MSc in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation | University of Oxford
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MSc in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation

About the course

The MSc in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation (EBSIPE) emphasises research methods for evaluating interventions and policies, as well as the advanced study of evidence-based practice and policy in relation to, for example, children and families, poverty and inequality, mental health, refugees, drug use, violence and injury prevention, and offending. It aims to develop your critical analysis, problem solving and research skills in the field of evidence-based interventions and policies for social problems, which will allow you to be both a critical consumer of research and to carry out evaluations and other research designs.

The MSc is designed for students with a specific interest in understanding the effectiveness of policies, such as regulations concerning alcohol and drug abuse or gun control, public health or poverty policies, and social interventions, such as cash transfers, parenting education, or violence prevention programs. It prepares students for a career in, for example, development, public policy, or policy and programme evaluation. Applicants with a professional background, such as those in evaluation, public health or policy consulting, will enhance their research skills and develop a major piece of research in a world-class environment.

Course structure

The MSc has five major components:

  • core course on evaluation methods
  • pathway course, either Social Intervention or Policy Evaluation
  • specialist option, eg Children and Families, Social Policies and Health Inequalities, or Community Analysis and Large-Scale Interventions
  • research methods training (Quantitative and Qualitative Methods, R-Programming, Systematic Reviews)
  • MSc thesis.

During the first and second terms, the majority of learning is classroom-based, complemented by independent reading, tutorials, and formative and summative assessments. The third term involves largely self-directed study for remaining summative assessments, exam revision, and further development of the MSc thesis; additional lectures and question/answer are typically offered on an optional basis to support students in preparing for exams and using various methodologies for thesis projects.

Core course in evaluation methods

This course, taken over two terms, trains students to critically consume and produce evaluation research for policies and social interventions, focusing on multiple methods, including randomised controlled trials and quasi-randomised methods, qualitative evaluation and systematic review methods. The course has a strong focus on ‘open science’ and research transparency.

Pathway course

You will select one of two available pathways, to be taken over two terms. Whichever pathway you take, you will write a 10,000-word thesis on a topic agreed with your supervisor. The thesis is undertaken throughout the duration of the course. 

The two pathways are:

  • Social Intervention, covering evidence-based methods to evaluate social interventions, theories underlying interventions, ethical issues, and applying research in practice and policy, including the challenges of implementing programmes in the real world; or
  • Policy Evaluation, introducing you to social policy analysis, policy formation, and the relationship between evidence and policy, and to different research methods for evaluating policies, eg quasi- experimental designs, natural experiments

You may be able to change your choice of pathway in the first week of the programme.

Specialist options

You will take a one-term specialist courses from a list of options which may include Children and Families, Social Policies and Health Inequalities, Community Analysis and Large-Scale Interventions.

MSc students may attend advanced methods classes, such as Intermediate Statistics, in their second term.

Research methods training

Students following the social intervention or policy evaluation pathway take a core evaluation methods course. In addition, all students in the MSc EBSIPE take the following methods courses:

  • systematic reviews, quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods, ie to learn to synthesise the best available evidence (2 terms)
  • quantitative methods, ie key statistical concepts and application in the leading software, R (1 term)
  • qualitative research methods, ie design, data collection, analysis and qualitative meta-synthesis (1 term)
  • field methods, ie managing, costing and running real-world evaluations.

Specialist interdisciplinary training in systematic reviews has led to published masters' theses, for example: 

Supervision

For this course it is the responsibility of the Department of Social Policy and Intervention and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Students are able to meet their potential supervisor in the first week of term. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department of Social Policy and Intervention.

In the case of students who require specific help to adjust to an academic programme or to a new range of skills, the supervisor will work with them to ensure that they have additional support.

Assessment

Whichever pathway you take, you will write a 10,000-word thesis on a topic agreed with your supervisor. The thesis is undertaken throughout the duration of the course. You will also be assessed on a series of five research methods assignments (“summative assessments”) and two three-hour written examination papers.

Graduate destinations

Recent graduates from the Master’s programme have gone on to study for doctorates in a range of high quality universities. Many graduates go on to pursue academic careers in world-leading research universities, while others hold influential positions in government, non-governmental and international organisations, such as the World Bank, J-PAL, World Health Organisation and UN agencies.

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.

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 2021-22

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

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.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, a bachelor’s degree with a minimum overall GPA of 3.5 out of 4.0, or 4.0 out of 5.0 is sought.

There is no requirement on subject area and students from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds are considered.

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.

Further guidance

  • Quantitative methods and statistics: Prior training in statistics or quantitative research methods is not a requirement. However, a large component of the course is training in quantitative methods; this entails both statistics and statistical programming in R. All modules start at an introductory level; however, students benefit strongly from familiarising themselves with basic statistical concepts, e.g., correlation, least square regressions and statistical significance. It is essential that students familiarise themselves with the R programming language and RStudio software before starting the course. The summer pre-course reading list will make recommendations for open-source self-study materials.
  • Publications: Publications are not expected.
  • Doctoral study: To continue to a DPhil after the MSc, candidates would normally be expected to gain a mark of at least 65% for both the written exams and the thesis. The department's Graduate Studies Committee will also consider the clarity and viability of the research proposal and the availability of appropriate supervision.

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.

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. 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.

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

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.

Supervision

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: 

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

The department runs two seminar series during the year providing the opportunity to hear external expert speakers. In addition, there is a fortnightly colloquium at which members of the department present and discuss their research, creating an excellent chance for staff and students to learn more about each others’ ideas or receive input on their own research. 

The department provides a computer and workspace room for masters' students and has its own IT provision and specialist IT support staff. Students have access to the University’s high-performance computing environment. Software training in a range of standard and specialist programmes is available through the University IT services. Students are able to book meeting spaces and lecture rooms to organise study groups.

MSc students have access to the world-leading Bodleian Social Science Library, in addition to other University libraries and centrally provided electronic resources that give access to the majority of academic journals published. 

The department has a common room open to both staff and students. Barnett House Coffee Mornings are held fortnightly and these occasions provide excellent opportunities for talking to academics and research staff, and also fellow students.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer up to 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2021-22. 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 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 college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages.

Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the department's website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2021-22

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£17,760
Overseas (including EU)£27,460

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 detailed fee status information and the Oxford and the EU webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.

Additional information

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.

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 2021-22 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,175 and £1,710 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 2021-22, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

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 on the MSc in Evidence-based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation:

How to apply

You are not expected to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply.

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.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 1,000 words

Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course and its specific focus on evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in.

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

Please indicate your preference for either the social intervention or policy evaluation pathway. You may use the assessment criteria below as section headings. 

This will be assessed for:

  • commitment to graduate studies in evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation
  • reasons for selecting the department
  • motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study 
  • any relevant practical/applied experience (such as previous jobs)
  • ability to present a reasoned case in English.

Written work:
Two essays, a maximum of 2,500 words each

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible. Sole-authored writing samples are strongly preferred; should you choose to submit co-authored materials, you must have been solely responsible for writing the material submitted to us as a sample. 

The topic of the work does not need to relate directly to the proposed subject of study. Academic essays or articles are preferred to professional or workplace reports. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

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

This will be assessed for:

  • ability to construct and defend an argument
  • ability to explain complex subject matter
  • ability of analytical thinking
  • clarity and accuracy of expression.

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 intellectual ability, academic achievement and motivation for the chosen area of study. Therefore academic references are preferred.

Please ensure you contact your referees well in advance of the application submission deadline to given them sufficient time for the preparation of the references.

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 the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.

Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:

Step 5: Start your application using the relevant button below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application GuideApply

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