MSc in Public Policy Research
About the course
The MSc in Public Policy Research is a one-year taught degree course that offers an outstanding education on how to conduct robust, applied and impactful research that informs and influences public policy.
The MSc will give you a keen understanding of the relationship between research evidence and other major influences on the public policy process, such as ideologies and institutions; you will be able to design and undertake a range of policy-relevant research methods to the highest standards; and you will be skilled in effectively communicating research findings to a wide range of audiences including policymakers and the general public.
The curriculum for the course is delivered via a series of lectures, seminars and workshops across three terms.
The current curriculum includes the following elements:
- Theories and Approaches in Public Policy Research
- Research in a Public Policy Context
- Research Design
- Statistics for Public Policy
- Qualitative Methods
- Thesis Development Seminars
- Option module
In the first term, a foundational module in Theories and Approaches in Public Policy Research will enable you to learn how concepts and theories help researchers to identify and define public policy problems, construct explanations about causes and effects, and generate applied research questions and hypotheses that can be tested empirically to tackle real-world problems. You will begin working on your thesis, initially focusing on the development of a research proposal, on an applied public policy problem.
In the second term, you will take an innovative foundational module on Research in a Public Policy Context aimed at providing you with an understanding of the constraints and opportunities that exist in research in government, as distinct from research in academia. You will also learn how research evidence sits alongside other types of influence on the public policy process; and be provided with the skills necessary to conduct and communicate robust research that informs policy design and implementation.
You will complete a module in Research Design and Methods in the first and second terms comprising three linked sub-modules on:
- Research Design
- Statistics for Public Policy
- Qualitative Methods for Public Policy Research.
In addition, you will continue working on the research for your thesis.
In the third term, you will take an option module that enables you to explore in depth a particular public policy topic of your choice, selected from the wide range of option modules that are offered each year to students on the Blavatnik School's Master of Public Policy. Some of these options are taught by the School’s faculty, but more than half are taught by world leading academic experts from other departments in Oxford or expert practitioners.
Finally, you will write a thesis and produce an accompanying policy brief that distils insights from the research for decision-makers in government. The thesis will be supervised by a member of the Blavatnik School faculty or an academic working in a policy-focused research group or centre elsewhere in Oxford. In addition to the academic supervisor, you will also be assigned a policy advisor from a public policy organisation to provide advice and feedback on the research from a practitioner perspective.
Public Policy 1+1 programme
You may also opt to apply for the Master of Public Policy (MPP) at the same time as applying for the MSc in Public Policy Research as part of the Public Policy 1+1 programme. This two-year programme enables you to be accepted onto both degrees at the same time.
In order to be considered for the Public Policy 1+1 you must submit separate applications for the Master of Public Policy (MPP) and the MSc in Public Policy Research in the same admission cycle. You should follow the instructions in the How to apply section of each course page, paying particular attention to the personal statement and written work requirements for each course. You should state clearly that you wish to be considered for the Public Policy 1+1 programme in your personal statement.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Blavatnik School of Government and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming students to work with a particular member of staff. A supervisor may be found outside the Blavatnik School of Government.
You will meet with your academic supervisor to discuss the progress of your studies; they will help you to identify your research topic, devise an important and researchable question, formulate and execute an appropriate research design, and produce a methodologically sound and impactful thesis. The Blavatnik School of Government will assign supervisors at the start of the year on the basis of the intellectual and policy interests expressed by students.
In addition to the academic supervisor, you will benefit from advice on the development of your thesis provided by a senior official from a public policy organisation in a relevant area who will act as your policy advisor. It is recommended that all students meet with their supervisors at least once a term.
You will undertake a mixture of types of summative assessment (eg essay, policy memo, short research proposal, presentation, practical data exercise), reflecting the breadth of the material being taught and the skillset required of public policy research professionals. You will also complete formative work to provide practice opportunities for each type of summative assessment, and to build a repertoire of practical research skills that will assist with completing your thesis and prove attractive to future employers. The scheduling of summative assignments has been designed to be stretching but realistic for students, to spread the workload across the year, and to support progression of the thesis, from conception through to analysis and write-up.
