MSc FAQ

How do I apply for the Public Policy 1+1 programme?

If you wish to apply for the Public Policy 1+1 programme, you will need to apply for and be accepted for both the MPP and the MSc. You should mention in the personal statement for both your applications that you are applying for the Public Policy 1+1 programme.

The application and assessment processes for these courses are separate. Whether or not you have applied for the Public Policy 1+1 will not have an impact on your application to either course – we ask you to mention it to ensure that we identify your application as 1+1 as this would mean you are applying for the 2022 intake for the MPP and the 2023 intake for the MSc. You should expect to hear an outcome for both courses in late March 2022. More information is available on the Public Policy 1+1 graduate admissions website.

For the Public Policy 1+1, can I do the MSc first, and then the MPP?

No. Students who opt for a 1+1 admissions entry are required to take the MPP in the first year and the MSc in the second year. This sequencing is required because the MSc is designed for students who have already taken our MPP. The MSc builds upon pre-existing knowledge about the public policy process, training in leadership and the core skills of policymaking and implementation that the MPP provides.

How many academic references do I need to submit?

As part of your application, you are asked to provide the names and contact details of three referees.

For the MPP, you are required to provide at least one academic reference and it is up to you if you would like the rest to be academic or professional according to what you feel best showcases your interests, achievements and abilities.

For the MSc, we prefer you to have two academic referees where possible. Your academic referees should be individuals who have experience teaching you in a higher education context including those that have taught you on the MPP.  Please note, it is usual to obtain references from either your supervisor or the course director of your previous degree.

I cannot get an academic reference; can I submit only professional references?

No, you are required to submit at least one academic reference and you may be asked to provide one before your application can be assessed. Academic references are preferred but we will accept professional references which speak to your academic and analytical ability.

Can I use the same policy brief for my Public Policy 1+1 application?

If you are applying for the MSc at the same time as the MPP – through the Public Policy 1+1 route – then you can use the same 1,500 word policy brief for both applications. More information on the application criteria for supporting written work can be found on the Public Policy 1+1 graduate admissions website.

Should I submit an identical personal statement for my Public Policy 1+1 application?

No, we would strongly encourage you to tailor one personal statement for the MPP and one personal statement for the MSc. The application and assessment processes for these courses are separate. More information on the criteria for your personal statement can be found on the Graduate Admissions website for each course.

Who is the ideal MSc candidate?

There is no set level of experience required of applicants. The MSc in Public Policy Research is aimed at people who want to pursue a career in applied policy research that informs the understanding, design and implementation of effective public policy. The course is designed for people who have completed our MPP and who want to receive rigorous training in applied research methods. We aim to select outstanding candidates from around the world who show a commitment to improving government through high-quality research. Our aim is always to have a truly diverse classroom where students from all over the world with different values and perspectives challenge each other.

What is unique/special about the MSc in Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government?

The MSc is not oriented towards theory and academic debates, but rather towards policy and impactful research. The degree brings together the research and teaching excellence of the Blavatnik School of Government with the specific needs of policy stakeholders from around the world. The purpose of the MSc in Public Policy Research is to provide an outstanding education to current and future public servants on how to conduct robust, applied and impactful research that can inform public policy-making – whether by clarifying the nature, extent and cause of major policy problems, or by developing evidence-based strategies for their mitigation. Graduates of the degree will have a keen understanding of the relationship between research evidence and other major influences on the public policy process, such as ideologies and institutions; will be able to design and undertake a range of policy-relevant research methods to the highest standards; and will be skilled in effectively communicating research findings.

Tell me more about the policy mentors.

In addition to your academic supervisor, you will be allocated a Policy Mentor to provide additional advice when undertaking their research project. The Policy Mentor will normally be an experienced official from a relevant government or other public policy organisation whose remit covers the policy problem being researched by the student. Students will meet with their Policy Mentor up to three times during the year to discuss their thesis research.

There will be a range of expert practitioners who work with the School as Policy Mentors and you will be normally be assigned one based on your thesis research topic.

What guidance do you have for the short research proposal that forms part of the MSc application?

