Department of Education

MSc in Education

Welcome & Course Overview

The MSc in Education degree is a one year full-time degree which aims to provide a grounding in educational research methods and theoretical and methodological understanding of the field of education through one of the following four specialist pathways.

Want to hear more?

Watch our online video with course director, Professor Niall Winters, who gives a brief overview of the programme in this short video.

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Clarendon Scholarships

The very strongest applicants for all our MSc programmes who apply by the relevant January deadline are automatically considered for University Clarendon scholarships. There is no separate application process. These are highly competitive and each year only one or two of our students are successful. During our initial admissions screening, supervisors nominate applicants with outstanding academic records to be considered. They then prepare a supporting statement.  The Admissions tutor puts forward a shortlist of the strongest applicants to the divisional committee.

Routledge Scholarship

Each year a Routledge Scholarship of £6,000 is awarded to one student taking the MSc course in Comparative and International Education. Given in collaboration with St Edmund Hall, the scholarship is awarded on the basis of: (1) strength of academic qualifications; (2) fit between the proposed research project and the research interests of the Department and (3) financial need.

All those who apply by the March deadline are automatically considered – no separate application is necessary. The Routledge Scholarship cannot be used as evidence of funding to secure a place on the course.

Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann Scholarships and Leadership Programme

MSc Education (Comparative and International Education) and MSc Education (Higher Education) applicants who meet the eligibility criteria are encouraged to apply for Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann Scholarships and Leadership Programme. In order to be considered for this scholarship, you must select the Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Scholarships and Leadership Programme in the University of Oxford Scholarships section of the University’s graduate application form and submit your application for graduate study by the relevant January deadline for your course.

Oxford Pershing Square Graduate Scholarship

The 1+1 programme is a unique, two-year postgraduate experience which offers you the opportunity to combine the depth of our specialised, one-year MSc in Education with the breadth of Saïd Business School’s top-ranking, one-year MBA. As a result, you will embark from Oxford with the skills to translate specific domain knowledge into practical and innovative solutions to the many challenges facing our 21st century world.

In addition, the Oxford Pershing Square Graduate Scholarship is available for up to five extraordinary 1+1 students who are committed to addressing world-scale social challenges. The Scholarship provides full funding for tuition, college fees and living expenses for both the MSc and MBA year. Please see further details here.

FirstRand FNB Fund Oxford Education Scholarship

The scholarship will provide full funding for a South African citizen to study a one year full-time MSc in Education or MSc in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition at the Department of Education. The scholarship will be awarded based on academic excellence, leadership ability, community involvement and the candidate’s potential to be a destiny changer. The successful candidate will be a member of Wadham College. Candidates need to apply by the relevant January deadline for their course.

Further information about this scholarship can be found here.

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

This scholarship is available to applicants for the MSc in Education (Research Design and Methodology) who wish to be considered for an ESRC 1+3 studentship. Applicants should signal in their application their intention to continue to doctoral study.

The ESRC is the UK’s largest organisation for funding research on social and economic issues. The University, in collaboration with Brunel University and the Open University, hosts the Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership – one of 14 Doctoral Training Partnerships accredited by the ESRC as part of a Doctoral Training Network.

In order to be considered for a Grand Union DTP ESRC studentship, you must select ‘ESRC Grand Union DTP Studentships in Social Sciences’ in the University of Oxford scholarships section of the University’s graduate application form. You must also complete a Grand Union DTP Application Form and upload it, together with your graduate application form, by the relevant January deadline for your course.

Information about ESRC studentships at Oxford can be found here. Please ensure you have read all of the guidance available on the website before completing the Grand Union DTP Application Form. Questions can be directed to the Grand Union DTP Office.




How many students do you recruit to each programme?

The following number of places are available for each of the programme’s pathways:

MSc Education (Research Design and Methodology) – 10
MSc Education (Research Design and Methodology, part-time) – 2
MSc Education (Child Development and Education) – 16
MSc Education (Comparative and International Education) – 18
MSc Education (Higher Education) – 12

Can I study online or through distance learning?

It is not possible to study at a distance or on-line on our MSc in Education programme.

What are the backgrounds of students recruited to your programmes?

The department offers a very wide range of courses. As well as a comprehensive Doctoral programme attracting students from all over the world, we offer full-time one year MSc in Education and in MSc Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition (ALSLA) courses, as well as a range of part-time courses, some aimed primarily at UK teachers (e.g. MSc Learning & Teaching, MS Teacher Education) and some at distance learning (e.g., Applied Linguistics and Language Teaching). Consequently our courses cater to students from a diverse range of backgrounds.

