What could you learn from a Master's in Digital Scholarship?

In 2022, Oxford will be launching a new Master's degree in Digital Scholarship, a one-year course introducing graduates to the cutting-edge research of the University. 

We spoke to Dr. Sarah Ogilvie, the Director of the new MSc, about the course, what "DH" means to her, and what the study of digital scholarship has to offer.

Could you tell us about your own career and research?    

I am a linguist and lexicographer who originally trained as a mathematician and computer scientist, so I have always kept a foot in the digital world. After doing my doctorate at Oxford I taught linguistics at Cambridge, the Australian National University, and Stanford, and took two years out of academia to work at Lab126, Amazon’s innovation lab in Silicon Valley where the Kindle was created.    
Why is Oxford launching an MSc in Digital Scholarship now?    

This degree has been many years in the making and was initiated and created by many people. Several decades ago, Oxford was one of the leaders in establishing the field of ‘literary and linguistic computing’ as Digital Humanities was known back then (I am thinking especially of the Oxford scholars who worked on creating standards for encoding electronic texts such as TEI). The University has many well-established, world-leading digital projects, and it is wonderful that we will now offer a degree in this area. Many people have worked very hard to bring this degree to fruition. I get the joyful job of collaborating with them and helping to implement their vision.    
What does Digital Scholarship mean to you?    

For me, Digital Scholarship is the application of digital tools and methods to create new knowledge or to prompt new questions. We see that increasingly humanities scholars want to learn digital techniques to apply to their research in order to investigate things that could never be done manually.  
Is that different from the Digital Humanities? Why the name change?    

Although digital scholarship does focus on the Humanities, it is not restricted to it and we believe that that broader remit perfectly fits the scope of our Masters. Applicants need no prior tech expertise and come from backgrounds as varied as law, English literature, classics, history of art, and political science. Regardless of our students’ backgrounds and home disciplines, we believe that the most important thing is the research question.

Tech exists to serve the research, not the other way round. We want to equip students for innovative work in existing disciplines. Hence, we encourage students to keep a foot in their home disciplines during the degree, so in Hilary term they get to do a Paper (course) in those departments, which will feed into their dissertation.    
What about this course is most exciting to you?    

In addition to what you would expect, an introduction to digital humanities and courses in programming or data visualization, there are also courses in digital musicology, TEI, IIIF or data imaging with experts at the Bodleian. But I think my favourite offering is the practicum placements in Trinity term: each student gets to join one of Oxford’s flagship digital projects and experience working first-hand with some of the world’s leading digital scholars. Overall, students will be offered the opportunity to engage in 41 digital research projects, across 10 disciplines, all GLAM institutions and Oxford University Press. We have also partnered with the Voltaire Foundation who has generously offered a full student bursary.  

This course offers the opportunity to be paired with one of Oxford’s digital humanists. What would you hope students to gain from that?    

Yes, each MSc student will be paired with a career mentor from amongst Oxford's digital community from whom they can seek career advice. They will be full participants in Digital Scholarship @ Oxford. Digital humanities is all about collaboration and working together across disciplines. I hope students will gain life-long connections with these mentors. No matter where our students go after the MSc, they will always remain a part of the Oxford digital community.   

Who would this course be ideal for?    

The beauty of this degree is that it is ideal for so many – those who want to gain digital expertise before embarking on doctoral studies; or those working in the GLAM sector who want to turbo-charge their career; or those who want to complement their Humanities degree with tech chops before entering industry. Whatever our story, sometimes in life we may just need to try something new and see where it leads.    
Applications to the MSc in Digital Scholarship close 1 March.