The short research proposal will be used only to help the Admissions Team assess applications for the MSc. The topic could be the one that you anticipate investigating for the research thesis or another topic in which you are especially interested. The proposal should briefly describe the policy problem to be researched, outline a research question to be investigated and propose the methods that would be employed to answer the research question (e.g. what sort of data do you want to make use of, how will you collect it and how do you envisage analysing it?). The research proposal must not under any circumstances exceed 1,500 words. Bibliographic references are not included in the word count.

How many contact hours are there on the MSc?

In Michaelmas Term, students will take four compulsory modules. (1) Theories and Concepts in Public Policy Research and (2) Research Design will both comprise eight weekly 1.5-hour interactive lectures. (3) Qualitative Methods for Public Policy Research will comprise eight weekly 1-hour interactive lectures plus eight weekly 1-hour practical workshops. (4) Thesis Development Seminars will comprise eight weekly 1-hour classes. This results in a minimum of six hours per week of formal class contact time. In addition, students will have two supervision sessions with their academic supervisor.

In Hilary Term, students will take three compulsory modules. (1) Research in a Public Policy Context will comprise eight weekly 1.5-hour interactive lectures and eight weekly 1.5-hour classes involving guest speakers working in public policy organisations. (2) Statistics for Public Policy will comprise eight weekly 1-hour interactive lectures plus eight weekly 1-hour practical workshops. (3) Thesis Development Seminars will comprise eight weekly 1-hour classes. This results in a minimum of six hours per week of formal class contact time.

In both Michaelmas and Hilary terms, students will also be expected to undertake at least six hours of reading, preparation or follow-up work for each module per week. One day per week will be available for extended reading, individual project study, workshops and attending seminars elsewhere in the University.

In Trinity Term, students will take one Option module involving eight weekly 2-hour classes. Most of the term will be devoted to (1) reading for their Option module; and (2) undertaking the reading, data collection and data analysis for their thesis research. They will also have two supervision sessions during the term with their academic supervisor including one over the summer. One day per week will be available for extended reading, individual project study, workshops and attending seminars elsewhere in the University.

There will also be a range of optional sessions throughout the year available through the School’s Professional Skills programme as well as other skills and research training courses within the University that are open to all students.

Can I work whilst doing the MSc?

The MSc is a full-time course that requires your full attention. You will be expected to attend and participate fully in all lectures and seminars or participate in coursework activities throughout the term and you will spend a significant amount of time preparing for these and in independent study. It is very important to note that, compared with our MPP, the MSc has fewer taught classes but requires far more hours of independent study throughout the entire year.

You should regard studying for the MSc as a full-time occupation of at least 40 hours per week. We understand that some students may have obligations to their current employer which cannot be avoided, in which case we recommend that you limit this to eight hours per week in addition to the 40 hours studying for the MSc. For more information visit this link.

What are the anticipated future MSc term dates?

Please note that students should be available for class during the term dates – teaching will start no earlier than their beginning and finish no later than their end. Summative assessments may be due after these dates. They can be submitted from outside Oxford. MSc students will spend Trinity term and Summer term working on their thesis.

The MSc terms follow the standard ‘Full Term’ of eight weeks, which is the main teaching period.

  • Michaelmas term, Monday 0th week to Friday 8th week
  • Hilary term, Monday 0th week to Friday 8th week
  • Trinity term, Monday 0th week to Friday 8th week

Provisional dates

2022-2023

  • Michaelmas term, Monday 3 October – Friday 16 December 2022
  • Hilary term, Monday 9 January – Friday 24 March 2023
  • Trinity term, Thursday 20 April – Thursday 6 July 2023

2023-2024

  • Michaelmas term, Monday 2 October – Friday 15 December 2023
  • Hilary term, Monday 8 January – Friday 22 March 2024
  • Trinity term, Friday 19 April – Friday 5 July 2024

More information on term dates and Oxford’s numbering system can be found on the University’s website.

Can I receive guidance on my suitability for the programme by submitting my CV?

No, the Blavatnik School of Government receives a very large number of applications and enquiries each year. In the interest of making the admissions process as impartial and fair as possible, it is not possible to offer feedback to some candidates when the privilege cannot be extended to all. Therefore, the department cannot provide individual guidance on suitability for the course, but would rather encourage you to read the selection criteria carefully.

I have a GPA of less than 3.7; can I still apply?

Yes, all applications are considered holistically against our selection criteria of academic excellence, commitment to public service and demonstrable leadership and impact. However, we would stress that the MSc and Public Policy 1+1 are very intensive programmes designed for students with a high level of academic ability. Please note also that the Blavatnik School of Government receives a very large number of applications and entry is extremely competitive.

