DPhil in Population Health | University of Oxford
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The Richard Doll building, housing many of the University's research laboratories, offices and support spaces for the Medical Sciences Division
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DPhil in Population Health

About the course

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

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 of admission. The confirmation of status will usually be carried out in the eighth term of 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 examiners and submit your thesis for the viva.

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. The supervisor(s) 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 medical information data linkage systems.

You will be encouraged to make use of the range of skills trainings 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 2016-17

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:

References/letters of recommendation 

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

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

Written work produced by the student

Applicants should provide one relevant academic essay or other writing sample for their most recent qualification of 2,000 words, or 2,000-word extract of longer work which should be prefaced by a note which puts it in context. This should be written in English.

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.

It is not important that the written work relates closely to the proposed area of study.

Research proposal

The applicant should prepare a brief research proposal, written in English, based on an advertised project or their own research project and normally about two pages in length.

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. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.

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

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, aptitude for the course.

Interviews are planned for the last week of January and first week of February 2016 and are typically conducted via Skype video link.

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


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. The department aims for each student to 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 on the Old Road Campus and will also be made aware of any other seminars taking place across the Medical Sciences Division through a weekly department-wide email notification.

NDPH hosts an active DPhil support group. This is a student-led group that meets fortnightly during term time to discuss subjects such as leadership, DPhil milestones, presentation skills, viva preparation and thesis writing.


There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available for courses starting in 2016-17. Full scholarships will cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. Information about the full range of funding available can be found in the Fees and funding section.

For over 70% of Oxford scholarships, nothing more than the standard course application is usually required. If you fulfil the eligibility criteria and apply by the relevant January deadline, you will be automatically considered. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out whether you are eligible for scholarships which require an additional application. If you are, the tool will include links to full details of how to apply.

Divisional funding opportunities

Full funding opportunities are available for all Medical Sciences Graduate School programmes, whatever your nationality. See the Medical Sciences Graduate School website for details.

Departmental funding opportunities

Additional funding opportunities may also be offered by your department. Department scholarships are included in the funding search tool, with links to further information. More details on funding opportunities may also be available on the department’s website.


Annual fees for entry in 2016-17

Full-time study

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

(including Islands)

Part-time study

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

(including Islands)

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 2016-17 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £970 and £1433 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.

If you have your own research proposal, you must identify a suitable supervisor within the Nuffield Department of Population Health and then submit your proposal and CV to the Student Administration Team at the contact details provided on this page. You should then wait to hear whether there is the capacity to supervise such a project and only then apply formally to the University. Your application will not be considered if you have not previously contacted the department and identified a potential supervisor.

If you wish to apply for an advertised project, you should make contact with a supervisor via the Student Administration Team in the first instance.

The set of materials you should send with an application to this DPhil comprises: 

  • a research proposal, around two pages in length
  • a CV/résumé
  • three references
  • official transcripts detailing your university-level qualifications and marks to date
  • one academic essay or other writing sample from your most recent qualification of 2,000 words each, or 2,000-word extracts of longer work.

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

It is not important that the written work relates closely to the proposed area of study.

For continuing Oxford graduates

If you are a current Oxford graduate on an eligible graduate taught course and you are using the readmission form to apply for this course, you are permitted to re-submit the following documents from your previous application:

  • English proficiency scores, if appropriate.

If you are permitted to reuse any references, you should indicate which you wish to reuse in your application form and we will add these to your application after you submit.

If you are permitted to reuse other documents, like your transcript or written work, you must upload your own copies of these files to your application.

For further information on the readmission process and your eligibility to use this process, see our guidance for continuing Oxford graduates.