About the course
The MSc Education (Higher Education) at the University of Oxford provides a broad introduction to the complex field of theories and practice in higher education globally.
The increasing significance of university rankings, the growing range of international student exchange schemes and public discussion of the ‘vocationalisation’ of degree programmes, are just some of the current issues within higher education in many countries. Debates about the benefits of higher education to graduates, employers and the state underpin considerations of student fees and how they should be funded.
During this full-time course, students will have the opportunity to consider these and other complex issues that university and college leaders, higher education policy-makers and higher education researchers are addressing today. Teaching sessions will combine tutor input and class discussion, plus small group working.
Course members study three core papers which consider national higher education systems and their economic impacts from theoretical, historical and empirical perspectives. Invited speakers will present their own recent research findings, ensuring that the course content reflects live debates and emerging understandings within the field of higher education policy.
In addition to these three pathway-specific core papers, two core papers in research methods develop students’ understanding of key concepts and principles of educational research design and methodology, using quantitative and qualitative methods and data. Students benefit from the expertise available through the Qualitative Methods Hub and the Quantitative Methods Hub at the Department of Education. MSc Education students also choose one assessed option paper from a selection offered by academic staff across the department.
This MSc is aimed at future leaders in the field – academics, policy-makers, researchers and managers. It is assessed through written assignments, a two-hour examination, and a research dissertation. Work towards this dissertation will be supported by practical sessions, that develop themes covered in the research design and methodology lectures, and one-to-one meetings with a supervisor throughout the course.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department of Education. This will be done on the basis of the topic of research and the availability of individual supervisors. It is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department of Education.
The most recent Oxford University Destination of Leavers from Higher Education Survey made contact with 635 master's course students who graduated from the Department of Education between 2012 and 2014. Fully 90.2% of alumni were in work and 5.8% in further study with only 2.0% looking for work, ranking the department in the best 3 of the 20 departments in Oxford's Social Sciences Division.
Past master's and DPhil students from the Department of Education have gone on to academic and research careers at a range of universities in the UK and across the world, or are employed across a wide range of other sectors such as policy for government departments or NGOs, international organisations such as OECD, think tanks and administration at local and national levels. The department’s ‘Conversations with Alumni’ feature includes interviews with two DPhil alumni on their 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. 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.
Courses suggested by the department
All graduate courses offered by the Department of Education
Oxford 1+1 MBA programme
This course can be studied as a part of the Oxford 1+1 MBA programme. The Oxford 1+1 MBA programme is a unique, two-year graduate experience that combines the depth of a specialised, one-year master’s degree with the breadth of a top-ranking, one-year MBA.
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 a relevant subject, preferably in the social sciences.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.6 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
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
Publications are not expected.
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 normally held as part of the admissions process.
Candidates will be shortlisted based on academic ability, potential and fit of interests with the course content. Interviews for shortlisted candidates are normally held 2-6 weeks after the closing date of the admissions round. They are conducted by two interviewers, in person or using Skype video-conferencing, and will focus on your academic background. You may be asked to outline your research interests and how these might be developed during the dissertation element of the course. You may also be asked about your reasons for wanting to study in this area and the reasons why this particular course is of interest to you.
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 Oxford University Department of Education (OUDE) has been making a major contribution to the field of education for over 100 years and the department has a world class reputation for research, for teacher education and for its master's and doctoral programmes. OUDE combines international standing as a research-intensive department with the highest quality teaching.
In the 2014 evaluation of research quality in UK universities, the Research Excellence Framework (REF), OUDE was the top-ranked Department of Education in the UK. The department has ESRC recognition for its graduate training, and its teacher training was rated ‘outstanding’ by the Office for Standards in Education (OfSTED) in its most recent inspection in 2019.
Research in the department is organised around three major themes:
- Language, Cognition and Development
- Policy, Economy and Society
- Learning: Pedagogy, Learning and Knowledge.
Within each of these themes there are several research groups and centres. All staff and doctoral students belong to one or more of these research groups, each of which has its own seminar programme to which graduate students often contribute. In addition, the department as a whole sponsors regular seminars and public lectures which attract distinguished national and international speakers.
The Bodleian Education Library, located at the centre of the Department of Education, specialises in material on education and related fields. As well as a print collection of books, journals and statistics, the library provides access to a wide range of electronic resources. The library also houses a collection of teaching resources, primarily in support of subjects covered by the department's secondary PGCE course. The Social Sciences Library provides valuable additional resource to students pursuing programmes in the Department of Education.
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)||£13,075|
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.
There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs. However, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.
In addition to your 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 Education (Higher Education):
How to apply
Supervisors will be allocated by the department and it is not necessary for you to contact academic members of staff directly.
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.
One to two pages
Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in.
This will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying to this particular course
- the areas of study in the subject which interest you
- your relevant academic, research and/or practical experience and how these relate to the course and your proposed MSc dissertation project
- what you want to achieve from the programme you are applying for
- your future aspirations, ie where you will take what you have learnt from the course
- the nature of the research project that you hope to undertake for your MSc dissertation (if you have ideas about this).
Two essays of 2,000 words each
Academic essays or other writing samples, written in English, are required. Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible, in which case it is important to clearly indicate that the submitted text is part of a longer piece of writing.
You may submit written work previously completed for a prior course of study if the topic is relevant ie an assignment or chapter of a dissertation etc, provided it meets the requirements. Please clearly indicate for what purpose the piece was originally written.
If you do not have any existing material that fits this requirement, we would suggest that you may like to critique an article or write a book review based on the course subject.
The written work should be related to the course, and should be on two separate topics. The word count should include any bibliography or brief footnotes.
This will be assessed for understanding of the subject area, an ability to construct and defend an argument, an understanding of relevant conventions of academic writing and referencing, and proficiency in academic English.
References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, all of which must usually 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.
One of your references should be from your most recent academic tutor. If you are currently in employment, you would be expected to provide a reference from your employer alongside academic references which comment on your academic suitability for the course.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and ability to work in a group.
Start or continue an application
Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.
Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.
Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.
Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.
Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).