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.
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.
This course 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. Your studies will consider 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.
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/assessment 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/assessments 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.
You will select one of two available pathways, to be taken over two terms. Whichever pathway you take, you will write a 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.
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:
2020: ‘Evaluating the impact of penalising the use of mobile phones while driving on road traffic fatalities, serious injuries and mobile phone use: a systematic review’
2018: ‘A cumulative meta-analysis of the effects of individual physical activity interventions targeting healthy adults’
2017: ‘Parenting Programs for the Prevention of Child Physical Abuse Recurrence: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis’
2014: ‘Centre‐based day care for children younger than five years of age in high‐income countries’
2013: ‘Reporting Quality of Social and Psychological Intervention Trials: A Systematic Review of Reporting Guidelines and Trial Publications’
2013: ‘Improving Positive Parenting Skills and Reducing Harsh and Abusive Parenting in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review’
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course 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.
Whichever pathway you take, you will write a thesis on a topic agreed with your supervisor. The thesis is undertaken throughout the duration of the course. You will also be assessed by a series of assessments throughout the year using a combination of examinations and/or submitted coursework assignments (“summative assessments”).
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.
All graduate courses offered by the Department of Social Policy and Intervention
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 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 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.
- 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: We encourage all applicants to consider whether they would be potentially interested in continuing on to pursue a DPhil; if doctoral study following our masters course is something you are considering, please see the further guidance on particular funding competitions for MSc/MPhil+DPhil study.
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 department runs several 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.
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 department's website.
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.
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 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 Evidence-based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation:
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?
You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.
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, academic preferred
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.
If you are currently studying on another graduate course, we strongly suggest that one of your references be from your current academic supervisor.
Please contact your referees well in advance of the application deadline to give sufficient time for references to be prepared and submitted.
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 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.
One essay, a maximum of 2,500 words
An academic essay or other writing sample from your most recent qualification, written in English, is required. An extract of the requisite length from longer work is 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. Please note that internal checks are carried out on all submitted writing samples to ensure compliance with length requirements, and over-length submissions can cause errors or delays.
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.
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.