How to Apply for Graduate Study

Two students studying in the History Faculty Library

A student wishing to read for one of the graduate degrees under the auspices of the History Faculty at Oxford University must first be assessed and admitted by the Faculty Board of History. The Faculty's offer of a place includes the guarantee of a college place, although not necessarily in an applicant's preferred college.

You may wish to consult the relevant programme entries in the University's Graduate Studies Prospectus as well as the Descriptions of Available Courses before submitting your application.

Deadline for entry in the 2020/21 academic year:
Friday, 10th January 2020, noon UK time

Top Tips

Your application needs to be complete by the deadline, including at least two references, but do remember that we want the third reference as well

The application form is available from the opening of the admissions window, but there is nothing to be gained from applying early, as we assess all applications together after the deadline. However, we would advise not to leave submitting your application form until the last minute, as you may encounter last minute delays that can impact your application.


History-specific guidance for applicants

For all entrance requirements please consult the individual course pages

Please also pay some attention to the following advice when preparing your application:

What we look for

  • capacity to work at a high intellectual level 
  • preparedness for your proposed programme of study 
  • ability to identify and formulate an appropriate project for individual research (not equally important for admission to all master’s programmes, but – all things being equal – excellence in this regard will always increase your competitiveness for funding
  • fit with our programme and supervisory capacity

We assess using five main criteria: previous results (sometimes interim), references, proposal (viability of topic and level of background research already done), written work (research and writing skills), and overall preparedness for the course.

Your proposal

This should show your academic potential and convince us that you have the right intellectual qualities, academic knowledge and skills. Do spend a lot of time on this, as it will be the centrepiece of your application.

Depth and structure of this explanation will naturally differ with the nature of the programme for which you are applying. A proposal for a DPhil should be more detailed, but not necessarily longer:

  • give your proposal a preliminary dissertation title
  • give an account of your current state of scholarship and the central issues/problems. You may want to explain why you are dissatisfied with existing scholarship: is it limited, dated or unconvincing? What kind of contribution will your work make?
  • Sources: An indication of the kinds of sources you expect to use, where these can be found, how they will contribute to your research, what if any technical skills you will need to work with them (e.g. language, quantitative, use of specialist software), and whether you already have those skills or will need to acquire them.
  • Method:  Thinking about your approach to dealing with sources and constructing your thesis. Some of the following considerations may apply. At what level is your inquiry: micro or local, regional or national, comparative or transnational? Will you be using qualitative or quantitative techniques? Samples or case studies? Will your research draw on a body of theory? Does your approach draw on the agenda or methods of related disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, or literary studies?
  • don’t worry if your angle changes between applying and starting the course, as long as we don’t have to find you a new supervisor

Be as precise and concrete as you can – though be assured that assessors will bear in mind that what you are submitting is a proposal for research yet to be undertaken.

For master’s applicants: an indication as to which Option Papers you would like to take would be helpful.

Advance contact with supervisors

You should not try to recruit your own supervisor: the faculty appoints supervisors on the basis of our assessment of their fit with your research interests and their spare teaching capacity; but you should check that your interests match our expertise. 

All applicants offered places as research students will be told the name of the supervisor assigned to them. Students who have accepted offers and fulfilled all conditions and who wish to undertake some preliminary work specifically in relation to their intended dissertations – in the form of background reading, preliminary research or training – may wish to make advance contact with supervisors (most supervisors’ e-mail addresses can be obtained through Note however that supervisors may not be able to respond quickly to such enquiries, either because of pressure of teaching commitments during term, or because they are absent on research trips during the vacation. Students are encouraged to let supervisors know the exact date of their arrival in Oxford, when that is clearly established, and to make contact indicating their availability for a meeting promptly after their arrival (again on the understanding that supervisors may not be free to arrange a meeting until the start of term).

Please search our people pages for information about our academic staff.

Find more details on the university application pages here: 

List of site pages