The history of science is a long-established discipline in Oxford. Since 1925, the Museum of the History of Science in the Old Ashmolean Building has housed an outstanding collection of scientific instruments and a library of 18,000 items. The creation of the Chair of the History of Science and the Readership in the History of Medicine in the early 1970s gave added encouragement, and now Oxford has one of the largest communities of teachers, research fellows and graduate students in the history of science, medicine and technology in Britain. The history of medicine also enjoys broad support within history and other faculties, but research focuses especially on the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine.
The M.Phil. is a two-year programme and the M.Sc. a one-year programme. They offer a wide range of options and allow students to specialize in the history of science and technology, or the social history of medicine, although the boundaries between these areas are deliberately permeable.
(1) The core qualifying papers
These two papers are taught in classes during Michaelmas Term, afforced by lectures on specific issues. The class convenors are requested to submit a report on each candidate's preparation and participartion in the weekly classes. Formal assessment is through a methodological essay of 3,000 words for each of the papers.
(2) A choice of Advanced Papers
Advanced papers are usually taught in small classes, mostly during Hilary Term. Assessment is usually by three-hour written examination, but candidates may choose to be assessed for up to half of their advanced papers by two extended essays of up to 5,000 words each. M.Sc. candidates offer two advanced papers, and M.Phil. candidates four, of which they may offer up to two in their first year.
(3) A dissertation
In the case of the M.Sc. a dissertation of not more than 15,000 words on a topic of the student's choice, approved by her or his supervisor, and submitted at the end of the Long Vacation; in the case of the M.Phil. a dissertation of not more than 30,000 words on a topic of the student's choice, approved by her or his supervisor, and submitted at the beginning of Trinity Term in the candidate's second year.
Successful candidates often use these master's programmes as a preparation for further research, and they have been structured with this possibility in mind. It should be stressed, however, that the admission of any candidate to further study at Oxford will depend on his/her overall performance in the master's programme, together with the viability of any proposed research topic and the availability of appropriate supervision at Oxford.
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