Interdisciplinary Bioscience (BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership) | University of Oxford
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Plants in the University's Botanic Garden
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Interdisciplinary Bioscience (BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership)

About the course

The Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership programme provides training for graduates from a life science or physical science background who wish to conduct leading edge bioscience research. Research areas within the programme include integrative animal and plant biology, mechanistic molecular and cellular biology, agriculture and food security, and industrial biotechnology and bioenergy. 

The programme also provides training for graduates working on specific industry-supported projects, including projects funded through BBSRC Industrial CASE studentship awards.

The Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) programme is a four-year doctoral training programme run in partnership between the University of Oxford, and six partner organisations - the Pirbright Institute, which provides the UK’s national capabilities for the study and control of viral diseases of livestock, Oxford Brookes University and four research organisations at Harwell Oxford (Diamond Light Source, ISIS, the Central Laser Facility and the Research Complex at Harwell) that provide the UK’s national capabilities for synchrotron science, neutron science and laser science.

You will undertake a four-year doctoral training programme. In your first term you are based at the Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) at the University of Oxford and undertake an individually-tailored training programme that includes training in research skills such as imaging and image analysis, advanced molecular and genetic techniques, mathematics and statistics, programming and modelling biological processes and systems. You can also access a wide variety of additional training provided across the partnership throughout your doctoral studies.

The DTP’s core training programme draws on expertise in all seven partner organisations and you will have the opportunity to visit different sites and learn about the facilities and expertise available across these organisations during the initial training phase.

A distinctive feature of the DTP training programme is that you are required to undertake a 12-week internship to gain experience of work in a professional environment and in transferable skills that will be beneficial in your future career. Areas that may be explored during internships include industrial R&D, science policy, science communication, publishing, entrepreneurship and project management. 

You will have the ongoing support of the DTP throughout your studies, including an ongoing training programme in professional skills such as scientific writing, project management, CV writing and interview skills, public engagement and enterprise and entrepreneurship. You can also access specific training in advanced research skills that are relevant to your research interests through specialist training courses and practice-led training groups tailored to the interests of small groups of researchers. 

Course features for DTP students (not applicable to Industrial Studentships)

After the initial training phase, you will have the opportunity to undertake two 12-week research projects in two different research groups within the partnership, which are tailored to meet the likely requirements of your main doctoral project. You are encouraged to use these rotation projects to further develop your interdisciplinary skills. You will have the opportunity to undertake a three-year doctoral research project with an internationally leading research group and have access to world-class facilities and expertise.

Course features for Industrial Studentships

If you apply to the DTP’s Industrial Studentship programme you will have an academic supervisor in one of the DTP partner organisations and undertake research in collaboration with an industrial or non-academic partner organisation. You will undertake a placement (12 weeks minimum) with the partner organisation to gain experience of work in a non-academic professional environment.

Graduate destinations

The majority of bioscience graduates from the University of Oxford go into a bioscience-related position after graduation. Many stay in academic research, others work in government, for charities and within the commercial sector.

An increasing number of students are exploring and taking up opportunities for entrepreneurship, supported by the highly entrepreneurial environment within the University and across Oxfordshire as a whole.

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
Environmental Research (NERC Doctoral Training Partnership)DPhil in Biochemistry
Synthesis for Biology and Medicine (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training)DPhil in Clinical Medicine
Synthetic Biology (EPSRC and BBSRC Centre for Doctoral Training)DPhil in Clinical Neurosciences
Systems Approaches to Biomedical Science (EPSRC and MRC Centre for Doctoral Training)DPhil in Organic Chemistry
Systems Biology (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training)DPhil in Pathology
     DPhil in Pharmacology
DPhil in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
DPhil in Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics
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 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 relevant academic subject (eg biochemistry, biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, statistics, computer science).

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.

It is not an application requirement to have completed or to be in the process of completing a master's degree.

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 proven and potential academic excellence in terms of intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, communication skills and ability to work in a group.

One professional reference can be accepted if you have relevant work experience, but academic references are preferred.

