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 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 growth and structural change, political economy and institutions, globalisation, behavioural economics, education, risk and microfinance. Students typically follow four or five out of eight modules offered.
A central component of the course is a 10,000-word 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.
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 as well as writing 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.
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.
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.
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 Department for International Development. Many others work in the international NGO sector and for major consultancies.
‘The MSc provided me with the technical skills and professional confidence to contribute within international development, plus a network of colleagues from diverse backgrounds dedicated to improving the lives of people around the world.’ (Joevas Asare, graduated 2015)
‘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.
Changes to this course and your supervision
The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. In certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.
Other courses you may wish to consider
If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.
All graduate courses offered by the Oxford Department of International Development
Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in 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 mentioned 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 requirement
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement.
Detailed requirements - higher level
The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are:
|IELTS Academic||7.5||Minimum 7.0 per component|
Minimum component scores:
|Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced||191||Minimum 185 per component|
|Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency||191||Minimum 185 per component|
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.
Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
After an offer is made
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements:
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) ranked top in development studies in the UK’s 2014 Research Excellence Framework 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 Library and the satellite 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 WebLearn, the University’s Virtual Learning Environment.
Teaching takes place in ODID’s seminar rooms, and 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.
There are over 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.
Annual fees for entry in 2020-21
Annual Course fees
|Home/EU (including Islands)||£22,050|
Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.
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 college accommodation during this period. The department estimates that accommodation will cost between £100 and £200 depending on the college and the type of accommodation. Also as part of your course requirements, you will 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 course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.
The following colleges accept students on the MSc in Economics for Development:
How to apply
It is not necessary for you to make contact with potential supervisors or other academic members of staff before you apply. New MSc students are informed about their supervisor during their induction sessions.
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:
500 to 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.
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 of between 2,000 and 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). 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.
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 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.
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.