DPhil in Classical Languages and Literature | University of Oxford
Greek books
Books of Classical literature
(Image Credit: Bodleian Library)

DPhil in Classical Languages and Literature

About the course

Both in Classical languages and literature, and in ancient history, the DPhil programme is a research degree intended to make it possible for the successful candidate to aspire to a career in research and teaching at university level anywhere in the world where the Classical subjects are studied.

The DPhil takes the form of the composition of a substantial dissertation, of up to 100,000 words, based on new research on a subject of your choice. You will be appointed a supervisor or supervisors with relevant expertise, who will support you throughout your doctoral work, beginning with the formulation of the topic and ending with the final examination. 

The best dissertations are published, many in the Oxford University Press series of Classical Monographs which exists for this purpose. 

The vision of the DPhil as a necessary stage of an academic career, following on from master's-level education and preparing for postdoctoral work and beyond, is reflected in five other ways:

  1. Doctoral students are required to set the topics of their individual specialisation in a larger understanding of developments in the field across the world.

  2. They are encouraged to pursue a diversity of scholarly interests on the side of working on their doctoral dissertation, so as to start building a larger portfolio of specialities. They may produce articles or review books in areas somewhat different from that of their dissertation, and towards the end of their doctoral may begin to contemplate a postdoctoral project.

  3. The Classics Faculty assists doctoral students in continuing to develop necessary research skills, and acquiring or improving knowledge of relevant ancient and modern languages. Competence in Latin and/or Greek is an admission requirement.

  4. Doctoral students can be trained and given experience (with mentoring) in undergraduate teaching of several different kinds, eg class, lecture, tutorial.

  5. There are other structures, within the Classics Faculty, the Humanities Division and the wider University, to help with career-development and with academic placement.

Finally, it is fully recognised that some students will choose not to pursue a professional career in Classics, and the structures mentioned in the points above are tailored to their needs too. The experience of the Classics DPhil programmes is intended to be personally fulfilling and intellectually enriching in itself, and the cognitive skills required are highly transferable to other walks of life.

Examples of recent DPhil thesis titles include:

Thesis titleSupervisor name(s)
Cardinal Bessarion And The Transmission And Interpretation Of Plato In The Fifteenth CenturyDr S Gertz, Dr N Wilson and Dr S Heyworth
The Hesiodic Aspis: Introduction and Commentary on vv. 139-237Dr R Rutherford
Seneca's De ira: a studyProfessor T Reinhardt
Latin Poetry And The Idea Of Rome In The Greek NovelDr S Heyworth 
Standardisation and Variation in Latin Orthography and Morphology (100 BC-AD 100)Dr J Adams 
Cato The Censor And the Creation Of A Paternal ParadigmProfessor M Leigh 
A Commentary On Pindar's Emmenid Odes: O.2, O.3, P.6, I.2Dr M Davies 
Manilius on the Nature of the Universe: A Study of the Natural-Philosophical Teaching of the Astronomica with Select CommentaryProfessor T Reinhardt 
Questioning The Patient, Questioning Hippocrates: Rufus Of Ephesus And The Limits of Medical AuthorityProfessor C Pelling and Professor H King 
Telamonian Ajax: A Study of His Reception in Archaic and Classical GreeceDr F Budelmann 
Repetition and Internal Allusion in Lucretius' De Rerum NaturaProfessor T Reinhardt and Professor S Harrison 

Part-time study

The faculty welcomes applications for part-time study on the DPhil. Part-time students are fully integrated into the research culture of the Classics Faculty and afforded all the same opportunities and support as full-time students.

The faculty appreciates that part-time research students will have non-standard attendance and work patterns. Although there is no requirement to reside in Oxford, part-time research students must be able to commit to attendance in Oxford at least once a week during Weeks 0 to 9 of each term, in order to meet with their supervisor, participate in research seminars and undertake skills training.

It is not possible to study for the DPhil in Classical Languages and Literature by distance learning.

Graduate destinations

When details on graduate destinations were last collected, the faculty found that an unusually high percentage of their successful DPhil students (56%) were in university teaching or research posts five years after finishing their doctorates. Others go into a variety of occupations, including teaching, publishing, administration, business and other professions.

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 Classics or a similar course of academic study with substantial course components in the area of Classics.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.

You are normally expected to have a master's degree in a relevant subject with scores at the same level as first-class or high upper second-class honours. If you apply whilst studying for a master's degree, these scores may be required as a condition of any offer made.

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).

Degree-level competence in at least one ancient language is a requirement for admission.

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 may be arranged for some doctoral applicants as part of the admissions process. Interviews can take place in person or via telephone or Skype if travel to Oxford would be inconvenient for the candidate.

Publications

Publications are not normally expected at this stage, but you should mention any publications that you have produced.

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 Faculty of Classics 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 Faculty of Classics 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 Faculty of Classics.

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

Oxford has academic resources which are among the best in the world for classical languages and literature. The Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies offers various facilities including many workstations, PCs, Macs, a photocopier, laser printing and scanning facilities, a common room and a reading room. Seminar talks by visiting speakers and many other academic activities take place in the centre. It is also the base for the various research projects based in the faculty

The faculty is fortunate in having two world-class research libraries close at hand, the Bodleian and the Sackler Library. The Sackler Library is an open-shelf lending library indispensable to anyone studying ancient history, archaeology and art; it is also extremely useful for those studying literature or philology. 

Your supervisor will be drawn from the Oxford Classics Faculty. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework exercise, the faculty presented the largest number of academics in UK Classics (71). 47% of the submission was rated 4* (world-leading) and 34% 3* (internationally excellent), giving the faculty by far the highest quantity of 4* or 3* research in UK Classics.

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.

A number of awards are available from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) each year, to support graduate students in a range of disciplines. To be considered for any of these studentships you must apply before the January admissions deadline.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Full-time study

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
c. £4,250£3,021c. £7,271
Overseas£15,755£3,021£18,776

Part-time study

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
c. £2,125£1,511c. £3,636
Overseas£7,880£1,511£9,391

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

Full-time study

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.

Part-time study

Please note that you are required to attend in Oxford for a minimum of 30 days each year, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Also, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur further 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 are encouraged to contact the faculty before you apply to discuss the course content, teaching, assessment and to answer any questions. You are also encouraged to approach specific supervisors and explain why you want to come and work in their particular field of study.

The faculty recommends that you contact a potential supervisor(s) in the first instance before submitting an application, but you should keep in mind that prospective supervisors are not in a position to make decisions about admission.

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:
Up to 1,200 words, typically two to three pages

The research proposal should describe the proposed thesis topic in some detail, explain why it is important and worthwhile, situate it within the existing research in the area in question and provide a basic account of methodology as well as a provisional timetable.

The proposal should be written in English. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • the coherence of the proposal
  • the originality of any thesis project proposed
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,000 words each

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible provided that these are clearly indicated. Where necessary, a cover note may be attached to place an extract in a larger context.

Work should be submitted in English; submissions in other languages may be permissible after consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies, but at least one sample of written work should be in English and translated into or written in English by you.

The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for:

  • understanding of problems in the area
  • relevant use of primary evidence
  • ability to construct and defend an argument
  • powers of analysis and powers of expression

Surveys of published scholarship are less informative to assessors, although a judicious summary of a complex problem may be helpful.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, all of which must be 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.

All references are expected to be academic; if you believe there is good reason for you to include a professional reference, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies before you apply.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, and motivation.