DPhil in Social Policy | University of Oxford
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Students talking in the department
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DPhil in Social Policy

About the course

The Department of Social Policy and Intervention offers a DPhil in Social Policy and welcomes students from across the world. Research students are an important part of the department’s community, and you will be fully involved and immersed in the life of the department.

The department welcomes DPhil candidates who are interested in a wide range of areas of social policy research, such as welfare systems in developed and developing countries, family and family policies, demography and social policy with a special focus on East Asia, educational inequalities and educational policies, social inequalities and social mobility and labour market policies. This varied research portfolio is organised within the Oxford Institute of Social Policy.

The department's approach to graduate study emphasises your ability to work independently to explore a new line of research under an academic supervisor. Each member of academic staff has expertise in a particular area of social policy and you will only be accepted for a DPhil if there is an appropriate supervisor available. 

As a doctoral student, you will be offered a unique graduate programme tailored to your individual needs. In addition to individual supervision, the department offers a large and diverse range of seminars, workshops and advanced training opportunities in order to further enhance graduate research experience. 

Graduate destinations

Many graduates of the DPhil programme go on to pursue academic careers in world-leading research universities, while others hold influential positions in government, non-governmental and international organisations such as the World Bank, the World Health Organisation, and the UN.

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 demography, economics, political science, psychology, social policy and social work and sociology, or closely-related fields. 

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 3.7 out of 4.0.

A previous master's degree is a requirement.

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.  

Interviews are only held with shortlisted candidates. The criteria by which applicants are shortlisted are as follows:

  • outstanding academic ability
  • proven proficiency in English (in the case of non-native speakers) 
  • an excellent research proposal.

The interviews are normally held by Skype or telephone and will be with two members of faculty; normally with the potential supervisors.

You will asked about your academic background, motivations and future career plans. The panel will also discuss your research proposals with you in detail, particularly the research questions and the proposed methodology.

The duration of the interview is around 30 minutes. You are strongly recommended to indicate times during which you will not be available for an interview in your application form.

Publications

Publications are not expected, but they would advantage an application.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Preference may be given to those who have previously studied in demography, economics, political science, psychology, social policy and social work and sociology, or closely-related fields.

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 Social Policy and Intervention 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 Social Policy and Intervention 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 Social Policy and Intervention.

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.

Resources

The department has its own IT provision and specialist IT support staff. The department’s IT committee is responsible for the oversight of IT provision. You will have access to the Bodleian Social Science Library, in addition to other University libraries, and the centrally provided electronic resources. Some college libraries, such as the Nuffield College Library, may also be open to graduate research students on request.

The department has two rooms designated for graduate research students, one generally used by social policy students and the other based in the Centre of Evidence-based Intervention (CEBI) area. The department aims to provide as much space as possible. You will also be able to book the department’s meeting rooms and lecture rooms if required.

The department runs two seminar series during the year providing the opportunity to hear external expert speakers. In addition, there is a weekly colloquium at which members of the department present and discuss their research, creating an excellent chance for staff and students to learn more about each others’ ideas or receive input on their own research. DPhil students also belong to one of the research groups, an opportunity to explore themed areas in more depth with colleagues with similar interests.

The department has a common room open to both staff and students. Barnett House Mondays - coffee mornings - are held weekly and these occasions provide excellent opportunities for talking to academics and research staff, and fellow students.

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) (further details will be announced in October 2016), 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

Students may need additional funds available to cover the costs of carrying out fieldwork. These costs could vary considerably depending on the type of research undertaken, but might include the cost of travel, accommodation, transcription, or data purchase. Students may also wish to attend or present their work at academic conferences. The department has a fund available to which students can apply for support for both fieldwork and conference attendance costs.

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

The department is interested in applicants with proposals in the areas of its research expertise and interest. Therefore, you are strongly advised to learn more about the department's supervisory expertise by researching the profiles of academics on the DSPI website.

However, it is optional to make contact with a potential supervisor before you apply.

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:
Up to 2,000 words

You should submit 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.

This will be assessed for:

  • the coherence of the proposal
  • the academic interest of the project
  • ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • the feasibility of completing the project in the time available.

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.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,500 words each

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible. 

The topic of the work does not need to relate directly to the proposed subject of study. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for a comprehensive understanding of the subject area; understanding of problems in the area; ability to construct and defend an argument; ability of analytical thinking; powers of analysis and clarity of expression.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, all of which must be 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.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement and motivation for the chosen area of study. Academic references are required.