DPhil in International Development | University of Oxford
Fieldwork
A DPhil student carrying out fieldwork in Peru
(Image Credit: T Thorp, ODID)

DPhil in International Development

About the course

The DPhil in International Development provides an opportunity for outstanding students to pursue in-depth multi- and interdisciplinary research, guided by leading scholars in the field, into processes of social, political and economic development and change in the global South.

Academics at the Oxford Department of International Development (ODID) can offer supervision in a wide range of subjects, including economic growth and instability, trade and investment, poverty and inequality, insecurity and conflict, the history of social and political change, migration and refugees, global governance and the environment, children and human development, and technology and industrialisation. The department also has close connections with other departments and research centres across the University.

As a DPhil student you will undertake your own original research project under the guidance of your supervisor, with whom you will typically meet at least two to three times a term. The supervisor will help develop and guide your project and, at later stages, provide feedback on chapter drafts. You will work on your own extensively however, and will need a high level of motivation. 

You will be admitted initially as a Probationer Research Student (PRS), transferring to full DPhil status at the end of your first year. During the probationary period, you will develop and begin work on your thesis topic. You will be offered training in relevant research methods, language, computing and other skills, and have the opportunity to attend lectures, seminars and classes in your general topic area.

As a PRS you will take one taught course, either in research methods or from an Oxford master’s degree relevant to your research, on which you will be examined at the end of the first year. You must pass this course with a strong performance in order to transfer from PRS status to full DPhil status. You also need departmental approval of a fully developed research plan, which you will present in your transfer paper to two assessors approved by the department’s graduate studies committee.

You are expected to be resident in Oxford for the PRS period. Once the transfer is complete, you may leave Oxford for up to three terms in order to conduct your fieldwork and continue the course by carrying out your own research under the guidance of your supervisor, with whom you will continue to meet or correspond with regularly. You should return to Oxford after fieldwork for at least three terms.

Assessment of progress will be made during these sessions with your supervisor and also in more formal viva voce meetings – for the Transfer of Status (usually at the end of the first year) and for Confirmation of Status (usually at the end of the third year). More information on these two meetings can be found in the course handbook on the ODID website.

As a PRS you will normally be expected to complete your degree in a period of three years plus up to one year of fieldwork (if needed). Students who transfer to the DPhil after the MPhil in Development Studies are expected to complete in two years plus time needed for fieldwork: they are also expected to be resident in Oxford for part of this time. Further information on the structure can be obtained from the course handbook.

Graduate destinations

Graduates of the DPhil in International Development have a strong track record in developing academic careers in universities and research institutions across the world. The department’s alumni now hold positions at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Leicester, London (LSE and SOAS) and Sussex in the UK, and at the Australian National University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Dartmouth College, the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, and the Universities of Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Leiden, Leuven, Melbourne, Peru, Port Harcourt, Rome, Roskilde, York (Canada) and the Witwatersrand overseas, among other institutions.

Other former students have taken up positions in major international institutions, including the World Bank and the UN organisation, such as UNCTAD and UNHCR, and in NGOs.

Read more about the kinds of careers the department’s students pursue on the ODID Alumni page.

“The DPhil taught me crucial skills and an approach to research that I draw on in my work today. I learnt how to speak across disciplines, to conduct multidisciplinary research and teach students from a range of educational backgrounds.” Anne Roemer-Mahler, completed 2009

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 a relevant social science subject.

However, entrance 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 3.8 out of 4.0.

Applicants for the DPhil must also be predicted to or have achieved a distinction or very high 2:1 (or equivalent) for their master's degree in a relevant social science subject. The master's degree must be completed and a final transcript made available to the department by the end of August prior to the start of the DPhil.

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 expected or required for admission, but any which you have should be added to your CV.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Research or working experience in a relevant area may be an advantage but is not essential. Evidence of training in research methods is required.

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 Oxford Department of International Development 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 Oxford Department of International Development 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 Oxford Department of International Development.

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 is essential that you apply as early as possible and ensure that you submit all required materials by the advertised deadlines.

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 Oxford Department of International Development (ODID) is recognised as one of the world’s leading research centres in development studies. In the UK’s 2014 Research Excellence Framework it was ranked top in its subject area.

As a doctoral student you will become part of a vibrant research community. The department hosts some 70 outstanding academics and six research groups that are at the forefront of their specialist fields: the International Growth Centre, the International Migration Institute, the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, the Refugee Studies Centre, the Technology and Management Centre for Development and Young Lives. These groups contribute to the doctoral programme by providing case studies, fieldwork support and specialist supervision.

You will have access to a wide range of seminars organised by the department as well as an enormous variety of events across the wider University. The department has its own lively and well-attended weekly DPhil work-in-progress seminar, at which you can present your ideas and receive feedback from your peers.

You will also have access to training opportunities provided by the Social Sciences Divisional Office, which offers advanced research and career development training.

Libraries

The Social Sciences Library, the largest freestanding social science library in the UK with considerable print and digital strengths in development studies and a specialist librarian, is a short walk away. This is complemented by the world-class resources of the Bodleian Library and the satellite libraries. As alumni of the University, students can sign up for lifetime access to key online journals.

IT support

Doctoral students are provided with individual carrels in a dedicated zone of the building, with full IT facilities, including computers, printers, scanners and Wi-Fi access.  Technical support is available through the department, your college and the University’s IT Services, which also offers training courses. Course materials are available online via WebLearn, the University’s Virtual Learning Environment.

Department facilities

In addition to the dedicated doctoral zone there is a common room area where students from all the department's courses can gather. Light lunches are available during term in the department’s canteen.

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), 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)
£8,715£3,021£11,736
Overseas£18,080£3,021£21,101

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

Most students will choose a topic which will require them to do fieldwork for their thesis. This will usually be done after transferring status from Probationer Research Student to DPhil status. Students should note that they will have to meet all costs of fieldwork themselves and these costs are likely to include travel and related costs such as visas, accommodation, subsistence, translation and research assistant services if required.  These costs will vary according to the location and length of the fieldwork and the department estimates that these costs may range from £1,500 to £20,000. Each DPhil student is able to apply for a fieldwork grant of £700.  This is awarded once only.  Students who have fieldwork grants from ESRC are not able to apply. Further information will be provided in the course handbook.

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

It is advisable but not necessary for you to make contact with potential supervisors before you apply. However, as an offer of a place cannot be made if there is no suitable supervisor in the department, you are advised to check the ODID website to see if your proposed research matches with research being done in the department.

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 3,000 words

The research proposal should be written in English only and should set out your research topic succinctly. For further assistance, please read the department's proposal writing guide

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

This will be assessed for:

  • coherence
  • originality of the project
  • evidence of understanding of the proposed area of study
  • engagement with the extant literature and potential for contribution to existing bodies of scholarship
  • the ability to present a reasoned and analytical case
  • the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course (a maximum of three to four years)
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques.

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.

Your proposal should focus on the research project rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

Written work:
Two essays of 4,000 words each

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts from longer pieces of work are acceptable, but should not come from the same piece of work; and should be prefaced by a note which puts them in context. Please note that multi-authored works are not acceptable.

The writing samples should preferably be on a development-related topic. The word count does not need to include your bibliography or footnotes.

This will be assessed for a comprehensive understanding of the subject area; your ability to construct and defend an argument; your powers of analysis; your powers of expression; and your familiarity with the literature on the subject.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, academic preferred

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 intellectual ability, academic achievement, academic writing ability and motivation. Academic references are preferred.