Two students working on laptops
Students working in the OII
(Image Credit: Rob Judges Photography)

MSc in Social Science of the Internet + DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences

About the course

The combined MSc Social Science of the Internet and DPhil Information, Communication and the Social Sciences programmes provide an opportunity for highly qualified students to develop the theoretical and methodological toolkit needed to undertake multidisciplinary Internet-related research.

This course is taking part in a continuing pilot programme to improve the selection procedure for graduate applications, in order to ensure that all candidates are evaluated fairly. For this course, the socio-economic data you provide in the application form will be used to contextualise the shortlisting and decision-making processes. For more information see the full details about this pilot.

The Oxford Internet Institute (OII) trains social scientists to undertake rigorous theoretical and empirical research in the study of the Internet and technology.

During your MSc you will be equipped with essential theoretical tools and methodological skills to undertake cutting-edge research in this domain. You are introduced to the empirical evidence necessary for an in-depth understanding of the role of the Internet in society, including the changing nature of governance and the theoretical, practical and ethical questions surrounding Internet use. 

Full-time MSc students will be expected to spend around 40 hours studying each week during term, and to undertake further study and complete assessments during vacations. During Michaelmas and Hilary Terms, MSc students are advised to allocate between 10 and 15 hours each week for each course they undertake. This includes:

  • At least six hours per week on reading, preparation and formative assignments for each core/option course
  • Ten to 12 hours per week in classes (typically one and a half to two hours of lectures per course, plus a one hour seminar or workshop on certain core and methods-based courses).

During the three- to four-year DPhil component, students are expected to produce an important and original piece of scholarship that will make a significant contribution to the dynamic area of Internet research. On completion, you will have the qualities and transferable skills necessary to excel in teaching, research, policymaking or business. The multidisciplinary research OII students undertake ranges across the social sciences, with most projects falling into the following broad themes:

  • digital knowledge and culture
  • digital politics and government
  • education, wellbeing and digital life
  • ethics and philosophy of information
  • information geography and inequality
  • information governance and security
  • Internet economics
  • social data science.

OII faculty work on cutting-edge research in their fields. This innovative research is fully reflected in their teaching and supervision. As a doctoral student at the OII, you will address research questions from across the spectrum of disciplines. You will draw both on the multidisciplinary faculty and on the complementary strengths of your cohort of peers, who are building on literature from different disciplines to answer their research questions. This system allows doctoral students to dig deeply into disciplinary questions in, for instance, politics or sociology, while also being able to place these questions into a broader picture of how the Internet can be theorised and researched.

Please note that the MSc component is also offered separately as the MSc in Social Science of the Internet

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Oxford Internet Institute and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. A supervisor may be found outside of the Oxford Internet Institute.

While an MSc student, you can typically expect to meet with your supervisor 8 to 102 times. Once you have progressed to the DPhil programme, you can normally expect to meet with your supervisor around three to four times a term.

Assessment

During your MSc year, you will take four core papers, three option papers and produce a final thesis on a topic of your choosing based on discussions with a thesis supervisor. Papers are assessed by either written examinations or coursework submissions. Throughout the degree, you will receive regular feedback on formative exercises, assignments and practice essays. Such feedback does not count towards your final mark but prepares you for the formal, summative assessment of each individual paper.

  • Core papers are designed to provide students with a foundation of core skills, methods, theories and concepts required for sophisticated study in the field.
  • Option papers enable students to pursue specialist research skills and develop further in-depth disciplinary expertise and methodological training. With their supervisor students can choose the options and methods that best fit with their future career path and thesis research from a wide selection of courses designed by OII faculty who are leading cutting-edge research in their fields.
  • The thesis is the capstone to the MSc experience. It provides students with the opportunity to apply the methods and approaches they have covered in the other parts of the course and carry out a substantive piece of academic research, including designing a study, carrying out data collection and analysis, and developing a theoretical framework.

Students admitted to the combined MSc + DPhil programme will need to meet the normal admissions requirements and any conditions set to progress to the DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences.

During the DPhil element of the course, all students will be initially admitted to the status of Probationer Research Student (PRS). Within a maximum of four terms as a full-time PRS student, you will be expected to apply for, and achieve, transfer of status from Probationer Research Student to DPhil status. 

