MSc in Sociology
About the course
The MSc in Sociology is an intensive one-year master’s degree (two years for part-time students). Students are given high-quality research training in sociology, which includes knowledge of relevant theoretical approaches, an understanding of their application to substantive problems and skills in the use of major research techniques. There is also a significant element of self-directed study, including further reading and research, that will complement the hours of teaching. The time spent on further research will be determined partly by your academic background so far, and partly by your own interest in and curiosity for the subject.
The MSc in Sociology is offered on both a full-time (one-year) and part-time (two-year) basis. The degree and expectations for both modes of study are equally rigorous: part-time students take their classes with the full time students, but spread their study over two years to accommodate work and personal circumstances. Regardless of whether you choose to apply for the part-time or full-time course, you will be part of a close knit cohort of students from diverse backgrounds.
As a part-time MSc Sociology student, you will be required to attend all seminars and lectures and meetings with your supervisor in Oxford. Teaching is typically scheduled for 3 days per week in the first and second terms of each year of study, and 1 day per week in the third term of each year. There is no flexibility in the pattern of attendance for scheduled teaching events. Supervisor meetings typically take place at least twice per term on dates determined by mutual agreement with your supervisor. Attendance at supervisor meetings may be required outside of term-time, particularly over the long vacation during which you will be expected to write your thesis.
The MSc Sociology consists of the following four elements.
In Michaelmas term, the course consists of eight lectures (one hour each) followed by two seminars (also one hour each) where the class is split into groups. Part-time students take this course in the first term of their second year of study.
It examines the nature of different sociological explanations, their potentials and methodological implications and their relationship with concepts from other disciplines. It also examines the interrelationships between description and explanation, theory and empirical data.
This course comprises three sections: research design, qualitative methods and statistics. The statistics section consists of eight statistics lectures and eight computer-based sessions in the IT Laboratory (Michaelmas term). The qualitative methods section (Michaelmas term) consists of eight lectures. The research design section (Hilary term) consists of eight lectures and classes. Part-time students take the three sections of the research methods course in the listed term of the first year of study.
In Hilary term, you will prepare for two option papers. You should note that the options available may vary from year to year; a typical offering is listed below:
- Advanced Quantitative Methods
- Sociology of Mafias
- Social Movements
- Political Sociology
- Social Stratification
- Sociology of Gender
- Sociology of Latin America
- Sociology of China
- Police Violence and Racial Oppression
- Sociology of Cybersecurity.
There are normally eight weekly classes for each paper. Part-time students take one option paper in the second term of each year of study.
You will write an MSc dissertation which you will carry out under the guidance of your supervisor.
Part-time students will write their dissertations in the third term of their second year and submit by 1 September of that second year, but will be encouraged to start planning their thesis from their first year.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department of Sociology 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 Sociology. You can typically expect to meet with your supervisor at least twice a term, and at least three times over the summer vacation when you are writing your thesis.
Assessment will be conducted either by timed examination or submission. At the end of the year you will submit a dissertation of up to 10,000 words, which will consist of a sociological analysis.
Graduates pursue a variety of careers. Many go on to doctoral research either in Oxford or at leading departments in the US and continental Europe. Others pursue careers, often with a substantial research responsibility, in government departments, NGOs and the private sector.
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 Sociology
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 a social science subject.
The department will only consider applicants who have an undergraduate degree in arts, humanities or science subjects if they can demonstrate a strong interest in sociology, as taught at Oxford.
However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0. However, most successful applicants have a GPA of 3.7 or above.
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, though you may include these scores as part of your application.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- Part-time applicants will also be expected to show evidence of the ability to commit time to study and, if applicable, an employer's commitment to make time available to study, to complete coursework, and attend course and University events and modules. Where appropriate, evidence should also be provided of permission to use employers’ data in the proposed research project.
- Publications are not expected.
Progression to the DPhil Sociology is dependent upon performance on the MSc, the strength of the research proposal and whether appropriate supervision available is in the department.
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 of Sociology has a vibrant graduate programme. Many students come from the United Kingdom and other European countries; the department also attracts students from all over the world, from Chile to Malaysia.
