DPhil in Biomedical and Clinical Sciences | University of Oxford
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Muscle biopsy under a microscope
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DPhil in Biomedical and Clinical Sciences

About the course

This three-year programme is tailored specifically to the needs of talented clinicians who aspire to a career in academic medicine or clinical psychology. The course is also known as the Doctoral Training Fellowship Scheme for Clinicians.

Successful applicants will work towards a DPhil within one of three streams which are in basic sciences, mental and cognitive health, and translational/experimental medicine.

Applicants are strongly advised to visit the Medical Sciences Graduate School website to help them identify the most suitable course and supervisors.

You will be offered generic research training and required to meet standard University milestones for progress. All students are  formally monitored via supervisor feedback forms submitted three times per year.

1. Basic sciences

This stream aims to provide high-quality research training in basic and applied molecular science for clinical academics who aspire to a career in academic medicine. It is expected that you will carry out DPhil projects in one of the following broad areas:

  • metabolism
  • genomics
  • haematology
  • infection/immunity/inflammation
  • neurobiology
  • cardiovascular

Training provision is tailored to your needs, in relation to your research project and determined in consultation with supervisors, mentor and programme directors.

It is expected that you will have both basic-scientist and clinician-scientist supervisors, to bridge the gap between basic and applied research.

2. Mental and cognitive health

This stream aims to recruit clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and neurologists to the DPhil programme and place them into internationally-recognised research groups that have successfully developed new treatments, clinical assessments and rehabilitation procedures and/or novel experimental medicine approaches to psychopharmacology.

You should expect to receive core teaching in a range of skills important for clinical research in mental and cognitive health. These may include: experimental design, structured clinical interviews, cognitive testing, programming experiments MATLAB/using E-Prime/SuperLab etc, design and analysis of clinical trials, acquisition and analysis of fMRI and other imaging data.

In addition, Oxford has exceptional multimodal imaging facilities to which you should have access. If appropriate for your research, you will normally be able to join the FMRIB graduate training programme.

Throughout the DPhil course, students on this stream will have a weekly day-long placement in a unit that conducts clinical work closely related to your research programme, in order to:

  • observe how research and clinical implementation can work together
  • continue to develop your clinical skills

Each placement normally lasts for twelve months, during which you should have the opportunity to work in units that aim to help you observe translational work in a complementary area to your research. In this way, the programme aims to equip you with the skills you need to ensure that, when relevant, you can rapidly translate your future research findings into patient benefit.

You will be required to meet standard University milestones for progress and will be monitored formally via supervisor feedback forms submitted three times per year.

3. Translational/experimental medicine

This is a new theme, introduced to take advantage of other strengths in biomedical science. These include projects in:

  • the Institute of Biomedical Engineering, which provides a unique environment where engineers and clinicians work together, focusing on novel technological approaches to healthcare problems;
  • vaccinology through the Jenner Institute and the Oxford Vaccine Group, where novel vaccine approaches for infection and also non-infectious targets such as cancer are developed and tested through clinical trials;
  • veterinary science in collaboration with the Pirbright Institute (formerly the Institute of Animal Health) and the Royal Veterinary College in conjunction with the Jenner Institute and Wellcome-funded projects (eg in orthopaedics and in neuromuscular disease) and an interdisciplinary training initiative on Innovative Food Systems Teaching and Learning;
  • translational and applied neurosciences including advanced neuro-imaging available through the Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Building (fMRIB) and novel PET approaches with Imanova, interfacing with scientists with skills in physics and big data; 
  • major non-communicable diseases through the Nuffield Department of Population Health, Clinical Trials Service Unit, and Epidemiologic Studies Unit, and the new Big Data Institute (BDI), focusing on the analysis of large, complex, heterogeneous data sets for research into the causes and consequences, prevention and treatment of disease. Ethox, also based in the Nuffield Department of Population Health, provides an environment where empirical research and ethical analyses can be combined around clinical ethics, research ethics, and global/population health ethics; and
  • international health and tropical medicine, building on collaborations between Oxford investigators and its major overseas programmes with bases in Kenya, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Graduate destinations

Most graduates from this programme continue in academic research in prestigious laboratories worldwide.

Related courses

Changes to the course

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2017-18

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in a relevant subject. 

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Applications are reviewed by a panel of academics associated with the programme. A short-list of applicants is confirmed, based on assessment of your academic record, academic references, research experience to date/publication record, and your research proposal, including the suitability of project proposal (both to Oxford and for the applicant's clinical and research background). For the mental and cognitive health stream, the availability of appropriate training opportunities/clinical placements will also be taken into consideration.

It is expected that the ratio of interviewed candidates to places will be around 2:1.

Short-listed candidates will be invited to attend an interview in Oxford. The interview will last approximately 20-25 minutes. Candidates will be required to give a 3-5 minute oral presentation covering their career to date, the research project they propose to undertake, aspects of the project that interest them and how they feel it will enhance their academic career. PowerPoint presentations (or other visual presentations) are not required. Approximately 20 minutes of questions from the panel will follow the presentation.

Candidates from outside Europe are normally interviewed by Skype/phone, unless they are in Europe at the time of interview. 

