View Full Version : Oxford beginning to review files from the first gathered field (Jan 15th deadline)

02-20-2008, 04:54 PM
Decisions to come by mid March at the latest, though they are trying to get the decisions out earlier this year.

Am I the only one that applied there? :hmm:

02-20-2008, 09:00 PM
Not the only one... I was choosing between ox and cam, and cam lost because of complexity of its application materials...
Olm, how do you view ox in terms of competitiveness?

02-20-2008, 09:17 PM
Another view on Cambridge --- their application process is damn annoying. What's with the paper AND online application thing? It created a lot of hassle for me and my references.

02-20-2008, 09:29 PM
I don't know, I just resigned after reading it like 5 times without getting any sense.
Actually I like 2 years mphil program of ox more i, in terms of learning more and moreover if you decide not to continue for phd somewhere (or in my case returning to my home country and finishing phd back home while working) or better boost for references for subsequent phd somewhere...

02-20-2008, 10:16 PM
Oxford is supposed to place well, but that's probably because of the incest between Oxford/Cambridge/LSE/UCL/etc. in the UK. It's a world class program, but most students use the MPhil as a springboard to the top PhD programs in the US. I won't be doing that, so the value of an Oxford DPhil is very important to me. I honestly don't have enough information about it at this point.

02-20-2008, 10:21 PM
I applied to Oxford too. How would you guys fund your studies there?

02-20-2008, 10:22 PM
Typically, students are funded by the colleges. If I don't get funding, I'm not going.

02-20-2008, 10:26 PM
I think I have read somewhere that the class is about 50 people, which is good for chances to get in the same apply for LSE msc econ. The cost are also quite high...
program fees £10k for two years (£20k for overseas students)
college fees £4k
food etc... £20k..
which is in total cca £30-40k...
(Fees and expenses : Oxford University Graduate Studies Prospectus 2008/09 (http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/postgraduate/finance/fees.shtml))

02-20-2008, 10:28 PM
LSE rarely funds people for it's master's programs. But in terms of a "preparatory master's degree", there is no better.

Trapped In an EW Box
02-21-2008, 01:39 AM
Most are on outside funding...there are few scholarships, though it's not impossible

Karina 07
02-22-2008, 02:49 AM
Typically, students are funded by the colleges.

Typically, students have outside funding. Colleges rarely fund.

Karina 07
02-22-2008, 02:52 AM
Nevermind -- decided my comment about the program wasn't grounded enough.

02-22-2008, 03:09 AM
Nevermind -- decided my comment about the program wasn't grounded enough.

No no no! Do tell! Do tell! :)

02-22-2008, 04:56 PM
What outside fellowships/scholarships are you applying to?
BTW, a friend of mine got into Ox with full fellowship four years ago.

On a different note, what are the chances of getting an academic placement in the US with an Ox degree?
Someone upthread said people use the MPhil as a springboard for US PhD programs? If so, would you have to you start the PhD from the beginning?

02-22-2008, 06:50 PM
Yes you would have to start the PhD from the beginning, unless you can pass the prelims. Almost everyone who already has an MA in econ, or in some cases transfers into a better school after a year, has to "start from the beginning".

Though I would hardly call it that, because you'll have a huge leg up in terms of course preparation, passing the comps, and exposure to the literature. All of this means that you will be able to finish the PhD faster; for example, some people that already have PhDs in mathematics have been known to finish their econ PhDs in under 3 years. The average time spent doing an econ PhD is just under 7 (seven!) years, the idea that most have it done in 4 is just romanticism (see "Getting What You Came For", forget the author's name at this time). You're also far more likely to finish the PhD if you already have an MA in econ or a related discipline, and this is a big advantage seeing as attrition in the field of economics at the PhD level (people entering PhD programs but never getting the PhD) can be high, in the magnitude of 20% to 50%!

02-25-2008, 05:10 PM
I don't know how accurate a comparison I can provide between Oxford MPhil and the first two years of a US PhD, say at top 10 or top 10-20, because I have never studied in a US PhD programme myself :) Having said that, I feel that the level of material is below that taught at top 10-15 US departments. For example, the mostly used Macro texts are Romer and Obstfeld&Rogoff. Blanchard&Fischer is always mentioned in references but most students prefer the former books. However, different modules are of different difficulties. For instance, for the open-closed economy macroeconomics & growth dynamics module, lectures follow Obstfeld&Rogoff + Romer closely. But for the microfoundations of macro module (wage determination etc.) there is no textbook and the next station after lecture notes is original papers. From what I heard from friends who study in the US, some of them don't even touch these books and work with, say, Stokey&Lucas which approaches the material from an entirely different perspective. But then, I am not sure if Oxford is one of the better places to study Macro.

