MSc in Social Data Science | University of Oxford
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MSc in Social Data Science

About the course

The multidisciplinary MSc in Social Data Science provides the social and technical expertise needed to analyse unstructured heterogeneous data about human behaviour, thereby informing our understanding of the human world. 

Social data generated digitally (from, for example, social media, communications platforms, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, sensors/wearables, and mobile phones) offer a way to accumulate new large-scale data, in addition to existing data that have been converted to digital formats. These data can be put to work helping us understand big issues of crucial interest to the social sciences, industry, and policy-makers including social, economic and political behaviour, interpersonal relationships, market design, group formation, identity, international movement, ethics and responsible ways to enhance the social value of data, and many other topics.

The growing field of social data science involves developing the science of these social data: creating viable datasets out of messy, real world data; and developing the tools and techniques to analyse them to tell us something about the world, through explanation, prediction and the testing of interventions. In this way, social data science offers a data science where the data relates to individual and social behaviour and a social science with generation and analysis of real-time transactional data at its centre.

You will take a combination of core and option papers and produce a dissertation of up to 15,000 words with the support of a dissertation supervisor. The dissertation provides you the opportunity to apply the methods and approaches you have covered in the other parts of the course and carry out a substantive piece of academic research.

In addition to this full-time taught course, the MSc in Social Data Science is also offered as part of a combined taught and research (1+3) programme, for students wishing to continue on to doctoral study (with the DPhil in Social Data Science commencing in the 2020-21 academic year). Applicants interested in the combined programme should consult the MSc + DPhil in Social Data Science course page, which provides information about the course and details of how to apply.

Due to the intensive nature of the taught portion of this course, there is no part-time option available. However, students continuing on to doctoral study have the option of taking a part-time DPhil. 

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Oxford Internet Institute and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Supervision for the MSc in Social Data Science spans multiple departments (please see the full list of faculty members eligible to supervise MSc students for this programme). A supervisor may be found outside the list on the course webpage, and co-supervision is possible. 

Graduate destinations

Employers recognise the value of a degree from the University of Oxford, and graduates from our existing programmes have secured excellent positions in industry, government, NGOs, or have gone on to pursue doctoral studies at top universities. For example, non-academic destinations of recent graduates have included large Internet companies such as Google or Facebook, smaller start-ups like Academia.edu, as well as regulatory positions and consultancy. MSc alumni have progressed to further graduate study at institutions such as Oxford, Harvard, Princeton and LSE.

The OII Alumni Wall features interviews from both MSc and DPhil alumni about their time at the Department and career paths after Oxford.

Changes to this course and your supervision

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. In certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

Courses suggested by the institute

Engineering Science MSc by Research
Statistical Science MSc
Statistics MSc by Research
Sociology MSc
Sociology and Demography MPhil

Oxford 1+1 MBA programme

This course can be studied as a part of the Oxford 1+1 MBA programme. The Oxford 1+1 MBA programme is a unique, two-year graduate experience that combines the depth of a specialised, one-year master’s degree with the breadth of a top-ranking, one-year MBA.

Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • a first-class undergraduate degree with honours in any subject.

In exceptional circumstances, applicants with a distinguished record of workplace achievement since graduation may be accepted with lower grades at first degree level. We nevertheless strongly encourage any applicants from industry to include at least one reference from an academic or someone in academic-related field.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 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

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Applicants are normally expected to demonstrate quantitative aptitude or experience in introductory calculus and matrix algebra, equivalent to, for example:

  • A-levels mathematics
  • Mathematical Studies SL from the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme
  • or Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus AB.

Applicants may demonstrate this aptitude/experience in a variety of ways including:

  • undergraduate transcripts with a strong pass for Probability, Statistics, Linear Algebra, and/or Calculus;
  • an A or A* rating for A-level mathematics;
  • a score of 4 or 5 on the AP Calculus AB or BC exam; or
  • evidence of the successful completion of online courses with similar content.

Applicants are not expected to have published academic work previously, although publication may help the assessors judge your writing ability and thus could help your application.

