Wellcome Trust Doctoral Training Programme in Neuroscience | University of Oxford
Cerebral cortex
Inhibitory interneurons in the developing cerebral cortex
(Image Credit: Simon Butt)

Wellcome Trust Doctoral Training Programme in Neuroscience

About the course

The four-year Wellcome Trust Doctoral Training Programme in Neuroscience has an outstanding record of achievement in terms of the publications and future careers of the students who have graduated to date. The programme is highly regarded internationally and many of its alumni are now leading neuroscientists.

Applicants are strongly advised to visit the Medical Sciences Graduate School website to help them identify the most suitable course and supervisors.

The programme takes an integrated approach to neuroscience and provides a wide range of skills training in experimental and theoretical methods that is intended to enable you to ask questions and tackle problems that transcend the traditional disciplines from which this field has evolved.

The first year follows the taught MSc in Neuroscience course, during which you will undertake two extended research projects from a choice of over one hundred offered annually by the extensive neuroscience research community in Oxford. You will also attend the graduate programme lecture series, which provides a broad education covering molecular, cellular, systems, computational and cognitive neuroscience.

After successful completion of the MSc, Wellcome Trust-funded students continue with a three-year doctoral research project (DPhil). Toward the end of the MSc year, you will decide which laboratories and supervisor(s) you wish to work with and prepare a proposal for your three-year doctoral research project. This project can take place in any area of neuroscience within the Oxford network of laboratories and approved supervisors.

Year one

During your first year, as a Wellcome Trust-funded student you will join those students taking the stand-alone MSc in Neuroscience. Having a larger cohort of students enhances and expands the training opportunities available, helping you to make a more informed decision about the topic and design of your doctoral research project.

The MSc year begins in late September and is divided into three terms. The first term provides an introduction to neuroscience and research methods, while the second and third terms combine advanced taught courses, essay writing and two laboratory rotations (research projects). The course concludes the following September with an oral examination.

Each of the MSc research projects lasts for about 16 weeks and is selected from a very extensive list of approved abstracts. These are written up as 10,000-word dissertations. With over 100 abstracts submitted each year, there is always plenty of choice, but ifyou are interested in a particular lab or research topic then you are welcome to discuss a potential project independently with an appropriate supervisor. Many of these projects lead to publications.

Years two to four

Early in May of the first year, you will meet with the course director and course lecturer to discuss the process for selecting your DPhil project. It is recommended that you talk to several potential supervisors and, in many cases, collaborative projects are proposed.

You may opt to continue one of the MSc lab rotations as your DPhil project, or combine the subject areas or methods encountered during both MSc lab rotations as a collaborative DPhil project, whereas others choose a research area that they have not previously tried out during the MSc year.

You will begin the DPhil in October of the second year. At this point, you will become integrated within your chosen department(s) and follow the same progression as other research students who work there. You are initially accepted as Probationary Research Students (PRS) and transfer to full DPhil status by the end of the fourth term. This involves the preparation of a transfer report and an interview to discuss the research you have carried out so far and your future plans with two independent scientists who have relevant expertise.

Graduate destinations

The Wellcome Trust Doctoral Training Programme in Neuroscience has been running since 1996 and more than 80 students have now successfully graduated.  

Over 75% of the programme's graduates remained in academia as post-doctoral research scientists, either securing prestigious personal fellowships or positions on a grant, and most of the others secured positions in science communication, science administration or went into medicine. Only 5% opted to leave science altogether.

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 any scientific discipline. The department encourages applicants with a physical sciences background, as well as those who have studied a biological subject, such as psychology, biochemistry or neuroscience, at undergraduate level. 

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).

If in doubt about the eligibility of your qualifications, please contact the department.

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.  

A shortlist is drawn up based on the academic excellence, potential and motivation for research of the applicants. Approximately 30 candidates will be shortlisted. Interviews usually take place three weeks after the application deadline. All shortlisted applicants will be asked to attend an interview in Oxford or, if overseas, to participate in an interview.

The interview panel will typically comprise 5-7 members of the Organising Committee, with a range of expertise in neuroscience, and candidates will be required to give a ten-minute presentation on a research project in which they have been involved. The panel will then question the candidates about their presentation and also ask more general questions that explore their motivation for and interest in carrying out neuroscience research.

Publications

Although it is often the case that applicants for this programme have one or more publications, this is not a requirement.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Previous research experience as a vacation student or intern can provide 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 Medical Sciences Division 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 Medical Sciences Division 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 Medical Sciences Division.

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

A purpose-built centre, within the Department of Experimental Psychology in the heart of the University Science Area, provides a base for the MSc in Neuroscience students, including the students on the Wellcome Trust Doctoral Training Programme in Neuroscience during their first year. IT support is provided by an in-house team in the Department of Experimental Psychology and all the MSc lectures are given in an adjacent seminar room.

This office provision is most important: the department is very conscious that people on interdisciplinary courses that span different departments are prone to suffer from a lack of identity, as compared to students who work within a designated department. 

The Radcliffe Science Library is the main library facility for students throughout the four year programme and students also have access to their college libraries. During the first year, lab rotations are available in at least nine University departments or research centres that contribute to the MSc. The DPhil project in years two to four can also be carried out in these same departments, giving students the opportunity to choose from a very wide range of research areas.

The Cortex Club, a student-led organisation for those studying neuroscience in Oxford, provides an extensive series of seminars and social events where students from all departments can meet to exchange ideas. This is in addition to the seminars and other events that are organised at both divisional and departmental level.

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.

Full funding opportunities are available for all Medical Sciences Graduate School programmes, whatever your nationality. The Medical Sciences Graduate School website provides further details of these, as well as information about external funding opportunities.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

During the first year of the course you will be charged tuition and college fees at the MSc in Neuroscience fee rate.

Annual MSc in Neuroscience fees for the 2017-18 academic year

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
c. £4,250£3,021c. £7,271
Overseas£18,080£3,021£21,101

In each subsequent year, you will be charged fees at the DPhil fee rate for that year of study. For an indication of costs, the table below shows the estimated annual DPhil tuition and college fees for the 2018-19 academic year.

Estimated annual DPhil fees for the 2018-19 academic year

Fee status

Estimated
tuition fee

Estimated
college fee

Total estimated
annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
c. £4,420c. £3,142c. £7,562
Overseasc. £20,110c. £3,142c. £23,252

Tuition and college fees are payable 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). Fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

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 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

It is recommended that you contact Dr Deborah Clarke 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.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
Up to 1,000 words

Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • 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.

Your statement should focus on scientific interests and motivation rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

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.

Both academic and professional references are acceptable.

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