Open Days at the Oxford Internet Institute
Questions about our graduate programmes? Get in touch!
OII Graduate Studies Coordinator
Telephone: +44 (0)1865 87222
Studying at the Oxford Internet Institute
We are the only major department in a top-ranked international university to offer multi-disciplinary social science degree programmes focusing on the Internet. We offer an MSc in Social Science of the Internet and a DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences.
We are a young and innovative department, and have deliberately sought to create a teaching environment that is welcoming, supportive and stimulating for all our students. With a student to faculty ratio of just 2:1, our students benefit from frequent interaction with academics and are encouraged to get involved in a wide range of research and policy activities.
If you would like to discuss the programmes with teaching faculty and current students we usually hold two open days a year, in November (physical) and December (virtual); various open days are also run by the University and individual colleges: please check the Oxford University Graduate Studies website or college websites for details.
All or part of this content is also available for download:
The OII's Director, Director of Graduate Studies, and Oxford University's Graduate Recruitment Manager talk about Oxford and the application process. Recorded at the 2011 OII Student Open Day.
What's it like to study at the OII? Faculty and students discuss the OII's DPhil and MSc programmes. Recorded 2010.
A light-hearted student tour of the OII, taking in some Oxford colleges and the world-famous Bodleian library on the way. Recorded 2011.
Doctoral Programme in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences
Our three-year DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences trains students to be future leaders in Internet scholarship. The programme combines high-quality supervision from field-leading academics with tailored training in research methods and graduate skills, specifically designed to facilitate innovative and rigorous study in this fast-moving field.
The multi-disciplinary research environment means that our doctoral students can pursue research either within a single discipline or draw from methods and theories across a range of subjects. Our vigorous events programme ensures that students are exposed to some of the most exciting people and developments in the Internet field, and we make a big effort to get to know our students individually and to support the growth of strong peer-group networks.
Recent theses have looked at peer production in Wikipedia, the impact of digitization on scholarship, and the digital challenge to copyright regulation.
All or part of this content is also available for download:
Director of Graduate Studies Victoria Nash introduces the OII's DPhil programme in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences. Recorded at the 2011 OII Student Open Day.
Masters Programme in Social Science of the Internet
Our one-year MSc in Social Science of the Internet is a full-time intensively taught Masters course, designed to ensure that students attain an in-depth understanding of the social science concepts, theories and methods required to undertake and assess rigorous empirical research or policy analysis of Internet-related issues.
In addition to core papers in Internet social dynamics, technologies and regulation, statistics and research methods, students choose from a variety of specialist options papers such as Internet law, economics, governance and politics, social networks, or more advanced study of Internet methods. In their third term, students undertake original research in their own area of interest - recent theses have explored the role of online journalism in China, blogs in US elections, the use of open data in UK government and mobile Internet in rural Africa.
This MSc can form part of the Oxford 1+1 Programme, which enables students to combine their MSc with the Oxford MBA (subject to final University approval).
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Applying to the MSc Programme
MSc Programme Director Ralph Schroeder introduces the OII's MSc programme in Social Science of the Internet. Recorded at the 2011 OII Student Open Day.
What's it like to study at the OII? Our MSc students talk about the department and University, their backgrounds, and what they hope to do next. Recorded 2010.
Our faculty have expertise spanning a wide range of social, economic, political, legal, industrial, technical and ethical issues relating to the Internet. A sampling is shown here: complete lists of our faculty and the DPhil course information and MSc course information are available elsewhere on our site.
The Social Statistics course introduces students to statistics for the social sciences, with an emphasis on application to research on the Internet and society, and an understanding of tools to analyze real data. Students are taught how to produce statistical analyses and interpret output in the light of theory, as well as how to assess the adequacy of statistical models. In both the introductory and advanced statisics courses, students are taught how to select and interpret appropriate statistical techniques, and undertake hands-on work with data through statistical software. As data almost never come to researchers in a form appropriate for analysis, students are also taught common forms of data manipulation.
