MSc in African Studies

MSc in African Studies


About the course

The MSc in African Studies is a three-term course, designed both as a stand-alone interdisciplinary introduction to current debates about Africa, and as a preparation for doctoral research on Africa. This advanced degree programme provides an excellent foundation for those who wish to expand their knowledge of African studies.


There are four components to the MSc degree in African Studies:

  • The Core Course on ‘Methodology, Ethics and Research Strategies’
  • The Core Course on ‘Themes in African History and the Social Sciences’
  • An Optional Paper
  • A Dissertation of 15,000 words


Applications must be submitted by 12 noon on one of the following dates:

Friday 11 November 2022
Applications more likely to receive earlier decisions

Friday 20 January 2023
Latest deadline for most Oxford scholarships
Final application deadline for entry in 2023-24

Programme Details
radcliffe pic edit 2
MSc in African Studies - Programme Details


The teaching on the MSc programme is built around the two core courses. The first core course examines research methodologies and strategies, including the politics of researching and writing on Africa, and is taught in Michaelmas term through a weekly lecture and seminar. The second is a weekly lecture and seminar over two terms (Michaelmas and Hilary term) covering key questions in African history and the social sciences, giving close attention to critical debates and current issues. The core courses form compulsory elements of the degree programme and are open only to students taking the MSc in African Studies.

In addition to the two core courses, you will take an optional paper on a particular theme and within a specific discipline. A wide selection of optional papers is available each year. Optional papers are taught in Hilary Term, through a weekly lecture and seminar. 

Finally, you will write a research dissertation of 15,000 words on a research topic of your choosing, which must include discussion of the comparative reading, historiography, or theory relevant to the dissertation. You will undertake fieldwork at the end of Hilary term and will be provided with thesis supervision throughout the year. 

Students dedicate six hours per week to classes and lectures and they will meet their thesis supervisor once every fortnight.










Student Resources
Student Resources

Students in African Studies at Oxford benefit from the rich resources of the University's libraries and museums and the numerous Africa related student societies and research groups which are active throughout the University.

There are numerous Africa related student societies and research groups active throughout the University who organise a large variety seminars and events. These include the following:

Oxford University Africa Society (AfriSoc)

AfriSoc is one of the most vibrant student-focused organizations at the University of Oxford, providing a strong and legitimate voice within the university community and beyond to African students and others who are linked to the continent by way of ancestry, research, experience, or interest. The society is a platform for informed debates and stimulating events, and strives to create a sense of community amongst members. It currently has over 230 members representing a vast array of disciplines and nationalities.

Horn of Africa Seminar Group (HoA)

The Horn of Africa Seminar brings together students and scholars interested in examining the region from a multidisciplinary and comparative perspective. By hosting lectures by experienced researchers alongside post-graduates, and by mixing academic and policy research, they hope to come to a shared, factually informed and politically relevant understanding of trends in the region. The group also runs the Focus on the Horn website, which acts as a collaborative platform for commentary on contemporary issues in Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya from a variety of researchers, journalists, and activists with expertise on the region.

Oxford University China-Africa Network (OUCAN)

The Oxford University China-Africa Network (OUCAN) is an academic, multi-dimensional organisation that seeks to forge cross-disciplinary and trans-regional links between researchers, practitioners, and officials around the emerging phenomenon of Chinese engagement with Africa.  Past OUCAN events have included successful workshops on new research horizons, regular seminar series focused on a variety of issues -ranging from the role of Maoist China in nation building in Guinea over the Exim-Bank and Angola's post-conflict reconstruction to barefoot doctors in Tanzania and Zambia- and a post-graduate study group.

Oxford Central Africa Forum (OCAF)

The Oxford Central Africa Forum (OCAF), founded in 2010, hopes to push forward the research on a wide range of explicitly interdisciplinary issues pertaining to the many challenges faced by the fascinating region of Central Africa. It seeks to bring together academic researchers, graduate students, development practitioners and policy-makers to informally discuss current events as well as historical developments. It pools the incredible knowledge on Central Africa present in Oxford and further afield and stimulates debate and research through a variety of activities. Thus, OCAF fills a gap long identified by scholars and practitioners alike; it supports the diffusion of solid research and provides a forum for exchanges of ideas between stakeholders who don’t always find it easy to dialogue with each other.

Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR)

Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR) is an inter-disciplinary network of more than 150 Oxford staff and students working broadly on issues of transition in societies recovering from mass conflict and/or repressive rule. Founded in 2007, it is now one of the largest and most diverse academic communities conducting research in this field. OTJR is dedicated to producing high-quality scholarship that connects intimately to practical and policy questions in transitional justice, including the following themes:  theoretical and philosophical debates in transitional justice, domestic and international prosecutions, truth commissions and other truth-recovery processes, commemoration and memorialisation, local and traditional practices, compensation & reparations and institutional reform.

Oxford University Student Union (OUSU)

The Oxford University Student Union represents the student body to the University and the outside world. They also offer advice, support and training to students and common rooms, as well as a number of other services.

Students and researchers in African Studies at Oxford benefit from the rich resources of the University's libraries and museums. The African Studies Centre also houses its own book collection in the Terence Ranger Reading Room, this being primarily intended for the use of students on the MSc programme.

The libraries listed below have substantial collections of library resources on Africa. Some important libraries for graduate work are mentioned here, but several others may be useful for specialised purposes. A comprehensive list of all of the Libraries associated with the University is available on the main Bodleian Libraries website, as is a map of Oxford libraries.

Central Bodleian Library:  the main University library and the second largest library in the UK, the Central Bodleian Library contains extensive and long-established collections covering most aspects of the history, culture and contemporary affairs of Africa.

Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House: commonly known as Rhodes House Library, this is an excellent resource with one of the best collections of books on Africa in the UK.  It is the part of the Bodleian Library that specialises in the history and current affairs - political, economic and social - of the Commonwealth and sub-Saharan Africa including the offshore islands. It also contains a large manuscript collection.

Social Science Library: Books, journals and reading list material relating to African politics, economics and statistics are in the Social Science Library (SSL). This library contains substantial collections (mostly in English) relating to contemporary African social science, politics, economics and statistics.

Balfour Library (Pitt Rivers Museum): founded in its present form in 1939, the Balfour Libraryhas a dual function, as the teaching and research library of the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography and as the research library of the Pitt Rivers Museum. The library holds an extensive collection of books, pamphlets and journal titles on Archaeology and Anthropology, especially material on culture, including art and traditional music.

Tylor Library: housed within the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology at 51 Banbury Rd the Tylor Library houses numerous books, print periodicals, and pamphlets dealing with social anthropology and related fields, such as sociology, history and linguistics. In addition to books and journals it provides online access to the university’s electronic resources, including several useful databases for anthropologists.

Pitts Rivers Museum: holds a unique collection of material cultural artefacts from around the world, including Africa.

OxLIP+: In addition the University's numerous libraries, the Bodleian also has an extensive collection of online subscription databases, electronic reference works, e-Journals and e-Book packages which can all be accessed via OxLIP+.

Accessing Library Resources

The Oxford University Library Information System (OLIS) computer catalogue covers holdings in almost all Oxford libraries, including the Bodleian Library and the Social Science Library. It contains records for more than 13 million items held by libraries within, or associated with, the University. The primary public search interface for OLIS is SOLO: Search Oxford Libraries Online, which can be searched by anyone interested in the resources held by Oxford libraries. OLIS can also be searched within Mobile Oxford and via Z39.50.

A series of induction sessions on the use of catalogues, bibliographies and libraries for graduate students working in African Studies is given each year. An individual hands-on session on the use of electronic resources will be given to any reader on request by a specialist member of the staff, who will be happy to discuss any particular interests or requirements.

The Terence Ranger Reading Room

The Terence Ranger Reading Room is located in the African Studies Centre. It houses a non-circulating collection of specialist Africanist books and periodicals. The main holding is a donation from Chris Allen who studied at the University of Oxford and lectured in African Studies for many years at the University of Edinburgh. 

Opening Hours: The Reading Room is open during office hours (During Term: Monday to Friday 9:00-5:00 or by special arrangement with the Administrator).

Catalogue: The catalogue to the reading room collection is now available online via EndnoteWeb (Shibboleth authentication required) using the email and password below. Please consider the database as read only. 


Password: !3Bevington

Nexus Email: the central system for email at Oxford.

WebLearn: allows students to access many useful resources related to the MSc in African Studies, including the course handbook, Core Course reading lists, scanned copies of recommended readings and other documents relevant to the course.

OXAM: provides students with online access to the past exam papers.

SOLO (Search Oxford Libraries Online): the catalogue for the major collections of the libraries of the University of Oxford.

OxLIP+: provides access to all the online subscription databases provided by the Bodleian Libraries, including electronic reference works, e-Journals and e-Book packages.

Student Gateway: provides a single point of access to information, services and resources available to current students at the University of Oxford.