Social Sciences: Social Statistics & Demography

PG Cert/PG Dip/MSc Official Statistics

The MSc programme has been developed jointly by the University of Southampton and the UK Government Statistical Service (GSS) to cover the core skills and knowledge needed by professional government statisticians. Both the GSS Human Resource Committee and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Human Resource Committee have given their full backing and support for the programme.

The programme can be taken full-time or on a part-time basis by those working full-time in the field of government statistics or a related area.

Programme Overview

The programme is designed to provide you with the specialist skills and knowledge which are central to the conduct of professional statistical work in government. The primary target audience comprises those currently employed in the UK government statistical services or equivalent organisations overseas.

Through part-time study, the programme aims to strengthen and update your professional skills and knowledge. Many of the skills taught on the programme, such as survey methods and data analysis, are also in great demand by employers outside government and the programme provides relevant training for professional positions in a wide range of organisations conducting large-scale statistical work.

To Apply

You should apply using the University's online application form. Find more details on our Apply page.

Deadlines
There is no formal closing date for applications, but early application is recommended to enable references to be taken up.

It is expected that most registrations will commence at the beginning of the academic year; in this case, applications will normally be submitted by the end of August. Applications to commence during the academic year will also be considered.

MSc modules
If you are applying for one of our MSc programmes, if possible, please specify the option modules you intend to take.

References
For all applications, two academic references are required. Unfortunately, we cannot consider applications until we have received both references.

Accreditation

Applying for Royal Statistical Society accreditation

Programme Structure

The modular structure of the programme enables you to tailor your individual scheme of study to your other commitments. Successful completion of 12 instructional modules leads to the award of Diploma in Official Statistics. If you pass the diploma assessment, you will be permitted to undertake a supervised dissertation for the MSc Official Statistics. Successful completion of six instructional modules leads to the award of Certificate in Official Statistics.

All qualifications are awarded by the University of Southampton and are subject to the same academic standards as other certificates, diplomas and MSc degrees at the University. Teaching takes place at the Office for National Statistics in their London or Newport offices and at the University of Southampton, and is delivered by experienced personnel from both universities and government.

The MSc comprises an instructional component and a masters dissertation based on supervised research. The instructional component requires the completion of 12 modules. The Certificate requires the completion of six modules, with each module taught during one week. Some modules follow four days of full-time study over Monday to Thursday, while others may use all five days for formal teaching.

Formal teaching includes lectures, discussion sessions with the presenters, time for private study and, for certain modules, computer-based workshops. There will also be an opportunity for you to continue with private study on the Friday for the four-day modules, with access to computing and library facilities as required. The presenter will provide a feedback session on the Friday to discuss any issues arising from your private study. 

The modules for the instructional component are selected from 20 modules. You must take all eight compulsory modules at some point and four of the 12 option modules. The Certificate requires four compulsory modules. In each academic year, 13 of the 20 modules will be offered. Compulsory modules are delivered every year and option modules are rotated in a three-year cycle.

In the first year of registration, you must take Introduction to Survey Research, Survey Sampling, and Regression Modelling among your modules. You must take at least two modules in each year of registration and complete all 12 modules by no later than the end of semester one in the fourth year of registration. The Certificate requires completion of the six modules within two years. Some modules have prerequisites; otherwise, you are free to take modules in the order you choose.

You may find that there are periods of time when you are unable to study, for example if you are on secondment abroad or if you are on maternity leave. During such periods, it is possible to apply for your registration to be suspended. The three and a half years maximum duration of registration for the completion of the 12 modules excludes any periods during which registration is suspended.

Modules are assessed on the basis of both written work and examinations. Deadlines will be set for written work in the same semester. Examinations will take place at the end of each semester in January and in May/June. The balance between coursework and examinations will vary between modules.

Supervised dissertation for MSc
The successful completion of 12 instructional modules leads to the award of Diploma in Official Statistics. In approved cases, if you pass the diploma assessment, you will be permitted to undertake a supervised dissertation for the MSc Official Statistics.

A typical dissertation project might involve applying methods learned on the instructional part of the course to some specific application in official statistics: for example, the study of non-response in a given survey, the redesign of a survey, the reconciliation of estimates from two different sources or a detailed analysis of a dataset. Provided satisfactory supervision arrangements can be made, you can work on a topic of your own choice. Supervision will normally be by a member of the academic staff at the University of Southampton. The project may be jointly supervised by a government statistician.

