Biochemistry flasks
Flasks in the laboratory
(Image Credit: Greta Pintacuda / Graduate Photography Competition)

About our courses

Oxford’s approach to graduate study reflects an emphasis on the individual student’s ability to work independently, to take the initiative in exploring a line of research or acquire a new skill.

As a graduate student at Oxford you will belong to an academic department or faculty which will provide your teaching and supervision, and provide numerous resources to support your studies. Each has its own academic community, dedicated to advancing knowledge in particular subject areas, and departments often work together on teaching joint courses and interdisciplinary research projects. You will also have access to a college adviser, who will be an academic at your college, and will be able to offer support and general advice on academic issues.

The graduate courses available at Oxford range from one to three or more years in length. All students enrolled on a full-time course must spend a period in residence, which means that during term you will need to live within 25 miles of the centre of Oxford.

Graduate courses offered by the University of Oxford fall into two broad categories: research and taught. Whether you are taking a taught course, diploma or studying for a research degree, your academic supervisor will meet regularly with you to provide guidance and advice throughout your course. Your supervisor will help you to construct a programme that allows you to optimise the intellectual resources available but you should be aware that the level of detailed teaching may be considerably less than you have experienced in undergraduate or graduate courses taught elsewhere. Each term, your supervisor will prepare a report on your progress and you will have the chance to do the same. You, your supervisor and your college will be able to see these reports online.

Research degrees

Working closely with an academic supervisor who will oversee your studies, you will focus on a specific research area throughout your research degree. your supervisor will help you devise a programme that allows you to realise the full benefits of resources and intellectual community in Oxford. They will meet with you regularly to provide advice about the specific project, the nature of research, data collection methods, and the standards expected. They will also stimulate your thinking and provide guidance on you to approach, implement and report on your research. As part of their research degree, students are often trained in specific research skills such as computer and statistical techniques. Supervisors meet with their graduate students at specifically agreed times and are also accessible at other times if you encounter particular issues that you need to discuss.

In the experimental sciences, you can expect to be in regular contact with your supervisor through shared work in the laboratory. In addition you are likely to be part of a research team under your supervisor and this collaborative style of working can  provide an important additional information stream and advice network.

There are certain key stages during your progress towards a research degree when input from your supervisor is particularly crucial:

  • At the beginning, when your research topic and treatment are being defined.
  • When you transfer from one formal status to another – for example, from Probationer Research Student to full DPhil status.
  • When the thesis is in the final stages of preparation for submission.

Students undertaking research degrees must apply for transfer and confirmation of status within specified time limits for their course, as detailed below.

Research degrees offered by the University of Oxford include:

Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil)

A DPhil is the Oxford term for a PhD. It is an advanced research degree awarded on the basis of a thesis and an oral examination (assessment of other work is not taken into consideration). The DPhil is of a higher standing than the MSc by Research or the MLitt. Examiners must be satisfied that the thesis represents a significant and substantial piece of research, is conveyed in a lucid and scholarly manner and that the candidate has a good general knowledge of the field of their thesis.

During the course of the DPhil degree at Oxford you will need to successfully complete a couple of different milestones:

Transfer of Status: Most DPhil students are admitted to the status of Probationer Research Student (PRS) initially. Before the completion of six terms in Oxford you will normally expected to apply for transfer of status from probationer research student to DPhil status. This is not an automatic process and your supervisor will need evidence of satisfactory progress to support the transfer. In some subjects, you might be required to successfully undertake a master’s course during your first year before you can apply to transfer to DPhil status.

Confirmation of Status: You will also be expected to apply for and gain confirmation of DPhil status, normally within nine terms of admission.

You will be expected to submit your thesis three or, at most, four years from the date of admission.

MSc by Research

This degree is also awarded on the basis of a thesis submission and is available in some subject areas that offer a DPhil. Please see individual course pages in this section for specific information. The examiners must be satisfied that the thesis shows competence in investigating the chosen topic and that the results have been presented in a lucid and scholarly manner. A satisfactory oral examination is also required.

Students will normally initially hold the status of Probationer Research Student and will be expected to apply to transfer to MSc status during the first year of their research.

Master of Letters (MLitt)

Available to students in Humanities and Social Studies subjects only, the MLitt is a research degree awarded on the submission of a thesis. It is broadly equivalent to the MSc by research in science subjects and the examiners must be satisfied that the thesis shows competence in investigating the chosen topic and that the results are presented in a lucid and scholarly manner. A satisfactory oral examination is also required. 

Taught degrees

Taught degrees usually involve a range of core and optional course elements and the submission of a dissertation. Assessment may be by coursework, as well as by examination papers and a dissertation. Study is supported by seminars and lectures.

Taught degrees offered by the University of Oxford include: 

Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

This course is of a higher standing than the Master of Studies (MSt) and normally lasts for two years (six terms). In the first year, some of the course elements may be common with the MSt and at its end candidates may be required to pass a qualifying test before continuing. Some MPhils are organised so that the first year is taught and the second is predominantly research based. In the second year students are expected to complete a substantial dissertation of up to 30,000 words and to sit examination papers.

