DPhil in Philosophy | University of Oxford
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DPhil in Philosophy

About the course

The Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) in Philosophy is a three- to four-year research programme whereby you undertake a doctoral level research project under the guidance of your supervisor(s). The doctoral work culminates in a 75,000-word thesis that is defended in the form of an oral defence (viva voce). Satisfactory progress through the DPhil is checked in the form of a mini-viva voce taking place at the end of the first and second year of study.

The aim of the faculty’s DPhil in Philosophy is to prepare you for an academic career in philosophy.

The Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee recommends progression from Oxford's BPhil in Philosophy to the DPhil programme in view of the opportunity it offers to students to study a wide range of philosophical topics as well as to focus on a narrower field of research interest. Students proceeding to the DPhil programme via the BPhil will normally write a DPhil thesis which is an expansion of their BPhil thesis, although this is not a formal requirement. Indeed, sometimes, the BPhil thesis topic is not suitable for expansion into a DPhil thesis, or a student may wish to write their DPhil thesis on a different topic.

Each year, some students are admitted to the DPhil in Philosophy from programmes other than the BPhil in Philosophy. These students will enter the DPhil initially as a Probationary Research Student (PRS) from appropriate programmes at Oxford or elsewhere. Typically, these students will have already completed substantial graduate work in philosophy, usually equivalent to that required for the BPhil. Students may also progress from either of the Faculty of Philosophy's specialised MSt programmes - the MSt in Philosophy of Physics and the MSt in Ancient Philosophy.

The DPhil is examined by a thesis of up to 75,000 words, which has been written under the guidance of (a) supervisor(s) with expertise in the topic of the thesis. You will undergo an oral defence (viva voce) of the thesis, conducted by two appointed examiners. Students progressing from the BPhil may (but are not required to) incorporate the contents of their entire 30,000-word BPhil thesis into their 75,000-word DPhil thesis.

In the third term after enrolment onto the DPhil, you are required to complete a transfer of status from PRS to full DPhil status. Two appointed examiners will interview you on your two-page thesis outline, which explains in outline the intended line of argument or contribution to the subject, and a piece of written work of approximately 5,000 words in the area and philosophical style of the proposed thesis which is typically, though not necessarily, a draft chapter of the thesis.

Students who progressed from the MSt in Philosophy of Physics course are required to write a 20,000-word thesis during their year as a PRS, as their MSt does not have a thesis element. Students who progress from the BPhil will enter the DPhil without being required to pass a year as a PRS and as a result will only have another six terms (instead of the usual nine terms) of fee liability for their DPhil.

At the end of the second year, you will be required to apply for confirmation of your DPhil status. This entails an interview by one or two appointed examiners on your two-page thesis outline, which goes into some detail and comprises a reasoned statement of the nature of the proposed thesis together with a provisional table of contents, and a piece of written work of around 5,000 words intended as a part of the thesis, in final or near-final draft.

You should have regular one-to-one tuition sessions with your supervisor(s). These will normally happen twice per term but in some terms, especially at the start of the degree and during the final stages of the thesis, the number of sessions may be increased. You are not required to attend any taught graduate classes as part of your DPhil degree, but you are encouraged to participate in lectures, classes, seminars and other educational opportunities offered throughout the university as relevant to your topic of study.

The course has no fieldwork, industrial placement or year abroad element, but you may decide to attend conferences, workshops or research training elsewhere.

You may attend any graduate or undergraduate classes, seminars and lectures in and outside of the Faculty of Philosophy which are of interest to you, provided that those classes, seminars and lectures are open to you.

MLitt in Philosophy

The Masters of Letters (MLitt) in Philosophy is awarded on the basis of a thesis of maximum 50,000 words for the MLitt. In practice, applicants are admitted for the MLitt only in exceptional cases, and few students submit a thesis for the MLitt. The MLitt is more often an exit award for DPhil students who fail or withdraw from the DPhil degree but meet the requirements for the MLitt.

Graduate destinations

The DPhil in Philosophy's aim is to prepare students for an academic career in philosophy. Most DPhil graduates do indeed secure academic posts, as witnessed by the faculty's placement record.

The faculty provides a placement scheme to help students seeking jobs within philosophy. Users of the Placement Scheme may ask their referees to send reference letters directly to the faculty where they will be held on file and sent out to universities or other academic institutions at the student’s request. The placement scheme is available to alumni until they have secured a tenured post.

The faculty's Placement Officer helps job applicants with the preparation of their CVs, provides advice about the presentation of material in an application dossier, and arranges practice interviews. The Placement Officer also holds a yearly placement seminar, compulsory to those wishing to make use of the placement scheme, where students give talks based on material they propose to use in their writing samples or job talks, with an opportunity for comment and discussion. Each December, it is intended that the Placement Officer attends the Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association to support candidates who have interviews there.

The faculty also runs an email mailing list for members of the placement scheme, which will be used to pass on job tips and news of vacancies.

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 philosophy or a closely-related discipline. Applicants are also normally expected to be predicted or to have achieved a high pass or distinction in the BPhil in Philosophy from the University of Oxford or an equivalent national or international qualification. 

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a GPA of 3.7, a first-class degree or the equivalent.

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 have any publications but these may be an advantage as admission to the course is very competitive.

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 Philosophy 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 Philosophy 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 Philosophy.

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.

