MSc in Sociology | University of Oxford
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Bicycles outside an Oxford library
(Image Credit: Zoe Fitzgerald / Graduate Photography Competition)

MSc in Sociology

About the course

Students are given high quality research training in sociology, which includes knowledge of relevant theoretical approaches, an understanding of their application to substantive problems and skills in the use of major research techniques.

The MSc Sociology is a one-year taught course which is has four elements. 

Sociological analysis

A compulsory core paper on sociological analysis, for which you sit a three-hour unseen examination at the end of Trinity Term. The paper examines the nature of different sociological explanations, their potentials and methodological implications and their relationship with concepts from other disciplines. The interrelationships between description and explanation, theory and empirical data. 

The course, in Michaelmas Term, consists of eight lectures (one hour each) followed by two seminars (also one hour each) where the class is split in two groups.

Research methods

A compulsory research methods course, for which you are examined through a mixture of a formal examination and take-home assignments. This course comprises three sections: statistics, qualitative methods and research design.

The statistics course consists of eight statistics lectures and eight STATA sessions in the IT Laboratory (Michaelmas term). Qualitative methods (Michaelmas term) consists of eight lectures and research design (Hilary term) consists of eight lectures and classes.

Option papers

You will take two option papers in Hilary term, for which you sit either an unseen examination or complete appropriate coursework. You should note that the options available may vary from year to year. There are normally eight weekly classes for each paper.

Dissertation

You will write an MSc thesis of up to 10,000 words, consisting of a sociological analysis which you carry out under the guidance of your supervisor. 

Part-time course arrangements

A part-time route through the DPhil programme is currently under development for first admission in October 2018. For further details on part-time doctoral study and for updates on when the part-time programme will open for admission, please contact admissions@sociology.ox.ac.uk.

Graduate destinations

Graduates pursue a variety of careers. Many go on to doctoral research either in Oxford or at leading departments in the US and continental Europe. Others pursue careers, often with a substantial research responsibility, in government departments, NGOs and the private sector.

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.

The department will only consider applicants who have an undergraduate degree in arts, humanities or science subjects if they can demonstrate a strong interest in sociology, as taught at Oxford.

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, though you may include these scores as part of your application.

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.

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 Department of Sociology 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 Department of Sociology 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 Department of Sociology.

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.

Progression to the DPhil Sociology is dependent upon performance on the MSc, the strength of the research proposal and whether appropriate supervision available is in the department.

Resources

The Department of Sociology is based in the Manor Road Building which is where the Social Sciences Library is located and you will of course, also have access to the world-renowned Bodleian Library. The building also has its own IT Support Team.

On completion of a short Health and Safety course and with the Head of Administration's approval, you will have 24 hour access to the building which is accessed by your University Card outside normal hours.

Most of the classes and lectures also take place at Manor Road which is a bright, modern and airy building which also has a cafe. The building is also home to the Department of Politics and International Relations, Department Economics, Centre for Criminology and Centre for Socio-Legal Studies.

There are also regular weekly lunchtime sociology seminars with many interesting speakers participating.

The department has a number of hot desks for MSc students to use and the library also has study spaces.

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), 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)
£12,300£3,021£15,321
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

You will normally be required to carry out a small fieldwork training exercise as part of the qualitative methods course. This may require a short trip out of Oxford, but usually not an overnight stay. You will need to cover any costs (eg travel) related to this training exercise, which the department estimates to range from between £20 to £100. 

You are not formally required to undertake field research for your dissertation. However, if you decide to undertake fieldwork as part of your studies, you should note that you will ordinarily have to meet all the costs yourself. These costs are likely to include, but may not be limited to travel, accommodation and living expenses, insurance and, where appropriate, visa and medical fees (eg for vaccinations). Costs can vary considerably according to the duration and location of the fieldwork, but the department would generally expect the cost of such field research to range from £200 to £1,000. If you choose to collect your own data, you may also incur transcription costs. There may also be costs if you choose to acquire quantitative data from non-ESRC sources. 

The department has no funds available to help with these costs.

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 encouraged to contact the department in order to refine your application before submitting an application.

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:
750 words

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 motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques; 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 your academic record and interests rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,000 words each

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible and should be prefaced by a short note which puts them in context.

The written work should preferably be on a sociological subject or otherwise have some sociological content. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

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

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, academic preferred

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.

Academic references are preferred, though professional references are acceptable if you have spent a significant amount of time in work.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and a demonstrable interest in sociology as it is taught at Oxford.