Learning, the Internet and Society
The Internet and related technologies have significant implications for learning within and outside the classroom. ICTs have the potential to transform how, what and where people learn; they also challenge existing ideas of what the purpose and nature of formal education is and what the future of education should be. Learning, the Internet and Society provides students with an exciting opportunity to explore these issues at the boundaries of Internet studies, education, sociology and psychology in a way that aims to shift research on learning and new technologies away from a focus on case studies of technological tools that students can use to help them learn in a specific setting, towards broader considerations of how learning and new technologies play a part in all aspects of an individual's life.
Online Social Networks
Social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter have captured the media's attention for their role in the coordination of protests and mobilisations around the world. But what are the collective dynamics that these platforms facilitate and what are the mechanisms involved? Online Social Networks provides the tools and theories to understand the anatomy of online networks, and their role in shaping the coordination of actions and the diffusion of information. The course provides an overview of the different types of networks that emerge online, and considers the theoretical and methodological issues associated with their analysis. The sessions explore different strategies to retrieve and analyse online network data, and present different empirical scenarios to which those tools have been applied. By the end of the course, students should know not only how to calculate basic network metrics on pre-existing data sets, but also how to efficiently capture a social network online with the intent of answering a specific research question, for instance, how online networks facilitate the emergence of social movements and protests.
ICT and Development
We now have over two billion internet users on our planet. But we also inhabit an incredibly uneven world - for instance: a quarter of the world's population lives on less than a dollar a day. Even more shockingly, British people can expect to live until they are 80, but in much of sub-Saharan Africa, life expectancies are below 40. ICT and Development is about the coming together of these two stories, designed for students who are interested in asking how can we understand these contrasts: What are the potentials and possibilities of ICTs for the most disadvantaged people and places? Who benefits and who doesn't from increased connectivity? What theories, tools, and methods should we use to understand the coming together of potentially revolutionary technology and some of the world's biggest problems? How have these problems been theorised? How have they been studied?
Digital Social Research
The Internet is not simply a means of connecting people and data, but a vast living storehouse of data in its own right. Social scientists are frequently ill-equipped to manage the computational techniques required to access that data, including authentication, databases, regular expressions, and scraping. Digital Social Research introduces students to many of the techniques that enable researchers to access data from online sources, and couple it with traditional social science approaches. Much like the subject matter, the course is also a hybrid: alongside each practical lesson in coding are a set of discussion papers on the relationship between digital research and contemporary social science issues.
Digital Era Government and Politics
Political relationships are increasingly mediated by technologies of communication and information, and much is made of their potential contribution to democracy, as events in the Arab Spring have highlighted. But is there any evidence that such positive transformation is occurring, or are we merely seeing the reinforcement of existing patterns of political inequality? And are such technologies inherently freedom-promoting or should we fear their capacity to support the advance of a 'database state'? Digital Era Government and Politics is targeted at students who want to understand the extent to which the Internet is changing traditional models of political behavior, providing them with the theoretical tools and empirical evidence to make this assessment.
Internet Economics is a course designed to show how economics can be used as a powerful and general tool to make sense of our rapidly changing society. This generality will be demonstrated through applications to problems including the net neutrality issue, the social effects of price discrimination, the design of online auctions, and the optimal pricing of digital platform services such as iTunes. Throughout the course the focus is on rigorously deriving results that speak directly to important questions in policy and business practice.
Internet Technologies and Regulation
In studying the Internet we must not forget that it is a tool shaped both by engineering decisions and social and political considerations, as well as by historical accident. The Internet Technologies and Regulation course explores both the technological structure and function of the Internet, and the interleaved engineering and regulatory decision-making mechanisms that underpin its current form and future development.