Another example is Econometrics, where sometimes lectures notes are good enough and sometimes textbooks such as Hamilton or Hendry (Dynamic Econometrics) are necessary to understand the material. My personal feeling is that most of the time students have to go beyond lecture notes and check papers or textbooks to solve problem sets. So the level of competency is certainly above the level of lectures (as it is the case in most departments I guess :) ).

I think the attitude here is to give lectures in the first year without using technical mathematical tools like real analysis or differential equations. They are only used to some degree. Probably, if somebody is interested in pursuing research in an area where more technical knowledge is required then s/he will have to take extra courses or study independently under the supervision of their advisor to fill the gaps. I must add that although some teachers openly discourage students from studying during the summer, some others see this time-window as a big opportunity to acquire the necessary skills for the MPhil research, which is take really seriously here. Probably the biggest advantage of the Oxford degree is the MPhil thesis. A good performance in thesis is necessary for advancing on to DPhil. Again some teacher mentioned that there are always some theses each year, which are good enough to be published in an academic journal (not JPE or Econometrica though :p)

My impression is that Oxford is a decent place for Auction Theory, Industrial Organisation and Microeconomics in general. Also, there are some fine economericians doing both applied and theoretical work. There is a new multi-discipline financial research centre which makes the department attractive for those who are interested in financial economics, financial econometrics etc. So, I guess there are opportunities for those studying a DPhil here, preferably with a well known advisor. There have been some good placements in the past, however one must keep in mind that there are also post-docs here who come from places like Chicago, Harvard, LSE etc. So placement record may be a bit deceptive as it includes those who never studied at Oxford.

However, I think another peculiarity is that most of the best graduates decide to stay at Oxford, both for DPhil and academic career. I know at least two faculty members who were the best of their years in MPhil and received prizes for their dissertations. Certainly, if a good degree from Oxford makes it possible to get into a good US department, then those people would be the most likely to go if they wanted to.

All in all, for someone who is looking for a jumping stone, LSE MSc in Economics might be good and MPhil in Oxford may be even better if you also want to acquire serious knowledge before going to a PhD in the US. From what I have seen at the LSE, their micro at the MSc level is nowhere close to the micro here in the first year. Nevertheless, I am sure that their first year MRes is at least as good as the MPhil at Oxford :).

Hope I haven't diverged much and also hope this helps to those who are trying to decide :)

02-25-2008, 05:35 PM
Thank you so much, Lombardo! An extremely informative post.

Karina 07
03-01-2008, 04:47 AM
My thoughts on the DPhil (though Lombardo please jump in some more if you disagree):

In general, as a UK program I feel like there is less support for students. This is surprisingly not as much of an issue for MPhil students as it is a taught programme (even if you're expected to do more of the legwork in determining the appropriate articles to read etc.) but I feel like there's a pretty big difference between the support in the DPhil and the support from a US PhD program. The MPhil is great because it provides a sort of sheltered environment in which to learn to research, as it were. But for some strange reason I felt like the DPhil students are a lot less happy, at least compared to the students at Berkeley. I don't know if that's Berkeley's strength or Oxford's weakness, though; maybe Berkeley just has great support for its students.

I also had a TA who was a DPhil student at Oxford, once. Just by that one person, I have to say I was the opposite of impressed. But that was only one person, and presumably there are many great people there. I do feel, however, that if you have a weak background it might not be remedied by the DPhil, since the coursework is basically separated out of the DPhil, and it's possible to write a bit of good research without knowing much else of anything.

That being said, Oxford is amazingly gorgeous and has a certain atmosphere that makes it no wonder that so many people who go there choose to stay there. An econ prof of mine once asked the class: "Why do you think so many companies are based in Oxford?" The class hemmed and hawwed and made bad suggestions. The econ prof responded: "Actually, it's mostly because people want to live there." I'm still slightly torn that I decided not to go there, even though I know rationally that Berkeley is a ton better for me.

And there *are* some very great professors there, also drawn partially by the environs. And you shouldn't take this less supportive thing to mean profs hide from students; I think they're very willing to meet with you, but there's just *something* about it which feels less supportive. I think there's less hand-holding and a bit more dropping you adrift in the ocean and waiting on the shore for you to swim back. (The latter description being given by a prof there, and said in a tone that implied it was the most proper way of going about it even if some drown.) And the problem is that even if you yourself are swimming, student morale isn't as high as it could be (as far as I could tell). I think it's *excellent* for the MPhil, absolutely great, and that the MPhil teaches people how to become good researchers rather than just students much better than the first two years of a normal PhD program (although it is also perhaps less rigorous in coursework than the top top programs); the DPhil is probably also pretty good, but I chose Berkeley for a reason. I don't know enough about slightly worse US PhD programs, though, to place Oxford amongst them.

Anyone else feel free to chime in, of course. I think we all see things at a slightly different angle or through a slightly different lens. Maybe part of it was that *my* morale was low for staying in the UK after being away from my boyfriend for 2 years.