For example in 2016/17, the department had a total complement of 582 students of whom 366 were studying full-time and 216 were studying part-time. For 2018/19, across the MSc Education, MSc ALSLA, and DPhil programmes, approximately 33% of our students came from the UK or EU, and the remaining 67% from overseas. The cohort from those programmes included students from Ghana, Japan, Germany, India, Malaysia, China, Mexico, Estonia, Australia, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the United States, among many others.

What our students share is exceptional academic achievement in their previous learning and an ambition to excel academically.

Can I study part time?

A part-time study is possible on the MSc in Education (Research Design and Methodology).

How much will it cost to study and live in Oxford?

To find out how much it will cost to undertake your studies at the University, please visit the Fees and Living Costs webpage for details.

Can I apply for more than one course?

Yes, however we would strongly encourage you to focus your application on the course for which you have the most interest and experience.

Can I apply for your courses if I am in the process of achieving my qualification to gain entry onto the programme?

Yes, you may apply for any of our courses whilst studying for another degree. If you are successful in achieving a place on one of our programmes, we would make a conditional offer which would include the condition of you achieving your qualification. You are required to submit an interim transcript at application. However, your final outcome would need to be available prior to you commencing the course at Oxford.

English is not my first language; which higher level language qualification is acceptable? And what score do you require?

If you do not have English as your first language, we would like you to have achieved the higher level competence in English Language proficiency. A list of standardised tests accepted by the University can be found here. Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. We encourage applicants to apply with a successful language test however if evidence that you successfully meet the English language requirements cannot be provided with your application your application will still be considered as long as all other required documents have been submitted. Any offer of a place will require you to submit English language test results at the required level by a deadline set in the offer letter. Further information can be found by visiting the Application Guide.

Can I apply for a waiver of proof of proficiency in English?

For information on applying for a waiver of the English test requirement please visit the Application Guide.

Should I declare a college preference in my application?

For guidance about colleges and making an open application, please visit the relevant page.

How do I apply?

For information about applying to our courses please see the specific course page. For a more detailed explanation of the process, please click here for the application guide.

Not all of my qualifications will fit on the application form, what shall I do?

If you require more space on the application form, please contact Graduate Admissions for advice.

What should I do if there is not enough space on the application form?

Please contact Graduate Admissions for advice.

I have been outside of an academic setting for some time now; who shall I have to act as my referees?

One of your references should be from your most recent academic tutor. If you are currently in employment, you would be expected to provide a reference from your employer alongside academic references which comment on your academic suitability for the course.

What do I need to include in my ‘Personal Statement’ (‘Statement of Purpose’)?

Further information can be found in “how to apply” section of the relevant course page.

What do I need to include for the samples of written work?

Further information can be found in “how to apply” section of the relevant course page.

How is my supervisor decided?

Your supervisor will be decided by the department following your successful offer of a place on the course on the basis of staff research interests and staff workload and availability.

Am I required to attend for interview?

Candidates will be shortlisted based on academic ability, potential and fit of interests with the course content. Interviews for shortlisted candidates are normally held 2-6 weeks after the closing date of the admissions round. You will be given advance notice of your interview date and time and we require confirmation of attendance.

We are sorry that we cannot currently reimburse you for any travel expenses.

What will the interview be like?

The interviews are normally conducted by two interviewers, in person or using Skype video-conferencing, and will focus on your academic background. You may be asked to outline your research interests and how these might be developed during the dissertation element of the course. You may also be asked about your reasons for wanting to study in this area and the reasons why this particular course is of interest to you.

When will the outcome of my application be known?

Applications will be considered by the admissions panel within the department and decisions will be made in accordance with the following deadlines:

Application submitted in January will receive a decision by 20 March 2020
Applications submitted in March  will receive a decision by 8 April 2020

You will be informed of our decision by email to ensure that you receive the outcome as soon as possible.

In the event that we are not able to offer you a place, we regret that it is not possible to provide you with feedback on your application.

Can I defer entry to a course?

The University will only consider requests for deferral of entry due to exceptional unforeseen circumstances, and only after all conditions set for the offer (both academic and financial) have been met.


Couldn’t find your answers under our FAQ section?

Please direct any queries or questions you may have about this course to our Higher Degrees Office and a member of the administrative team will be happy to assist you.

