DPhil in Geography and the Environment | University of Oxford
Radcliffe Camera
The Radcliffe Camera, through the window of the Bodleian Library
(Image Credit: Christopher Wills / Graduate Photography Competition)

DPhil in Geography and the Environment

About the course

The Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) in Geography and the Environment is the department's premier research degree, awarded to candidates who have successfully completed a major piece of original research. The course provides support and an intellectual environment to pursue your own independent research.

The DPhil is an advanced research degree which is awarded on the basis of a thesis and oral examination (assessment of other work is not taken into consideration). The thesis should represent a significant and substantial piece of research which is conveyed in a lucid and scholarly manner which shows that you have a good general knowledge of the field of your thesis. You are required to work independently, to take the initiative in exploring a line of research and to acquire new skills in order to carry out your research. You will be allocated a supervisor who will meet with you at specifically agreed times and will agree with you a research plan and programme of work and to establish clear academic expectations and milestones.

If you are intending to read for the DPhil you are normally admitted to the status of Probationer Research Student (PRS) initially. During the first year, you must apply for a transfer of status from probationer research student to DPhil student. This requires successful completion of a Qualifying Test. This involves the submission of a piece of written work which is examined by two assessors (neither of whom will be supervisors). This process is to ensure that your work is of potential DPhil quality and that the methodology of the research is appropriate and practicable.

Upon successful completion of the transfer of status, you will also be required to undertake the confirmation of DPhil status at the end of your third year. This will also involve the submission of a piece of written work which is assessed by two assessors (neither of whom are supervisors). The confirmation assessment is different to the transfer assessment as the assessors will be focusing on how the research is progressing, the quality of the draft chapters/papers, and on the plan for completion. The assessors will be looking to ensure that you are making the appropriate amount of progress in the development of your thesis, so that your submission will be achieved within the three/four year time limit.

A part-time route through the DPhil programme is currently under development for first admission in October 2017. For further details on part-time doctoral study and for updates on when the part-time programme will open for admission, please contact research-degrees-coordinator@ouce.ox.ac.uk

Graduate destinations

Many graduates are commanding influential positions in multinational corporations, in national, state and international government, in non-governmental organisations, and by continuing with further research.

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 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 any discipline.

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

You are also required to have achieved or be expected to achieve a master's degree in geography or a related environmental field, with either a distinction grade overall or a distinction grade on the dissertation as a minimum.

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

You are not required to submit any publications.

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 School of Geography and the Environment 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 School of Geography and the Environment 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 School of Geography and the Environment.

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

The School of Geography and the Environment undertakes world-class interdisciplinary research, addresses societal and environmental problems, and advances knowledge within an intellectually vibrant, interdisciplinary research environment that combines natural and social sciences and has geography at its core. The department has five research clusters in biodiversity, ecosystems and conservation; climate systems and policy; landscape dynamics; technological natures; and transformations.

You will be a member of one of the clusters and are encouraged to attend and participate in the organisation of the research seminars organised by each cluster.

The University of Oxford has an extensive library system and the Radcliffe Science Library is the main lending service within the University for the material required for the course. The Social Sciences Library also holds collections which are valuable for students pursuing geography programmes. A tutorial on using the library and IT facilities will be provided at induction by the Geography Subject Librarian.

The department has a computer room available for all graduate students. There are dedicated IT times each day where you can seek help from IT staff. Research students share a social space with academic and research staff and are encouraged to interact with academic staff from across the discipline. The department also offers dedicated working space for DPhil students.

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 Research Council awards are available each year from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (further details will be announced in October 2016), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£13,545£3,021£16,566
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

If you choose to undertake optional fieldwork, you will need to cover all costs related to this, eg travel, accommodation and living expenses, visa and medical fees (such as vaccinations), etc. The costs may vary considerably depending on the location and duration of the fieldwork.

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 look at the department lists of potential supervisors and topics before writing your research proposal and to approach specific supervisors directly to discuss your research proposal before applying.

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 2,500 words

Your research proposal should comprise a detailed outline of your proposed research, written in English. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for evidence that you have a worthwhile research project, you have a good grasp of the relevant literature and the major issues, and that your methodology is sound. The research proposal must address the question of what you plan to accomplish, why you want to and how you are going to do it. The proposal will also be assessed to determine that you have the capacity for sustained and intense work and the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course (three to four years).

The proposal should include sufficient information for the department to evaluate the proposed study and have the right staff expertise to supervise you.

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.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,000 words each

The written work must be in English and can be either an essay you have written, a chapter(s) of a thesis, a published scholarly paper or even academic work written specifically to support your application.

This work should demonstrate your ability to write a good academic document though it does not need to be related to the proposed area of study.

An extract of the requisite length from longer work is permissible. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for evidence of good basic knowledge, understanding of problems, powers of analysis, ability to construct a coherent train of thought, and to shape an argument, and powers of expression. The quality of English expression and of presentation may also be part of the assessment. Assessment of this work will take note of the circumstances under which the work was done. Students with disclosed disabilities will receive appropriate consideration according to their particular needs.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, of which at least two 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.

Your references will support your academic achievements, interests, and personal motivation. In order to assist assessors in their consideration of applications references should be from experienced scholars and teachers of graduate students. In view of this, it is recommended that at least two of the three references are from academics.