MSc in Software and Systems Security
About the course
The MSc in Software and Systems Security teaches the principles of systems security, with a particular emphasis upon the security properties and implications of software and information technologies. It offers working professionals the opportunity to learn more about the application of these principles, current best practice and the latest advances in the field, through a course of part-time study at one of the world's leading universities.
The Department of Computer Science offers professional courses in 14 different subjects in the area of systems security: from design to forensics; from governance to malware; and from wireless networks to cloud platforms. It offers also courses in another 24 subjects, each addressing a different aspect of computer science or software engineering. To earn an MSc in Software and Systems Security, you must complete courses in ten different subjects, the majority of which must be in the area of systems security.
Each course is delivered by an expert in the subject, and is based around a single, intensive teaching week of classes, practical sessions, and group work; class sizes are kept small to facilitate interaction and to promote effective learning. Each subject is taught at least once a year - some are taught two or three times - and most can be studied in any order. Most students will spend three or four years completing the 10 courses required for the MSc. Each course involves an expectation of about 150 hours' work - typically 35 intensive contact hours during the teaching week, 10 hours before the teaching week for pre-study and 25 hours afterwards on the assignment, and the remainder of time spent on self-directed reading and related exercises. As a rule of thumb, the project and dissertation represent the same effort as two more courses.
An assignment should typically be distributed on the last day of the teaching week. This builds upon the learning of the week, allowing you to test and extend your understanding through application outside the classroom.
To earn the MSc, you must complete also a short project and dissertation in the area of software and systems security. The project needs to be an original demonstration of ability and understanding, but there is no requirement to advance the state of the art in the field. You need only choose and apply an appropriate selection of existing ideas and techniques provided that their choice, the process of application, and any outcomes are properly explained.
The project involves compulsory attendance at a one-week project course, at which you will present and refine your proposal, and attend teaching sessions on research skills, engineering in context, and social, legal and ethical issues
The Department of Computer Science offers another master’s degree, the MSc in Software Engineering, available to those who take the majority of their courses, and their project and dissertation, in that area.
As a part-time student you will be required to attend ten modules, mostly held in-person in Oxford (though some may be online). Each module consists of an intensive week of lectures and practicals, 9am to 5pm Monday to Thursday and 9am to 12.30pm on Friday. You have a flexible choice of modules, subject to availability of places.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department of Computer Science 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 Computer Science.
You will be assigned a supervisor at the beginning of your period of study. Supervisors can provide advice on all academic matters including course selection, the choice of a suitable project and the preparation of a dissertation.
The assignment that is distributed on the last day of the teaching week must be submitted within a six-week time frame. This forms the basis for assessment; all assignments are treated as formal examinations of the University.
You will need to complete a short project and dissertation in the area of software and systems security. The results of the project work are presented in a dissertation format. This forms the basis for formal assessment of the project, just as the written assignments form the basis for assessment of the taught modules. The dissertation can be submitted at any time during the allowed period of study, although it is usually the last piece of work undertaken.
Students are usually in full-time employment and return to the same jobs after completing their degree.
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 Computer Science
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 is normally required in a related subject, such as computer science, informatics or engineering. However, it is not essential where compensated by professional experience.
Applications are invited from anyone with sufficient experience or proven ability in software, security, or data engineering. A typical applicant will have at least two years' experience in a professional environment, and normally holds an undergraduate degree in a related subject. However, more extensive experience may compensate for a lack of formal qualifications, and a strong, immediately-relevant qualification may compensate for a lack of professional experience.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 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
You are not expected to provide evidence of publications.
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 normally held as part of the admissions process.
Applicants who appear to meet to meet the admission criteria will be invited to interview, provided that there are places available. Interviews will take place within eight weeks of the application deadline, will last between 20 and 30 minutes, and may be conducted either in person or as a video conference.
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 Computer Science has dedicated teaching facilities for the Professional Master's Programme, with separate lecture and lab space, tea and coffee making facilities, and a student break area. When attending a course, each student has sole use of a desk and Apple computer, with all relevant software; or they may bring their own laptop.
The Department of Computer Science Library contains books, monographic series, journals, technical reports and past theses covering the main research interests of the department. It is principally for use by graduate students and staff. You will also be able to access other relevant libraries elsewhere in the University such as the Radcliffe Science Library, the Whitehead Library (at the Mathematical Institute for numerical analysts and formal mathematicians), and the Engineering Science Library (especially for those interested in robotics and machine vision).
The Department of Computer Science houses lecture theatres and seminar rooms, and students are welcome to attend public seminars.
MSc students also have access to facilities provided by their college.
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.
Modular course fees
The fees for this course are charged on a modular basis. You will pay one programme or registration fee and an additional fee for each module studied. The registration fee is split into four instalments, which are due at or before the beginning of each year of study. This MSc can be undertaken in a minimum of two and a maximum of four years and all instalments will be due regardless of duration of study. Students must complete ten modules, together with a masters'-level project and dissertation. The cost of the project module is included in the MSc registration fee. Extension fees will apply at £100 per term beyond the four years.
Fees for the 2023-24 academic year
Fee per module
Total estimated fees
|Home||£10,770||£2,640||Please see the department’s website for further details|
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.
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 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 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 on the MSc in Software and Systems Security:
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?
You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.
General questions about the course should be directed to the course 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 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.
Your references will be assessed for:
- your readiness for a programme of advanced, part-time study
- relevant professional experience
- relevant previous education.
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.
If you do not have a previous university-level qualification, you can indicate this on the relevant page in your application to bypass this requirement.
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.
Statement of purpose:
A maximum of 500 words
Your statement should be written in English and explain your reasons for applying, and any previous experience and education that you feel to be particularly relevant.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for evidence of understanding of the nature and requirements of the course.
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.