MPhil in Development Studies | University of Oxford
Fieldwork
Fieldwork photograph taken by an MPhil student
(Image Credit: H Carr, ODID)

MPhil in Development Studies

About the course

The two-year MPhil in Development Studies will provide you with a rigorous and critical introduction to development as a process of managed and unmanaged change in societies in the global South. The course is an excellent preparation for a career in development policy or practice or for further study in the field.

Aims

The course will introduce you to development studies as an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary subject. It covers the intellectual history of development, the paradigm shifts and internal conflicts within the discipline and the contemporary relevance of research to development policy and practice.

Structure

The course comprises five elements: foundation courses, research methods, the core course, the thesis and two option courses.

In the first year, you will study two out of three foundation courses:

  • Economics
  • History and Politics
  • Social Anthropology

If you have no previous training in economics you must take this as one of your foundation courses; otherwise you must take the other two.

You will also follow a course in research methods for the social sciences, comprising sessions on research design and qualitative and quantitative methods. Additional sessions will be held on aspects of fieldwork ethics and preparation, library resources and software and computerised databases.

The core course, also taken in the first year, is an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary course with two component modules:

  • Ideas about Development
  • Key Themes in Development

You will spend the summer following your first year working on a 30,000-word thesis. You will choose the topic, with the guidance of your supervisor, and, in most cases, spend some of the summer doing fieldwork and gathering data. 

In the second year, you will take your chosen option courses and continue work on your thesis. More information can be found in the course handbook.

Teaching

Each course entails three to five hours of teaching per week, delivered through lectures, classes and workshops. Class sizes are small – between 5 and 30 students – encouraging active participation and enabling students to learn from each other. You prepare for sessions by reading a selection of recommended books, book chapters and articles.

You will be allocated a general supervisor who will support your academic development and with whom you will meet regularly. Allocation is based on your research interests, optimal fit with the supervisor’s expertise, and staff availability. Where dissertation supervision requires expertise that is not available among the core staff, an additional dissertation supervisor will be identified. You will also have a college advisor whom you may consult on issues concerning your personal wellbeing.

Assessment

Year 1

There will be a set of on-course assessments, including formative essays. These will provide you with an opportunity to explore topics you find of interest and to practice essay-writing skills.

Formal assessment will normally comprise a three-hour written examination at the beginning of the third term for each foundation course; a three-hour written examination at the end of the third term and a research design essay, submitted in the same term, for research methods; and two 5,000-word essays for the core course. You must pass all examinations to continue into Year 2. There is an opportunity to re-sit in September.

Year 2

Formal assessment will comprise a three-hour examination for each option course at the end of the final term and the thesis, submitted at the beginning of the final term.

Graduate destinations

A number of MPhil students choose to continue to doctoral study after completing the course, taking their MPhil thesis and expanding it further into a DPhil thesis. Others have gone on to jobs in the United Nations, government, NGOs, the media, business, finance and development consultancies.

The department provides support for alumni in their career development by maintaining an online network through which information about employment opportunities is disseminated. 

Read more about the kinds of careers the department’s students pursue on the ODID Alumni page.

“My education in Oxford not only contributed to my intellectual development and increased my confidence to work in challenging, intense and competitive environments, it has also continued to open doors for me professionally. The University is respected globally and the extensive and powerful alumni network is a valuable asset for all new graduates.” Shaharzad Akbar, graduated 2011.

Related courses

Changes to the course

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2017-18

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in a social science subject. As one of the purposes of the course is to provide a basic education in the subject, in exceptional cases, students who have not specialised in a social science may be admitted to read for the MPhil in Development Studies. It should be recognised that for some students, the transition to a social studies approach to learning may not be easy.

Entrance to the course is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.8 out of 4.0.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Publications

Publications are not expected or required for admission, but any can be listed on the CV.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

  • Research or working experience in developing countries is desirable but is not essential.
  • An ability to work both independently and in groups is essential.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Oxford Department of International Development to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Oxford Department of International Development and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Oxford Department of International Development.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

It is essential to apply as early as possible and to submit all required materials by the advertised deadlines. 