A successful transfer of status from PRS to DPhil status will require satisfactory completion of such lectures, seminars and classes as the Graduate Studies Committee of the OII shall determine. Following successful transfer, students will need to apply for and gain confirmation of DPhil status to show that the work continues to be on track. This will need to be completed within nine terms of admission.

Both milestones involve an interview with two assessors (other than your supervisor).

You will be expected to submit an original thesis of not more than 100,000 words three or, at most, four years from the date of admission. To be successfully awarded a DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences you will need to defend your thesis orally (viva voce) in front of two appointed examiners.

Graduate destinations

Employers recognise the value of a degree from the University of Oxford, and graduates from our programmes have secured excellent positions in academia, industry, government and NGOs. For example, non-academic destinations of recent graduates have included large Internet companies such as Google or Facebook, smaller start-ups like Academia.edu, as well as regulatory positions and consultancy. OII DPhil alumni who have pursued academic careers have taken up research and teaching positions at the University of Oxford, Cornell University, University of Hong Kong, Imperial College London, Durham University, University of New South Wales, Coventry University, University of Leicester, University of Ottawa, and Michigan State University. OII DPhil alumni also work in a wide range of organisations including The World Bank, Oxfam, Cisco, McKinsey and Google.

The OII Alumni Page features interviews from both MSc and DPhil alumni about their time at the department and career paths after Oxford.

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.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding 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 2023-24

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

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

  • a first-class undergraduate degree with honours in any subject.

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.

Students admitted to the combined MSc + DPhil programme will need to meet the normal admissions requirements as well as the usual conditions for progression to the DPhil, namely an average mark of at least 67% on the MSc component. 

GRE General Test scores

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

  • Academic research related to social science or experience working in related businesses is not required, but may be an advantage.
  • Strong analytical abilities in understanding the social aspects of the Internet, World Wide Web and related technologies, as shown by the candidate’s writing sample and/or the reports of referees, is required.
  • While prior publication is not required, evidence of successful academic publication will be taken into account and may provide the applicant with an advantage.
  • It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.

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.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.57.0

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

110Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*191185
C2 Proficiency191185

*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.

References

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.

Supporting documents

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 normally held as part of the admissions process.

All applications are reviewed by at least two members of faculty with relevant experience and expertise. Applicants are shortlisted based on the quality of written application. Those who are shortlisted will normally be interviewed.

Interviews are usually held around one month after the application deadline. There is usually only one interview held, which lasts 30 to 40 minutes and can be held via video conferencing software. You will be asked questions about your academic background, your research plan, and why you think the Oxford Internet Institute would be the best place to conduct your studies. The interview panel will consist of at least two interviewers which will normally include the potential supervisor and the DPhil programme director.

Interviews are normally held three to six weeks after the application deadline.

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.

Initiatives to improve access to graduate study

This course is taking part in a continuing pilot programme to improve the selection procedure for graduate applications, in order to ensure that all candidates are evaluated fairly. For this course, the socio-economic data you provide in the application form will be used to contextualise the shortlisting and decision-making processes where it has been provided. Further details about this pilot, which applies to all applicants to this course, can be found in our pilot selection procedures section.

Processing your data for shortlisting and selection

Information about processing special category data for the purposes of positive action and using your data to assess your eligibility for funding, can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

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:

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

In addition to the formal requirements of the DPhil thesis, all OII doctoral students receive regular training in the key professional skills necessary to support their research and future employment. These range from classes on specific tools or skills such as programming in Python or using content analysis software, to more generic training such as presentation skills, academic writing and peer review.

You will attend a weekly seminar (normally convened by the DPhil Programme Director) in which you will present your own work for critique, and critique the work of your peers. The OII also provides opportunities for DPhil students to gain teaching experience through mentored assistantship roles in some of its core MSc courses.

The department's busy calendar of seminars and events brings many of the most important people in Internet research, innovation and policy to the OII, allowing students to engage with the 'bleeding edge' of scholarship and debates around the Internet.

