DPhil in Plant Sciences | University of Oxford
Plant
A research photograph showing a close-up of the subject
(Image Credit: Department of Plant Sciences)

DPhil in Plant Sciences

About the course

The DPhil in Plant Sciences allows graduates to undertake both fundamental and applied research in topics across the breadth of plant science. You will gain a wide range of research skills as well as in-depth knowledge and expertise in your chosen field of research.

As a graduate student you will be embedded in the research groups of one or more members of academic staff who act as your supervisors and provide the bulk of the research guidance and training.

Alongside your research work, you will receive a number of training courses in your first and second years designed to develop skills you will need as a scientist and more general transferable skills. These include courses on critical analysis of the literature, scientific writing, presentation skills, as well as foundation courses in plant biodiversity, bioinformatics and statistics, if appropriate. All students undertake this training as a cohort so you will gain the benefit of working with your year group from across the department.

The department has a friendly and vibrant graduate community which provides a welcoming network to new students. The graduate student community offers a supportive environment, both social and scientific, allowing new graduates to develop into well-rounded and confident scientists. Graduates are a valued part of the department’s research community and their work is showcased annually at the departmental Graduate Symposium supported by prizes for the best graduate research seminar and poster.

Student insights

Graduate destinations

100% of alumni from the DPhil in Plant Sciences are employed, across a wide range of sectors, with 60% working in academic research positions. The department retains contact with its alumni to find out what they have gone on to do after completing their course.

Past students from the Department of Plant Sciences have gone on to careers both in the UK and other countries in teaching and research in schools, universities, policy for government departments, industry, and administration at local and national levels.

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 (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in biological sciences or a related subject.

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 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 normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Applicants will be selected for interview based on the aforementioned criteria. Interviews will normally be held within four weeks of the application deadline and will either be in person or by Skype (with or without video) and will take around 30 to 45 minutes. Admission decisions are made by the department's Graduate Studies Committee in consultation with the Head of Department; you can therefore expect to be interviewed by a panel of two or three committee members.

Applicants will be asked to talk about their academic history and any research project(s) that they may have pursued and questioned on aspects of their research training to date, understanding of the proposed area of study and motivation for doing a DPhil.

Prior to the interview applicants may be sent a short article to read which is relevant to their research; they should be prepared to answer questions on this at the interview.

Publications

Publications are not required, but would be useful to include where applicable.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Evidence of training, research or working experience in the proposed research area would strengthen the application.

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 Department of Plant Sciences 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 Plant Sciences 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 Plant Sciences.

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 and have an understanding of the background to their proposed area of study.

Resources

Academic resources

The Plant Sciences Department is centrally situated in the University Science Area. All the laboratories have recently been refurbished and are excellently equipped for modern cell and molecular technologies.

You will have access to a range of unique facilities comprising the living collections and arboretum of the University Botanic Gardens and, on site, two herbaria of international standing and an extensive Plant Sciences Library. Specialist facilities available to you include confocal and electron microscopy, mass spectrometry, analytical NMR, and extensive transgenic plant growth facilities (glasshouses and controlled-environment rooms).

Research seminars

You will have access to the seminars that individual research groups or groups with common areas of interest organise for their own members and others. You are entitled to attend any University lecture - timetables for each term are published as lecture lists and updated in the weekly University Gazette, both documents are available in digital format via the University intranet. You should also check departmental and college noticeboards for notices of other lectures, seminars, meetings, etc. You are expected to attend the departmental research seminars, held in the Large Lecture Theatre each week during term.

IT support, library facilities and experimental facilities

You will have access to a computer, and the departmental intranet run by the departmental computing service, who will also provide you with IT support. In addition to the Radcliffe Science Library - the scientific section of the Bodleian Library - and other University libraries, you will have access to centrally-provided electronic resources, including a wide range of scientific journals. Library staff will explain the functioning of the University's library services during your induction week. Your University card will give you access to the Radcliffe Science Library and all other Bodleian Libraries.

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.

For students applying to programmes within the MPLS Division at Oxford, Research Council and other funding opportunities available, subject to eligibility. These opportunities are included in the Fees, funding and scholarship search.

You may also be interested in departmental funding opportunities. Further details can be found on the department's website.

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 encouraged to communicate with potential supervisors before you apply to explain why you want to come and work in your particular field of study, to answer any questions on research projects and to refine your application, especially where scholarships are involved.

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.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
Up to 1,000 words

You do not need to submit a detailed research proposal. Instead, please provide a cogent personal statement, written in English, explaining why you wish to take the proposed course and how the degree relates to your long-term career objectives. The statement should also briefly indicate your proposed research area.

The personal statement will also be assessed for evidence of motivation, of understanding of the proposed field of study (both broadly and in the specific project area being considered), and of your ability to present a reasoned argument in English.

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.

Your references will used to help assessment of your intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and research potential. In this context, references from academics able to comment on your performance on previous university courses are particular relevant. However, one or more references from previous research projects, industrial placements or other relevant professional activities are equally welcome.