A number of the department's master’s students apply to continue doctoral research both at the department and in other departments of the University. Entry requirements and deadlines will differ slightly in each department and details will be available on departmental websites.

Resources

The Oxford Department of International Development (ODID) is one of the world’s leading centres for research and teaching in development studies. In the UK’s 2014 Research Excellence Framework it was ranked top in its subject area.

The department is known for its frontier research on economic growth and instability, trade and investment, poverty and inequality, insecurity and conflict, the history of social and political change, migration and refugees, global governance and the environment, children and human development and technology and industrialisation.

It hosts some 70 outstanding academics and houses six externally funded research groups that are at the forefront of their specialist fields. As part of a global epistemic community, the department aims to generate ideas that set agendas for scholars, governments, international agencies and civil society.

As an MPhil student you will be able to attend the wide range of public seminars organised by the department and the individual research groups. Beyond the immediate degree, Oxford offers access to a very large number of events including seminars and lectures by distinguished academics and policy-makers in related fields.

Libraries

The Social Sciences Library, the largest freestanding social science library in the UK, with considerable print and digital strengths in development studies and a specialist librarian, is a short walk away. This is complemented by the world-class resources of the Bodleian Library and the satellite libraries. As alumni of the University, students can sign up for lifetime access to key online journals.

IT support

The department provides hot-desking areas with desktops and printing, as well as wireless internet access. Technical support is available through the department, your college and the University’s IT Services, which also offers training courses. Course materials are available online via WebLearn, the University’s Virtual Learning Environment.

Department facilities

Teaching takes place in the department’s seminar rooms, and there is a common room area where students from all the department's courses can gather. Light lunches are available during term.

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

A number of Research Council awards are available each year from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (further details will be announced in October 2016), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£16,770£3,021£19,791
Overseas£22,145£3,021£25,166

The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).

For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details on the impact of the result of the UK referendum on its membership of the European Union.

Additional information

Most students will choose a topic which will require them to do fieldwork for their thesis. This fieldwork will be conducted during the long vacation between the first and second year. Students should note that they will have to meet all costs of fieldwork themselves and these costs are likely to include travel and related costs such as visas, accommodation, subsistence, translation and research assistant services if required. These costs will vary according to the location and length of the fieldwork and the department estimates that these costs may range from £1,500 to £20,000. Each MPhil student is is able to apply for a fieldwork grant of £700. This is awarded once only usually at the end of Trinity Term of their first year, before they go to the field during the summer vacation. Further information will be provided in the course handbook.

Living costs

In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2017-18 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £1,002 and £1,471 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page.

How to apply

It is not necessary for you to make contact with potential supervisors or other academic members of staff before you apply. New MPhil students will be informed about their supervisor during their induction sessions.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
500 to 1,000 words

You will need to provide a statement of purpose, written in English.

You must state in what way you believe the MPhil might contribute to your career development plans. You must also indicate an awareness of the structure of the degree, for example by stating the foundation courses you might take in the first year, and the options which might be of interest to you in the second year. You should also indicate, very briefly, what your thesis topic might be.

This will be assessed for your reasons for applying, evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study and the course applied to, as well as commitment to the subject and evidence of a defined set of research interests.

It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.

Written work:
Two essays of 4,000 words each

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts from longer pieces of work are acceptable but if two extracts are submitted they should not come from the same piece of work; and should each be prefaced by a note which puts it in context. It is important that the writing samples relate closely to the proposed area of study.

Please note that multi-authored works are not acceptable. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for a comprehensive understanding of the subject area; understanding of problems in the area; ability to construct and defend an argument; and powers of analysis and expression.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, all of which must be academic

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

Your references will support your intellectual ability, academic achievement, academic writing ability, suitability for this course and motivation, in addition to any other information that is considered to be relevant. Academic references are required.