DPhil in Population Health | University of Oxford
Old Road Campus
The Richard Doll building, housing many of the University's research laboratories, offices and support spaces for the Medical Sciences Division
(Image Credit: Rob Judges / Oxford University Images)

DPhil in Population Health

About the course

The DPhil in Population Health is a doctoral research programme intended to provide you with training in research, an in-depth knowledge and understanding of your doctoral research topic and will prepare you for a career in academia.

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

Structure, content and assessment

You are admitted to the status of Probationer Research Student (PRS) in the first instance and you will then seek transfer to DPhil status by the end of your fourth term after admission. Confirmation of status will usually be carried out in the eighth term after admission as a research student, and no later than the ninth term. Both transfer and confirmation of status will require an oral assessment. Having successfully confirmed your status you will then be able to apply for the appointment of examiners, submit your thesis and complete the viva voce examination.

Part-time study

A small number of part-time students may be admitted to the DPhil in Population Health. Candidates applying for admission to this part-time course are required to show that their DPhil research topic is suited to part-time study and the supervisor agrees with the part-time schedule. 

The attendance requirement will be a minimum of 30 days University-based work per year. This will be spread across the academic year to be a minimum of ten days based in the department each term.

However, attendance is likely to be higher and will be determined by the demands of the individual DPhil research project and will be agreed with the candidate at interview.

Pattern of teaching, learning and supervision

Research training will primarily be through day-to-day involvement in a research project and working with a research team. Your supervisors will be the main source of your research training; you will also be encouraged to strengthen your research skills by taking relevant taught courses. Research training will be within a multidisciplinary research environment which includes epidemiology, statistics, ethics, health economics, health promotion, health services research, law and big data.

You will be encouraged to make use of the range of skills training offered by the Medical Sciences Division through your study at Nuffield Department of Population Health (NDPH). These include statistics, data management, research ethics, writing academic papers and presentation skills. You are also expected to identify additional relevant courses that will support your research training.

Graduate destinations

Most DPhil alumni have progressed to academic posts, working as postdoctoral researchers or attending medical school.

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 subject relevant to population health.

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.

Applicants who hold a master's degree in a relevant subject will be at an advantage as this will prepare them for DPhil research.

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 shortlisted for interview by a panel of academics according to their academic achievements to date, understanding of research area, their research questions and methods and aptitude for the course.

Interviews are planned for the week commencing 30 January 2017 and can be conducted via Skype video link or face-to-face.

Interviews normally last no more than 30 minutes and begin with a presentation by the applicant of their research proposal, lasting no more than 5 minutes.  The panel normally comprises the Director of Graduate Studies, the Director of Training and Career Development, at least one of the applicant's proposed supervisors, and one further senior researcher from the department.


Publications in a peer-reviewed journal would strengthen an application.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Research or working experience in the area of the proposed research may be an advantage.

Preference may be given to those who have previously studied a master's degree in a relevant subject

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 Nuffield Department of Population Health 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 Nuffield Department of Population Health 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 Nuffield Department of Population Health. Each student will be supervised by at least two supervisors. If one supervisor is from outside the department, a second supervisor will be appointed from within the department.

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.



You will have access to the department's IT support, and to the University Library services such as the Radcliffe Science Library, Cairns Library and the Knowledge Centre based in the Old Road Campus Research Building.

A tour of the Knowledge Centre will be given at the departmental induction and you will be allocated a desk within NDPH.


You will be encouraged to attend the weekly seminar series held in the Richard Doll Building, and will be notified of the many seminars taking place across the Medical Sciences Division through a weekly department-wide email.

You will also have the opportunity to attend regular 'master-classes' with experts in the field of population health, which are joint events with the MSc in Global Health Science.

Doctoral research student group

NDPH hosts an active doctoral research student group. This is a student-led group that meets regularly during term time for social events, seminars, journal clubs and training courses. 


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.


Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Full-time study

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

(including Islands)
c. £4,250£3,021c. £7,271

Part-time study

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

(including Islands)
c. £2,125£1,511c. £3,636

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

Full-time study

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.

Part-time study

Please note that this course requires that you attend in Oxford for teaching, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Further, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Depending on your choice of 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

If you wish to apply for an advertised project, you should make contact with a supervisor  in the first instance; if contact details are not available on the NDPH website, please contact the Graduate Studies Office.

If you have your own research proposal, you must identify a suitable supervisor or supervisors within the Nuffield Department of Population Health and secure their agreement in principle to supervise your project should your application be accepted. Once you have secured a supervisory arrangement in principle you should then apply to the course.

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.


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:
Two pages

You should submit a detailed outline of your intended research, based either on an advertised research project or your own proposal.

This should be written in English and cover areas such as the background to the research, methodology and the contribution to the field of learning. The overall page count should include any bibliography.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying; 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 available for the course;
  • 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, 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. 

Your statement should focus on your proposed research rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

Written work:
One essay of 2,000 words 

An academic essay or other writing sample from your most recent qualification, written in English, is required. An extract of the requisite length from longer work is also permissible.

The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes. It is not important that the written work relates closely to the proposed area of study.

This will be assessed for a comprehensive understanding of the subject area, ability to construct an defend an argument, powers of analysis, and powers of expression.

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.

References should generally be academic though one professional reference is acceptable.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and ability to work with peers.