About the course
The MPhil introduces students to contemporary theories and research methods on the intersection of sociology and demography. This advanced 21-month programme takes a life-course and multilevel approach, aiming to integrate micro and macro issues in analysing social problems and the causes and consequences of population change.
The MPhil will provide you with a solid foundation for a wide range of careers, including those in academia, preparing you for doctoral work in sociology and demography and research-intense jobs.
The curriculum emphasises:
- population-level analysis and demographic measures
- a life course approach
- sociological analysis as the key approach to explanation
- advanced quantitative methods.
This emphasis is reflected in the compulsory papers. Optional papers and the thesis will reflect either a more specialised topic (eg gender, family and fertility, migration and integration of migrants, health and mortality, intergenerational relationships) or methodological work.
The MPhil programme has the following components:
- Sociological Analysis paper taught in the first year through lectures and seminars
- Demographic Analysis paper taught in the first year through lectures, seminars and computer labs
- Life Course Research paper taught in the first year through lectures, seminars and computer labs
- Statistical Methods paper taught in the first year through lectures and computer labs
- Research Design paper taught in the first year through lectures
- two option papers over both years of the MPhil, normally taught through eight weekly classes/seminars for each paper
- Replication project in the second year, comprising a combination of individual and group work
- MPhil thesis, a new and substantial analysis of up to 30,000 words on a sociological and/or demographic topic, to be submitted by the end of the second year.
Please note that the optional papers available may vary from year to year. More information on course modules and structure is available in the course handbook.
There is also a significant element of self-directed study, including further reading and research, that will complement the hours of teaching. The time spent on further research will be determined partly by your academic background so far, and partly by your own interest in and curiosity for the subject.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course 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. Students can typically expect to meet with their supervisor at least twice a term. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department of Sociology.
Assessment will be conducted either by timed examination or submission.
At the end of the second year, you will need to submit an MPhil thesis. This must be a new and substantial analysis of a sociological and/or demographic topic.
Graduates often continue with a DPhil at Oxford or doctoral studies at highly-ranked US and continental programmes. But the Department of Sociology also celebrates the substantial number of its graduates who find placement in research-intensive occupations in the public sector (eg national statistical offices, government departments and regional/local authorities), in international organisations, think tanks, and in private sector occupations in which quantitative skills are highly valued (consulting, market research, health research, social research, and insurance companies).
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.
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 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.
However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.
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 and demography, as taught at Oxford.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0. However, most successful applicants have a GPA of 3.7 or above.
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, though you may include these scores as part of your application.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
Publications are not expected.
Progression to the DPhil Sociology is dependent upon performance on the MPhil, the strength of the research proposal and whether appropriate supervision is available in the department.
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 Department of Sociology has a vibrant graduate programme. Many students come from the United Kingdom and other European countries; the department also attracts students from all over the world, from Chile to Malaysia.
The Department of Sociology is based at 42 Park End Street, which is near to the centre of Oxford and the railway station. The Social Sciences Library is the largest freestanding social science library in the UK, and is located in the Manor Road Building. Students also have reference access to the world-renowned Bodleian Library and the many other libraries around Oxford, including the Nuffield College’s library. The department also houses the new Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, an interdisciplinary centre seeking to solve the most challenging demographic problems of our time.
Most of the classes and lectures will take place at the Department of Sociology. Hot-desking areas with access to printing are also available in the building.
There are also regular weekly lunchtime sociology seminars with many interesting speakers participating.
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.
There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, insurance, research expenses and field trips. There may also be costs if you choose to acquire data. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may 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 Sociology and Demography:
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?
General enquiries should be made to the department's graduate studies administrator via the contact details provided on this page.
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, 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 and demography as it is taught at Oxford.
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.
Personal statement and research proposal:
A maximum of 2,000 words
Your research proposal and personal statement should be submitted as a single, combined document.
In your statement you should explain why you have chosen this particular course, what topic you propose to investigate in your MPhil thesis, why this topic fits with the course, and how you would carry out the research. The personal statement should be in English.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying to this particular programme
- evidence of motivation
- ability to present a reasoned case in English
- the coherence of the thesis proposal
- understanding of the proposed area of study.
Your statement should focus on the proposed research project rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations. For those who think that they might like to continue onto the DPhil after the MPhil, the statement should include proposed plans for research at the doctoral level. These might include an explanation of how the MPhil thesis plans could be extended, or a proposal for research on a different topic. It is understood that any plans for doctoral research would be preliminary and subject to change.
Two writing samples, a maximum 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 or demographic topic. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes. It is not permitted to submit one 4,000-word essay in place of the two shorter ones.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
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 and powers of expression.