an Oxford academic.

If admitted, you will be allocated an Academic Advisor, who will give general advice about the research topic, but not systematic instruction, such as reading and commenting on written work, as you are expected to be sufficiently well advanced in your studies to undertake research largely unsupervised. The Advisor would normally expect to see you only two or three times each term, and would discuss the work as a colleague rather than as a teacher.

 More information is available at http://www.ox.ac.uk/students/new/recognisedstudents/ 

Additional information

The Graduate Handbook provides basic guidance for graduate students of linguistics, philology and phonetics at Oxford.

It explains the procedures with which students may become involved and indicates the scope of the work required for the various degrees. It also provides more detailed guidance on the subject areas in linguistics, phonetics and philology which are currently available as options on the Master's course, and on how the course is structured and taught. It is available on the graduate we pages (www.ling-phil.ox.ac.uk/grad_intro) along with other information about our graduate programmes.




Graduate students