MSc in Economics for Development
About the course
This is a nine-month degree in development economics with a strong emphasis on bringing methods of modern economic analysis to economic development theory and policy. The course will prepare you for further academic research or for work as a professional development economist in international agencies, governments or the private sector.
The course seeks to cultivate the analytical and critical skills relevant to economic development, in particular those needed to assess alternative approaches to policy. It provides the rigorous quantitative training that development work now requires, helping you develop the ability to access, process and interpret a variety of data. It aims to provide the research tools and approaches needed for those who wish to proceed to doctoral research in development economics.
You will take courses in economic theory (split between macroeconomics, microeconomics and international trade), a course in quantitative methods (ie econometrics) and a series of elective modules in development economics. Topics vary from year to year. In recent years, modules have covered topics such as agriculture, political economy and institutions, globalisation, macro-finance, risk and microfinance. Students typically follow four or five out of eight modules offered.
A central component of the course is a dissertation written on a subject which you choose in consultation with your supervisor and with the agreement of your Course Director. More information on the structure of the course is available in the course handbook on the departmental website’s course page.
Teaching and learning
The course is taught through lectures and classes and, for the development modules, student presentations. The quantitative methods course also includes hands-on training in the use of specialist statistical software. Class sizes are small – usually between 5 and 30 students – encouraging active participation and enabling students to learn from each other.
During the course you will be required to complete a number of problem sets and write essays for individual supervisors (the tutorial system). This system is used to build critical and analytical skills and is particularly beneficial to students from a different background of instruction.
Around 65% - 75% of a your time will be spent on lectures and guided study, with the remaining 25% - 35% devoted to self-directed work, much of which will be spent on your dissertation.
The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Oxford Department of International Development, in conjunction with the Department of Economics, and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff.
You will be allocated a general supervisor who will support your academic development and with whom you will meet regularly throughout the course. Allocation is based on your research interests, optimal fit with the supervisor’s expertise, and staff availability. In cases where dissertation supervision requires expertise that is not available among the core staff, an additional dissertation supervisor with expertise in the chosen field will be identified. In addition, you will have a college advisor whom you may consult on issues concerning your personal wellbeing.
On-course assessment, which will not count towards your final degree, will be provided through feedback on problem sets and essays. In addition there will be five informal examinations during the year. Again, these will not count towards your final degree but they will provide an invaluable opportunity to assess your progress and for you to practise exam technique.
The degree is formally assessed through examination at the end of the summer term. This comprises four written papers: microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory and international trade, quantitative methods, and development economics. The dissertation will be submitted before the examinations and your final mark will be aggregated from the results of the examinations and the dissertation.
Approximately one third of MSc graduates proceed to doctoral research in economics, usually two to three in Oxford, either immediately or after work experience in the field. Significant numbers are also now working in the major international financial institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF and the UN system, as well as in the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. Many others work in the international NGO sector and for major consultancies. Read more about the kinds of careers the department’s students pursue on the ODID Alumni page.
‘This MSc programme is unique not only because of its structure and teaching approach but also because of its student diversity, which makes the learning experience truly exceptional.’ -- Claudia-Dominique Geiser, graduated 2018.
‘The course was challenging, but it was great to learn so much in a short space of time. It was also a great opportunity to be part of a close knit cohort of students from many different countries, and to engage with the wider research in economics, international development and other departments in Oxford.’ -- Annie Gregoire, graduated 2019.
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.
Courses suggested by the faculty
Public Policy MPP
All graduate courses offered by the Oxford Department of International Development
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 a very strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in economics.
However, entrance to the course is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.
Applicants whose first degree contains little or no economics cannot be considered for this course. The minimum requirement is the equivalent of two years of full-time study at university level of economics courses (please note that courses in finance, planning, business, management and other similar subjects do not count as economics courses). Some mathematical and quantitative ability is essential for this course.
