MSc in Nature, Society and Environmental Governance | University of Oxford
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MSc in Nature, Society and Environmental Governance

About the course

This course is grounded in the conviction that responses to political and environmental challenges requires researchers and practitioners trained in the social sciences, with the ability to think flexibly across disciplinary and sectorial boundaries. It will enable you to develop a theoretically sophisticated and empirically grounded understanding of the dynamic relations between environment, society and policy.

The rate and complexity of environmental change poses profound economic, social and political challenges for contemporary society. Developing ways to address these challenges demands intellectual rigour, innovation and flexibility, as well as the capacity to think across existing disciplinary boundaries.

This course aims to help you develop a theoretically sophisticated and empirically grounded understanding of the dynamic relations between environment, society and policy. To this end the course draws on the methods and approaches from across the social sciences, including fields such as human geography, anthropology, environmental economics, science and technology studies, and corporate environmental management. It also facilitates dialogue between researchers and practitioners concerning contemporary issues of environmental policy and politics.

Teaching takes place through lectures, seminars and workshops which provide in-depth exploration of key environmental issues. Fieldtrips and external visits are an important component of the teaching delivery and include an induction field course in the UK and a three-day European field course.

The specific objectives of the course are:

  • to provide broad and critical engagements with key debates in the environmental social sciences, focussing on the relations between nature-society, science-politics and economy-development
  • to foster an understanding of the applied practices of environmental policy and the challenges of real-world environmental governance
  • to develop your conceptions of, and skills in, the methods and practices of contemporary environmental social sciences, providing critical foundations for further study by research
  • to integrate you into world leading research in the School of Geography and the Environment by providing core teaching and supervision by research-active staff
  • to enhance your personal and professional development.

There are nine core modules organised under three themes: policy and governance, theory and analysis, and research skills. These modules are assessed by written examination. You will also study two electives which are each assessed through a 4000 word essay. You will also write an individual dissertation of 15,000 words.

Elective modules

These offer a tutorial-style teaching and discussion environment within smaller groups, based on a suite of contemporary research themes that reflect the specific interests of core faculty and visiting research associates. The teaching aim is to foster discussion and debate between academic staff and students to identify and explore theory, methods and practice in an academic space that encourages a critical dialogue.

Dissertation

An independent and original dissertation is an integral component of the course. In order to equip you with the necessary skills to undertake high quality research, a suite of training activities is offered to develop key transferable skills in order for you to be able to execute high quality independent and original research, and to expose students to applied research methods used widely in academic and professional research.

Graduate destinations

NSEG alumni are pursuing careers with a wide range of organisations, with a third or more entering MPhil or doctoral programmes in Oxford and elsewhere.

Examples of the organisations include government departments (eg US Department of Energy, National Water Services Agency Singapore), non-governmental organisations (eg OXFAM, Birdlife International), business organisations (eg Confederation of British Industry, Financial Services Authority) and international agencies (eg Food and Agriculture Organisation, United Nations Environment Programme).

The department's Alumni Office helps alumni keep in touch with each other and organises alumni events.

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 any discipline.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 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

You are not required to submit publications.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Applicants should demonstrate an interest in the interactions of society and nature. In particular, work and/or research experience around the areas of environmental and social sustainability are valued. 

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 School of Geography and the Environment 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 School of Geography and the Environment 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 School of Geography and the Environment.

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.

Resources

The School of Geography and the Environment undertakes world-class interdisciplinary research, addresses societal and environmental problems, and advances knowledge within an intellectually vibrant, interdisciplinary research environment that combines natural and social sciences and has geography at its core. The department has five research clusters that hold research seminars throughout term-time. Graduate students are encouraged to attend these seminars and most MSc courses also hold their own seminar series and practical workshops.

The course has an Academic Director and a Course Director who looks after the day to day running of the course. You will have a personal advisor who is a member of the School’s academic staff and who provides academic welfare support.

The University of Oxford has an extensive library system and the Radcliffe Science Library is the main lending service within the University for the material required for the course. The Social Sciences Library also holds collections which are valuable for students pursuing geography programmes. A tutorial on using the library and IT facilities will be provided at induction by the Geography Subject Librarian.

The department has a computer room available for all graduate students. There are dedicated IT times each day when you can seek help from IT staff. There is a dedicated social space for MSc students where you can meet and discuss your studies. Where appropriate, you will be able to use the departmental laboratories for your dissertation research.

Research skills’ training is provided in preparation for your dissertation. As well as developing an understanding of the research process, these sessions will cover such things as social surveys, data analysis and statistical techniques. Throughout the course, fieldtrips and visits to external organisations support the lectures and seminars and deliver valuable skills training.

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)
£13,545£3,021£16,566
Overseas£19,335£3,021£22,356

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

All costs associated with compulsory fieldwork are paid for by the department. This excludes the costs associated with obtaining the appropriate visa required to attend the non-UK based fieldtrips. Non-EEA nationals might require a visa in order to travel to the country where the fieldtrip is being held and any costs associated with obtaining the appropriate travel visa is the responsibility of the student.

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

You are not required to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply.

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.

Personal statement:
Up to two pages

Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in. 

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • evidence of your enthusiasm for the proposed area of study, over and above what would be expected from an undergraduate course of instruction
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.

Your statement should focus on the subject area rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations. This might be demonstrated by, for example, having undertaken independent fieldwork or research, vacation employment in a relevant discipline, or having already made research publications or presentations.

If you have already graduated, at least some of the time since graduation should have been spent on activities related to the proposed course of study, or a sound reason why this is not the case should be given.

Written work:
One essay of 2,000 words 

The written work must be in English and can be either an essay you have written, a chapter(s) of a thesis, a published scholarly paper or even academic work written specifically to support your application.

This work should demonstrate your ability to write a good academic document though it does not need to be related to the proposed area of study.

An extract of the requisite length from longer work is permissible. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for evidence of good basic knowledge, understanding of problems, powers of analysis, ability to construct a coherent train of thought, and to shape an argument, and powers of expression. The quality of English expression and of presentation may also be part of the assessment. Students with disclosed disabilities will receive appropriate consideration according to their particular needs.

The written work does not need to relate to the subject matter of the course.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, of which at least two 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 academic achievements, interests, and personal motivation. In order to assist assessors in their consideration of applications references should be from experienced scholars and teachers of graduate students. In view of this, it is recommended that at least two of the three references are from academics.