MSc Education (Comparative and International Education)

The MSc Education (Comparative and International Education) provides students with the analytical and research skills needed to understand and critically evaluate the policies, politics, histories, and practices that shape education around the world.

The course has the following aims:

  •  To steward and advance knowledge regarding the theoretical, historical and philosophical underpinnings of the field of Comparative and International Education
  • To develop in students a capacity to engage imaginatively and in a disciplined way with key questions in comparative education, including equality, equity, transparency and inclusiveness in educational provision
  •  To cultivate in students a sense of professional collaboration and collective expertise that they carry with them upon graduation
  • To encourage students to identify, analyse, and critically reflect on educational policy options and potential drivers of change

Students will develop the ability to understand and critically engage with:

  • the theoretical, historical and philosophical underpinnings of Comparative and International Education
  • the empirical and theoretical work on education undertaken in other disciplines across the social sciences
  • the influence of history, worldview and politics on national educational systems and educational policy
  • the influences, principles and practices of various governmental and non-governmental agencies concerned with education planning, research and development
  • educational developments in most regions of the world, including how these regions are networked globally
  • diverse historical perspectives and cultural practices that inform education locally and globally
  • methodological approaches to the comparative and international study of education
  • a wide range of issues pertaining to research strategies in education

The programme has the following compulsory components:

Comparative and International Education 1: An Overview of the Field

This paper provides an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of comparative and international education (CIE). It pays particular attention to the historical development of the field, the nature of academic enquiry, theories and the characteristics that different academic disciplines bring into the field in order to examine some of the key factors that influence educational opportunity in a variety of economic, political, social, and cultural contexts.

Through a combination of theoretical and empirical readings, the course aims to develop a critical understanding of dominant and alternative theories and methodologies pertinent to CIE and how they translate into and/or are employed to explore educational policy and practice globally. The paper is taught by Dr Maia Chankseliani and is assessed through an assignment of 3,000 words.

Comparative and International Education 2: Politics, Policy and Education 

 This paper argues that most public educations system across the world have in recent times experienced various forms of internal crises that have drawn a wide range of political and policy responses. Indeed, governments concerned about deficiencies in their own systems have tended to look towards other countries from which they could ‘borrow’ policies or ‘transfer’ know-how. This has sometimes been at the expense of the specific cultural and historical conditions that had shaped their own systems, and often in the face of resistance by educational professionals. But it argues to that there is a sharp divide in what constitutes the educational crises of more-and less-economically developed nations.

While the results of the PISA tests (comparative assessments of student learning outcomes) have produced a crisis for many countries in the OECD and have exposed a distinct rift in the public policy debates on education and the economy in Europe, large scale human development surveys in Africa, South Asia and Latin America have exposed very different forms of the educational crisis there; and while some features are common across regions, the distinctive nature of within country inequalities and institutional responses offers a wide landscape for the study of public policy and education. The paper is taught by Dr David Johnson and is assessed through an assignment of 3,000 words.

Comparative and International Education 3: Research in Comparative and International Education 

This paper introduces students to the comparative method in the social sciences and examines its application to the study of educational systems across the world. It offers an understanding of the theoretical questions that shape the growing cross-disciplinary interest into the nature and functioning of educational systems, of human development, and cognition, and it examines the eclectic mix of research questions and endeavours aimed at making sense of the complex relationships between politics, culture, and human intellectual functioning.

The paper looks at the manner in which political scientists compare national systems,  how anthropologists study cross-cultural aspects of human development, and the questions and methods that occupy economists of education. It looks at the work of historians of education and examines their thinking and approaches to studying education in different world systems, and to that of psychologists and their efforts in the examination of mind and cognition in different societies.  The paper is taught by Dr David Johnson and is assessed through an unseen written examination.

In addition to the compulsory core papers, students take two papers in research methods (Foundations of Educational Research 1 and 2), and choose one paper from a range of available optional papers across the Department and with permission from the relevant pathway convener and the Education Graduate Studies Committee, in other Departments in the University.

Our course attracts the very strongest students from around the world, and the cohort has a range of policy experience and academic backgrounds. This is the course for graduates in all relevant disciplines looking for an introduction to comparative and international education. Successful course graduates now have positions in international organisations or in higher education. Many have gone on to doctoral research in comparative and international topics in Oxford and at other prestigious universities.

The MSc Education (Comparative and International Education) student group (October 2016)

Seminars during the course are a combination of tutor and student input, and are based on preparation, response to a presentation and/or analysis of documents and various group activities. There is a programme of visiting speakers from around the world. In February each year the course moves to Paris for a week for specially run seminars at UNESCO, the OECD and the Institute for International Educational Planning (IIEP).

Examples of recent dissertations

  • Hannah Halder Narratives of Change: Teachers and Educational Reform in Romania since 1989
  • Jeanne Ryan The Morphology of Knowledge
  • Naseemah Mohamed Education in a Time of War: The Experiences of Victims of Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe.
  • Xia Wu Education of Migrant Children in Urban China – An Ethnographic Case Study of a Non-profit School in Beijing
  • Charleen Ning Chiong Unstable Boundaries: Analyzing Change in Citizenship Education Policy in England (1984-2014)
  • Danijel Cuturic Academic Integrity at Universities in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Plagiarism Regulations
  • Elodie Broady Opening a Black Box of Influence in the Transnational Governance of Education: a Case Study Inside the OECD
  • Rone McFarlane Mediating the Effects of Gang Violence and Related Activities in South African Schools
  • Kathleen Maffei Cultural Advocacy Strategies Amongst Parents of Intellectually Disabled Children in UK Schools
  • Morten Hansen A Way forward for EEPS: Interrogating and Consolidating Theories on the European Education Policy Space
  • Yanse Cooper Globetrotting Teachers: Understanding the ‘Brain-drain’ from Guyanese Classrooms through Diaspora Reflection
  • Theresa Salzer Student Participation and School Governance: A Case of Germany

During their time in Oxford course members will be part of a lively research community with interests in a wide range of topics in comparative and international education. The University of Oxford provides an ideal environment for graduate study: its resources are first-class and its graduate population is among the best qualified in the world. The Department of Education is a particularly friendly institution within the University, and the international constitution of the student body makes everyone feel at home.

Early application is advised. Those interested in applying are invited to contact the Higher Degrees Office. Please note that applicants should have a good (2.1) honours degree (equivalent to a GPA of at least 3.6).

Applicants to the programme may apply for the Routledge Scholarship.

Please direct all enquiries to Programme Leader Dr David Johnson.

Page last modified: June 9, 2017