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This is a postgraduate course with a substantial research component. It is designed both for students who want to enhance their understanding of the social, cultural, political and economic history and present condition of South Asia and for those who want to go on to further primary research. It provides intensive research and language training for those who wish to go on to prepare a doctoral dissertation, but it is also a freestanding postgraduate degree course in its own right.

The MPhil is associated for examination purposes with the Faculty of Human, Social and Political Sciences. But teaching and learning for the course take place in the Centre of South Asian Studies and the various humanities and social science faculties and departments. The course covers South Asia from the early modern period to the present. The areas studied cover the modern states of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

The MPhil aims to introduce students to the latest research topics, methods and debates in South Asian studies at an advanced level. It provides training in the use of printed, manuscript and other sources relevant to South Asian studies. It provides essential language training in Hindi and Urdu. It offers training in the advanced use of a library and archival facilities and the appropriate use of electronic databases for the location, identification and evaluation of source materials. It provides a structured introduction to key debates in South Asian history, development economics, politics and sociology through a variety of intensive courses. Finally, it offers close supervision in undertaking an original research project.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of the course, students should have acquired:

  1. a deeper understanding of their chosen area of South Asian studies and the critical debates within it;
  2. a conceptual and technical understanding that enables the evaluation of current research and methodologies;
  3. the technical skills necessary to pursue primary research in their chosen area;
  4. the ability to situate their own research within current and past methodological and interpretative developments in the field; and
  5. an understanding of and proficiency in a modern South Asian language.

Skills and other attributes

By the end of the course, the students should have acquired:

  1. the skills necessary to locate, read, interpret and analyse the primary source material relevant to their area of interest;
  2. the skills necessary critically to evaluate their own and others' work;
  3. the ability to formulate a research proposal using the appropriate primary materials and to place this within its relevant academic context, to locate and assimilate relevant secondary source material and to discuss pertinent interpretative debates;
  4. the ability to reach an independent judgement, based on their own research; and
  5. a facility in communicating the results of their ideas, research and its conclusion in a written form as a work of historical scholarship, and as an oral contribution in a research colloquium.


The MPhil is a freestanding degree, but it is expected that many candidates, because of the significant research-training component of the course, will proceed thereafter to pursue a PhD. The course offers a thorough preparation for doctoral research, through the historiographical and conceptual emphasis of the taught component, through the specialist options, and through the dissertation. All MPhil students who wish to continue to a PhD will be encouraged to discuss their progress with their supervisor. Marks of 70 and above are strong marks to support the case for continuation to the PhD in, for example, the Faculty of History. However, this requirement varies from faculty to faculty.


Assessed coursework will consist of the core course (Introduction to Modern South Asia), taken by all students, and one option selected by each student from the range offered as part of the MPhil. The core course will centre around 14 two-hour, twice-weekly classes in the Michaelmas Term, at which participation is mandatory. Eight 1.5-hour weekly option course classes will be held throughout the Lent term. In addition, the language element of the course will run throughout the year with weekly classes in either Hindi or Urdu. There will also be a strong element of research training to include preparing for fieldwork, interviewing techniques and the use of archival material. Students will be expected to attend the Centre's weekly seminar programme held on Wednesdays during a term.


  • The ‘practice’ essay is single marked. Students receive the mark and feedback in mini-tutorials by the end of the Michaelmas Term.
  • Core and option essays, the book review and dissertation are double marked and an average mark produced. Students receive both mark sheets containing feedback.
  • Students meet regularly with their supervisors, the course convenor and others teaching on the course who are happy to provide comments on students' progress.
  • It is usual to hold two sessions in the late Lent term or early Easter term to provide the chance for students to present their planned dissertation research to the rest of the group and receive their feedback.
  • During the first week of Michaelmas term, students are invited to elect two student representatives who are invited to attend at the end of the termly Graduate Education Committee meetings to raise concerns and ask questions.
  • Supervisors write termly online graduate supervision reports, which are available to students.

Visit the MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies page on the University of Cambridge website for more details!




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Recipient: University of Cambridge

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