DPhil in English | University of Oxford
Corridor through the library
(Image Credit: Soufia Siddiqi / Graduate Photography Competition)

DPhil in English

About the course

The DPhil in English is intended to develop the skills and understanding necessary to undertake and present original research at a high level, and provide a thorough foundation for a career in research.

Under the guidance of your supervisor, you will complete a thesis of 80,000 to 100,000 words. A typical term will involve a great deal of independent research, punctuated by meetings with the supervisor who will be able to suggest direction and address concerns throughout the writing process. It is expected that you will have at least two substantial supervisions in each term.

You will be enrolled as Probationary Research Student and then apply to transfer to full DPhil status during your first year. A further assessment of your work and progress takes place during the third year of the programme. 

There is no specific coursework requirement for an English research degree, however you will have the opportunity to attend a wide range of classes, seminars and lectures in order to learn bibliographic and research skills, interact with other researchers or gain new perspectives on their work. You may also be encouraged to attend the research skills courses available as part of the master's (MSt) programme, depending on how much of this training has been covered previously.

You are encouraged to gain teaching experience, so long as it does not interfere with your own progress, and are invited to attend Faculty-run preparatory teaching workshops and seminars.

Graduate destinations

Graduates from the English Faculty are employed across a wide range of sectors. Many take up academic positions in the UK and overseas. Other graduates pursue careers in occupations including teaching, journalism, law, publishing and the civil service.

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 expected to be predicted to achieve or to have achieved a master’s degree in a relevant subject (preferably English literature or English language) with distinction.

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

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.75 (with at least 3.85 in the major) 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 not normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Publications

Publications are not required and the English Faculty does not expect applicants to have been published.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Evidence of training in research techniques may be an advantage.

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 English 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 English 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 English.

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.

Resources

The facilities for English graduate students in Oxford are outstanding. In the faculty building you will find superb computing resources, a graduate common room, a café and an excellent discipline-specific library.

The English Faculty Library holds over 110,000 volumes and a wide range of print journals; it also provides regular information skills training to support teaching and research in English. Graduate students have access to all of Oxford's libraries, numbering over one hundred and including the world-famous collections of the Bodleian Library.

You will have the opportunity to hear lectures and papers by leading writers, critics, and theorists from inside and outside the University. You are encouraged to participate in the many research seminars and reading groups that run throughout term time, many of which are coordinated by graduates themselves.

There is an active and lively graduate organisation funded by the faculty, English Graduates at Oxford (EGO), that organises study skills, training and career development seminars, as well as social events and conferences.

The Faculty of English Language and Literature is by far the largest English Department in the UK and has a very distinguished research record, awarded top grades in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. The department was voted the top university for English language and literature in the Independent’s Complete University Guide 2011 and in the 2016 QS World University Rankings. Teaching has been graded ‘excellent’ in every quality assurance review.

The faculty currently has 80 permanent members of academic staff, including 9 statutory professors. This is in addition to a further 100 or so members teaching in the colleges and temporary members of staff. There are currently around 900 undergraduate students (with roughly 260 admitted each year to the single honours school and a further 20 to joint honours school programmes). The Oxford English Faculty has the largest graduate school in the country, with approximately 95 master's students, with a further 120 graduate research students. For the publications and research interests of particular faculty members, please consult their individual webpages.

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.

The Ertegun Scholarship Programme and the Humanities Research Council (AHRC) each provide a number of awards every year, to support graduate students across a range of disciplines. To be considered for these studentships you must apply by the relevant January admissions deadline.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£6,085£3,021£9,106
Overseas£16,770£3,021£19,791

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 are not expected to contact a potential supervisor before submitting an application. However, if the proposed research topic is unusual, you may find it useful to review the faculty members and research sections of the faculty website to see if supervision is likely to be available from among the permanent members of staff.

Please note that the allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Faculty of English and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Please note also that a faculty member's willingness to supervise is no guarantee of 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:
Around two pages

The research proposal should be an outline of the research plans, written in English. The overall page count should include any bibliography.

This will be assessed for:

  • the coherence and viability of the project
  • the originality of the project
  • the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course (a maximum of four years)
  • evidence of understanding of appropriate research skills required for successful completion of the project and of appropriate training at master’s level or equivalent to undertake the project.

Written work:
Either two essays of 2,000 words each or one essay of 4,000 words

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts from longer pieces are welcome but should be prefaced by a note which puts them in context. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

It is better to submit essays related to the area and in the subject in which you wish to work.

This will be assessed for analytical and critical acumen; ability to construct and defend an argument; and powers of expression.

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.

The Faculty of English expects three academic references in all but exceptional cases, and never fewer than two academic references.

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