Master of Studies (MSt)

Students are normally required to undertake three terms of study followed by an examination. The exact composition will vary according to the course, but will usually involve a range of core and optional course elements often including research methods and the submission of a dissertation of 10,000–15,000 words. Study is supported by seminars and lectures. Assessment may be by coursework as well as by examination papers and dissertation. Some course elements may be common with Master of Philosophy (MPhil) course and it is possible in some cases to progress subsequently to either the MPhil or DPhil.

Master of Science (MSc) by coursework

These degrees are generally offered in Science or Social Science subjects and typically require students to undertake one year of study. The exact composition of the degree will vary according to the course, but will often comprise a range of core and optional modules, supported by teaching in the form of lectures and seminars. Assessment is by a combination of course assignments (in many cases including a dissertation of around 10,000–15,000 words) and written examinations.

Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL); Magister Juris (MJur) 

These master’s level courses require one year of study. The BCL course is aimed at applicants whose previous legal training has been primarily in the common law, while the MJur is suitable for those with non-common law backgrounds. 

Master of Business Administration (MBA); Executive MBA (EMBA)

The MBA is a one-year full-time course, and the EMBA is a 21-month part-time modular course.

For information about both courses is available on the Saïd Business School website. 

Master of Public Policy (MPP)

The MPP is a twelve month full time master’s course offered by the Blavatnik School of Government. As a Blavatnik student, you will learn from  top scholars to acquire the key cross-disciplinary knowledge and professional skills to address the complex public policy challenges of the twenty-first century. Students learn how policy is made, implemented and evaluated in governments around the world, and at local, regional and global levels.

Full information is also available on the Blavatnik School of Government website.

Master of Theology (MTh)

The MTh in Applied Theology is two years in duration if taken full time. It comprises five taught course elements, an experiential project and a thesis of up to 25,000 words.

Diplomas, Postgraduate Certificates and Postgraduate Diplomas

A number of one-year (three terms) Certificates and Diplomas are available to postgraduate students.

Organisational Leadership Foreign Service Programme

This is a one-year postgraduate course in Diplomatic Studies aimed at serving diplomats. Successful completion leads to the award of either the Certificate in Diplomatic Studies or the Postgraduate Diploma in Diplomatic Studies.

Other options available to graduates

Training for the Christian Ministry

Applications for the awards of Bachelor of Theology or Certificate in Theology should be made directly to the appropriate college or Permanent Private Hall. Details can be found on the Department for Continuing Education website.

Medical Training 

For admission to the pre-clinical stage of medical training please contact the Undergraduate Admissions office via undergraduate.admissions@admin.ox.ac.uk.

For admission to the clinical stage please contact the Medical School Offices via enquiries@medsci.ox.ac.uk.

Oxford Doctoral Course in Clinical Psychology (DClin Psychol)

This three-year full-time course validated by the University confers eligibility for Chartered status as a professionally qualified clinical psychologist. All trainees are currently employed by the Oxfordshire Mental Healthcare NHS Trust and are members of Harris Manchester College. The course is unique in being fully funded and run from within the NHS.

The course aims to provide a thorough and integrated academic, clinical and research training in clinical psychology. The philosophy of the course stems from both the scientist-practitioner and the reflective practitioner models, and the course is committed to drawing on a wide variety of theoretical orientations which have been demonstrated as contributing to human well-being or to the relief of suffering.

For further information see the University of Leeds website. 

Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)

This is a one-year, full-time course of teacher training for graduates. Please see the PGCE course page for details.

Diploma in Legal Studies

This is a one-year sample of courses from BA programmes in Law, aimed only at students visiting from partner universities. More details can be found on the Faculty of Law website.

Recognised Student status

If you are a graduate student currently engaged in research at another university, you may be able to apply for Recognised Student status.

The status of Recognised Student is intended primarily for graduates of some years’ standing engaged in research elsewhere who wish to work in Oxford on a specific topic under the guidance of an academic familiar with the chosen area of study.

Under this status, you spend a period of up to three terms (ie one academic year) at Oxford, associated with an academic department and an academic advisor to offer general guidance on your area of research. You may use University libraries and attend lectures, seminars and classes (subject to permission from your head of department), although you will hold no formal association with an Oxford college and will not be awarded a formal qualification or accreditation by Oxford.

Applying for Recognised Student status

The first step in applying for Recognised Student status is to contact the academic department where you intend to be based via the details provided in our individual graduate course pages and obtain agreement from them, and from a member of their academic staff who is prepared to act as your academic advisor. Once you have approval you will be required to submit an application form, together with a number of supporting documents. Further information can be found on the Recognised Student status page and our Visiting and recognised students fees page. The application form, together with notes of guidance, can be found below.

Visiting Student status

If you are a student from overseas and wish to spend a period of up to three terms (ie one academic year) in Oxford on a course related to the degree you are studying in your own country, you can apply to a college for a place as a Visiting Student. However, it is not possible to join the activities of Oxford's taught graduate courses, so as a Visiting Student you would follow the curriculum of one of Oxford's undergraduate courses.

Applying as a Visiting Student

For further details of this arrangement and how to apply, please see the information on the undergraduate Visiting Students page.