MSt in Socio-Legal Research | University of Oxford
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MSt in Socio-Legal Research

About the course

The Master of Studies (MSt) in Socio-Legal Research is a one-year research master’s degree in the course of which you will write a 30,000 word dissertation. The degree can either serve as a qualification in its own right or a route into the Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) degree.

The MSt in Socio-Legal Research normally takes place over a full academic year. You will undertake the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS) course in theory and methods during your first two terms. This is intended to develop your appreciation of law as a social phenomenon, to introduce various theoretical perspectives and to consider the variety of practical techniques by which research questions may be addressed. 

Throughout the period of your studies, you will work with a supervisor with whom you should meet individually at regular intervals to discuss your project and to provide feedback and advice. You will also be able to take part in an extensive range of seminar programmes and discussion groups, affording plentiful opportunities for interaction both with your peers and with academics working in the same or similar research areas.

You should submit your final theses shortly before the start of the following academic year. The examination method for the 30,000-word MSt thesis is the same as that used for the DPhil – two examiners are appointed who read the thesis and then conduct an intensive oral examination of the student, known as a viva voce, before making a written report to the faculty. On that basis your thesis may be judged to have passed, so that you can be awarded a MSt degree, or to be in need of revision, in which case it is referred back to you for re-submission at a later date; in extreme cases it may be rejected.

Graduate destinations

MSt students pursue a range of career paths after obtaining the degree. You might choose to continue studying to obtain a doctoral degree preparatory to an academic career, or to enter employment. The analytic and expressive skills developed while studying should enhance your suitability for legal practice, for a civil service career, for work in non-governmental organisations or for any variety of management positions in 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 law, or in any other social science 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 normally held as part of the admissions process. These are normally held in late February.

A shortlist is compiled after an assessment of each application by two (or three, if there is a discrepancy of views between two) senior members of the CSLS. If you are shortlisted you will then be interviewed, preferably in person or if necessary by Skype (with or without video). If electronic communication is problematic, the interview is conducted by telephone. There will be a minimum of two interviewers.

Publications

Publications are not expected. They may, in certain circumstances, advantage an application but it is appreciated that the opportunity to publish may vary considerably depending on factors such as the stage the student has reached in their graduate career and the structure of the course(s) they have studied. Consequently, a lack of publications will not be assessed negatively.

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 Centre for Socio-Legal Studies 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 Centre for Socio-Legal Studies 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 Centre for Socio-Legal Studies.

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.

In the case of students who require specific help to adjust to an academic programme or to a new range of skills, the supervisor should work with them to ensure that they have additional support.

Resources

The Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS) will provide you with an individual study space in the form of a desk and a PC that is supported by the University’s IT services.

During the course of the MSt you will be necessarily engaged in interdisciplinary research and can benefit from several of the Bodleian Libraries. The two most heavily used are close at hand: the Social Science Library (SSL) is housed on the ground floor of Manor Road Building, and the Law Library is in the adjacent building, the St Cross Building. Both libraries offer a selection of study spaces including graduate study rooms, individual study carrels and group discussion rooms which are available for booking. You will also have access to all the other Bodleian Libraries and in some cases also to one or more college libraries.

The CSLS benefits from having seminar rooms in the Manor Road Building available for academic events.

The CSLS’ research community is vibrant and strong; Fellows and Research Officers hold ad hoc workshops, regular book colloquiums and a prominent Annual Lecture series. In addition to participating actively in these academic events, CSLS students have initiated and successfully run their own socio-legal discussion group and public law discussion group. Events bring staff and students together to exchange ideas, to meet visiting speakers and to engage in discussion of a variety of socio-legal issues. You will receive multiple opportunities to gain experience of presenting and discussing your work in progress.

The CSLS' student community is also fostered by a new student-led Oxford Centre for Socio-Legal Studies Review. This is an online journal which provides an opportunity for the publication of short opinion pieces and longer academic papers on topical socio-legal issues by students at the CSLS and by members of the international socio-legal community more widely.

The CSLS holds social events, including weekly coffee mornings throughout the year, so that staff and students can interact and network.

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)
c. £4,250£3,021c. £7,271
Overseas£15,755£3,021£18,776

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

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs.  However, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

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 do not need to make contact with academic members of staff before you apply. However, it is suggested that you consult the list of CSLS research staff to check that your research interests fall within an area in which the CSLS has research expertise.

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.

Research proposal:
Around 800 words

You should submit a detailed outline of your proposed research, written in English, covering areas such as the background to the research, methodology, expected results and the contribution to the field of learning.

The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for:

  • the coherence of the proposal
  • the originality of the project
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • your ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course.

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.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, academic and/or professional

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 intellectual ability, academic achievement and motivation.

Academic references are preferred but professional references are accepted if no academic references are available.