About the course
The DPhil in Theoretical Physics is a research-based course of three to four years in duration. You will be supervised throughout the entire duration of the course and join your supervisor's research group.
You will be assigned to a research group: work on your original research project will start immediately and continue for the duration of your DPhil. During the first year you will be required to attend lectures and courses to increase your basic and specialist physics knowledge.
You are encouraged to attend conferences and summer schools inside or outside the UK and the department supports such attendance financially.
At the end of the first year you are expected to submit a report on your research and to defend it in an interview with the Graduate Studies Panel and a specialist reader. The panel will determine whether you can transfer status from Probationer Research Student status to DPhil student status.
The DPhil in Theoretical Physics at Oxford is ideally suited to those students who would like to pursue a career in research; either in academia or industry all over the world. The majority of alumni go on to take up postdoctoral research posts after graduation.
However, a very wide range of career paths is possible, with recent graduates taking up positions in investment banking, business analysis and consulting.
- DPhil in Astrophysics
- DPhil in Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics
- DPhil in Atomic and Laser Physics
- DPhil in Condensed Matter Physics
- DPhil in Mathematics
- DPhil in Particle Physics
- MSc in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics
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:
- New and Sustainable Photovoltaics (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training)
- Systems Approaches to Biomedical Science (EPSRC and MRC Centre for Doctoral Training)
- Systems Biology (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training)
- Theory and Modelling in Chemical Sciences (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training)
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 with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in physics, mathematics or another relevant science. The degree must be at the level of MPhys, MSc, MSci or equivalent. Bachelor's degrees with a minimum of four years' standard duration may satisfy the entry requirements.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the typical minimum GPA sought is 3.3 out of 4.0. However, selection of candidates also depends on other factors in your application and most successful applicants have achieved higher GPA scores.
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:
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.
Shortlists are agreed by Admissions Panels based on applications and references. Invitations for interview are usually agreed between February and March. The majority of interviews are held in person, but can also be held via Skype. Interviews are held with a minimum of two academics. We typically interview 20% of applicants.
Publications (published or submitted) are not required but may strengthen an application.
2. English language requirement
Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the standard 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 Physics 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 Physics 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 Physics.
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.
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.
As a DPhil student of Theoretical Physics, you will have access to a 800cpu core Beowulf computing cluster and appropriate computing support. You will be provided with a personal desktop computer in your office in the department, at the department's expense.
The University has extensive library support through the Bodleian and Radcliffe Science Libraries as well as online access to major journals.
You will be provided with personal office space in the Rudolf Peierls Centre for Theoretical Physics alongside staff members, with whom you will share a variety of meeting rooms and an on-site canteen(s) which doubles as a social space for the group.
You will be expected (and usually supported financially) to travel during your DPhil, both to meet and work with collaborators and to share your work.
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.
Annual fees for entry in 2017-18
Total annual fees
|c. £4,250||£3,021||c. £7,271|
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.
You will be expected to travel during your DPhil, both to meet and work with collaborators and to share your work. The sub department of Theoretical Physics funds a minimum of one summer/winter school per student per year which includes accommodation and travel costs. These funds are available to all students.
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.
The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Theoretical Physics:
- Balliol College
- Brasenose College
- Campion Hall
- Christ Church
- Corpus Christi College
- Exeter College
- Hertford College
- Jesus College
- Keble College
- Kellogg College
- Lady Margaret Hall
- Linacre College
- Lincoln College
- Magdalen College
- Mansfield College
- Merton College
- New College
- Oriel College
- Pembroke College
- St Anne's College
- St Catherine's College
- St Cross College
- St Edmund Hall
- St Hilda's College
- St Hugh's College
- St John's College
- St Peter's College
- Somerville College
- Trinity College
- University College
- Wadham College
- Wolfson College
- Worcester College
How to apply
You are not expected to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply.
The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:
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.
A research proposal outlining your research interests and experience should be submitted.
The proposal should outline your reasons for wishing to study for a DPhil in Theoretical Physics and the type of research project that you wish to undertake. It is not necessary to be very specific about your choice of project, but if you do have a clear preference for a particular research area or supervisor please indicate and explain this. You should describe previous research experience.
The proposal should be written in English and the overall page count should include any bibliography.
This will be assessed for evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study, the ability to present a reasoned case in English, and commitment to the subject.
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 support intellectual ability, academic achievement together with motivation for research and ability to work in a group. Both academic and professional references are acceptable.
Applying to other sub-departments
If your application is related to more than one of the physics sub-departments, there is no need to complete a separate application for each. Instead, please select one DPhil course in your application and then add any additional Physics DPhil courses for which you would like to be considered by giving the academic’s name (where relevant) and sub-department either in the 'Proposed supervisor name' field or, if there is insufficient space, clearly at the top of your research proposal. Your application will then be assessed for each of the Physics DPhil courses you have indicated.
If you wish to apply to a different department or to a particular CDT, you will need to submit a separate application for this. Information on application fee waivers for CDT applications is available in the Application Guide.