Do I need to submit an english language test?

You do not need to provide evidence of English language proficiency if you meet one of the following criteria:

A. Your first language is English and you have always been a resident and citizen of a majority English-speaking country recognised by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI); or

B. You are a current Oxford student applying for readmission.

C. You have completed a minimum of three years full time higher education in English in a UKVI country, completing your course within approximately two years of the start date of the MPP. We will consider any degrees which finished in May 2020 or later for our 2022 intake.

If you do not meet one of the criteria above, you will have to provide evidence that you meet the English language requirement for the MSc or Public Policy 1+1.

Please see the central University application guide for full details of this requirement – please note that the School requires the higher level scores outlined. Where possible you should submit an English language proficiency test by the application deadline; if you have not yet taken a test or received your results 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 31 May 2022. Please note that the Blavatnik School has a higher waiver standard than the central university and waivers are granted at the discretion of the department. If you wish to apply for a waiver you can submit this request either with your application or after you receive an offer.

Can I change from full-time to part-time?

Both the MSc and MPP are full-time programmes only. Due to the intensive nature of the courses, part-time study is not possible.

Can I take a gap year between the MPP and MSc?

No, the Public Policy 1+1 is a consecutive two-year programme of study. If you wish to have a gap year between the MPP and the MSc you should first apply for the MPP only. Then in the admissions cycle prior to the MSc, you should apply again.

Can I apply after the January deadline has passed?

No, it is not possible to apply after the close of the January deadline. The MSc and Public Policy 1+1 only has one admissions cycle a year, which runs from the start of September to early January.

I am experiencing technical difficulties with the online application form, should I contact the Blavatnik School admissions team for help?

No, all applications are initially processed by the central Graduate Admissions office and the Blavatnik School of Government Admissions team cannot access applications until after the deadline has passed. For any technical difficulties or queries you should request support from the Graduate Admissions and Funding office.

Will all applicants be interviewed?

No, applicants interviews are not usually conducted as part of our admissions process. If we’d like further information at the time of assessing your application, we may get in touch via email to request this from you.

Can the Blavatnik School admissions team update me on the status of my application before decisions are announced?

No, we aim to get decisions out as soon as possible, but are unable to comment before all decisions have been communicated. All candidates will receive notification via email. For information on the timetable for admissions decisions please refer to the 'After you apply' pages on the Graduate Admissions and Funding website.

Can the Blavatnik School admissions team update me on the status of my funding applications before decisions are announced?

No, for University-managed scholarships in most cases funding decisions are made by external bodies, who will contact shortlisted candidates directly or through us. We are unfortunately not in control of this process and can therefore not guarantee when decisions will be made by.

Is it possible to reapply next year if I am unsuccessful this year?

Yes, each year is a separate admissions cycle and being unsuccessful in one year does not mean that an application would also be unsuccessful in the next.

I am considering bringing my partner/family to Oxford, what facilities are available?

There are facilities available across the University for students with partners and families. Limited accommodation is available from colleges and the University Accommodation Office, and we would encourage you to investigate this once a college place has been confirmed. The University Student Union offers advice to students with families which provides information on childcare and schooling.

Which College can I apply to?

For information on colleges that are accepting MSc only students, please visit the Graduate Admissions college tab of the MSc.

For information on colleges that are accepting Public Policy 1+1 students, please visit the Graduate Admissions college tab of the 1+1.

What is the purpose of a College for a graduate student?

Colleges act as a base for the duration of your time as a graduate student. They provide meals, chapels, social events, sporting clubs, and each has its own library (of varying degrees of size and specialism). Several colleges also provide accommodation for graduate students, either for one year, two years and exceptionally, three years. For further information please check the individual college websites for further details.

Can I come and visit the Blavatnik School to find out more?

All the information you require about the MSc and Public Policy 1+1 is available on our website. However, it is possible to visit and speak to the admissions team about your application to the course (subject to COVID-19 restrictions in place at the time). If you are going to be in Oxford please email the Blavatnik School of Government admissions team (admissions@bsg.ox.ac.uk) to book an appointment. Please note that it is not possible to meet with faculty to discuss your application and that appointment slots with the admissions team are limited.