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.
Students are usually in full-time employment and return to the same jobs after completing their degree.
Other courses in this area
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 2019-20
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 a related subject, such as computer science, informatics or engineering.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.
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.
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.
Other appropriate indicators will include:
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 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.
You are not expected to provide evidence of publications.
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 Department of Computer Science 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 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.
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.
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.
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 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course 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.
For students applying to programmes within the MPLS Division at Oxford, Research Council and other funding opportunities available, subject to eligibility. These opportunities are included in the Fees, funding and scholarship search.
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 2019-20 academic year
Fee per module
Total estimated fees
|£8,660||£2,170||Please see the department’s website for further details|
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 2019-20 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,058 and £1,643 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 2019-20, 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: Carefully read the entry requirements on this course page to make sure you meet all the criteria.
Step 2: Check above what documents are required and prepare to apply by reading our Application Guide.
Step 3: Apply as soon as possible. Consult the Application Guide for more information about deadlines.