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, with, for example, children and families, mental health problems, refugees, drug users and HIV prevention. It will lead students to produce substantial independent research thesis.

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

The MPhil has five major components:

  • MPhil thesis
  • core course on evaluation methods
  • pathway course, either Social Intervention or Policy Evaluation
  • specialist option, eg on HIV prevention or community-level programmes and policies
  • research methods training.

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 social policies and interventions, focusing on randomised controlled trials and quasi-random experimentation.

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; or
  • Policy Evaluation, introducing you to social policy analysis and to different research methods for evaluating policies, eg 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, Prevention of HIV and AIDS, Community Analysis and Intervention, and options offered by the MPhil in Comparative Social Policy such as Comparative Labour Market Policies.

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

Research methods training

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

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

Specialist interdisciplinary training in systematic reviews has led to published masters' theses, eg van Urk (2014) and Grant (2013).

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, the World Health Organisation and the UN.

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 2018-19

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. 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 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

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 Social Policy and Intervention 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 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. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department of Social Policy and Intervention.

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.

To continue to a research 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. 

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.

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 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. In addition, there is a 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 others’ 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 Mondays coffee mornings are held weekly and these occasions provide excellent opportunities for talking to academics and research staff, and also fellow students.

Funding

There are over 1,100 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).

Further information on scholarships and funding opportunities specific to this academic department is also provided on the DSPI’s funding webpage.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2018-19

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£12,670£3,112£15,782
Overseas£19,915£3,112£23,027

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 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 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 2018-19 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between c. £1,015 and £1,555 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 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, ideally by proposing a research question. It should 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.

Please also indicate whether you prefer the social intervention stream or the policy evaluation stream.

This will be assessed for:

  • commitment to graduate studies in social policies and intervention
  • 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. 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 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 references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement and motivation for the chosen area of study. Academic references are required.

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