DPhil in Computer Science | University of Oxford
Computer Science
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DPhil in Computer Science

About the course

The DPhil in Computer Science is an advanced research degree, awarded for significant (new) contribution to the existing body of knowledge in the field of computer science. You will work with world-class experts in their field. The DPhil normally takes three to four years of full-time study to complete.

The DPhil in Computer Science will introduce you to cutting edge research whilst studying in a beautiful, historic setting that is both student- and family-friendly. Supervision is available via the department's research themes together with cross-disciplinary research in areas such as linguistics, biology, medicine, quantum foundations and quantum computation.

The course combines individual supervision with a selection of lecture courses, transferable skills training and opportunities to participate in leading-edge research activities. The department recruits students from Oxford’s high-quality undergraduate and masters’ degrees, as well as nationally and internationally, and is involved in Doctoral Training Centres in Systems Biology and Life Sciences Interface.  The department is pleased to be part of the Centres for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security and Autonomous Intelligent Machines and Systems (AIMS).

During your study at Oxford, the department hopes to share with you some of the excitement about the topics the department investigates, and of the understanding the department has gained from research into basic theory and by industrial collaboration.

The development of computer science at Oxford has been heavily supported by research grant funding from the government, EU and science foundations, as well as donations and sponsorship from the department's industrial partners. The department is committed to offering you the best supervision and to providing a stimulating research environment.

During your first year you are expected to complete three pieces of assessed work - one piece comes from attendance at a taught course and taking the examination, one has to be a paper written during the course of one term, which may be publishable, and the final piece can be from another taught course or a specially designed reading course

The work is assessed either by the supervisor or the examiner for a taught course.  You are also expected to complete a literature review which should survey the state of the art in your chosen area. It should explain the background of the proposed research, the results that have been obtained by other researchers, and the conclusions that may be drawn. You are expected to give a clear and coherent account, demonstrating competence in organising ideas and presenting them in a scholarly manner. 

You will also be offered transferable skills training and are required to give presentations to your research groups.

This is a full time course and you should meet regularly with your supervisor.  You are expected to continue working outside of the University Terms with an annual holiday of approximately eight weeks.  On completion of the course you will graduate with the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Graduate destinations

Most DPhil students pursue a career in academia moving on to becoming post-doctoral research assistants and moving on to university lecturers and professors. A few students do join industry or return to a military career. 

Multiple applications

In applying for this programme, you may submit further applications for up to two of the following associated programmes without paying an additional application fee:

For instructions, see Applying for more than one course in the Application Guide.

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 2016-17

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 a strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications) in either (i) a four-year master's degree in a relevant subject, or (ii) a three-year BSc/BA degree followed by excellent performance in a master's degree in a relevant subject, where relevant subjects typically include computer science or mathematics.

Students require either a distinction in a master's or a four-year undergraduate degree - a four-year sandwich degree with one year spent in industry is not an acceptable equivalent. 

Please note that entrance to the course is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.6 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:

References/letters of recommendation 

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and (where appropriate) ability to work in a group.

Generally, you should provide two academic references and a third reference which may be either professional or academic. However, if you have been away from higher education for a long time, you may instead provide one academic reference and two professional references.’

Research proposal

You may submit either a research proposal of around two pages or, if you are not yet ready to submit a full proposal, you should submit a statement of research interests, in English, of about two pages describing the general area of research in which you are interested. You should summarise the research in this area that you are aware of, referring to existing papers where appropriate. You could also describe a research problem and your initial ideas on research work towards solving this or open problems.

You should include your relevant skills and experience, your reasons for applying to Oxford, and list some of the principal reasons why you consider yourself a strong applicant.

It is helpful, but not essential, to identify a likely supervisor. You should look at the webpages of potential supervisors working in your area of interest and even read some of their publications. You should make it clear why the potential supervisor's work interests you and why they would be the best supervisor for you. 

You should be aware that a statement of research interests will not commit you to carry out the exact research work you have described and it is expected that your interests may evolve and change over the course of study. 

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 four 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.

You should be aware that the statement of research interests will not commit you to carry out the exact research work you have described and we would expect your interests to evolve and change over the course of study. 

Your proposal should focus on your ideas for research rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations. You do not need to include your MSc dissertation.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Candidates are considered against the academic ability criteria and also the research proposal or statement. If you meet the academic criteria and there is a supervisor interested in your research then you will be invited for interview. For candidates in the UK the interview is likely to be held in the Department of Computer Science; if you are overseas the interview will be by Skype (with video preferably) or telephone.

There will be a minimum of two interviewers. If you are applying for a scholarship there may be a second interview with a member of the Departmental Scholarship Committee Scholarship. Interviews will take place throughout the year but most take place in January and early February. 

