About the course
The MSc by Research in Statistics resembles a doctorate in that it involves writing a thesis on a research project, but in contrast the process is designed to take a minimum of one year, up to a maximum of three years. There are no required lectures, classes or written examinations. It can be in any of the subject areas for which for which supervision is available.
The Department of Statistics in the University of Oxford is a world leader in research in probability, bioinformatics, mathematical genetics and statistical methodology, including computational statistics and machine learning. Oxford’s Mathematical Sciences submission came first in the UK on all criteria in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) and in 2016 the department moved to a newly-refurbished building in the centre of Oxford.
Much of the department's research is either explicitly interdisciplinary or draws its motivation from application areas, ranging from biology and physics to the social sciences. The department is also part of the Oxford Warwick Statistics Programme (OxWaSP), an EPSRC and MRC Centre for Doctoral Training in next-generational statistical science.
You will be assigned a named supervisor or supervisors, who will have overall responsibility for the direction of your work on behalf of the department. You will have the opportunity to interact with fellow students and other members of your research groups, and more widely across the department. Typically, as a research student you should expect to have meetings with your supervisor or a member of the supervisory team with a frequency of at least once every two weeks averaged across the year. The regularity of these meetings may be subject to variations according to the time of the year, and the stage you are at in your research programme.
There is a formal assessment of progress on the research project at around twelve months. The MSc by Research thesis is expected to be submitted for examination during the second or third year of the programme and there will be a viva voce examination.
You will be expected to acquire transferable skills as part of your training and to prepare a research poster or give a research presentation each year in the department.
Initially, you will be admitted as a Probationer Research Student in the same way as those intending to do a DPhil. Thus it may be possible to switch between the two. The same standards are applied for admission for the two degrees. Few students opt for the MSc by Research, and in most cases the decision is due to limitations on the period for which they have time or funding available.
MSc by Research in Statistics graduates often pursue further studies or employment in areas using statistics.
- MSc in Statistical Science
- DPhil in Statistics
- Statistical Science (EPSRC and MRC Centre for Doctoral Training)
Changes to the course
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. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.
Entry requirements for entry in 2017-18
Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:
1. Academic ability
Proven and potential academic excellence
Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in an appropriate subject. You will need a strong background in mathematics or statistics.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.6 out of 4.0.
However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree of the equivalent.
If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other appropriate indicators will include:
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(s)
Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.
Interviews are held as part of the admissions process for applicants who, on the basis of the written application, best meet the selection criteria. Interviews may be held in person or by telephone or Skype, normally with at least two interviewers.
The interviews last about 45 minutes and include questions about motivation as well as questions from the proposed research area.
Publications are not expected but can be included with the application.
2. English language requirement
Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the standard level required by the University.
3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places
The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- The ability of the Department of Statistics to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work
- Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.
The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:
- The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Department of Statistics and 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 Statistics.
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, maternity leave or change in employment.
4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties
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.
Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.
Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
6. Other information
Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.
In January 2016, the Department of Statistics moved to a newly-refurbished building in St Giles, near the centre of Oxford. The building has new spaces for study and collaborative learning, including the library and large interaction and social area on the ground floor, as well as an open research zone on the second floor.
You will be provided with a computer and desk space in a shared office.
You will have access to the Department of Statistics’ computing facilities and support, the department’s library (in addition to the nearby Radcliffe Science Library and other university libraries, and the centrally-provided electronic resources) and other facilities appropriate to your research topic. The provision of other resources specific to your research project should be agreed with your supervisor as a part of the planning stages of the agreed project.
The department runs seminar series in statistics and probability. There is also a graduate lecture series, involving snapshots of the research interests of the department. Several journal-clubs run each term, reading and discussing new research papers as they emerge.
Funding is available towards the costs of travel and subsistence for students to attend conferences.
Graduate training is an important part of the department's research mission. As well as the graduate lectures previously mentioned, formal lecture courses are also available, for example from the MSc in Statistical Science, from the fourth-year undergraduate courses in mathematics and statistics, and from the Centres for Doctoral Training. The MPLS Graduate School offers an extensive range of courses for graduate research students throughout the academic year, including academic subjects and skills; research skills and techniques; ethics and intellectual property; transferable, professional and personal effectiveness skills; and communication, interpersonal and teaching skills.
Tea and coffee facilities are provided in the department. There are also opportunities for sporting interaction such as football and cricket. This encourages interaction between research groups in the department. Departmental seminars and colloquia bring research students, together with academic and other research staff, to hear about on-going research, and provide an opportunity for networking and socialising.
There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.
For students applying to programmes within the MPLS Division at Oxford, Research Council and other funding opportunities available, subject to eligibility. These opportunities are included in the Fees, funding and scholarship search.
Annual fees for entry in 2017-18
Total annual fees
The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; 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.
Tuition and college 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 tuition and college fees).
Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.
For more information about tuition fees, college 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 programme that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of research 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 tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2017-18 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £1,002 and £1,471 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.
The following colleges accept students on the MSc by Research in Statistics:
- Balliol College
- Campion Hall
- Christ Church
- Corpus Christi College
- Exeter College
- Green Templeton College
- Jesus College
- Keble College
- Kellogg College
- Lady Margaret Hall
- Linacre College
- Lincoln College
- Magdalen College
- Mansfield College
- Merton College
- New College
- Oriel College
- The Queen's College
- St Anne's College
- St Catherine's College
- St Cross College
- St Edmund Hall
- St Hilda's College
- St Hugh's College
- St Peter's College
- Somerville College
- University College
- Wadham College
- Wolfson College
- Worcester College
How to apply
You are advised to look at the research interests of the department's academic staff at an early stage and make contact with a potential supervisor via email to clarify your proposed research area. If possible, you should suggest one or two potential supervisors in your application.
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.
Up to two pages
Your research proposal should be written in English and should specify the area in which your research interests lie and why you have chosen this area. If you have a particular project in mind, you should describe this and why you are keen to work on this.
However, even if you do not have a detailed project in mind at this stage, what is important is to describe the area. In this case, the description can be very brief but should include your reasons for applying.
The proposal should be brief but should aim to be helpful to the department in the selection process. The overall page count should include any bibliography.
This will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying
- the coherence of the proposal
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study.
References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally 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.
Academic references are strongly encouraged, though a professional reference is acceptable in the exceptional case that the referee is able to offer comparable information on your background and suitability for the course to an academic referee.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and commitment.