Environmental Research (NERC Doctoral Training Partnership) | University of Oxford
Fieldwork
Fieldwork in earth sciences
(Image Credit: William Hutchison / Graduate Photography Competition)

Environmental Research (NERC Doctoral Training Partnership)

About the course

The NERC-Oxford DTP in Environmental Research is a four-year DPhil programme which offers a novel training environment across three broad science streams. The DTP focuses on finding solutions to real-world problems in collaboration with its outside partners. You will carry out your research projects in one of six departments after an initial training period.

The three streams of the NERC-Oxford DTP are as follows:

Biodiversity, ecology and evolutionary processes

This stream spans research into biological processes, systems and their interactions at scales ranging from the organism to the population and in spheres ranging from human health to natural ecosystems, over all timescales.

Physical climate system

This stream spans research across all aspects of the physical climate system; present, past and future, with strong links to climate impacts and mitigation.

Dynamic Earth, surface processes and natural hazards

This stream spans activities from theoretical seismology and isotope geochemistry to the analysis of natural resources, quantification of surface processes over all timescales, and geophysical hazards and risk.

You will begin your course based in the DTP suite located in the Department of Zoology. After the first term you will be matched to a research project. During the second term you will move out to the department where the research project will be carried out. During the first two terms you will undergo an intensive training programme during which you will have the opportunity to gain experience and skills in all six departments and acquire an understanding of how researchers in other disciplines operate before being matched with a research project and a supervisor. You will also be introduced to techniques of data gathering and analysis and given a broad brush understanding of fields such as statistics and modelling before choosing which more specialised training is appropriate for you. There will also be modules in more general areas such as project design, proposal writing, communication and problem solving to underpin the exploration of research methodologies.

Training will continue throughout the degree and you will be able to select from a portfolio of training courses to create your own tailored training programme. Later in the course modules will include thesis writing and paper writing. You will remain a member of the DTP even after transferring out to a department.

You will not undergo formal assessment on these training modules but will need to attain a certain number of attendance and submission credits before you begin your research degree, and thereafter each year.

You will gain your DPhil from the department in which you carry out your research project. The six departments of the DTP are as follows:

  • Department of Archaeology
  • Department of Physics (sub-department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics)
  • Department of Earth Sciences
  • School of Geography and the Environment 
  • Department of Plant Sciences
  • Department of Zoology.

Graduate destinations

You will be equipped with a wide range of skills that you will need whether you wish to pursue a career in research or industrial sector.

Multiple applications

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.

You may only apply to one programme from Group B under this arrangement without paying further application fees.

Group A
Group B
Interdisciplinary Bioscience (BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership)DPhil in Archaeological Science
Oil and Gas (NERC Centre for Doctoral Training)DPhil in Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics
Systems Approaches to Biomedical Science (EPSRC and MRC Centre for Doctoral Training)DPhil in Earth Sciences
Systems Biology (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training)DPhil in Geography and the Environment
 DPhil in Plant Sciences
DPhil in Zoology

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 archaeology, biology, botany, chemistry, computing, geography, geology, mathematics, meteorology, physics, statistics or zoology.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 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).

Although it is not required, in practice a master's degree is often helpful. 

Professional experience, especially research experience, is valuable and will be taken into consideration as a substitute for an academic qualification.

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 conducted in person in Oxford unless you are abroad, in which case Skype interviews can be arranged. The DTP are able to interview a maximum of three candidates per place, and candidates are short-listed as follows: each application is assessed by three separate assessors, scored against agreed criteria, and then ranked.  These ranked applications are compiled into a short-list by the DTP management committee.  Interviews are normally held one month after the final application deadline.

Publications

Publications are not expected, but should be included as they may assist your application.

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 Centre for Doctoral Training 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 Centre for Doctoral Training 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 Centre for Doctoral Training.

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

During the initial training period, you will be housed in the DTP suite located within the Department of Zoology. The DTP has full access to the facilities provided by the Department, including IT support, the Alexander Ornithology Library, teaching laboratories, seminar rooms, lecture theatres, IT suite and canteen.  There are also study spaces and break-out areas. The department is located very close to the University Parks.

When you move out to your department you will also have access to the facilities provided by that department. You will remain a member of the DTP and be able to return to the DTP headquarters to use the facilities there.

You will have access to seminars in all six departments as well as across the wider university. In addition to the training modules offered by the DTP, you will be able to sign up for training courses and modules offered by departments across the university via the University's Researcher Training Tool.

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.

This programme has a dedicated stream of funding, and the majority of students on the programme are funded. Eligibility restrictions apply. Further details can be found on the CDT webpage.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
c. £4,250£3,021c. £7,271
Overseas£19,335£3,021£22,356

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

NERC studentships come with an additional research training support grant (RTSG) to cover costs of associated fieldwork, laboratory and equipment. Individual research projects come with variable research costs and students will need to discuss these with their supervisor and plan a budget for their project. In some cases students may need to apply for additional funding, either from the RTSG or from college or other sources. Students should always involve your supervisor with such funding requests.

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

You are encouraged to research the profiles of academics with whom you might wish to study.

You are not required to include the name of a potential supervisor on your application, as you are not applying to a project but to a stream. However, it can be highly beneficial to have contacted one or more supervisors to discuss your interests before you submit your application.

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.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
Around 500 words or one page

It is not necessary to submit a research proposal as you are not being admitted to a project but to a stream. Instead you should provide a personal statement in which you should specify which stream you are applying to and the research areas that interest you. If you have an idea of which supervisor(s) you would like to work with this should also be included.

Any skills or experiences which might be relevant to any of the streams should be included along with any research projects.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • 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.

Written work:
One essay of 500 words

You should submit a piece of written work with the following title:

"Discuss a research problem within the remit of the DTP in Environmental Research, briefly outline the information required to solve it, and suggest at line of research that - if conducted - could fill this knowledge gap."

The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for:

  • comprehensive understanding of the subject area
  • understanding of problems in the area
  • ability to construct an defend an argument
  • powers of analysis
  • powers of expression.

The written work need not relate closely to the proposed area of study, but should be an area that you feel comfortable discussing as it may come up if invited for interview.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, of which at least one 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.

You must submit at least one academic reference - if you are applying from a recent qualification at least two academic references would be expected, though if you have been out of education for a substantial period then two professional references are acceptable.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, ability to work in a group and aptitude for research.