About the course
The MSc in Comparative Social Policy explores welfare systems and policy developments across a range of countries with an OECD focus. The comparative element is a key part of the course, and is one feature that makes the course at Oxford unique.
For the purposes of comparison the course focuses especially on the most highly-developed countries, broadly those in the OECD area.
The central aim of the course is to provide high quality graduate level research training in social policy, taking a comparative perspective, concentrating primarily on industrialised/developed countries. More specific aims are to develop your capacity to:
- analyse, interpret and review the major concepts, theoretical approaches and historical and contemporary issues in social policy and welfare state development in a range of OECD countries or systems;
- analyse and compare specific areas of social policy (for example health or education) in different countries or systems, drawing on both empirical data and broader theoretical literature; and
- undertake both quantitative and qualitative research studies, and to understand the major issues involved in research design and technical analysis in social policy related research.
You will study a core paper in comparative social policy and social policy analysis. This paper covers the theories, principles, history and institutions of social policy, and is taught via a closely-linked package of lectures, seminars, small working seminars and individual tutorials. You will also engage in detailed work on social policy analysis through lectures, seminars and presentations.
The research methods skills, covering both quantitative and qualitative methods, are taught in a mix of lectures, classes, workshops and ‘hands-on’ computer lab based weekly training sessions. In addition, there is a course on the principles of comparative research design.
You will also have the opportunity to take at least one specialist course from a list of options focusing on a particular social policy area or the application of evidence-based intervention. You are examined in one of these option courses. Recent options offered include education policies, family policies, healthcare and health inequality, labour market policies, poverty and ageing societies and retirement age policies.
Your performance will be assessed through formative and summative assignments/papers. Knowledge of the substantive areas of social policy is assessed by two three hour papers at the end of the third term. One will cover comparative social policy and social policy analysis in general; the other will focus on your chosen area of specialism. The research method skills are assessed by means of formal course assignments and ‘methods essays’ on published research papers. In addition, you will be required to provide a 10,000-word dissertation.
Recent graduates from the master’s programme have gone on to study for doctorates in a range of high quality universities. Many 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.
- MPhil Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation
- MSc Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation
- MPhil Comparative Social Policy
- DPhil Social Policy
- DPhil Social Intervention
- Oxford 1+1 MBA
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:
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 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.
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 MSc, 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.
The department runs two seminar series – one on social policy and one on social intervention – 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. DPhil students also belong to one of the research groups, an opportunity to explore themed areas in more depth with colleagues with similar interests.
The department has its own IT provision and specialist IT support staff. The department’s IT committee is responsible for the oversight of IT provision. You will have access to the Bodleian Social Science Library, in addition to other University libraries, and the centrally provided electronic resources. Some college libraries, such as the Nuffield College Library, may also be open to graduate research students on request.
The department has a common room open to both staff and students. Barnett House Thursdays - coffee mornings - are held weekly and these occasions provide excellent opportunities for talking to academics and research staff, and fellow students.
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).
Annual fees for entry in 2018-19
Total annual fees
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.
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.
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.
The following colleges accept students on the MSc in Comparative Social Policy:
How to apply
You are not expected to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply.
The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:
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:
Up to 1,000 words
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 evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study and the ability to present a reasoned case in English.
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 the work does not need to relate directly to the proposed subject of study. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.
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; ability of analytical thinking; powers of analysis and 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.