MSc in Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology | University of Oxford
Radcliffe Camera
The Radcliffe Camera, seen from the Bodleian Quad
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MSc in Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology

About the course

The University of Oxford's School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography offers a one-year MSc in Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology. The degree programme explores human and non-human primate evolution and behaviour, bringing together paleoanthropological, psychological, developmental and cross-cultural approaches.

As a species humans possess remarkable capacities for culture and sociality, reflected in the technologies we use and share, the ways we think and learn from each other and the social groups we form and live in. What are the evolutionary foundations for these characteristics? Are humans as unique as we might believe; what is it about our evolution that distinguishes us from other living primates? How might an understanding of human evolution help to address pressing modern challenges facing individuals and societies?

The MSc in Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology explores the current state of the art thinking on these questions, drawing together relevant advances from a broad range of research fields across the evolutionary, biological, psychological and social sciences, eg evolutionary biology, human behavioural ecology, palaeoanthropology, primatology, psychology and cultural evolution.

During your first term you will follow a course on the investigation of biological evolution and cognition and a course on quantitative methods (including statistics and research design). In your second term you will take a course on the evolution of human behaviour, including biological, cognitive, psychological and comparative perspectives, as well as the mind and culture course, which examines how human conceptual structures inform and constrain cultural expression. You will be assessed by coursework and three three-hour written examinations in the third term.

The MSc concludes with a 15,000-word research dissertation to be completed over the summer months, which is submitted and examined at the end of August. The degree constitutes a programme of study in its own right, as well as serving as a research training degree for those wishing to go on to doctoral research.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography 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 School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography.

Graduate destinations

Many graduates enter teaching and research, though this often requires a doctorate. There is some recruitment to public bodies, the larger private companies, development agencies, NGOs etc.

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.

Oxford 1+1 MBA programme

This course can be studied as a part of the Oxford 1+1 MBA programme. The Oxford 1+1 MBA programme is a unique, two-year graduate experience that combines the depth of a specialised, one-year master’s degree with the breadth of a top-ranking, one-year MBA.

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 cognate discipline.

Under the UK system, applicants should have a minimum of 65% in at least one prior degree.

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.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Publications are not expected of applicants.

Further guidance

The conditions for applicants to proceed from an Oxford master's degree to a doctorate are:

  1. a viable project
  2. agreed supervision
  3. an overall mark of at least 67% in an Oxford anthropology master's degree; and
  4. the agreement of the School of Anthropology as a whole.

This degree involves the close analysis of published sources as well as verbal and written critical reflections in the form of oral presentations, essays and exam answers. It is therefore essential to your chance of successfully completing the program that you meet these higher-level English language requirements as stipulated by the University.

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, though a short interview via Skype or similar may be requested during 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

You will receive all or most of your academic supervision in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography. You will have a named supervisor, possibly two, who will have overall responsibility for the direction of your work from inception to submission.

Workspaces are available in the School on a first-come, first-served basis, though your college will also have library and workspace facilities and desks are available in the Bodleian and other University libraries. Laboratory and other dedicated workspaces and equipment for methods teaching will be provided where required.

The school houses the Tylor Library, the main subject library for anthropology, and the Pitt Rivers Museum and centre has its own library, the Balfour Library. Most books in the Tylor Library will be available to you on loan, though journals and certain other materials are reference-only. You may also use other departmental libraries, your college library and the University’s Bodleian Library and its dependent libraries. The University has a wealth of electronic resources, some specific to particular libraries.

A programme of research seminars is available, some specifically for research students and others featuring talks by invited speakers, often from outside the university. The principal events in this programme are the departmental seminars and the Primate Conversations series, run weekly during term time.

A student-run society, the Oxford University Anthropology Society, runs coffee mornings, talks and other social and academic events throughout the year. Seminars, especially those involving outside speakers, often move on to local pubs or restaurants after the talk.

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)£18,455
Overseas£28,040

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. Standard travel insurance can be provided by the University. However, students may be required to pay any additional insurance premiums associated with travel to areas with an increased level of risk, and should factor this into their planning for fieldwork.

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

Applicants for any of the master's degrees may, but are not obliged to, enter into prior and direct contact with a member of academic staff to discuss possible supervision or other collaboration.

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:
Around two pages

Your statement should be written in English and 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.

This will be assessed for your reasons for applying, expectations of the degree, prior academic background and interests, and an understanding of the area of cognitive and/or evolutionary anthropology.

If you know that you intend to pursue a DPhil within the department via a MSc + DPhil (1+3-year) route or MPhil + DPhil (2+2-year) route, please indicate and elaborate on this in your statement as this will facilitate your consideration for 1+3-year funding awards at the time of application. For this purpose your statement may be up to four pages in length and should include a proposal outlining your intended doctoral research.

If you are not yet clear about whether you wish to pursue DPhil research in the future, this will not affect your likelihood of securing a place on a graduate course, or of securing DPhil funding at a later date. If you subsequently apply to continue to study for a DPhil after an MPhil or MSc you will be considered again for award competitions at that time.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,000 words each

Applicants should submit written work in English. The items may be separate extracts from a longer work like a taught-course thesis.

Submitted written work need not be in anthropology but may be in any discipline. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

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.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally 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.

Ideally, academic letters of reference should be provided. Only if one or more such letters cannot be provided should professional reference(s) be supplied instead.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, and motivation.

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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