Publications

You are not required to submit publications with your application, but if you have publications then please give details in your CV/résumé. 

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the standard 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 Department of Computer Science 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 Department of Computer Science 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 Department of Computer Science. In such circumstances there is likely to be a joint supervisor from within the department.

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.

It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.

In the case of students who require specific help to adjust to an academic programme or to a new range of skills, the supervisor will work with them to ensure that they have additional support.

The department will offer you IT provision in the form of a desktop PC, or screen and keyboard if using your own laptop. This is connected to the department’s network. If you require fast parallel computation, you may be able to access the machine clusters at the Oxford e-Research Centre.

Oxford University IT Services runs introductory courses throughout the year. These courses will be especially helpful if you have had less opportunity of hands-on experience with computers. They will also help you to explore facilities available at the University of Oxford which, although possibly not required for your research, may be of interest to you.

As a DPhil student you will have an office shared with other students and housed within your research group wherever possible.

The Department of Computer Science Library contains books, monographic series, journals, technical reports and past theses covering the main research interests of the department. You are also able to access other relevant libraries elsewhere in the University such as the Radcliffe Science Library, the Whitehead Library (at the Mathematical Institute for numerical analysts and formal mathematicians) and the Engineering Science Library (especially for those interested in robotics and machine vision).

The Department of Computer Science houses lecture theatres and seminar rooms in which most of the university lectures in computer science take place.

The department has kitchens on each floor and a central common room where you can meet informally.  There is an active social committee organising events for staff, students and families.

The Computer Science Graduate Society (COGS) is an organisation within the Department of Computer Science that provides organised events and outings for the graduate students and research assistants within the lab. The Oxford Women in Computer Science Society (OxWoCS) aims to support and promote women in computer science. The society organises events throughout the year, including weekly coffee meetings, talks by distinguished female speakers, and industry sponsored events.

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available for courses starting in 2016-17. Full scholarships will cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. Information about the full range of funding available can be found in the Fees and funding section.

For over 70% of Oxford scholarships, nothing more than the standard course application is usually required. If you fulfil the eligibility criteria and apply by the relevant January deadline, you will be automatically considered. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out whether you are eligible for scholarships which require an additional application. If you are, the tool will include links to full details of how to apply.

Divisional funding opportunities

There are many different funding opportunities for students studying in the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division at Oxford. Funding covering fees and living costs is available for a substantial number of doctoral training programmes. Research Council and other funding opportunities are also available for doctoral programmes in MPLS subjects.

Departmental funding opportunities

Additional funding opportunities may also be offered by your department. Department scholarships are included in the funding search tool, with links to further information. More details on funding opportunities may also be available on the department’s website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2016-17

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£4,121£2,933£7,054
Overseas£18,770£2,933£21,703

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.

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 2016-17 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £970 and £1433 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.

Before making a formal application, you are encouraged to contact the department's Graduate Studies Administrator, providing an up-to-date copy of your CV/résumé and a research proposal or a statement of your research interests along with your enquiry.

Before submitting this information, a good starting point is to look at the research currently being done in the department and the profiles of academic staff. Academic staff profiles contain information on their research interests and will help you identify potential supervisors. 

You can contact potential supervisors directly but remember they are very busy and may not reply immediately. You should be brief and include some information about your background, your research interests and any relevant experience. You might like to introduce yourself by explaining why their work interests you enough to motivate you to apply to study with them for the next three or four years and you may have read some of their publications. Alternatively you may prefer to send your email to the Graduate Studies Administrator who can then contact potential supervisors on your behalf.

The set of materials you should send with an application to this DPhil comprises:

  • a research proposal/statement of research interests, around two pages in length
  • a CV/résumé
  • three academic and/or professional references
  • official transcripts detailing your university-level qualifications and marks to date.

You may submit either a research proposal of around two pages or, if you are not yet ready to submit a full proposal, you should submit a statement of research interests, in English, of about two pages describing the general area of research in which you are interested. You should also include your relevant skills and experience, your reasons for applying to Oxford, and list some of the principal reasons why you consider yourself a strong applicant.

Generally, you should provide two academic references and a third reference which may be either professional or academic. However, if you have been away from higher education for a long time, you may instead provide one academic reference and two professional references.’

For continuing Oxford graduates

If you are a current Oxford graduate on an eligible graduate taught course and you are using the readmission form to apply for this course, you are permitted to re-submit the following documents from your previous application:

  • English proficiency scores, if appropriate.

If you are permitted to reuse any references, you should indicate which you wish to reuse in your application form and we will add these to your application after you submit.

If you are permitted to reuse other documents, like your transcript or written work, you must upload your own copies of these files to your application.

For further information on the readmission process and your eligibility to use this process, see our guidance for continuing Oxford graduates.