MPhil in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation | University of Oxford
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MPhil in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation

About the course

The MPhil in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation (EBSIPE) emphasises research methods for evaluating interventions and policies, as well as the advanced study of evidence-based practice and policy in relation to, for example, children and families, poverty and inequality, mental health, refugees, drug use, violence and injury prevention as well as offending. It will lead students to produce a substantial independent research thesis.

The MPhil is designed for students with a specific interest in understanding the effectiveness of policies, such as regulations concerning alcohol abuse or gun control, public health or poverty policies, and social interventions, such as cash transfers, parenting education, or violence prevention programs. It prepares students for a career in, for example, development, public policy, or policy and programme evaluation. Applicants with a professional background, such as those in evaluation, public health or policy consulting, will enhance their research skills and develop a major piece of research in a world-class environment.

The MPhil has six major components:

  • MPhil thesis
  • core course on evaluation methods
  • pathway course, either Social Intervention or Policy Evaluation
  • two specialist options, e.g. on Child and family interventions, Social policies and health inequalities, Community-level programmes and policies. In the second year it may be possible to select an option from Comparative Social Policy
  • research methods training (Quantitative and qualitative methods, R-programming, Systematic reviews).

Assessment will be based on your MPhil thesis, a methods workbook and two three-hour written exams. 

MPhil thesis

You will write a research thesis of 30,000 words to acquire expert knowledge in your area of interest, to apply the research methods, and contribute to new scientific knowledge.

Core course in evaluation methods

This course, taken over two terms, trains students to critically consume and produce evaluation research for policies and social interventions, focusing on multiple methods, including randomised controlled trials and quasi-randomised methods, qualitative evaluation, and systematic reviews. The course has a strong focus on ‘open science’ and research transparency.

Pathway course

 You will select one of two available pathways, to be taken over two terms:

  • Social Intervention, covering evidence-based methods to evaluate social interventions, theories underlying interventions, ethical issues, and applying research in practice and policy, including the challenges of implementing programmes in the real world; or
  • Policy Evaluation, introducing you to social policy analysis, policy formation, and the relationship between evidence and policy, and to different research methods for evaluating policies, e.g. quasi- experimental designs, natural experiments.

You may be able to change your choice of pathway in the first week of the programme.

Specialist options

You will take two one-term specialist courses from a list of options which may include Children and Families, Social Policies and Health Inequalities, Community-level programmes and policies.

MPhil students may attend advanced methods classes, such as Intermediate Statistics, in their second year. 

Research methods training

Students following the social intervention or policy evaluation pathway take a core evaluation methods course. In addition, all student in the MPhil EBSIPE take the following methods courses:

In addition to the core evaluation methods course, the MPhil EBSIPE teaches

  • systematic reviews, quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods, ie to learn to synthesise the best available evidence (2 terms)
  • quantitative methods, ie key statistical concepts and application in the leading software, R (1 term) 
  • qualitative research methods, ie design, data collection, analysis and qualitative meta-synthesis. 
  • field methods, ie managing, costing and running real-world evaluations.

Specialist interdisciplinary training in systematic reviews has led to published Masters' theses, for example:

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department of Social Policy and Intervention and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Students are able to meet their potential supervisor in the first week of term. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department of Social Policy and Intervention.

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

Graduate destinations

Recent graduates from the MPhil have gone on to study for doctorates in a range of high quality universities. Many of the department’s graduates go on to pursue academic careers in world-leading research universities, while others hold influential positions in government, non-governmental and international organisations, such as the World Bank, World Health Organisation and UN agencies.

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. 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 sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information, please see our page on 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.

Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any discipline. 

There is no requirement on subject area and students from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds are considered.

However, entrance 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 3.7 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 sought.

Further guidance

  • Quantitative methods and statistics: Prior training in statistics or quantitative research methods is not a requirement. However, a large component of the course is training in quantitative methods, this entails both statistics and statistical programming in R. All modules start at an introductory level; however, students benefit strongly from familiarising themselves with basic statistical concepts, eg correlation, least square regressions and statistical significance. We also recommend that students with no prior experience in using the statistical software R and RStudio familiarise themselves with it. The summer pre-course reading list will make recommendations for self-study materials. 
  • Publications: Publications are not expected.
  • Doctoral study: To continue to a DPhil degree after the MPhil, candidates would normally be expected to gain a mark of at least 65% for both the written exams and the thesis. The department's Graduate Studies Committee will also consider the clarity and viability of the research proposal and the availability of appropriate supervision. 

English language requirement

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.

Detailed requirements - higher level

The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are:

IELTS Academic7.5Minimum 7.0 per component
TOEFL iBT110

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced191Minimum 185 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency191Minimum 185 per component

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide

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

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. 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. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

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.

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements: 

Financial Declaration

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.

Resources

EBSIPE MPhil students will belong to the Centre of Evidence-based Intervention research group, that gives an opportunity to explore topics around social intervention and policy evaluation in more depth. In their second year MPhil students will have the opportunity to present their thesis-project in the research group.

The department runs two seminar series during the year providing the opportunity to hear external expert speakers on topics such as “natural experiments” or the implementation of e-health interventions. In addition, there is a bi-weekly colloquium at which members of the department present and discuss their research, creating an excellent chance for staff and students to learn more about each other’s’ ideas or receive input on their own research.

The department’s research MethodsHub provides research students with specialist support on qualitative and quantitative research methods, as well as tailored training. Through the Oxford social sciences division a range of methods-training seminars and summer schools are offered.

MPhil students have access to the world-leading Bodleian Social Science Library, in addition to other University libraries, and the centrally provided electronic resources (giving access to the majority of academic journals published). Some college libraries, such as the Nuffield College Library, are open to graduate research students on request.

The department has its own IT provision and specialist IT support staff. Students have access to the University’s high-performance computing environment. Software training in a range of standard and specialist programmes is available through the University IT services.

The department has a common room open to both staff and students. Barnett House Coffee Mornings are held fortnightly and these occasions provide excellent opportunities for talking to academics and research staff, and also fellow students.

Funding

There are over 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£17,070
Overseas£26,520

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 likely increases 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.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave 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 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 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 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 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

How to apply

You are not expected to make contact with an academic member of staff prior to submitting your 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.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
Up to 1,000 words

Your statement should be written in English and give an indication of your potential research interests. It should explain your motivation for applying for the course and its specific focus on evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you.

Please include the following subheadings: 'Motivation' and 'Research interests'. You should ideally propose a research question and a potential supervisor. Please also clearly indicate whether you prefer the social intervention stream or the policy evaluation stream. You may use the assessment criteria below as section headings.

This will be assessed for:

  • commitment to graduate studies in evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation
  • reasons for selecting the department
  • motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • fit of your research interest to research undertaken in the Department
  • any relevant practical/applied experience (such previous jobs).
  • ability to present a reasoned case in English.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,500 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.

The topic of your work need not be directly relevant to your proposed subject of study but academic essays are preferred to professional or workplace reports. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for:

  • ability to construct and defend an argument
  • ability to explain complex subject matter
  • ability to demonstrate analytical thinking
  • clarity of expression.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three references overall, which should 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 intellectual ability, academic achievement and motivation for the chosen area of study. Therefore academic references are preferred.

Please ensure you contact your referees well in advance of the application submission deadline to given them sufficient time for the preparation of the references.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.

Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.

Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.

Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.

Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).

Application GuideApply

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