Although formal approval to undertake the dissertation will only come on completion of the instructional modules, you are encouraged to start preparatory work on your chosen topic at an earlier date. Such preparations might, for example, involve setting up appropriate datasets and reviewing relevant literature. It is estimated that, including preparation time, the dissertation will require 55 days to complete and write up. It should be completed within one year after the date that formal approval is given. Thus the maximum period of registration on the MSc programme is four years, to cover both the instructional modules and the dissertation.

Professional development structure

The programme is structured as a series of modules that run in one-week slots throughout the academic year. Some modules are run in London and Newport at the ONS and some in Southampton in the Social Statistics Research Centre at the University. Seventeen of the 23 modules are run each year, so there is some rotation of modules, particularly those that are optional. The taught component (eight compulsory modules and eight option modules) must be completed within four and a half academic years. In addition, 12 months is allocated to the dissertation, starting from the fifth year of enrollment. Thus, the maximum duration of registration is five years.

If you have completed eight modules (of which at least four should be specified compulsory modules) in your first two years of registration, you can choose to be awarded a Postgraduate Certificate (PG Cert) in Official Statistics as an exit point.

You are then usually free to choose the pathway through the programme that best suits your needs, subject to modules being available and satisfying any prerequisites for advanced modules. You must take at least three modules during any academic year of your registration.

Subject to satisfactory performance in the taught component of the PG Dip, you may undertake a dissertation in an area related to the programme. It is expected that this will be completed within the 12 months, starting in your fifth year of enrollment. The dissertation should be between 15,000 and 20,000 words in length.

Key facts

  • We have a strong record of research on official statistics, with large research contracts currently held with the UK and EU government statistical agencies, and we are heavily involved in EU Framework research projects.

Entry requirements

Typical entry requirements

Selection process:

It is normally expected that you will have the equivalent of at least a second-class honours degree, with some exposure to statistical methods (eg in geography, psychology, population sciences, economics/econometrics, statistics, mathematics), and that you will usually be employed in the area of official statistics. In some circumstances, previous relevant professional experience will be taken into consideration.

Students who have a degree with no statistical content will be required to show that they have the necessary background knowledge to the level of the Royal Statistical Society Higher Certificate in Statistics.

In addition, an introductory revision module covering basic mathematics and statistics is run every September to help students prepare for postgraduate study. Attendance on this module is an entry requirement.

In line with the University's equal opportunities policy, individuals are selected and treated according to their relevant merits and abilities and are given equal opportunities in the Division and University. The aim of the policy is to ensure that no student or prospective student should receive any less favourable treatment on any grounds which are not relevant to academic ability or attainment. Decisions on admission are based solely on the grounds of academic merit.

Visit our International Office website or the NARIC website for further information on qualifications.

Modules

Typical course content

The MSc comprises an instructional component and a masters dissertation based on supervised research. The instructional component requires the completion of 12 modules. The Certificate requires the completion of six modules. Each module will be taught during one week. Some modules follow four days of full-time study over Monday to Thursday, while others may use all five days for formal teaching.

Year 1

Successful completion of 12 instructional modules leads to the award of Diploma in Official Statistics. In approved cases, if you pass the diploma assessment, you will be permitted to undertake a supervised dissertation for the MSc Official Statistics.

In addition to the eight compulsory modules listed below, four option modules must be selected. Note that, with the exception of DEMO6022, which will run every year, the option modules will be available in a three-year cycle. In any given year, five option modules will be available.

Please note: This specification provides a concise summary of the main features of the programme and the learning outcomes that a typical student might reasonably be expected to achieve and demonstrate if s/he takes full advantage of the learning opportunities that are provided. More detailed information can be found in the programme handbook (or other appropriate guide or website).

Learning and teaching

Teaching methods

Modules are taught using a variety of methods, which may include lectures, seminars, group work or project work.

Lectures offer an overview of a topic, an explanation of difficult concepts or a discussion of key issues. They presume a certain amount of additional reading, so it is often a good idea to read references before attending the corresponding lecture.

Seminars provide a forum for a closer examination of particular aspects of each module and are an important part of the learning process. Usually, it is only by discussing and questioning aspects of a subject that their full implications can be understood. You will prepare papers and lead discussions or debates, and develop your written and presentational skills.

The increasing use of web-based, video-based and PowerPoint-based teaching methods demonstrates our commitment to the effective use of available equipment and resources.

Assessment methods

Assessment for each module is either by examination or by coursework.  Examinations are held at the end of each semester.

Career Opportunities

Useful downloads

Web links

Short courses in Official Statistics

The various instructional units of the MSc may be taken as one-off courses, with or without assessment, if you just want to update or refresh your statistical skills in a particular area.

Find out more

Study locations

The courses will either be run at the University of Southampton or at the Office for National Statistics.

Find out more