If your first degree contains too little economics for the MSc, but you nonetheless wish to study development at Oxford, you may wish to consider the two-year MPhil in Economics or the two-year MPhil in Development Studies.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.8 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
You must submit a recent Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score. There is no specified minimum GRE score, and these scores are only used to provide useful comparative information in the admissions process, especially for students coming from non-UK institutions.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- Relevant experience in developing countries is desirable but is not at all essential.
- An ability to work both independently and in groups is essential.
- Publications are not expected or required for admission, but any can be listed on the CV.
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 University of Oxford is widely recognised as one the world’s foremost teaching and research centres in development economics and development studies. The Oxford Department of International Development (ODID) is an international leader in teaching and research in development while the Department of Economics is one of Europe’s leading research departments, particularly in the fields of trade and development.
As a student on the course you will be able to attend a wide range of public seminars organised within both ODID and the Economics Department, in particular the seminars run by the Centre for the Study of African Economies. Beyond the immediate degree, Oxford offers a great variety of events, including seminars and lectures by distinguished academics and policy-makers in related fields.
The Social Sciences Library, the largest freestanding social science library in the UK, is nearby. This is complemented by the world-class resources of the Bodleian Libraries. As alumni of the University, students can sign up for lifetime access to key online journals.
You will have access to high-quality IT facilities and will be provided with licences for econometric and data-analysis software. Most students choose to bring their own laptop computers and to use these for data analysis, but ODID provides hot-desking areas with desktop computers and printing, as well as wireless internet access. Technical support is available through ODID and the Economics Department, your college and the University’s IT Services, which also offers training courses. Course materials are available online via Canvas, the University’s Virtual Learning Environment.
Teaching takes place in seminar rooms in ODID or the Manor Road Building. In ODID there is a common room area where students from all the department's courses can gather. Light lunches in the Cafeteria are available during term.
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 following faculty websites:
- Funding information from the Oxford Department of International Development
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.
Where can I find further information about fees?
The Fees and Funding section of this website provides further information about course fees, including information about fee status and eligibility and your length of fee liability.
You must attend a pre-sessional Maths course in the week before the MSc in Economics for Development begins. There is no charge for the course, but you will need to pay for accommodation and living expenses during this period. The department estimates that this accommodation will cost between £200 and £350 depending on the college and the type of accommodation. Also as part of your course requirements, you will 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 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 MSc in Economics for Development:
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?
New MSc students are informed about their supervisor during their induction sessions.
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, 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 academic ability, motivation and suitability for your chosen programme of study and any other information you consider to be relevant to your application. Academic references are required.
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:
A minimum of 500 words up to a maximum of 1,000 words
Your statement should be written in English and should indicate what areas of study in the subject interest you and in what ways you believe the MSc might contribute to your career development plans.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed with respect to your interests in development economics, including the strength of your academic interest in development, previous background in developing countries, and/or the breadth of your preparation for the course.
Two essays, a minimum of 2,000 words to a maximum of 4,000 words each
You should submit two pieces of written work from your most recent qualification, written in English, of between 2,000 and 4,000 words each (excluding bibliographies and brief footnotes).
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
These should be economic essays/term-papers or extracts from a longer piece of academic work (such as a thesis or dissertation).If you are submitting the latter, you should make it clear to the Admissions Committee that this is an extract, and where it has come from. Please do not submit more than one extract from the same longer piece of work. Multi-authored works are not acceptable.
If your most recent qualification did not require academic essays, consider writing fresh pieces of academic work, in English, for the application. Your submissions will allow the Admissions Committee to assess your ability to undertake economic analysis and also your ability to write analytic essays in English.
GRE General Test results
You must submit a recent Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score. If you do not have a recent GRE certificate and are not able to take the test before the application deadline, you may send the certificate as soon as possible after the deadline. There is no specified minimum GRE score, and these scores are only used to provide useful comparative information in the admissions process, especially for students coming from non-UK institutions.
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.