MSc in Sociology | University of Oxford
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MSc in Sociology

About the course

The MSc in Sociology is an intensive one-year master’s degree. 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.

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.

The MSc Sociology consists of the following four elements. 

Sociological analysis

A compulsory core paper is on sociological analysis, for which you sit a three-hour unseen examination at the end of Trinity Term. The paper 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. 

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.

Research methods

The MSc also includes a compulsory research methods paper, for which you are examined via a mixture of a formal examination and take-home assignments. 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.

Option papers

You will take two option papers in Hilary term, for which you sit either an unseen examination or complete appropriate coursework. You should note that the options available may vary from year to year. 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.

Dissertation

You will write an MSc thesis of up to 10,000 words, consisting of a sociological analysis which you 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. 

Supervision

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.

Graduate destinations

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. 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.

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 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 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.

Further guidance

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 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 are not normally held as part of the admissions process.

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 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.

On completion of a short health and safety course and with the Head of Administration's approval, you will have 24 hour access to the building which is accessed by your University Card outside normal hours.

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.

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

Full-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£18,455
Overseas£28,040

Part-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£9,230
Overseas£14,020

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

Full-time study

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.

Part-time study

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.

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.

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.

How to 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 and research proposal:
Up to 2,000 words

Your research proposal and personal statement should be submitted as a single, combined document.

Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and 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.

This 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.

Your statement should focus on your academic interests and research proposal rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations. For those who think that they might like to continue onto the DPhil after the MSc, the statement 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.

For those not presenting any research proposals, a much shorter statement, of 750 words or fewer, would be preferable.

Written work:
Two writing samples 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. 

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.

References/letters of recommendation:
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.

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 - Full time Apply - Part time

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