MSc in Social Data Science | University of Oxford
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Typing at a laptop
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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 2019-2020 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.

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.

Related courses

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 2018-19

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 any subject.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

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.

Demonstrated quantitative aptitude or 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.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

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(s)

Interviews are 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. Interviews can be done in person, by telephone or via Skype with or without video. There is usually only one interview held which lasts up to 30 minutes. 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. 

Publications

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.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

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

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher 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 Oxford Internet Institute and collaborating departments 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 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. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Oxford Internet Institute.

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.

5. Assessors

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.

Resources

The MSc in Social Data Science is offered by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) in partnership with Statistics, Engineering, Sociology, 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 department's busy calendar of seminars and events brings many of the most important people in Internet research, innovation and policy to the OII, allowing students to engage with the 'bleeding 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 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.

A number of Research Council awards are available each year from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2018-19

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£12,670£3,112£15,782
Overseas£19,915£3,112£23,027

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).

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.

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 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 2018-19 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,015 and £1,555 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. If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.

Colleges

The following colleges accept students for full-time study on the MSc in Social Data Science:

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 500 words

Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the MSc course at Oxford and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in. You should also include details of any relevant experience in engaging in social data science related research.

Your statement will be assessed for:

  • interest and enthusiasm for study of social data science;
  • evidence of aptitude for working with data-driven research; and
  • alignment of your areas of interest with the availability of supervision, as all students will be assigned a supervisor to guide their research.

Your statement should focus on your academic achievements and 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 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.
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