Applicants who achieve a distinction in the BPhil in Philosophy, the MSt in Philosophy of Physics or the MSt in Ancient Philosophy are automatically eligible for progression to the DPhil, provided only that the faculty's Graduate Studies Committee is satisfied that their proposed thesis topic and outline indicate that they can be adequately supervised by members of the Philosophy Faculty. Students who pass the BPhil in Philosophy, the MSt in Philosophy of Physics or the MSt in Ancient Philosophy without a distinction may be admitted to the DPhil at the Committee’s discretion.

Applications are assessed by the faculty's Graduate Studies Committee as a gathered field, and offers are made on a strictly comparative basis.

Applicants should not apply with more than one distinct research proposal.

Resources

Oxford is one of the world’s great centres for philosophy, and is widely recognised to be amongst the best. More than 150 professional philosophers work in the University and its colleges, between them covering a vast range of subjects within philosophy, and many are international leaders in their fields. 

Many philosophy subjects at Oxford are ranked at or near the top in the Philosophical Gourmet Report’s breakdown of programmes by speciality: metaphysics, epistemology, philosophical logic, ethics, political philosophy, philosophy of law, applied ethics, philosophy of science, philosophy of physics, decision, rational choice and game theory, philosophy of mathematics, mathematical logic, ancient philosophy, early modern philosophy - 18th century, and the history of analytical philosophy (including Wittgenstein). 

The Philosophy Centre in the Radcliffe Humanities building on Woodstock Road acts as a focal point for the faculty’s activities and contains, as well as lecturing and teaching space, a graduate computing room and a graduate common room. A wireless network runs throughout the Philosophy Centre.

The Philosophy Centre also contains the department's library, with over 25,000 volumes, a collection of approximately 80 periodicals, online access to many philosophical databases, and librarians trained in the specific bibliographic needs of philosophers. Many college libraries also have extensive holdings in philosophy.

Each term more than a dozen graduate classes and research seminars are organised by faculty members in which graduate students are full and important participants.

Graduates are encouraged to organise their own seminars and reading groups, and they also run two societies: one invites distinguished speakers from the UK and around the world, while another gives graduates the opportunity to present papers to a graduate audience.

Each year there is an Oxford Graduate Philosophy Conference, in which most graduate philosophy students participate in some way.

The faculty runs a teaching scheme and a lecturing scheme to provide teaching experience for those DPhil students who intend to pursue an academic career.

In the teaching scheme you are paired with a college fellow who is teaching first-year undergraduate students in classes for logic, general philosophy and moral philosophy, which is studied in connection with Mill’s utilitarianism. Under the guidance of the college fellow, you will do a certain amount of teaching and marking.

The lecturing scheme allows you to give an undergraduate lecture course of your own choice and design, consisting of four one-hour lectures, for which you will receive remuneration.

The faculty also maintains the Graduate Teaching Register, which lists graduate students who are interested in teaching undergraduates, the subjects that they are willing to teach, and the name of a referee. 

The Faculty also maintains a Graduate Teaching Register, which lists graduate students who are interested in teaching undergraduates, the subjects that they are willing to teach, and the name of a referee. 

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)
c. £4,250£3,021c. £7,271
Overseas£15,755£3,021£18,776

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 encouraged to check whether there are potential supervisors for your proposed area of research at Oxford and indicate in your application if there are particular faculty members you would like to work with.

Please note that it can never be guaranteed that your proposed supervisor will be assigned to you, even if you receive prior informal approval from that supervisor.

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 and personal statement:
Proposal of up to 2,000 words and statement of one page

Your research proposal and personal statement should be submitted as a single, combined document with clear sub-headings.

Research proposal

Your research proposal should comprise a detailed outline of your proposed research, written in English, covering areas such as the background to the research, methodology, expected results and the contribution to the field of learning.

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

This will be assessed for:

  • coherence of the proposal
  • originality of the project
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course (normally three years and a maximum of four years)
  • commitment to the subject
  • knowledge of research techniques
  • capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.

It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project, but you should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at the time of your application.

You may wish to make reference to your personal achievements, interests and aspirations and the relevance of the course to your future career development plans.

Personal statement

You should also submit a one-page personal statement in English explaining your motivation for applying for graduate study at Oxford, in which you may wish to consider the following questions:

  • What relevant academic and/or research experience do you have?
  • Why are you applying to this particular programme of study?
  • Which areas of study within the subject interest you?
  • Why would you be an excellent candidate for this course?
  • How does this course fit in with your future career plans?

This will be assessed for evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study.

Your statement should focus on philosophy, rather than personal, extra-curricular achievements and interests.

Written work:
One essay of 4,000 to 5,000 words

You should submit an academic essay on a subject related to your proposed research topic. The essay may be part of a longer piece of work but if so, a section of the requisite length must be unambiguously identified for particular consideration by the assessors.

The essay should be typed or word-processed in English and must be clearly marked with your name and the date of composition. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for:

  • clarity and accuracy of thought and writing
  • intellectual independence
  • willingness and ability to reach conclusions by reasoned argument rather than assertion
  • a critical and attentive reading of any texts discussed
  • understanding of important philosophical ideas and theories
  • if required by the topic of the work, appropriate technical skills.

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.

Three academic references are usually required. However, if you have been out of education for a long time, or if you have substantial relevant working experience, then a maximum of one professional reference may replace an academic reference provided that it speaks to your ability to undertake philosophy studies at graduate level.

Your references should support outstanding academic achievement, great intellectual ability, strong motivation, and independence of thought.