03-01-2008, 06:11 AM
Karina I agree with you on several grounds (in fact I was just reading the post and was planning to go to bed to sleep but thanks to the points you raised I decide to write a reply before going to sleep).

Some 2nd year MPhil students use the same term here about the programme "poorly-structured" if not not structured at all. Most of the time you keep thinking about how much to read to be competitive for the exams. For example, for the first half of the first semester econometrics, lecture notes were pretty tough (I think it was mostly a summary of Casella&Berger and there were even references to Hal White's Asymptotic Theory for Econometricians). But then during the lectures we didn't even mention most of these and the lecturer was reluctant to say whether we need it or not for the exams (and I can agree with the lecturer in this case because as s/he put it "you are here because you are interested in knowledge" :) ). Again, for the macroeconometrics part, the teacher told that a recent book by Hendry and Nielsen would be just fine for the course - but then most of the parts were on the same par as Hamilton, Time-Series Econometrics. So, I am frequently going through feelings like "I think this course is a bit soft" and "oh no this is hell!". Again, in the econometrics sequence, at one instance, we did ML estimation and related stuff such as information matrix, score and related results, derivation etc. in a couple of slides only. That being said, it is not reasonable to expect lecturers to teach tons of stuff during lectures. At the end of the day, it is you and your textbook, papers and lecture notes and you have to learn it yourself. Still, I think in some courses lecture notes and reading lists could have been way clearer.

I totally agree with you on class teachers, i.e. those who solve problem sets, not the lecturers. Some class teachers looked unbelievably incompetent and worse not willing to help. And then there are again some really high-quality class teachers, so it's extremely random here.

I also agree on the support by the teachers. I think they mostly welcome you, but they never have office hours. At first that sounds like they do not want to interact with you. But then from a different perspective, they do meet you if you send them an email. So maybe, in a weird way, the interaction is higher.

Again, as Karina mentions, there is a lot of stress on building intuition here. You HAVE to answer at least one essay question in the exams and they are not really wishy-washy. In fact, they don't like it here if you solve the mathematical parts perfectly but provide no intuition at all.

And yes there ARE some really cool guys who consistently publish in top journals and my impression is that you can contact them for your research easily - of course let me not cause any illusion, it is not a top-5 US department where you have lots of good professors in any area. But for some areas, notably micro (auction especially) and econometrics (financial and time-series I think) there are very good professors.

Lastly - hope I am not repeating something I might have said before - I don't think it's a good idea to start with DPhil directly - which is something exceptional I think because even then you would have to take one or two courses. Moreover, I believe the tendency here is to have a less technical knowledge of everything in the first two years and then doing independent studying to acquire necessary tools for your research. For example, one 2nd year student told that his/her supervisor asked him/her to do extra readings in order to write the dissertation. For someone who is not sure about what to do, it may not be the best strategy. Because if you do everything very deeply, then I'd say, in a years' time you will have a chance to change your mind because you will be equally competent in anything, other things being equal.

Of course, the usual disclaimer applies: these are the speculations for a first year MPhil student who hasn't even finished his second semester yet:) So take it with a pinch of salt :D (Time to go to bed now! :D)

Karina 07
03-01-2008, 06:47 AM
I defer to and agree with Lombardo :).

One extra thing to add, to echo Lombardo: I think in the MPhil part of the confusion about what to read is yea cuz the professors are like "Well, *you* decide what's important." Not so much "we are going to give you a complete cannon of things for you to know." (Even the exams have a good deal of choice, if I'm not mistaken.) It is a very, very different system. Professors will say it's good training for how to do your own research (as you have to figure out what to read and prioritize -- not just figure out what to read from the reading list but supplement it), and that is very true, it *is* good training. So I'm a fan of the MPhil. I think it's hard to get as solid a technical grounding across a variety of fields in that as in the first two years of a top US program that hand-feeds you, but on the other hand the people who graduate from the MPhil are probably better prepared for research than people who've gone through the first two years of a US PhD (going back to how many in a US program are then nastily surprised to find that they are bad at research despite being great at coursework). But it also depends what you're looking for; me, I felt I definitely needed more background because my econ background was pretty minimal, and I felt more comfortable with my research skills (although, certainly I had other reasons for choosing Berkeley). Anyway, so there are pros and cons. It's a very different system, though.

P.S. Good grief, that must've been late for you!!!
P.P.S. Very glad to see you seem to be enjoying yourself! :) I'm happy for you!

03-01-2008, 06:53 AM
Other reasons for choosing Berkeley... like it's a top 5 school? ;)

Thank you so much for your contributions to this thread, you two. It will be invaluable should I manage to slip through the cracks there and get admitted.

03-01-2008, 06:18 PM
You're welcome :) I hope you'll get your admission offer and I'll meet you in person here next year :luck2:.

I must also add that I agree with you on other reasons to choose Berkeley over Oxford :)