Department of Education

MSC Educational Assessment


This new two-year part-time MSc programme has been introduced at a time when high quality educational assessment is recognised as a core element of a strong education system.

The course combines teaching sessions within the department and online support through the University’s Virtual Learning Environment (WebLearn).  In the second year of the course students will receive supervision of dissertation projects from a University supervisor with expertise in a particular subject.

On completion of the course, graduates will have a sound understanding of the design of assessment systems, the options available and their implications.  They will be able to analyse the quality of assessments and engage in research, policy and practice questions in an informed and critical manner.

This Masters qualification will have an impact upon the quality of educational assessments in a wide range of settings by enhancing assessment skills and increasing opportunities for progression to senior positions in educational assessment organisations both nationally and internationally.

The course

The aim of the course is to provide researchers and professionals with the skills to develop and improve educational assessments in their own settings.  Students will gain technical and statistical knowledge in assessment and engage with the design and evaluation of educational assessments, as well as come away with a sound understanding of the field, including high stakes assessment systems.

The Masters course will take place over two academic years part-time with contact teaching and online support generally for the first three terms and supervision of dissertation projects in the final three terms of the course.  In terms one to three students study three core modules and one optional module.

Core modules

Module 1: Assessment Issues and Practices

Module 2: Assessment Design and Evaluation

Module 3: Psychometrics and Assessment Analysis

Optional modules:

Module A: Classroom Based Assessment

Module B: International Large-Scale Assessments

Module C: Advanced Analytic Techniques

Assessment will take the form of both formative assessment and summative assessment.  Formative Assessment will take place at the beginning of each unit.  Summative assessment will be through an examined assignment for each unit, plus a dissertation in the final term of the second year.  Areas covered in the assessments include:  assessment issues and practice, assessment design and statistical evaluation of assessment data; assessment analysis; teacher assessment; international large-scale assessments; advanced analysis techniques.

The MSc is directed by Dr Therese Hopfenbeck. A wide range of lecturers from across the Department teach on the course providing students with core generic and subject-specific teaching and supervision.  As well as the course director, lecturers include Professor Jo-Anne Baird, Dr Kit Double, Dr Yasmine El Masri and Dr Joshua McGrane.  Guest lectures may also be given by Visiting academics and practitioners.


There are currently no scholarships available for this course.


Who is the course for?

This professional development course is aimed at researchers and professionals in the field of educational assessment.

How much time will I be expected to spend on study?

Each paper will comprise 8 teaching sessions that include lectures, seminars and practicals, and a small-group tutorial. For each paper, students are expected to spend approximately 64 hours during non-residential times for the preparation of the papers and the formative pre-paper assignments.

How will my work on the course be supported?

Each student will be appointed a general supervisor for the duration of their studies. This person may go on to be the dissertation supervisor depending on the chosen research topic. In cases where a different dissertation supervisor is appointed they would also take on the general supervision. Modes of supervision include individual online communication via telephone, e-mail and skype meetings. For their dissertation project students will be allocated to a dissertation supervisor by the beginning of Michaelmas Term of the second academic year. Together with the course director, the main teaching staff on specific papers will contribute to the tutoring for their respective papers. Modes of tutoring include participation in the virtual learning community and through telephone, e-mail and/or skype meetings with tutors. During residential periods, face-to-face meetings between tutors and students will be arranged. Pastoral support is also provided by a tutor in the College.

How often will I need to come to the Department for meetings?

The four modules are delivered in residential weeks, when you must attend in Oxford.  After that, meetings with your supervisor may be face to face or conducted electronically.

Do I have to apply to a college?

College affiliation is an important part of being a student at Oxford.  Oxford graduates, particularly ex-PGCE students, often return to their old college.  Otherwise, there are a few colleges which accept part-time students.  We have particular links with Kellogg College, which was specifically set up for students who undertake part-time studies at Oxford. Please note that there is no guarantee that you will be placed at any given College, and a place will be found for you where possible.

What should I include in the statement of purpose on the application form?

The statement of purpose really just tells us why you are interested in doing this course. You should include:

  • your reasons for applying
  • evidence of understanding of the proposed area of study
  • professional experience of educational assessment
  • your ability to present a coherent case in proficient English
  • your commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • your preliminary knowledge of the subject area and research techniques
  • your capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace
  • evidence of your ability to undertake part-time study

If your ideas are less focused, it is fine simply to explain in more general terms what you are hoping to get out of the course and why you would have the support of your school (or other educational setting) in undertaking it now.

Your statement should be no longer than two A4 pages in length.

Who should I choose as my referees?

We would expect to see at least one academic reference and two professional references.  You should choose those referees who you think will provide us with enough information to make a judgement in your ability to follow the course.

We reserve the right to request a further reference if necessary.

Do I still need to pay college fees even though the course is part-time and I do not need accommodation?

All the students have college affiliation so they need to pay college fees their period of study. These are less than the full time cost, reflecting the non-resident status of our students.

Will I be able to pay fees in instalments?

Colleges operate their own fees schedule and this arrangement is dependent on the College.


Couldn’t find your answers under our FAQ section?

Please direct all enquiries to our Professional Programmes Office and a member of the administrative team will be happy to assist you.

Phone: +44 (0)1865 274021

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