In almost all cases, Social Data Science will require the use of statistical or programmatic approaches. The OII teaches primarily in the Python programming language. Students in our MSc program will be taught in Python alongside other languages in specific circumstances where applicable. Applicants are not expected to have extensive programming skills in Python but it is strongly encouraged for applicants to have at least a working familiarity with the basics of programming.

Academic research related to data science or experience working in related businesses is not required, but may be an advantage.

Where appropriate, evidence should also be provided of permission to use employers’ data in the proposed research project.

English language requirement

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement.

Detailed requirements - higher level

The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are:

IELTS Academic7.5Minimum 7.0 per component
TOEFL iBT110

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced191Minimum 185 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency191Minimum 185 per component

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide

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 may be held as part of the admissions process, although some students will be admitted without an interview. If a student clearly exceeds all the admission criteria and their proposed research is innovative and can be supervised by faculty of the programme then they may be made an offer without an interview.

If an interview is required, it is normally held three to six weeks after the application deadline. There is usually only one interview held, which lasts up to 30 minutes and can be held via Skype or telephone. You will be asked questions about research interests, future career plans, and why you think this degree programme is the best way to continue your studies.

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 MSc in Social Data Science is offered by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) in partnership with Statistics, Sociology, Engineering Science and other departments. The OII faculty works at the cutting-edge of their fields, and this innovative research is fully reflected in their course teaching. The department prides itself on providing a stimulating and supportive environment in which all students can flourish. As a fully multidisciplinary department, the OII offers you the opportunity to study academic, practical and policy-related issues that can only be understood by drawing on contributions from across many different fields.

The OII's busy calendar of seminars and events showcases many of the most noteworthy people in Internet research, innovation and policy, allowing students to engage with the cutting edge of scholarship and debates around the Internet.

OII students also take full advantage of the substantial resources available at the University of Oxford, including world-leading research facilities and libraries, and a buzzing student scene. The departmental library provides students access to a range of resources including the texts required for the degree. Other University libraries provide valuable additional resources of which many students choose to take advantage.

Funding

There are over 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£22,050
Overseas£28,040

Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

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 will need to choose dissertation, project or thesis topics. 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.

Employment

Whilst many graduate students do undertake employment to support their studies, please remember that it is not recommended that MSc students take on even part-time employment during term-time. Within these limitations, some of the OII's existing MSc students have been employed on a short-term basis as Research Assistants on grant-funded projects, but only with the agreement of their supervisor, the MSc Course Convener and the Director of Graduate Studies.

For full information on employment whilst on course, please see the University's Paid work guidelines.

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 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

How to apply

It is not necessary to contact academic 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.

Personal statement:
Statement of up to 1,200 words (up to 300 words per question)

Please follow the directions on the OII course webpage. You will be directed to complete an online form, which will generate a PDF. You must then download this PDF and upload it to your application as your personal statement. Your statement should be written in English.

Your statement will be assessed for:

  • evidence of aptitude using social science theory
  • evidence of aptitude using mathematical and statistical techniques for the analysis of empirical data; and 
  • evidence of aptitude meeting the minimal programming requirements. 

Your statement should focus on your academic achievements and research interests rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

Written work:
One essay of 2,000 words

An academic essay or other writing sample from your most recent qualification, written in English, is required. If you have not previously written on areas closely related to the proposed research topic, you may provide written work on any topic that best demonstrates your academic abilities. The written work does not need to be data science related, but should demonstrate your critical and analytical capabilities and ability to present ideas clearly. 

The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes. Extracts of the required length that originally come from longer essays are also acceptable.

This 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; and
  • your ability to present a reasoned case in proficient academic English.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, academic and/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.

Professional references are acceptable, particularly if you have been out of education for some time, but should focus particularly on your intellectual abilities rather than more narrowly on job performance.

Your references will be assessed for:

  • your intellectual ability;
  • your academic achievement; and 
  • your motivation and interest in the course and subject area.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.

Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.

Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.

Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.

Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).

Application GuideApply

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