Networks of Collaboration
Collaboration and research are being transformed by the Internet. In Networks of Collaboration we look at how working together at a distance and sharing knowledge online takes place, and how different cultures of expertise affect the ways technology is being put to use. We ask: as scholars digitize resources, what are the consequences for research? How is communication about research changing? What new models of sharing are emerging? How does open data, open publication, and open education change the way knowledge travels? What are the implications of online knowledge for the public understanding of science?
Meet our Students
We normally admit up to 20 students every year on to the MSc programme, and four to the DPhil programme. Our students come from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds; some might have already spent some time in employment. See all our current students.
DPhil alumnus (2010)
When looking for a place to bring my research backgrounds in Computer Sciences and Intellectual property law together, I found the OII to be the obvious choice. Only a few places offer the openness required for truly multidisciplinary research. The OII brings together the resources I needed to explore the borderline between law, technology and society without forcing me into the boundaries of a particular academic discipline. At the OII I found a vibrant community with a broad scope of backgrounds and experiences, making it a truly distinctive and exciting environment to be in. I particularly appreciated the OII's global network of close links with other leading research centres and projects, which provided me with access to amazing case studies and challenging academic discourse.
Three years ago I came across the OII for the first time. I was studying Globalization and Communications in Leicester, having already gained a background in Media Studies and Computer Science from Germany. The OII seemed like the perfect place for someone with a firm interest in the social aspects of the Internet who felt a bit caught between all the disciplinary stools. From the very start of my DPhil the OII has indeed been that comfortable home for me: providing seminars and guidance from real experts, stimulating discussion with my DPhil colleagues and the freedom to pursue whatever topic you fancy. For Oxford as a whole: as long as you don't take its strange traditions too seriously it's actually a really good place to spend some time of your life.
Whilst working with FLOSS and digital certification in the Brazilian government, I felt deeply challenged by some hard theoretical puzzles that Internet-related technologies pose to law and policy. I then decided it was time to give my academic self another breath. After spending an intellectually enriching year doing a Master in Law and Technology at the University of Ottawa, in Canada, I perceived that I would greatly benefit from working out my knowledge in other related social sciences, so as to grasp the whole societal implications of technology. I was also interested in a place that, besides gathering top-notch researchers to investigate the new, could also question it with a thorough philosophical understanding of the past. Multidisciplinarity, a bustling research environment, and (slightly bizarre?) philosophical tradition have brought me to the OII, and the University of Oxford.
Amaru Villanueva Rance
MSc alumnus (2010)
During my time at the OII I researched interpersonal visibility patterns in online social networks with an aim to understand what role 'looking', and 'being seen to be looking' plays as a social cue in interactions, both mediated and unmediated. I applied to the OII after wandering into 1 St Giles out of sheer curiosity on a cold November afternoon. Once inside, I found the people were friendly and welcoming, and that the coffee machine was working. I have since discovered the value of the 'multidisciplinarity' of this place; you seldom have the same discussion twice, and are always stimulated to look at problems from new angles. This constant intellectual breeze never lets the air get stale. Prior to coming to the OII, I read Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at Oxford University. A Bolivian native, I have done work on the regulation and ownership of energy firms for the Bolivian Ministry of Hydrocarbons, and in the UK I have worked as a Research Analyst in related fields. I am grateful for the St Anne's Centenary Scholarship which helped to fund my time here.
MSc alumnus (2010)
During my study and practice of the law over the years, I never gave up seeking for a path that would allow me to combine my experience in law with my long-term interests in the public policy of the Internet. The dream had not come true until I got to know of this innovative MSc programme. The interdisciplinary approach makes us all-round researchers on the Internet from distinct perspectives. The small class size enables close interactions and friendships among peers, not to mention the personalised instruction from supervisors and other faculty - I dare to say that the OII is one of a few places in the world where you can find a faculty-student ratio higher than 1.5! I believe my journey here will become an invaluable asset to my future career.