Phone: +44 (0)1865 274187

  • Comparative and International Education

    The MSc Education (Comparative and International Education) is a full time, one year, master’s course that engages students in developing a critical understanding of theoretical approaches, methods, policies and practices in comparative and international education. The course aims to develop students’ understanding of the factors that shape educational systems in different parts of the world and the research skills to compare policy choices and critically evaluate major debates, policies, histories and practices of education globally.

    Many alumni of MSc Education (Comparative and International Education) course have gone on to academic and research careers at universities in the UK and abroad. Others are employed across a wide range of other sectors such as policy for government departments, NGOs or think tanks, international organisations, administration at local and national levels, as well as state and non-state schools in different parts of the world.

    The course has the following aims:

    The course aims to engage students in developing:

    • the knowledge, skills and understanding of social, economic, political, cultural, and institutional factors that shape educational systems in different parts of the world
    • the ability to analyse current issues and historical trends in comparative and international education;
    •  the ability to critically assess the historical development and theoretical and methodological underpinnings of comparative and international education;
    • the ability to define and formulate research problems and questions in the field of comparative and international education;
    • the research skills to undertake contextualised, nuanced examination of policies, practices and systems of education globally.

    By the end of the course students should have:

    • an understanding of the historical development and theoretical and methodological underpinnings of comparative and international education
    • the knowledge of major theoretical and methodological approaches used in comparative and international education and the ability to apply these to current issues
    • developed familiarity with the education systems of a number of countries and the ability to describe and analyse those systems critically, with due regard of social, economic, political, cultural, and institutional factors;
    • the ability to define and formulate research problems and questions in the field of comparative and international education and the research skills to examine policies, practices and systems of education developed detailed knowledge of major issues affecting education at all levels and be familiar with the work of the various non-governmental agencies concerned with educational planning, research and development.

    The course consists of six papers and a dissertation. For the current year (2019/20) the following five papers are obligatory. More detail on each is provided in the programme specification below:

    • Comparative and International Education 1: An Overview of the Field
    • Comparative and International Education 2: International comparative policy on childhood care and education
    • Comparative and International Education 3: Research in Comparative and International Education
    • Foundations of Educational Research 1: Concepts and Design
    • Foundations of Educational Research 2: Strategies and Methods

    Students also choose one option from a list of option papers. The following list provides an indication of option papers usually available (please note, this is not a guarantee of availability for any particular elective in a given year).

    These papers are taken during Michaelmas and Hilary Terms. In Trinity Term, students work on a research-based dissertation, reporting on an empirical study, of 15,000-20,000 (max.) words. The dissertations should demonstrate the students’ research and critical analysis skills as well as the ability to write clear and concise reports to a high level of academic competence.

    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 the 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 empirical and theoretical 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 by a 2,500-3,000 word (max.) written assignment.

    Comparative and International Education 2: Research in Comparative and International Education

    This paper explores a range of macro themes and topics in comparative and international education and how these are approached in a cross section of disciplines and fields in the social sciences. It examines how educational problems are defined across the social sciences, the methods adopted to study them, how findings are interpreted, and in some cases, applied to specific national and cross national cases.

    A number of countries are studied in detail and grouped by theme. The theme ‘education, society and state’ takes China, Russia, Japan, and Bhutan as countries of interest and examines the nature of the questions that political scientists, sociologists and historians might pose of the development of education in these societies. The theme of ‘Development and Education’ looks at, amongst other things, the relationships between education and poverty and the effects of war, forced migration and ethnic conflict on human endeavour. The international response to poverty and human development is of key interest and here we look at the ‘politics of aid’ in affected or ‘fragile’ states. Country studies include South Africa, Kenya and Sudan. We draw on research in Development Studies, Economics and Anthropology to tease out the ‘big’ questions for comparative education, how these are approached and studied.

    In the final theme, the paper looks at the psychology and anthropology of ‘learning and cognition’. It looks at the manner in which anthropologists study cross-cultural aspects of human development and the implications of that for curriculum and informal learning in communities. The paper studies the work of psychologists on our understanding of cognition and interventions that seek to enhance learning. It examines data from international and national studies of educational achievement. Case studies include Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Kyrgyzstan. The paper is taught by Dr David Johnson and is assessed through an unseen written examination.

