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 15 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 25 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.
An assignment will 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. It also provides, through the subsequent submission within a six-week time frame, the basis for assessment; all assignments are treated as formal examinations of the University.
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 in Oxford, 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 results of the project work are presented in a dissertation of 15,000 to 20,000 words, or 45 to 60 pages. 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.
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 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.
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.
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. 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.
Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21
Proven and potential academic excellence
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 related subject, such as computer science, informatics or engineering.
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 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 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 Academic||7.5||Minimum 7.0 per component|
Minimum component scores:
|Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced||191||Minimum 185 per component|
|Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency||191||Minimum 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.
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 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.
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:
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 with lecture and lab space, tea and coffee making facilities and a student break area.
MSc students also have access to facilities provided by their college.
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.
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 2020-21 academic year
Fee per module
Total estimated fees
|£9,215||£2,260||Please see the department’s website for further details|
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.
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 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
You are not expected to contact academic members of staff before you apply.
The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:
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:
Up to 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.
This will be assessed for evidence of understanding of the nature and requirements of the course.
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.
Your references will be assessed for:
- your readiness for a programme of advanced, part-time study
- relevant professional experience
- relevant previous education.
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).