MSc alumnus (2010)
After working in journalism for a couple of years, I found that I needed more academic training to sharpen my thoughts about this dynamic society, so I was wondering what I should do, and where I should go. My generation in a changing China was lucky enough to witness numerous things going on at the same time - one of them being the Internet. The Internet is subtly changing this country, from politics to people's day-to-day lives. Therefore, I decided to come to the OII, the only institution in the world running the fantastic MSc program in Social Science of the Internet. Apart from English food and the weather, I enjoyed my time at the OII. I learned a lot from the multi-disciplinary faculty as well as my brilliant peers, who came from different cultural and educational backgrounds. This is a place with a real remix culture, which usually fosters great ideas and cutting-edge research.
MSc alumnus (2011)
During my undergraduate studies in London I began to think of the Internet as a game-changer rather than a personal tool. I was fascinated to learn how the Internet seems to fundamentally influence the social dynamics surrounding us. Both the quality and reputation of the OII, as well as its interdisciplinary focus, inspired me to apply for this course. I wanted to use the OII as my platform to satisfy my academic curiosity and deepen my understanding of this subject through empirical research. Placed right in the centre of the Oxford community, the OII has certainly kept its promise and provided me with a paramount university experience. It's a place where not only the faculty, but also your peers are all involved in doing cutting edge research. Very early on, one notices that, contrary to popular belief, the field of social science of the Internet goes far beyond Facebook and Twitter, and that we have just started to unravel the myths of the digital world.
MSc alumnus (2011)
Being described as communication scientist, web designer, developer, geek, tech consultant or simply avid Internet enthusiast, I took great interest in the OII's work way before I came to Oxford. I felt the true calling when I attended the Oxford Social Media Congress, which was organised by the OII and presented great insight into the work happening there. I was not aware of a single other institution that is able to maintain such an interdisciplinarity while maintaining a high academic and professional standard. From that perspective, the OII was no choice for me, but truly the only place I felt I could deepen all my interests and skills. I can only recommend the OII to everyone who feels that their work or skills demand more than just one discipline.
MSc alumnus (2011)
During my studies in Business Administration at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, I was engaged in several web 2.0 projects which shaped my interest in the online world. However, I always felt a need to deepen my knowledge about the social implications of the Internet, and to acquire research tools to study them. Thus, the OII seemed like a perfect place to go. My year here has been full of engaging discussions, inspiring lectures and demanding, yet intriguing research work. Indeed, I've learned a lot. Moreover, what makes the OII really special is the faculty coming from various academic backgrounds: they offer different perspectives on many dimensions of the Internet, as well as great support in research work. Combined with Oxford's history and tradition, this year has turned out to be really fantastic.
MSc alumnus (2011)
Having previously studied management and information systems, I was looking for an MSc degree which would widen my understanding of the Internet and help me appreciate the dynamics of its interaction with society. The core courses have helped me understand the main academic perspectives on the Internet, but I have especially enjoyed my two option courses: Internet economics and Internet law. The latter was particularly inspiring and has even suggested a possible new career path. The OII provides definitely one of the most specialized courses in Oxford: it shouldn't be missed!
MSc alumnus (2011)
For me, one of the most important things about the OII has been the informal atmosphere and the everyday contact with leading researchers that is possible in a small department. Even as a Master's student on a one-year course, you are invited to engage in a rich range of seminars and exchange ideas with OII faculty as well as the many visiting researchers. Throughout the year, I found my background in Sociology very useful, but the interdisciplinary curriculum caters for many different perspectives. My year here has more than fulfilled the expectations that drew me from Copenhagen to Oxford: finding an academic home away from home that is at the cutting edge of sober, interdisciplinary social science of the Internet. This, supplemented by the amazing social life at graduate-only Green Templeton College, has made my year in Oxford thoroughly worthwhile.
Frequently Asked Questions
About the application process
How do I choose a supervisor?
Our students are supervised by OII faculty members and Research Associates. Please note that we will only admit students where appropriate supervision is available: see the DPhil application and MSc application pages for details of supervisors. If having read these, you are still unsure who could supervise your proposed resesearch (or if you are considering supervision by a faculty member from a different Oxford University department) please contact us to discuss this.