The Department of Sociology is based at 42 Park End Street, which is near to the centre of Oxford and the railway station. The Social Science Library is the largest freestanding social science library in the UK and is located in the Manor Road Building. Students also have reference access to the world-renowned Bodleian Library and the many other libraries around Oxford, including the Nuffield College’s library. The Department also houses the new Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, an interdisciplinary centre seeking to solve the most challenging demographic problems of our time.
Most of the classes and lectures will take place at the Department of Sociology. Hot-desking areas with access to printing are also available in the building.
There are also regular weekly lunchtime sociology seminars with many interesting speakers participating.
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.
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.
You will normally be required to carry out a small fieldwork training exercise as part of the qualitative methods course. This may require a short trip out of Oxford, but usually not an overnight stay. You will need to cover any costs (eg travel) related to this training exercise, which the department estimates to range from between £20 to £100. As part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. You are not formally required to undertake field research for your dissertation. However, if you decide to undertake fieldwork as part of your studies, you should note that you will ordinarily have to meet all the costs yourself. These costs are likely to include, but may not be limited to travel, accommodation and living expenses, insurance premiums and, where appropriate, visa and medical fees (eg for vaccinations). Costs can vary considerably according to the duration and location of the fieldwork, but the department would generally expect the cost of such field research to range from £200 to £1,000. If you choose to collect your own data, you may also incur transcription costs. There may also be costs if you choose to acquire quantitative data from non-ESRC sources. The department has no funds available to help with these costs, however, you may be able to apply for small grants from your college to help you cover some of these expenses.
Please note that this course requires that you attend in Oxford for teaching, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Further, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, insurance, research expenses and field trips. There may also be costs if you choose to acquire data. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your 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.
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.
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 for full-time study on this course:
The following colleges accept students for part-time study on this course:
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?
General enquiries should be made to the department's 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, 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.
Academic references are preferred, though professional references are acceptable if you have spent a significant amount of time in work.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and a demonstrable interest in sociology as it is taught at Oxford.
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 optional research proposal (for intended future DPhil study)
Statement of a maximum of 750 words and a proposal of a maximum of 1,250 words
All applicants should submit a personal statement. If you think that you might like to continue onto the DPhil in Sociology after this MSc, you should also submit a proposal for your research at doctoral level.
If you do submit a research proposal, it should be submitted with your statement of purpose/personal statement as a single, combined document with clear subheadings. Please ensure that the word counts for each section are clearly visible in the document.
The combined word count for both documents should be no more than 2,000 words.
Personal statement (maximum 750 words)
Your personal statement should be a maximum of 750 words and should focus on your academic interests and research proposal rather than your personal achievements, interests and aspirations. Your statement should be written in English.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
Your personal statement should include:
- an explanation of your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford;
- an explanation of your relevant experience and education;
- the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in; and if possible
- a short outline of the research you would like to undertake for your MSc thesis.
Optional research proposal - for applicants intending to continue onto DPhil study (maximum 1,250 words)
If you think that you might like to continue onto the DPhil in Sociology after the MSc, you should also submit a research proposal of a maximum of 1,250 words.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
Your proposal should include proposed plans for research at the doctoral level. These might include an explanation of how the MSc thesis plans could be extended, or a proposal for research on a different topic. It is understood that any plans for doctoral research would be preliminary and subject to change.
Assessment of your personal statement and research proposals
Your personal statement including any research proposals (for your MSc thesis and intended DPhil study) will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying to this particular programme
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
- the ability to present a reasoned case in English
- commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
- reasoning ability
- coherence of thesis proposal (if any)
- understanding of the proposed area of study.
Please note that if you submit a research proposal for future DPhil study as part of your MSc application and are offered a place on this course, there is no guarantee that an application to the DPhil in Sociology will be successful in the future.
Two writing samples, a maximum of 2,000 words each
Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible and should be prefaced by a short note which puts them in context.
The written work should preferably be on a sociological subject or otherwise have some sociological content. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes. It is not permitted to submit one 4,000-word essay in place of the two shorter ones.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for comprehensive understanding of the subject area, understanding of problems in the area, ability to construct and defend an argument, powers of analysis and powers 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.