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Study FAQs

Study FAQs


This page has general FAQs about studying at the OII. For course specific questions, visit the individual course pages.

Studying at the OII

Should I apply for the part-time or full-time programme?

The part-time and full-time versions of a degree have the same entry requirements, coursework, and expectations for students. The main difference is in timing. Part-time students generally take half the courses of full-time students in any given year and have double the amount of time to complete the programme.

Students pursuing full-time study should treat it as they would a full-time job, planning to spend at least forty hours each week on study. Additional employment—particularly for those on MSc courses—is discouraged. Within these limits, some of the OII’s existing students have been employed on a short-term basis as Research Assistants on grant-funded projects, but only with the agreement of their supervisors, the Course Convenor and the Director of Graduate Studies. For full information on employment whilst on course, please see the University’s Paid work guidelines.

Part-time students should expect to spend the time equivalent of half a full-time job on their studies. This includes spending at least one day per week in Oxford during term time. Part-time students are otherwise not subject to any limits and the part-time programmes are expressly designed to allow completion of the degree alongside employment, caring, or other external responsibilities.

Ordinarily part-time students must be legally resident in the UK or hold a visa that permits part-time study. For further information, please refer to the Home Office’s information on student visas.

Applicants who are not resident in the UK may be able to enter on a part-time Student Visa; however, please be aware that this visa type does not permit the holder to undertake any work for the duration of their studies, paid or voluntary. For any queries please contact the Student Immigration team.

Do you offer any intensive, online or distance-learning courses?

We do not normally offer any of our MSc or DPhil programmes in an intensive, online, or distance-learning modality. Although we do make use of virtual learning environments and various other online components of study, both full and part-time students are required to attend in person during term time due to the collaborative and multi-disciplinary nature of our programmes, and the principles that underpin Oxford education as a collegiate university. We strongly believe that the face-to-face element of the programme is vital in providing a multi-disciplinary peer network for students to engage in ideas, discussion and debate.

We do, however, offer this programme on a part-time basis. The part-time MSc is substantively identical to the full-time degree, but distributes the workload over two years for those who must fit study around work, family, or other outside commitments.

What fees do I have to pay?

Course fees cover your teaching, and other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. They do not cover your accommodation or other living costs. You may have seen separate figures in the past for tuition fees and college fees. We have now combined these into a single figure.

See the University’s guidance on fee status and fee liability for information on Home/Republic of IrelandIslands and 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 consult the University’s guidance on living costs when planning their budget, to cover accommodation, meals and other living expenses.

Where can I find out about scholarships?

Please see the University’s Fees and Funding website for details of all scholarships for which you may be eligible.

I’m an international student

The University of Oxford has a long tradition of welcoming international students, who currently constitute around 65% of all graduate students. We recommend that you visit the University’s International Student advice web pages, which provide information and guidance to support international students.

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 Disability Advisory Service has information about the support offered to help those with a disability maintain their track record of academic success as they pursue their studies. The ground floor of the OII is wheelchair-accessible, providing access to the library, seminar room, student common room and an accessible toilet. The OII supports the University’s Common Framework for Supporting Disabled Students. Chrissy Bunyan is the OII’s disability lead, who is available to discuss any related issues and to assist with connecting students with appropriate support.

What facilities does the OII offer its students?

Our MSc students are provided with working space in the department. We are equipped with advanced video conferencing facilities and high-speed network access. Our library specialises in the social sciences, technology and computing, and our students also have access to the Bodleian Library, the University’s main research library. Students are encouraged to engage fully in the intellectual life of the department, e.g., through participation in workshops, departmental seminars, and research projects.


Is the 2,000 word limit on the written work a minimum or maximum?

2,000 words is a maximum. Many students who find that their best work exceeds this length choose to submit a 2,000-word extract from that longer piece of work. We recommend that your chosen piece: demonstrates your capacity for independent or original thought; is systematically analytical rather than purely descriptive; addresses a clear question or problem; where relevant, draws on data or literature sources to support its main arguments; and expresses its arguments with clarity and precision.

If I need to submit English Language Test results, when are they due?

You can read more about the English language requirements for graduate study applications in the graduate application guide. This course requires proficiency in English at the University’s higher level. If you already have English language test scores at the required level achieved within two years of the start of the course to which you are applying, please include them in your application. However, you are not required to provide test scores when you submit your application.  

How many of my references have to be academic? Can I submit references that are not academic?

Of the three required references, at least one should be academic. You are welcome to submit professional references as well, as long as they are able to comment on your academic potential.

What do I do about references if I have been out of academia for a few years?