Why do I need to choose a college?
Oxford is a collegiate university: students and teaching staff belong both to a faculty or department and to a college. Colleges typically provide subsidised accommodation and meals, library and computing facilities, sports equipment, and a social centre with student Common Rooms and a bar. Further information is available on choosing a College on the University website, and from college prospectuses.
How do I decide on a college?
We cannot advise applicants on their choice of college, however, all teaching is organised within the department so college choice will not make any significant difference to the way that students are taught or supervised. When making your choice, first check which colleges accept applications from OII students (see the 'Selecting a College' section on our MSc apply and DPhil apply pages), then check the individual college websites. Factors you should consider when making your choice include location, accommodation quality (and your eligibility for this), library facilities, any financial support the college may be able to offer (eg awards, bursaries or scholarships) and the collegiate atmosphere. Note that some colleges accept only graduate students (eg Linacre, Nuffield, St Antony's, St Cross, Kellogg and Wolfson) or mature students (Harris Manchester). Currently, most of our students are based at St Hilda's, Keble, Kellogg, Green Templeton, St Cross and Wolfson. Our faculty members have links with Balliol, Keble, Mansfield and Trinity.
If I am accepted on a programme, am I guaranteed a place at a college?
Yes: colleges will contact candidates separately with their place offers, subject to satisfaction of any funding conditions. In the event of heavy over-subscription of a particular college, some candidates may not be accepted by the college specified in their application and they will be allocated a place at another college. This does not necessarily guarantee accommodation: advice is available from the Oxford University Accommodation Office or individual colleges.
What information is available for international applications?
The University of Oxford has a long tradition of welcoming international students, who currently constitute around 30 percent of the student body. If you are applying from outside the UK, we recommend that you consult the University's International Office which provides information to support international applications (eg immigration and Visas, scholarships and funding, US Graduate Student Loans, English Language requirements, Orientation Programmes, etc).
What fees do I have to pay?
All graduate students have to pay BOTH tuition fees and College fees. See the University's guidance on fee status and fee liability for information on Home / EU / Overseas student classification. As well as covering University and College fees, students will also have to support their maintenance costs. As Oxford is a relatively expensive place to live, it is recommended that students budget between £10,000 and £12,500 per annum to cover accommodation, meals and other living expenses.
About being a student
What facilities does the OII offer its students?
Our doctoral students are provided with working space at the OII or satellite offices. We are equipped with advanced video conferencing facilities and business-class network access. Our library specialises in social sciences, sociology and computing, and our students also have access to the Bodleian Library, the main research library of the University of Oxford. For further information on student provision at the OII please see the MSc Template of Provision (PDF, 36kb) or DPhil Template of Provision (PDF, 36kb). Students are encouraged to engage fully in the intellectual life of the department, for example through participation in student workshops, departmental seminars, and research projects.
What provisions are there for students with disabilities?
The University of Oxford is committed to providing equality of opportunity and improving access for all people with disabilities who work and study at the University. The University Disability Office produces a Guide for Disabled Students and Applicants. The ground floor of the OII is wheelchair-accessible, providing access to the library, seminar rooms, student computer room and disabled toilet. Ramp access can be provided at the front and back entrances to the OII. The seminar rooms and reception area are fitted with induction loops.
Do I have to live in Oxford during my studies?
You are required by the University's regulations to be in residence in Oxford during term time. That means a commitment to be in Oxford for at least the full eight weeks of all three terms of each academic year (see dates of full term). You also need to be available in Oxford for several events outside full term, from the induction programme to viva voce examinations for doctoral students. Research away from Oxford should be discussed with your supervisor. DPhil students must be resident in Oxford during term time for at least the first two years of their programme. MSc students are strongly advised to stay in Oxford until the 1st August to complete their thesis.