Statement of purpose/personal statement

You should provide a 500-word statement of research interests, in English, describing how your background and research interests relate to the programme.

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
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques; capacity for sustained and intense work
  • understanding of problems in the area and ability to construct and defend an argument. 

It will be normal for your ideas and goals to change in some ways as you participate in the programme and you are not in any sense committed to work in the specific subject area or with any supervisor(s) you highlight in your application. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate your current interests and aspirations.

The statement should focus on academic or research-related achievements and interests rather than personal achievements and interests. 

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Applicants will be selected for interview based on the aforementioned criteria. Shortlisting will take place and we aim to reach a target ratio of interviewees to places such as 3:1. Interviews will normally be held within four weeks of the application deadline and will either be in person or by video (eg Skype) and will take around 30 minutes. Admission decisions are made by the DTP admissions committee.

Applicants will be asked to discuss their academic history and any research projects(s) that they may have pursued. They will also be questioned on aspects of their research training to date, understanding of the proposed area of study and motivation for doing a DPhil. If appropriate, they may be asked questions to assess their mathematical and quantitative skills or their ability to critically analyse scientific literature.


Although publications are not required, a strong publication record may advantage an application.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Research or working experience in a relevant area may be an advantage. Preference may be given to those who have previously studied in a relevant area.

Evidence of training in a relevant area and/or the relevance of course to future career development plans may also be an advantage.

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 the Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP 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 the Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP 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 the Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP .

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 one or more potential supervisors within the partnership, although applicants are not required to contact or identify a specific supervisor prior to admission.

Oxford has an extremely rich and diverse library service provided by over one hundred libraries.  The Radcliffe Science Library is the main science reference library of the University of Oxford. The library subscribes to many journals published overseas, most of which are in English.

In addition to the University facilities the DTP has a stock of reference books on the shelves in the combined kitchen and social area. You will have access to e-Journal and other electronic resources provided by the University of Oxford when working within University departments or in partner organisations such as The Pirbright Institute or research organisations at Harwell Oxford.

You will have access to a wide variety of world-class research facilities across all seven of the partner organisations within the DTP, depending on your research interests. These include:

  • beamlines at Diamond Light Source and ISIS;
  • a wide variety of advanced imaging and microscopy systems that enable biological imaging across all scales from single molecules to high speed video imaging of animal flight;
  • containment facilities for animal virology, transgenic plant and plant disease research; 
  • facilities and expertise for advanced methodologies such as mass spectrometry, proteomics, genome engineering, protein production and purification; and 
  • supercomputing facilities for data-intensive applications.

As a DTP student in your first year, you will undertake the majority of the taught components of your training programme in a purpose-designed Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) refurbished by the University at a cost of over £2M in 2010 and located at the heart of the University’s South Parks Road Science Campus, shared by the DTP and the other CDT programmes.

The co-localisation of seven interdisciplinary life science graduate programmes, each with its own distinctive remit and student cohorts, provides a unique opportunity for students in the DTP to establish friendships and scientific collaborations with graduate researchers from a wide range of academic backgrounds, with expertise and interests ranging from mathematical modelling of biological systems to medical imaging and drug discovery.


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

There are many different funding opportunities for students studying in the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division at Oxford. Funding covering fees and living costs is available for a substantial number of doctoral training programmes. Research Council and other funding opportunities are also available for doctoral programmes in MPLS subjects.

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

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

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.

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.

Before applying to the course, you are requested to send a copy of your most recent CV via e-mail to the Programme Administrator.  

You can apply for entry to the DTP and to be considered for a specific research project offered through the Industrial Studentship scheme. The same course code is used for applications to the DTP programme and the Industrial Studentship programme.

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

  • a personal statement/statement of purpose of 500 words
  • a CV/résumé
  • three references
  • official transcripts detailing your university-level qualifications and marks to date.

Your statement should describe how your background and research interests relate to the programme.

One professional reference can be accepted if you have relevant work experience, but academic references are preferred.

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.

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.