It is anticipated that graduates from the MSc in Public Policy Research will be well-equipped for research and related jobs in government, quasi-governmental agencies, state and local governments, international organisations, not-for-profit organisations, charities and pressure groups. The MSc also provides research training for our DPhil in Public Policy (though completing the MSc does not guarantee acceptance onto our DPhil).
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 Blavatnik School of Government
Public Policy 1+1 programme
This course can be studied as part of the Public Policy 1+1 programme. The Public Policy 1+1 programme is a two year graduate programme for motivated and talented public policy professionals that combines the school's transformative flagship programme – the Master of Public Policy (MPP) and the school's new MSc in Public Policy Research. Candidates will receive individual awards for each of the two programmes.
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 in any discipline; and
- a master's degree in public policy, normally with distinction (70%+) or merit (65% to 69%). This may be either Oxford's Master of Public Policy (MPP) with its professional, leadership and academic components, or a master's degree from another institution that is equivalent in all elements.
If you are applying for the Public Policy 1+1 programme, you may apply for this course without having completed or enrolled on the Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree course (or equivalent).
Applicants should have an outstanding academic record with exceptionally high academic results throughout, or should show an impressive upward trajectory in performance. This may be further evidenced by scholarships or prizes awarded because of academic abilities/achievements or glowing academic references ranking you at the very top of your peer group.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is usually 3.7 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 may submit the results of a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test, though these are not required to complete your application.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
The MSc in Public Policy Research is aimed at individuals who want to pursue a career in applied research that seeks to inform and improve public policy. It is designed for graduates who have completed our MPP or an equivalent professional taught master’s degree. This is because the MSc builds upon pre-existing knowledge that candidates must have about the public policy process, training in leadership and the core skills of policymaking and implementation.
We aim to select people from around the world who show a commitment to improving public policy through conducting, synthesising and disseminating applied, impactful research.
Academic and analytical excellence
We are looking for academically outstanding individuals who have the analytical ability to undertake rigorous, impactful research in public policy, and who already have the full training of the MPP with its professional, leadership and academic components (or equivalent in all elements), normally with Distinction (70%+) or Merit (65% to 69%).
Strong commitment to public service
We are looking for people who can demonstrate that they are committed to addressing public policy and governance issues and who are motivated to make a difference.
Clear motivation to improve public policy through research
We are looking for people who are motivated to undertake applied and impactful public policy research. Applicants should make clear in their personal statement their policy interests, their commitment to using research to tackle public policy issues and their understanding of the role that research can play in the policymaking process. They should also provide an outline of the policy issue they provisionally wish to research for their MSc thesis and the methods they anticipate using to do so.
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 may be 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.
There are study spaces available in the Blavatnik School building, some of which can be pre-booked.
Students also have access to the student common room, in addition to the communal facilities such as the café and the Inamori Forum. The school runs an extensive range of events and brings public policy leaders to the school to inspire and mentor students.
The Blavatnik School does not have its own library because most reading material is made available electronically. However, students can choose to study in a number of the University’s many excellent libraries as well as at their college library.
The Blavatnik School benefits from its own ICT team, which provides support and advice to students. Students are expected to bring their own laptop.
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 school'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.
If your application is successful, you will be asked to pay a deposit against your course fees at the application stage as a condition of your offer. The deposit amount and date by which payment must be made are shown below.
Amount of deposit
Date by which deposit must be paid
|£5,850||31 May 2023|
The department's website provides further information about deposits for this course.
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 and vaccination expenses, conference attendance, 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.
If you are applying for the Public Policy 1+1 programme and wish to state a college preference, you will need to choose a college from the list of colleges that accept applicants for the Public Policy 1+1 programme.
MSc in Public Policy Research
The following colleges accept students for study on this course:
Public Policy 1+1 programme
The following colleges accept students for this course when studied as part of the Public Policy 1+1 programme:
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.
General enquiries should be directed to the graduate studies administrator via the contact details provided on this page.
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, two of which must be academic with the final reference being either academic or professional
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 be assessed for:
- your intellectual ability
- your academic achievement
- your motivation and interest in the course and subject area
- your ability to work effectively both in a group and independently.
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.
