DPhil in Experimental Psychology | University of Oxford
Psychology
A stack of textbooks on psychology
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DPhil in Experimental Psychology

About the course

The DPhil programme in Experimental Psychology is based upon independent research carried out under the supervision and guidance of principal investigators and researchers within a research group or lab, in areas including behavioural neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, social psychology and psychological disorders, and developmental science.

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

Supervision and guidance may also include co-supervision from other collaborating groups or labs, both within the department or from other departments and faculties within the university or from another institution.

First year of study

You are initially registered as a Probationary Research Student (PRS status). During the first year, you are expected to attend courses, lectures and seminars that will enable you to gain the most out of your time at Oxford and assist you with the design and analysis of your own area of research. These will typically include:

  • graduate statistical workshops
  • skills training courses eg in MATLAB and fMRI methods
  • analysis of research methods.

The Medical Sciences Division also offers a large number of courses on transferable skills such as teaching and communicating scientific findings which you are encouraged to attend as a part of your DPhil studies.

You are expected to be fully integrated within your own chosen group or lab and attend group or lab meetings as well as attending related seminars and conferences.

Second year of study

You will be expected to transfer your status from PRS to DPhil before the end of your fourth term of study. For this, you will be required to submit a written report summarising your progress to date, which you will then discuss and defend in an oral examination (a transfer viva).

Third and final years of study

During your third year of study, you will need to confirm your DPhil status through a formal assessment to ensure that you are on course to complete your studies within the three- to four-year time frame. You will be required to give a presentation and attend an interview. Finally, your studies will conclude with the submission of a thesis (maximum 100,000 words) and an oral examination, your final viva voce.

Assessment of your progress on the course is monitored through termly progression reports and at three key stages:

  • transfer of status
  • confirmation of status
  • thesis submission.

You will need to have successfully completed all three stages to be awarded a DPhil in Experimental Psychology from the University of Oxford.

Graduate destinations

A majority of DPhil students remain in academia. Others go on to pursue careers in consultancy and government. 

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 psychology or a cognate discipline that is relevant to your proposed research.

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.

You do not need to have a previous master’s degree to apply for this course. However, if you wish to be considered for the ESRC +3 funding then a previous master’s that is recognised by the ESRC will be required. Please contact the department for further advice.

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.  

All applications are evaluated, initially by the potential supervisor(s) who will then provide a supporting statement for the Experimental Psychology Graduate Admissions Committee (GAC). When shortlisting, the GAC will take into account the supporting statement from the potential supervisor, academic record, references and the quality of the project proposal. 

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to attend one interview which will last for up to half an hour. Around a third of applicants are invited to interview. Interviews are usually held in late January or early February.

Applicants who are shortlisted for interview will be invited to Oxford, or if unable to attend, may be interviewed via Skype (with video). 

Publications

Publications are not required, but if available, publications demonstrating prior experience and proficiency in psychological research will be considered as part of your application. 

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 Experimental Psychology 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 Experimental Psychology 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 Experimental Psychology.

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

You will have access to the department’s IT support and university library services, such as the Radcliffe Science Library, and experimental facilities should be made available as appropriate to the research topic. The provision of other resources specific to your research will be agreed with your supervisor. The department provides some funding towards a computer in the first year and further funding for consumables each year (for a maximum of three years) to students who do not have access to funds from funding bodies.

You will be able to attend the seminars organised by individual research groups or groups with common areas of interest. The department also provides regular departmental seminars during term time, including a series dedicated to DPhil students presenting their own research.

You can use the departmental cafeteria and you are encouraged to attend departmental events. Departmental seminars and colloquia bring research students together with academic and other research staff in the department to hear about on-going research, and provide an opportunity for networking and socialising.

The departmental social committee holds occasional events throughout the academic year for both students and staff in the department.

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 are strongly advised to contact a potential supervisor in the first instance in order to discuss the area of research you wish to carry out during the DPhil, and to establish whether they are able to supervise your proposed project.

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 2,500 words

The research proposal should be single spaced and written in English, outlining your proposed area of research. A 300-word abstract should be included at the start of the research proposal. The text of your document should be no smaller than size 10 Arial or similar. The overall word count does not need to include any bibliography.

You should be prepared to defend your proposal orally at interview if shortlisted.

This will be assessed for:

  • 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 frame 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.

It is usual for your ideas to subsequently 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 point in the application process.

Your research proposal should focus on a specific area of research rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, academic and/or professional

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.

Both academic references and professional references from employment relevant to the course are acceptable.

Your references should provide evidence of your intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and your ability to work in a group.