MSc in Economics for Development | University of Oxford
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MSc in Economics for Development

About the course

This is a nine-month degree in development economics with a strong emphasis on bringing methods of modern economic analysis to economic development theory and policy. The course will prepare you for further academic research or for work as a professional development economist in international agencies, governments or the private sector.

Aims

The course seeks to cultivate the analytical and critical skills relevant to economic development, in particular those needed to assess alternative approaches to policy. It provides the rigorous quantitative training that development work now requires, helping you develop the ability to access, process and interpret a variety of data. It aims to provide the research tools and approaches needed for those who wish to proceed to doctoral research in development economics.

Structure

You will take courses in economic theory (split between macroeconomics, microeconomics and trade), a course in quantitative methods (ie econometrics) and a series of elective modules in development economics. Topics vary from year to year. In recent years, modules have covered topics such as growth and structural change, agriculture and development, political economy and institutions, globalisation, macroeconomic management, and risk and microfinance. Students typically follow four or five out of eight modules offered.

A central component of the course is a 10,000-word dissertation written on a subject which you choose in consultation with your supervisor and with the agreement of your Course Director. More information on the structure of the course is available in the course handbook on the ODID website.

Teaching

The course is taught through lectures and classes and, for the development modules, student presentations. The quantitative methods course also includes hands-on training in the use of specialist statistical software. Class sizes are small – usually between 5 and 30 students – encouraging active participation and enabling students to learn from each other.

During the course you will be required to complete a number of problem sets as well as writing essays for individual supervisors (the tutorial system). This system is used to build critical and analytical skills and is particularly beneficial to students from a different background of instruction.

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

Assessment

On-course assessment, which will not count towards your final degree, will be provided through feedback on problem sets and essays. In addition there will be five informal examinations during the year. Again, these will not count towards your final degree but they will provide an invaluable opportunity to assess your progress and for you to practise exam technique.

The degree is formally assessed through examination at the end of the summer term. This comprises four written papers: microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory, quantitative methods, and development economics. The dissertation will be submitted before the examinations and your final mark will be aggregated from the results of the examinations and the dissertation.

Graduate destinations

Approximately one third of MSc graduates proceed to doctoral research in economics, usually two to three in Oxford, either immediately or after work experience in the field. Significant numbers are also now working in the major international financial institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF and the UN organisation, as well as in the UK’s Department for International Development. Many others work in the international NGO sector and for major consultancies.

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

‘The MSc in Economics for Development prepared me well for a career in economic policy analysis, teaching critical thinking on development issues, how to write persuasively and effectively, and how to apply economic theory to answer real and important questions.’ Cameron Chisholm, graduated 2012

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 economics.

Applicants whose first degree contains little or no economics cannot be considered for this course. The minimum requirement is the equivalent of two years of full-time study at university level of economics courses (please note that courses in finance, planning, business, management and other similar subjects do not count as economics courses). Some mathematical and quantitative ability is essential for this course.

If your first degree contains too little economics for the MSc, but you nonetheless wish to study development at Oxford, you may wish to consider the two-year MPhil in Economics or the two-year MPhil in Development Studies.

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).

You must submit a recent Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score. There is no specified minimum GRE score, and these scores are only used to provide useful comparative information in the admissions process, especially for students coming from non-UK institutions.

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

Relevant experience in developing countries is desirable but is not at all 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, in conjunction with the Department of Economics, 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, in conjunction with the Department of Economics, 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 and the Department of Economics.

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. 

Resources

The University of Oxford is widely recognised as one the world’s foremost teaching and research centres in development economics and development studies. The Oxford Department of International Development (ODID) ranked top in development studies in the UK’s 2014 Research Excellence Framework while the Department of Economics is one of Europe’s leading research departments, particularly in the fields of trade and development.

As a student on the course you will be able to attend a wide range of public seminars organised within both ODID and the Economics Department, in particular the seminars run by the Centre for the Study of African Economies. Beyond the immediate degree, Oxford offers a great variety 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, 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

You will have access to high-quality IT facilities through the economics server. This server, which is loaded with an extensive range of econometric and data-analysis software, can be accessed from any web-connected computer.

In addition, ODID provides hot-desking areas with desktops and printing, as well as wireless internet access. Technical support is available through ODID and the Economics 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.

Departmental facilities

Teaching takes place in ODID’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

You must attend a pre-sessional Maths course in the week before the MSc in Economics for Development begins. There is no charge for the course, but you will need to pay for college accommodation during this period. The department estimates that accommodation will cost between £100 and £200 depending on the college and the type of accommodation.

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 MSc students are 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

Your statement should be written in English and should indicate what areas of study in the subject interest you and in what ways you believe the MSc might contribute to your career development plans.

This will be assessed with respect to your interests in development economics, including the strength of your academic interest in development, previous background in developing countries, and/or the breadth of your preparation for the course. 

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 the work in context.

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 your ability in (a) writing (in English) and (b) economic analysis. Ideally, the material submitted will enable both sorts of ability to be assessed simultaneously, as in an economics essay or an economics term-paper. You may submit work which enables these two sorts of ability to be assessed separately. It is for you to judge what material will best enable the committee to assess your abilities.

GRE General Test results

You must submit a recent Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score. There is no specified minimum GRE score, and these scores are only used to provide useful comparative information in the admissions process, especially for students coming from non-UK institutions.

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 academic ability, motivation and suitability for your chosen programme of study and any other information you consider to be relevant to your application. Academic references are required.