DPhil in Sociology | University of Oxford
Radcliffe Camera
The Radcliffe Camera, through the window of the Bodleian Library
(Image Credit: Christopher Wills / Graduate Photography Competition)

DPhil in Sociology

About the course

The DPhil in Sociology is a full-time, three year doctoral programme for students who would like to undertake original and independent research in preparation for an academic career and other research-intensive occupations. The DPhil is examined by a thesis, prepared under the guidance of one or two academic supervisors.

The DPhil programme offers individualised training in sociological analysis to prepare you for academic life and the job market. You will develop your skills by undertaking empirical research under the guidance of an academic supervisor and by participating in the department's DPhil workshops and seminars. In addition, you will find a wide variety of courses, lectures and seminars taking place all over Oxford, that are relevant for your research and allow you to become a well-rounded sociologist.

As a research student, you will have the opportunity to be fully involved in the department's research environment, which is characterised by a rich tradition of methodologically rigorous empirical sociology. You will be exposed to cutting edge research undertaken by your supervisor, scholars in the department and the many visitors that the department welcomes each year.

Graduate destinations

Alumni have gone on to academic/research positions at universities in the UK (eg Cambridge, LSE, Manchester, Bath, Essex, Birmingham and Durham) and across the world (eg UCLA, Yale, Penn, EUI Florence, Berlin, Stockholm, Hong Kong) and to research-intensive jobs in government and international organisations (eg OECD), think-tanks, NGOs and the private sector (eg banks and marketing).

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 sociology or a related social science discipline.

A master's degree with a high pass (2.1) or distinction is also required.

The department will only consider applicants who have a master's degrees in arts, humanities or science subjects if they can demonstrate a strong interest in sociology and have had sufficient methodological training.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.

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, though you may include these scores as part of your application.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

References/letters of recommendation 

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation for doctoral studies, ability to work independently.

Academic references are preferred, though professional references are acceptable if you have spent a significant amount of time in work.

Written work produced by the student

Two academic writing samples from your most recent qualification are required. Each sample should be in English and not longer than 2,000 words. Extracts from longer pieces should be prefaced by a short note which puts them in context.

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

It is preferable for the written work to be closely related to the proposed area of study.

Research proposal

In two pages explain what topic you propose to investigate, why it is sociologically significant, and how you would carry out the research. The research proposal should be in English. You are encouraged to discuss the research proposal with potential supervisors before submitting the application.

This will be assessed for:

  • the coherence of the proposal
  • the originality of the project
  • 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
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques.

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 the time of application.

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

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Publications

Publications are not expected.

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 Sociology 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 Sociology 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 Sociology.

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.

The Department of Sociology has a vibrant graduate programme. About seventy students are currently engaged in original research for the DPhil degree. Many students come from the United Kingdom and other European countries; the department also attracts students from all over the world, from Bangladesh to Zimbabwe.

There are over 100 libraries at Oxford and the largest, the Bodleian, has over six million volumes. The Social Science Library is located in the Manor Road Building, a few floors below the Department of Sociology. Nuffield College Library also has extensive holdings in the social sciences including a data library of British and international datasets. Individual area studies centre libraries are clustered in St Antony's College.

Many colleges offer computing facilities and desk space is available in the Department of Sociology for DPhil students.

Funding

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

Oxford hosts one of 21 Doctoral Training Centres accredited by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). In 2016 approximately 65 ESRC studentships are available across the Social Sciences. See the Social Sciences Doctoral Training Centre website for details. Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded studentships are available for the Oxford Doctoral Training Partnership in Environmental Research and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) studentships are available through the AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership.

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.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2016-17

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£6,550£2,933£9,483
Overseas£16,280£2,933£19,213

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

You are not formally required to undertake field research for your dissertation. However, if you decide to undertake fieldwork as part of your studies, you should note that you will ordinarily have to meet all the costs yourself. These costs are likely to include, but may not be limited to, travel, accommodation and living expenses, insurance and, where appropriate, visa and medical fees (e.g. for vaccinations). Costs can vary considerably according to the duration and location of the fieldwork, but the department would generally expect the cost of such field research to range from £200 to £1,000. If you choose to collect you own data, you may also incur transcription costs.  There may also be costs if you choose to acquire quantitative data from non-ESRC sources.  The department has no funds available to help with these 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 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.

You are encouraged to contact potential supervisors before submitting an application.

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

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

The research proposal should explain what topic you propose to investigate, why it is sociologically significant, and how you would carry out the research.

Academic references are preferred, though professional references are acceptable if you have spent a significant amount of time in work.

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:

  • two references, of the required three overall
  • transcript and CV/résumé
  • two pieces of written work, of the required two overall
  • 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.