MSc in Social Science of the Internet + DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences | University of Oxford
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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.

The OII trains social scientists to undertake rigorous theretical and empirical research in the study of the Internet and technology.

During your MSc year 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. You will take a combination of core and option papers and produce a dissertation of up to 15,000 words on a topic of your choosing (supported by a dissertation supervisor). The dissertation provides the opportunity to apply the methods and approaches you have covered in the other parts of the course and carry out a substantive piece of academic research.

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.

Graduate destinations

Employers recognise the value of a degree from the University of Oxford, and graduates from our programmes have secured excellent positions in industry, government, NGOs, or have gone on to pursue doctoral studies at top universities. 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. MSc alumni have progressed to further graduate study at institutions such as Oxford, Harvard, Princeton and LSE.

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

Other courses in this area

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 2019-20

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

The DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences is also available as a separate programme and students who already possess an excellent taught master's degree may wish to apply for direct admission to the DPhil.

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 subject.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 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).

It is expected that all applicants will hold a taught master's or other advanced degree, normally passed with a mark of at least 67% (or a grade point average GPA of at least 3.5 out of 4.0), or an equivalent level of distinction- normally in one of the social sciences, including law- but candidates from other disciplines embracing the social study of technology will also be considered. 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).

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.

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 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. Interviews can be done in person, by telephone or via Skype with or without video. There is usually only one interview held which lasts 30 to 40 minutes. 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.

Publications

While prior publication is not required, evidence of successful academic publication will be taken into account and may provide the applicant with an advantage.

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.

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 Oxford Internet Institute and collaborating departments 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 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.

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.

It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.

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

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course 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.

Further information about scholarships and funding opportunities available through this academic department and for this course (if applicable) can be found on the department's website. These may include Grand Union DTP ESRC studentships, and in order to be considered for an award you will need to complete the scholarships section of the course application form and submit additional supporting material. The programme’s website provides more details about the application process, as well as any eligibility criteria that may apply.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2019-20

During the first year of the course you will be course fees at the MSc in Social Science of the Internet fee rate.

Annual MSc in Social Science of the Internet fees for the 2019-20 academic year

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£16,415
Overseas£25,387

In each subsequent year, you will be charged course fees at the DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences fee rate. For an indication of costs, the tables below show the DPhil course fees for the 2019-20 academic year.

Annual DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences fees for the 2019-20 academic year

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£11,160
Overseas£23,950

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. You may have seen separate figures in the past for tuition fees and college fees. We have now combined these into a single figure.

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.

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 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

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.

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 2019-20 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,058 and £1,643 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 2019-20, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

Colleges

The following colleges accept students for the MSc in Social Science of the Internet + DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences:

How to apply

The OII recommends that DPhil candidates should contact a potential supervisor(s) in the first instance before submitting an 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.

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

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

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.

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

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.

References/letters of recommendation:
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.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Carefully read the entry requirements on this course page to make sure you meet all the criteria.

Step 2: Check above what documents are required and prepare to apply by reading our Application Guide.

Step 3: Apply as soon as possible. Consult the Application Guide for more information about deadlines.

Application GuideApply

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