Personal statement and research proposal
Statement of up to a maximum of 800 words and proposal of up to a maximum of 1,500 words
Please supply a personal statement and a separate research proposal combined into a single document as part of your application. Both pieces must be written entirely in English.
Personal statement (maximum 800 words)
You should explain why you want to do the MSc, how your experience to date prepares you for the course, and how the MSc would enhance your future plans. Please also outline your specific policy interests and the skills and experience you would bring to the classroom.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
You may also use your personal statement to explain any special circumstances relating to any element of your application that you wish to bring to the attention of the assessors.
If you would like to be considered for the Public Policy 1+1 programme you should state this clearly in your personal statement (in addition to making a separate application for both courses). You will need to upload a separate personal statement specific to each application when you apply. Details on what should be included in each personal statement can be found in the How to apply section of each course page.
The personal statement should be written in English and will be used to assess:
- your commitment to public service
- your commitment to improving public policy through research
- your general suitability for the MSc programme.
Your statement will also be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying
- your ability to present a coherent case in proficient English
- your commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
- your preliminary knowledge of the subject area and research techniques
- your capacity for sustained and intense work
- reasoning ability
- your ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.
Research proposal (maximum 1,500 words)
The short research proposal will be used only to help the Admissions Team assess applications for the MSc. The topic could be the one that you anticipate investigating for the research thesis or another topic in which you are especially interested.
The proposal should briefly describe the policy problem to be researched, outline a research question to be investigated and propose the methods that would be employed to answer the research question (eg, what sort of data do you want to make use of, how will you collect it and how do you envisage analysing it).
The research proposal must not under any circumstances exceed 1,500 words. Bibliographic references are not included in the word count.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
Your proposal will be assessed for:
- the coherence of your proposal
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
- your ability to present a reasoned case in proficient English
- commitment to the subject beyond the requirements of the degree course
- ability to undertake applied research projects
- your capacity for sustained independent work
- reasoning ability.
One essay, a maximum of 1,500 words
You are required to submit a policy brief or policy analysis essay on a pressing policy issue. This must be entirely your own work and written in English. You must not submit work which was produced in conjunction with others. You should also appropriately reference your work, using the university’s guidance on referencing.
The word count must be adhered to and displayed clearly at the end of the body of written work. The total word count should exclude any footnotes, annotations or bibliography used.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
Submitted work should have a clearly defined topic of investigation and should not attempt to sustain broad and sweeping generalisations. You may also wish to consider how policy within your chosen area is made, implemented, and evaluated, as well as how innovative solutions may be formulated using these insights.
Choosing a suitable topic and style of written work forms part of this assessment and is therefore left to your discretion. You are encouraged to choose the format that you find best presents your analytical ability. Similarly, as there is no set topic range, you are encouraged to choose a topic that you are passionate about but where you also have sufficient knowledge to present a succinct and coherent argument.
This written piece will be assessed on the ability to write clearly and concisely, construct an argument, gather and present evidence, exercise critical thought and draw policy-focused conclusions. The written work you submit should therefore demonstrate your academic and analytical ability and your suitability for the programme.
For the MSc in Public Policy Research, your written work will be assessed for:
- a comprehensive understanding of the subject area, including problems and developments in the subject
- your ability to construct and defend an argument
- your aptitude for analysis and expression
- your ability to present a reasoned case in proficient academic English.
If you are applying as part of the Public Policy 1+1 programme, you may use the same essay for both your Master of Public Policy MPP and MSc in Public Policy Research applications. You should check the How to apply section of each course page to ensure that the document fulfils the assessment criteria for both courses. You will need to upload the document to each application when you apply.
Detection of plagiarism
Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered under this definition. Plagiarism may be intentional or reckless, or unintentional. The test for determining if plagiarism has taken place is quite simple: has material been included in this piece of work without adequate referencing? If the answer to this is ‘yes’, then plagiarism has occurred. Therefore, when taking information from a source it is important that the source is fully acknowledged.
Plagiarism and collusion are serious offences and in order to protect the credibility of the application process applicants are required to submit an electronic copy of their work. All applications are put through plagiarism detection software to identify applicants submitting an application that is not their own original work. More information about plagiarism can be found on our plagiarism page.
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.