    Comparative and International Education 3: International comparative policy on childhood care and education

    This paper will review the issue of children’s policy and the achievement of the objectives of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This sets a broad frame for policy with regard to children including issues of education and work but also of culture, freedom, agency, safety and identity. We will draw on comparative study across the nations of the UK, and in 2 other countries. Within the broad frame of the rights of the child we will have a particular focus on the most vulnerable children and the care of children considered vulnerable, in need or at particular risk. We will also focus on the role of attempts of governments not just to enact law or set guidance but to assess and ensure desired impacts. This brings attention to the issue of “delivery” or “implementation” and to the role of mechanisms and systems of government as a necessary adjunct to law in the realisation of rights. Within this we will focus on the role of data in assessing and supporting delivery. The paper convener is Professor Leon Feinstein.

    Foundations of Educational Research 1 and 2

    These two papers are part of the common core of all the MSc Education pathways and aim to develop students’ understanding of key concepts and basic principles of research design and methodology; introduce students to a range of challenges and approaches to formulating research questions, considering ethical implications of research, sampling, and reflecting on the philosophical underpinnings and the quality of research; introduce students to a range of methods and strategies for generating, managing, analysing and reporting research data and findings; develop critical analysis and research skills; and offer a sound basis for more advanced research training in the social sciences.

    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

    • Thomas Brotherhood Japanese Student Perspectives on Spatial Inequality During Transition to High School
    • Naseemah Mohamed Education in a Time of War: The Experiences of Victims of Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe.
    • 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

    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.

    The pathway leader is Dr Maia Chankseliani, Associate Professor of Comparative and International Education and Fellow of St Edmund Hall.

  • Child Development and Education

    The MSc Education (Child Development and Education) course aims to promote a critical understanding of theories and research on child development and their relevance to the design and evaluation of educational programmes and policies in diverse contexts. It also aims to promote a critical understanding of the current challenges for a global and inclusive science of child development.

    Our students come from varied professional backgrounds: experienced Early Years professionals and primary school teachers; professionals working with children and aiming to prepare themselves for a leadership role (e.g. head teachers, professionals engaged in programme evaluation research, including in governmental and non-governmental agencies). We welcome graduates with psychology degrees who wish to develop their knowledge of psychology in the field of child development and education; those seeking to pursue a doctoral degree will find that this course offers them a solid disciplinary and research foundation.

    This course is a full-time, one year master’s course.  Dr Sonali Nag, Associate Professor of Education and the Developing Child, is the leader of this Pathway.

    Educational Aims of the Programme

    1. To promote students’ critical understanding of child development theories and research, including cognitive, social, emotional and physical aspects of development;
    2. To provide students with a critical knowledge of widely disseminated programmes aimed at pre-school children and at the development of language and literacy, cognitive stimulation and the development of numeracy in school;
    3. To develop students’ knowledge and skills required for the analysis of current issues in the education of children from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds in different early childhood settings and in schools;
    4. To provide students experience with a range of research methods used in the evaluation of educational and early childhood programmes (including those for families and institutional settings) and to develop their ability to critically analyse evaluation reports;
    5. To encourage discussion on how theories of child development inform practice and how challenges faced in educational settings call for further theoretical and research enquiry;
    6. To provide a strong basis for further studies in Child Development and encourage future applications to doctoral studies in this domain.

    Programme Features

    The course is structured in three papers, two that focus on disciplinary foundations (Child DevelopmentInterventions and Policies to Promote Children’s Development) and one that aims to develop the students’ research skills (Foundations of Educational Research 1 [compulsory] plus Foundations of Educational Research 2 and Intermediate Quantitative Methods [one assessed and one non-assessed]).  You will participate in lectures, seminars, and workshops.  You will also complete a master’s dissertation on a topic you choose in discussions with your supervisor. Together, the course will provide opportunities for you to deepen your understanding of child development theories and their relevance to decisions about children’s education and wellbeing. In addition, you will have an optional practicum about language and literacy assessments in pre- and primary school.

    Child Development is taught over two terms and discusses child development theories, considering cognitive, linguistic, social-emotional and physical aspects of development from infancy to late childhood. Normative and non-normative development is considered. The study of cognitive development includes a critical analysis of theories of cognitive development, current issues in the development of pre-school children, the role of motivation in children’s school learning, the connections between theory, research and practice in the teaching of literacy, numeracy and science in school. The study of language development covers a range of issues in first and second language development and childhood bilingualism. The study of children’s social-emotional development includes a critical analysis of attachment theory, studies of mother-child interaction, children’s understanding of the other, moral development, the impact of social and family environments on children, peer relationships and the development of self-concept.