Publications

Evidence of peer-reviewed publications (including those in press), would be an advantage, but is not a requirement.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Research or working experience in a relevant field may be an advantage. Applicants will be asked to indicate in the fellowship application form why they wish to undertake a research training fellowship and how this will further their career.

For the basic science and translational/experimental medicine streams

Candidates must be medically qualified and eligible to undertake clinical practice in the UK (having General Medical Council registration or proven eligibility for registration). Successful applicants will be required to hold an honorary clinical contract and therefore must ensure that they have fulfilled all the criteria required by the GMC, their LETB and the National Health Service Trust. Candidates with a veterinary qualification can also be considered.  

Candidates must have a strong academic record (preferably with honours or distinction in the MB finals and/or a BSc (or equivalent) with a first or upper-second class grade). It is envisaged that those appointed will generally have some specialist experience – typically having obtained MRCP or equivalent, but not CCT or consultant status.

For the mental and cognitive health stream

Clinical psychologists

Candidates must have a strong academic record including a psychology degree (first or upper-second class grade). Before starting the Fellowship, they must have qualified as a clinical psychologist with a DClinPsych or equivalent doctoral level clinical qualification. They must also be eligible to undertake clinical practice work in the UK (please consult British Psychological Society and Health Professions Council Regulations). However, applications will be considered from candidates who are in the last year of a DClinPsych course as long as they expect to qualify before the start of the fellowship and they are fully up to date with all the requirements of their DClinPsych course. 

Psychiatrists

Candidates must be medically qualified, with a strong academic record (preferably with honours or distinction in MB finals and/or have a BSc (or equivalent, eg BMedSci) with a first or upper-second class grade and be eligible to undertake clinical practice in the UK. Other evidence of interest or achievements in psychiatry and related disciplines, and in research, will also be an advantage. Typically, the candidate will have completed core training and the MRCPsych. However, the point of entry is flexible, and the overriding selection criterion will be the candidate’s excellence and potential as an academic psychiatrist.  Entry at any stage from the end of CT1 through to those who have obtained their CCST (but have not been appointed to a substantive consultant post) would be considered. 

Neurologists

Candidates must be medically qualified, with a strong academic record and evidence of interest in pursuing a research career (eg BSc or equivalent and/or research experience with publications). It is envisaged that those appointed will have obtained MRCP or equivalent, but not CCT or consultant status, and be eligible to undertake clinical practice in the UK. The point of entry is flexible, and the overriding selection criterion will be the candidate’s excellence and potential as an academic neurologist. The department welcomes preliminary enquiries to discuss individual circumstances.

The DPhil will count as an out-of-programme experience, but the one day a week of clinical work built into the programme can be counted towards training requirements (subject to confirmation).

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre, in conjunction with other University departments in the Medical Sciences, to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre, and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

Resources

You will have access to:

  • experimental facilities, as appropriate to your research
  • IT support from both the host department for your research and University IT Services
  • library services such as the Radcliffe Science Library and the Cairns Library.

The provision of project-specific resources will be agreed with the relevant supervisor during the planning stages for the research project.

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

Full funding opportunities are available for all Medical Sciences Graduate School programmes, whatever your nationality. The Medical Sciences Graduate School website provides further details of these, as well as information about external funding opportunities.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
c. £4,250£3,021c. £7,271
Overseas£19,335£3,021£22,356

The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).

Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.

For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details on the impact of the result of the UK referendum on its membership of the European Union.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this programme that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs.  However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2017-18 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £1,002 and £1,471 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page.

How to apply

You should contact your potential supervisor(s) before you apply as supervisor approval of your research project proposal is required.

A list of potential supervisors is provided on the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre website, though this is not designed to be an exhaustive list. Applicants are expected to meet with potential supervisors, to discuss/develop their research project proposal for inclusion in the Wellcome Trust Training Fellowship application form.

For the basic sciences and translational/experimental medicine streams, please review research opportunities in your field of interest at Oxford via the Medical Sciences Graduate School website. For basic sciences you are encouraged to identify both a basic science and a clinician-scientist supervisor. 

For the mental and cognitive health stream, please see the list of potential supervisors and research projects on the Doctoral Training Fellowship Scheme for Clinicians website.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Research proposal and Wellcome Trust Training Fellowship application form:
Up to 1,400 words

You must submit complete a Wellcome Trust Training Fellowship application form from the DTC website and submit this in your application as your research proposal.

The research proposal that forms part of the WT Fellowship application should cover areas such as the background to the research, methodology, expected results and the contribution to the field of learning.

The word count should include any bibliography and/or brief footnotes.

The project proposal in the WT Fellowship application should be designed to fit within one of the three streams of the course. However, it is recognised that some projects may be regarded as sitting in more than one stream and the department reserves the option to assess these against applications from more than one stream. Please note that a supporting statement is required from the identified supervisor(s) as part of the WT Fellowship application.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • the coherence of the proposal
  • the originality of the project
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course (a maximum of 3 years)
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques
  • capacity for sustained and intense work; reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.

It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

Your references should generally be academic, though professional references are acceptable if they are relevant to the course.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, ability to work in a group.