MSc Education (Higher Education)

The MSc Education (Higher Education) at Oxford University provides a broad introduction into the complex field of theories and practice in higher education globally.

The increasing significance of university rankings and the growing range of international student exchange schemes, as well as public discussion of tuition fees and the ‘vocationalization’ of degree programmes, are just some of the current issues within higher education in many countries.

The Masters provides students with the possibility to engage not only with the issues outlined, but also with a wide range of stimulating topics surrounding universities and colleges.

It is aimed at future leaders in the field – academics, policy-makers, researchers and managers. The course provides a strong foundation for:

• using research to analyse and evaluate current structures and future reforms of higher education in different international contexts
• developing higher education curricula and learning programmes to meet a range of local and international needs
• investigating and designing teaching and learning in a wide variety of higher educational contexts
• conducting doctoral, post-doctoral and professional research

The Department of Education offers a challenging but supportive atmosphere for conducting graduate studies. The course is run by the Department of Education but also draws on the expertise of colleagues at the Oxford Learning Institute and elsewhere within the University.

The MSc Education (HE) student group (October 2013)

Studying for the MSc Education (Higher Education)

Course sessions consist of a combination of seminars, lectures and collaborative course work. These sessions take place three mornings a week. In addition:

  • you will have the opportunity to work together with your course colleagues on selected higher education topics and problems
  • you will reflect on your own higher education experience, and on the University of Oxford as your new educational context
  • you will be able to select the focus for your MSc dissertation from a range of relevant international higher education contexts
  • you will meet with your supervisor on a regular basis to discuss your progress and the design of your own research study
  • you will spend extended time in your chosen research setting during the third term in order to carry out fieldwork for your dissertation
  • you will be assessed through a combination of examinations, dissertation and course-work.

Examples of recent dissertations

  • David Paul Hawkins Higher education, participation and personhood: an analysis of the widening participation agenda
  • Shannon Gilkey Insights on moral education: students’ perspectives
  • Jennifer Allen The impact of funding cuts on English higher education: a case study of Oxford University
  • Florian Friedrich International university rankings and the Austrian higher education sector
  • Mona Jebril Reflections on higher education in Palestine: barriers to academic and intellectual dialogue in the Palestinian-Israeli context

Who should apply?

The full-time Masters is aimed at students and professionals with an interest in higher education at all levels and areas:

  • higher education tutors and lecturers
  • researchers
  • administrators and managers
  • policy and decision makers

The course will help you to develop your knowledge, expertise and research skills in the following aspects of higher education:

  • institutional and administrative structures
  • research strategies, design and methods
  • access, completion and transition to the labour market
  • international and comparative questions
  • philosophical and historical underpinnings of research and teaching
  • learning environment and professional development

We accept students from a wide range of disciplines and educational backgrounds – a previous degree in education is beneficial but not necessary for successfully participating and completing the MSc in Higher Education. However, a keen interest in the debate on higher education nationally and internationally and an openness to engage with new and challenging ideas is necessary. Click here for the current Programme Specifications for this course. You are welcome to ask for further guidance from the Course Director, Dr Hubert Ertl or the Higher Degrees Office.

The course

The course consists of six papers and a dissertation. For the current year (2013/14) the following five papers are obligatory. More detail on each is provided in the programme specification below:

  • Higher Education I: Philosophical underpinnings and current debates
  • Higher Education II: Issues of internationalisation and equity
  • Higher Education and the Economy
  • Foundations of Educational Research 1: Research Design
  • Foundations of Educational Research 2: Methods and Strategies

Students also choose one option from a list of option papers. The following list provides an indication of option papers usually available:

  • Strategies of Educational Research
  • Policy, Politics and Education
  • Education in Africa
  • Researching Students’ Lives
  • Qualitative Research
  • Intermediate Quantitative Research
  • Learning, Technology and Society

These papers are taken during the first two terms. In their third term, students undertake work towards the production of a dissertation of between 15,000 and 20,000 words (including footnotes/endnotes but excluding appendices and references or bibliography).

Learning approaches and strategies

Learning in the course is organised around tutor presentations, small group work, student led presentations, seminars and workshops, project work, input from external experts and tutorials.

All students participate in a course project in which they co-operate with other class members to produce a project report on a given topic. Tutorials support students in identifying research questions, selecting areas for literature review, carrying out field work, and reviewing drafts of the dissertation. Supported ICT sessions and literature access skills (including electronic searches) are provided by library staff.

Additionally, students are expected to attend departmental research seminars which are held usually during the course of the year in order to broaden the scope of their learning and further develop their own critical skills. Oxford University provides the opportunity to participate in a wealth of further academic-related activities and students are encouraged to attend lectures and research seminars in other departments within the University. The series of research seminars hosted by the Oxford Learning Institute are an integral part of this course.