    Interventions and Policies to Promote Children’s Development covers programmes designed for school as well as pre-school children. Original reports of the assessment of intervention programmes and systematic reviews form the core readings in this module. The module places emphasis on the critical analysis of the theoretical background for interventions and of the empirical basis provided in their assessment. It promotes discussion of the relationships between theory and practice. Foundations of Educational Research is part of the common core of all the MSc Education strands. It offers students an overview of quantitative and qualitative methods of research, practical experience with a sample of these methods, and an opportunity to discuss their own ideas as they work towards their dissertation. Ethical aspects of educational research are discussed in depth.

    Intermediate Quantitative Methods builds on previous statistical knowledge. The aims of the intermediate course are to enhance students’ ability to select variables, build statistical models, carry out and interpret the results of multivariate statistical tests for answering a range of research questions as well as to enhance their ability to create informative graphical representations and tables. It builds on Introductory Quantitative Methods, a required non-assessed course for students with no previous training in statistics.

    You are encouraged to explore the department’s website and find out about the research carried out by the course team and the Children Learning and Families, Efective Learning and Literacy research groups.

    A sample of dissertation titles from previous years is presented below.

    • A comparison of different Place Value teaching strategies with five- and six-year-olds
    • A study investigating the relationship between the  home literacy environment and children’s readiness for school in Costa Rica
    • Assessing a working memory intervention based on metacognitive processes
    • Awareness of the Structure of Compound Words in Korean and English
    • Children’s, parents’ and teachers’ experiences of primary school transition and children’s social behaviour after Year 1
    • Children’s perception of their relationships and its effect on language ability at 51 months
    • Chinese children’s morphological awareness in English and Chinese
    • Family Income and Child Developmental Outcomes – A Relationship Mediated by the Quality of the Home Environment?
    • Let’s talk about Diversity: A Reading Intervention targeting Language and Socio-Emotional Development in Young Children
    • Primary school students’ self-regulation and motivation during well- and ill-structured tasks
    • Quality in Early Childhood Settings: A comparison of the views of parents and professionals within Minnesota’s Twin Cities Metro Area, USA
    • The Effects of Imaginative Play Props on the Oral Narratives of 4-5 year old Children
    • The relationship between maternal vocalisations with 10-month old infants and child language scores at 36 months
    • Investigating the effects of the Singapore Model Method in solving mathematical word problems
    • The effectiveness of arrow diagrams in children’s mathematical problem solving
    • Use of schematic representations to improve children’s understanding of functional reasoning in proportions
    • What Year 1 children think about fractions
  • Higher Education

    The MSc Education (Higher Education) at Oxford University attracts students from a wide range of educational and professional backgrounds and offers them a broad introduction into the complex field of theories and practice in higher education globally. In addition to seminars on core concepts, students are taught by leading researchers, giving them the opportunity to engage directly with current thinking and evolving themes in the field.

    This mix, which builds on the firm foundations of the Oxford Department of Education’s research strengths, can be most relevant to people at different stages in their professional lives – from recent graduates, to those who have established careers in, or working closely with, higher education institutions. Cohorts are truly international, with for example, representatives of five continents in the 2017 class.

    The programme (led by Dr James Robson) is studied full-time over a single year, with the final term devoted to work on a dissertation.

    Recent graduates of the programme have entered careers in higher education teaching, administration and policy-formation, while others have undertaken doctoral studies.

    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 vocationalisation of degree programmes, are just some of the current issues within higher education in many countries. The Masters enables students to engage not only with these issues, but also with a wide range of other significant 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 provision and learning programmes to meet a range of local and international needs
    • understanding the economic impacts of higher education and their implications for policy making
    • analysing transitions of higher education graduates into the labour market and further studies
    • 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 elsewhere within the University and more widely.

    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 half-days a week during the first two terms. 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 have one-to-one meetings with your dissertation supervisor from early in your course 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 course-work, examination and dissertation.

    Examples of recent dissertations

    • Kira Brayman A love-hate relationship”: Canadian laypeople’s construction of academic theories as diffusing innovations
    • Rachel Kolb All-Around Inclusion: Mainstreamed Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students’ Perceptions on Accommodations and Access in American Universities
    • Tara Nicola Measuring Success? The Predictive Validity of the Undergraduate Admissions Interview at the University of Oxford
    • Naveen Amblee The Development of managerial competencies in MBA programmes: An empirical Study of MBA core curricula
    • Yushi Inaba Higher Education in a depopulating society: survival strategies of Japanese Universities
    • Elizabeth Miller Degree apprenticeships in England: how do they work and who and what are they for?
    • Yu Yang Who got the information – an investigation into the equity and equality of China’s Gaokao reform

    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.