OII students also take full advantage of the substantial resources available at the University of Oxford, including world-leading research facilities and libraries, and a buzzing student scene. The departmental library provides students access to a range of resources. Additionally, the Social Sciences Library provides valuable additional resources which many students choose to take advantage of.

Funding

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 institute's websites: 

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2023-24

During the first year of the course you will be charged course fees at the MSc in Social Science of the Internet fee rate. These fees are shown in the table below.

Annual MSc in Social Science of the Internet (first year) fees for the 2023-24 academic year

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£25,760
Overseas£30,910

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

In each subsequent year, you will be charged course fees at the DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Science fee rate for that year of study. For an indication of costs, the tables below show the annual full-time and part-time DPhil course fees for the 2023-24 academic year.

Annual DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences fees for the 2023-24 academic year

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£13,050
Overseas£28,020

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

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.

Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees and Funding section of this website, which includes detailed fee status information.

Additional information

MSc component

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.

DPhil component

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) 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, 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.

Employment

Whilst many graduate students do undertake employment to support their studies, please remember that it is not recommended that students studying the MSc component of the combined programme take on even part-time employment during term-time. Within these limitations, some of the OII's existing MSc students have been employed on a short-term basis as Research Assistants on grant-funded projects, but only with the agreement of their supervisor, the MSc Course Convener and the Director of Graduate Studies.

Please remember that students who progress to the full-time DPhil programme are subject to limits on the number of hours that may be worked each week. Within these limitations, many of the OII's existing full-time DPhil students have been employed on a short or long-term basis as Research Assistants on grant-funded projects gaining valuable research experience. The OII also offers Teaching Assistant positions on the MSc degree for DPhil students who can display the appropriate skills. In addition, there are employment opportunities within the University (such as teaching, translation, and research assistance) as well as within the OII.

For full information on employment whilst on course, please see the University's paid work guidelines for Oxford graduate students.

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 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.

College preference

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 for the MSc in Social Science of the Internet + DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences:

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. We recommend that you submit your application well in advance - two or three weeks earlier. 

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.

Contacting the department

You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.

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.

Referees:
Three overall, academic and/or professional

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.

Professional references are acceptable, particularly if you have been out of education for some time, but should focus particularly on your intellectual abilities rather than more narrowly on job performance.

Your references will be assessed for:

  • your intellectual ability;
  • your academic achievement; and 
  • your motivation and interest in the course and subject area.

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.

Personal statement and research proposal:
Statement of a maximum of 500 words and a proposal of a maximum of 2,500 words

Your research proposal should be appended to your personal statement and uploaded as one file during the application process.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

Personal statement

Your statement should be written in English and you should submit a convincing personal statement  explaining your reasons for applying to the programme and highlighting your relevant academic and professional experience.

Your statement will be assessed for:

  • interest and enthusiasm for study of in one of OII's broad research themes;
  • evidence of aptitude for working with data-driven research; and
  • alignment of your areas of interest with the availability of supervision, as all students will be assigned a supervisor to guide their research.

Your statement should focus on your academic achievements and interests rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

Research proposal

A coherent thesis proposal is required in an area of study covered by at least one member of the research staff within the Oxford Internet Institute.

The proposal should be submitted in English only. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

Your research proposal will be assessed for:

  • the coherence of your proposal;
  • the relevance of the topic as it relates to the research of the Oxford Internet Institute and collaborating department;
  • the appropriateness of the methods and research design as related to the research question(s); and
  • the overall quality of the project proposed.

It is normal for your ideas to change in some ways as you commence your research and develop your project. However, you should make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.

Your proposal should focus on specific research you propose to undertake rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

Written work:
One essay of 2,000 words

An academic essay or other writing sample from your most recent qualification, written in English, is required. If you have not previously written on areas closely related to the proposed research topic, you may provide written work on any topic that best demonstrates your academic abilities. 

The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes. Extracts of the required length that originally come from longer essays are also acceptable.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

This will be assessed for:

  • a comprehensive understanding of the subject area, including problems and developments in the subject;
  • your ability to construct and defend an argument;
  • your aptitude for analysis and expression; and
  • your ability to present a reasoned case in proficient academic English. 

Start or continue your application

You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please refer to the requirements above and consult our Application Guide for advice. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application Guide Apply

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