Professional references are acceptable, particularly if you have been out of education for some time, but should focus particularly on your intellectual abilities rather than more narrowly on job performance. 

Your references will be assessed for; your intellectual ability, your academic achievement. and your motivation and interest in the course and subject area. It is a good idea to send your referees the entry requirements for your course so they can comment on your performance against the requirements.   

At what point should I contact my referees?

As early as possible. Before you apply, you will need to contact your referees to ask if they are happy to write a reference (letter of recommendation) for you.  You must register three referees as part of your graduate application. However, you need only two references submitted in time for the deadline to be considered ready for assessment, as long as your application is otherwise complete. You can read detailed guidance on references in the Graduate Application Guide 

Where can I find the entry requirements for my course?

Search for your course on the graduate admissions website course information pages. The entry requirements for your course are in the ‘entry requirements’ and ‘how to apply’ sections for each course.   


What if my grades don’t meet the entry requirements?

In exceptional circumstances, applicants with a distinguished record of workplace achievement since graduation may be accepted with lower grades at first degree level. However, we are given very little flexibility on the entry requirements by the central university administration, and an applicant will typically need to demonstrate exceptional potential through their supporting documents, extenuating circumstances, or a substantial time gap with an outstanding record of intervening work experience or similar. 

Can I submit a co-authored piece of written work in my application?

Co-authored work is acceptable, but it needs to be made clear exactly which parts were written by you. If the work is co-authored and they cannot identify which work is yours vs your co-author(s), the admissions panel may not feel they can accurately assess the work as part of your application. If you are unable to identify which parts were written by you, we would strongly advise you to submit a different piece so that the panel can better assess your abilities (rather than the abilities of your co-author(s)). 

Does my written work have to be on a topic related to research at the OII?

You may provide written work on any topic. Choose work that best demonstrates your academic abilities. We recommend that your chosen piece demonstrates your capacity for independent or original thought, is systematically analytical rather than purely descriptive, addresses a clear question or problem, where relevant, draws on data or literature sources to support its main arguments, and expresses its arguments with clarity and precision. 

It is for these reasons that we recommend that your chosen piece be from your most recent qualification, although written work not related to your last degree is permissible, particularly if you have been out of academia for some time, with a strong preference that this work be analytic/academic in nature. 



Can I have feedback on my application before applying?

We are unable to comment on the likelihood of success of individual applications. However, applicants are encouraged to read all the information about our programmes and on the University of Oxford’s Graduate Admissions pages, and then put forward what they consider to be the strongest application possible. 


What does a good DPhil application look like? Do you have any examples?

Here is some great advice from OII DPhil alumni Bertram Vidgen on how to write your DPhil application proposalYou can also read OII Professor Vili Lehdonvirta’s advice about picking a research topic for a DPhil application. 



Why do I need to choose a college?

Oxford is a collegiate university: students and teaching staff belong both to a department and to a college. Colleges typically provide library and IT facilities, accommodation, welfare support, and sports and social events. Graduate students also benefit from the Middle Common Room (MCR) in their college – both a physical space and an organisation, it provides social events, advice, and a link to the graduate community. Your college will have a Tutor for Graduates or Senior Tutor whose role includes general oversight of all graduate members of the college, although your academic studies will be directed by your department or faculty. Each graduate student has a college adviser, a senior member of the college’s staff who will be able to offer support and advice. Further information is available on choosing a college on the University website, and from college prospectuses.

How do I decide on which college to choose?

We can’t 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, by looking at the ‘college preference’ section of your course. 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 (e.g. awards, bursaries or scholarships) and the collegiate atmosphere. Note that some colleges accept only graduate students or mature students. If you select a particular college as a preference it does not mean that you will be automatically offered a place there.

If I am accepted on a programme, am I guaranteed a place at a college?

Yes: Once you have received an offer from the department, your application will go forward for consideration by your preferred college, or the Graduate Admissions and Funding team will assign you a college for consideration if you have not selected a college preference. In the event of heavy over-subscription of a particular college, you may be allocated a place at another college. Colleges will contact candidates separately with their offer, subject to satisfaction of any funding conditions. A college decision can take 8-10 weeks following the departmental decision. The University does not guarantee accommodation at a college for its graduate students. However, many colleges do attempt to provide accommodation for graduate students during their first year of study, particularly in the case of international students. If your college is unable to provide any accommodation or the type of accommodation you need, you can contact the University Accommodation Office for further information and assistance.

Can I switch college during the application process?

No, it is not possible to amend your college preference after submitting your application, or to later specify a choice if you did not originally state a preference. You can only give one college preference during the admissions process, in your initial application. There are some useful frequently asked questions regarding this on the Graduate Admissions website.