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. Our students go on to careers in development policy or practice or for further study in the field.
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.
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:
- 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. Thesis workshops offer preparation for your research. Additional sessions will be held on aspects of fieldwork ethics and safety, 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:
- Theories of Development
- Key Themes in Development
You will spend the summer following your first year working on a thesis. You will choose the topic, with the guidance of your supervisor, and, in most cases, spend some of the summer doing research 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 on the department's course page.
Teaching and learning
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. Supervisors are allocated based on your research interests, fit with the supervisor’s expertise, and staff availability. In your first year, you will identify someone to supervise your thesis, typically someone from the MPhil core staff. You will also have a college advisor whom you may consult on issues concerning your personal wellbeing.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Oxford Department of International Development. 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.
Formal assessment will normally comprise a written examination at the beginning of the third term for each foundation course; a written examination at the end of the third term and a research design essay, submitted in the same term, for research methods; and two essays for the core course. You must pass all examinations to continue into Year 2. There is an opportunity to re-sit in September.
You will be formally assessed for your two option courses as well as the thesis submitted during the final term. Further information on the thesis can be found on the departmental website.
A number of MPhil students choose to continue to doctoral study after completing the course, expanding their MPhil thesis into a DPhil thesis in ODID or elsewhere. Others have gone on to jobs in the United Nations, government, diplomacy, politics, NGOs, the media, art, business, finance, management, technology and development consultancies.
You can 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, the first Afghan woman to study at postgraduate level at the University of Oxford.
Changes to this course and your supervision
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. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
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 illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.
Other courses you may wish to consider
If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.
Courses suggested by the faculty
African Studies MSc
Global Health Science and Epidemiology MSc
Latin American Studies MSc
Global and Area Studies MPhil
Modern South Asian Studies MSc
Public Policy MPP
All graduate courses offered by the Oxford Department of International Development
Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours 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 be challenging.
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 normally sought is 3.8 out of 4.0.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are required for application.
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.
- Publications are not expected or required for admission, but any can be listed on the CV.
- 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.
English language proficiency
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
Declaring extenuating circumstances
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading. References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process.
An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed.
Shortlisting and selection
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
Other factors governing whether places can be offered
The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
- the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
- minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.
Offer conditions for successful applications
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our After you apply pages provide more information about offers and conditions.
In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
The Oxford Department of International Development (ODID) is one of the world’s leading centres for research and teaching in development studies.
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 five 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 department, Oxford offers access to a large number of events including seminars and lectures by distinguished academics and policy-makers in related fields.
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 nearby. 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.
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 Canvas, the University’s Virtual Learning Environment.
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. Lunches in the cafeteria are available during term.
The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.
For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.
Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:
Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the department's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2023-24
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Information about course fees
Course 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 course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
Where can I find further information about fees?
The Fees and Funding section of this website provides further information about course fees, including information about fee status and eligibility and your length of fee liability.
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 will need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Unless there are any remaining restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, 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 or more. 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. You may also be able to apply for small grants from your college to help you cover some of these expenses.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs).
For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges.
The following colleges accept students on the MPhil in Development Studies:
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance.
Application fee waivers
An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:
- applicants from low-income countries;
- refugees and displaced persons;
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and
- applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.
You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.
New MPhil students will be informed about their supervisor during their induction sessions.
Completing your application
You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents. If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.
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 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.
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:
A minimum of 500 words to a maximum of 750 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.
The MPhil in Development Studies is a broad-ranging inter- and multi-disciplinary programme. We do not expect our students already to have covered the disciplinary and theoretical range offered, but a curious and receptive stance towards new ideas is key. Successful students are intellectually flexible and prepared to step outside their comfort zones in terms of approaches and perspectives. The programme is also distinguished by theoretical rigour alongside a substantial emphasis on original research. Your personal statement should demonstrate that you have the required aptitude for a demanding programme and that you are a good fit for it. It should also show how any relevant experience beyond your studies would enrich an intellectually diverse and exciting cohort.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
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.
Either one or two essays, a maximum of 4,000 words overall
The total word limit for your writing sample is 4,000 words. You may choose to submit one longer piece of work or two shorter pieces within this word limit. Submitted work should demonstrate an ability to write high-quality scholarly essays in an inter- and multi-disciplinary programme centred on the social sciences. Extracts from longer pieces of work are acceptable, but if two writing samples are submitted they should not come from the same longer piece of work. An extract should be prefaced by a note that puts it in context.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
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.
Instructions for submitting one long piece of work instead of two short pieces
To submit one longer piece of work in your application instead of two shorter pieces, you should upload this document in the first 'Written work' slot on the 'Supporting Documents' tab of the Application Form. In the second 'Written work' slot, you should upload a PDF document with the following statement:
'I have included one long essay in lieu of two short essays. I have checked the course page to confirm this is permitted for this course.'
Please note that multi-authored works are not acceptable. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.
Start or continue your application
You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please refer to the requirements above and consult our Application Guide for advice. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.