    The course

    The course consists of six papers and a dissertation. For the current year (2018/19) 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: Concepts and Design
    • Foundations of Educational Research 2: Strategies and Methods

    Students also choose one option from a list of option papers. The following list provides an indication of option papers usually available (please note, this is not a guarantee of availability for any particular elective in a given year):

    • Technology in International Contexts: Applications to Learning and Health
    • Intermediate Quantitative Research
    • Globalisation in Higher Education
    • Perspectives and Debates in Qualitative Research
    • Political, Economic and Cultural Dimensions of Education in Africa

    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 two course projects in which they co-operate with other class members to produce a presentation 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.

  • Research Design and Methodology

    The course covers a range of quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection and data analysis, and introduces students to the challenges of carrying out social research in the field of education. A particular feature of the course is that all students have the option to take part in a research internship where they work in a research group within the department on ongoing research projects. During this time they experience some of the variety of activities that are an everyday part of doing educational research.

    The course is offered on both a full time (one year) and part time (two year) basis. The degree and expectations for both modes of study are equally rigorous: part time students attend classes with full time students, but these are spread over two years to balance work and personal circumstances. Part time students attend classes and receive supervision one day per week during term time and are encouraged to spend at least one further day a week working in Oxford libraries and participating in relevant research seminars and research events or taking non-assessed courses.

    The teaching methods include tutor presentations, small group work, student led presentations, seminars and workshops, project work, and tutorials. All students undertake classes on quantitative and qualitative data analysis and there is substantial ‘hands-on’ experience in methods of data collection and analysis. Dissertation supervision supports students in identifying research questions, selecting areas for literature review, carrying out field work, and reviewing drafts of the dissertation. Supported ICT sessions are provided by Department of Education staff and sessions on literature access skills (including electronic searches) are provided by Bodleian Education Library staff.

    This course is recognised as providing a high quality comprehensive grounding in educational and social research methods, and can be the first year of an ESRC ‘1 + 3’ studentship. Please note progression from MSc Education (RDM) to DPhil is not automatic – students will be required to apply for admission to DPhil by the relevant January deadline in the year preceding the start date of their DPhil.

    Educational aims of the programme

    • To provide students with the knowledge, skills and understanding necessary to design and carry out rigorous research in the field of education
    • To develop in students the ability to define and formulate research problems and questions, and to select appropriate methods to address their chosen research problems
    • To develop in students the critical analysis, problem solving and research skills necessary for them to critically assess their own research as well as the research of others
    • To enable students to understand the relationships between, and the rationales for using, a wide range of research methods and approaches
    • To enable students to understand the philosophical underpinnings of a variety of approaches to educational research, and to articulate their own philosophical positioning
    • To develop in students an understanding of the role and use of theory in qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches to research design, data analysis and interpretation
    • To develop in students an understanding of the role of educational research in the development, implementation and critique of educational policy and practice

    Programme outcomes

    By the end of the programme, you will have developed a good understanding of:

    • A variety of philosophical and theoretical underpinnings and assumptions of educational research
    • Major research paradigms and fundamental concepts of research design
    • A range of approaches to collecting and analysing different types of data
    • Ethical issues associated with research in education
    • Strengths and limitations of different methods in and approaches to educational research
    • The role of the researcher in collecting and interacting with participants and various types of data
    • Various modes of presenting and disseminating research findings
    • Major debates and controversies in the field of educational research, and their methodological implications


    We encourage applications from students throughout the world who wish to benefit from this course and the opportunities available at Oxford. We welcome students with backgrounds in social sciences and a range of other disciplines. The course is suitable for those with a good honours degree/MSc or MA in a relevant field who have a strong interest in education and developing their research skills. While many of our students have teaching experience in schools or higher education, this is not a requirement. It is an excellent basis for those planning further academic study (DPhil/PhD) and those who wish to pursue an academic or research related career.

  • Oxford 1+1 MBA programme

    This course can be studied as a part of the Oxford 1+1 MBA programme. The Oxford 1+1 MBA programme is a unique, two-year graduate experience that combines the depth of a specialised, one-year master’s degree with the breadth of a top-ranking, one-year MBA.

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