A collection of classical literature including Thucydides Historiae.
Books of Classical literature
(Image Credit: Bodleian Library)

DPhil in Ancient History

About the course

Both in Classical languages and literature, and in ancient history, the DPhil programme is a research degree intended to make it possible for the successful candidate to aspire to a career in research and teaching at university level anywhere in the world where the Classical subjects are studied.

The DPhil takes the form of the composition of a substantial dissertation, of up to 100,000 words, based on new research on a subject of your choice. 

The best dissertations are published, many in the Oxford University Press series of Classical Monographs which exists for this purpose. 

The vision of the DPhil as a necessary stage of an academic career, following on from master's-level education and preparing for postdoctoral work and beyond, is reflected in five other ways:

  1. Doctoral students are required to set the topics of their individual specialisation in a larger understanding of developments in the field across the world.
  2. They are encouraged to pursue a diversity of scholarly interests on the side of working on their doctoral dissertation, so as to start building a larger portfolio of specialities. They may produce articles or review books in areas somewhat different from that of their dissertation, and towards the end of their doctoral work may begin to contemplate a postdoctoral project.
  3. The Classics Faculty assists doctoral students in continuing to develop necessary research skills, and acquiring or improving knowledge of relevant ancient and modern languages. Competence in Latin and/or Greek is an admission requirement.
  4. Doctoral students can be trained and given experience (with mentoring) in undergraduate teaching of several different kinds, eg class, lecture, tutorial.
  5. There are other structures, within the Classics Faculty, the Humanities Division and the wider University, to help with career-development and with academic placement.

Finally, it is fully recognised that some students will choose not to pursue a professional career in Classics, and the structures mentioned in the points above are tailored to their needs too. The experience of the Classics DPhil programmes is intended to be personally fulfilling and intellectually enriching in itself, and the cognitive skills required are highly transferable to other walks of life.

Examples of recent DPhil thesis titles

  • Challenging Mithraism: a revisionist account (Supervisor: Professor J Elsner)
  • Timor et Luctus: The Mechanics of the Roman Republican Army in Battle (Supervisor: Dr J Prag)
  • The historical development of the Greek city in the Roman period in regards to ideology and identity formation (Supervisor: Dr C Kuhn)
  • Representing the Dynasty in Flavian Rome: The Case of Josephus' Jewish War (Supervisor: Professor M Goodman)
  • Greek Religious Life In Roman Asia Minor (Supervisor: Dr P Thonemann)
  • Language, Nomos, and Narrative in Greek Historiography (Supervisor: Professor R Thomas)
  • Athenian Power in the Fifth Century BC (Supervisor: Dr P Thonemann)
  • Music, Spectacle And Society In Ancient Rome, 167 BC - c. 138 AD (Supervisor: Professor N Purcell)
  • Structures, Conceptualisation, And Response: Differentiating The Interactions Of Non-Italian Peoples Of The West With Rome, CA 265-130 BC (Supervisor: Dr J Prag)
  • Beauty and the Gods in Archaic Greece (Supervisors: Professor J Elsner/Dr C Metcalf)
  • Athenians abroad in the sixth and fifth centuries BC (Supervisor: Professor R Thomas)
  • Breaking Boundaries: A Study of Socio-cultural Identities in Aarchaic and Classical Western Sicily (Supervisors: Dr J Prag/Dr J Quinn)
  • Hope, Fear, and Conceptions of the Future in the Early Principate (Supervisors: Dr K Clarke/Dr A Clark)
  • The relationship between territory, governance &agency in the Roman world: a cognitive study of 'res publica' & its reception in political thought (Supervisor: Dr A Clark)
  • Aiolian Ethnogenesis (Supervisor: Professor R Thomas)
  • Religious Life of Classical and Hellenistic Rhodes (Supervisor: Professor R Parker)
  • The Socio-Ecosystem of South-Western Asia Minor in the Roman Period (Supervisor: Professor P Thonemann)

The faculty welcomes applications for part-time study on the DPhil. Part-time students are fully integrated into the research culture of the Classics Faculty and afforded all the same opportunities and support as full-time students.

As a part-time student you will be required to attend supervision meetings, seminars and other obligations in Oxford for a minimum of one day per week during Weeks 0 to 9 of each term, for a total of 30 days each year. Attendance outside of term time will be determined by mutual agreement with your supervisor. There will be limited flexibility in the dates and pattern of attendance.

It is not possible to study for the DPhil in Ancient History by distance learning.

Supervision

For this course, the allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Faculty of Classics 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 Faculty of Classics.

You will be appointed a supervisor or supervisors with relevant expertise, who will support you throughout your doctoral work, beginning with the formulation of the topic and ending with the final examination. You will typically have at least two meetings a term with your supervisor, although more frequent meetings can be arranged as needed.

Assessment

All students will be initially admitted as a Probationary Research Student (PRS). Within a maximum of six terms as a full-time PRS student or twelve terms as a part-time PRS student, you will be expected to apply for transfer of status from Probationer Research Student to DPhil status. Transfer of status is assessed by two examiners on the basis of a sample of written work, a statement of your proposed research and a viva.

Students who are successful at transfer will also be expected to apply for and gain confirmation of DPhil status to show that your work continues to be on track. This will need to be done within nine terms of admission for full-time students and eighteen terms of admissions for admission of part-time students.

The degree is awarded on the basis of a thesis of up to 100,000 words based on original research after three or, at most, four years from the date of admission. If you are studying part-time, you will be required to submit your thesis after six or, at most, eight years from the date of admission. To be successfully awarded a DPhil in Ancient History you are required to defend your thesis orally (viva voce) with two examiners, normally one internal, one external.

Graduate destinations

When details were last collected on graduate destinations, the faculty found that an unusually high percentage of their successful DPhil students (56%) were in university teaching or research posts five years after finishing their doctorates. Others go into a variety of occupations, including teaching, publishing, administration, business and other professions.

Changes to this course and your supervision

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. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

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 illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.

Courses suggested by the faculty

Ancient Philosophy MSt
Women's Studies MSt

Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:

  • a master's degree with scores equivalent to first-class or high upper second-class honours in a relevant subject; and
  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in classics or a similar course of academic study with substantial course components in the area of ancient history.

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

If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

GRE General Test scores

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience 

  • You should demonstrate a satisfactory knowledge of ancient languages appropriate to your intended research.
  • Publications are not normally expected at this stage, but you should mention any publications that you have produced.

English language proficiency

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.57.0

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

110Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*191185
C2 Proficiency191185

*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.

Declaring extenuating circumstances

If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.

References

You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

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

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading. References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process.

An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed

Shortlisting and selection

Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:

  • socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
  • country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
  • protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.

Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Processing your data for shortlisting and selection

Information about processing special category data for the purposes of positive action and using your data to assess your eligibility for funding, can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

Other factors governing whether places can be offered

The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
  • the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
  • minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.

Offer conditions for successful applications

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our After you apply pages provide more information about offers and conditions

In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.

Resources

Oxford has academic resources which are among the most extensive in the world for Ancient History. The Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies offers various facilities including many workstations, PCs, Macs, a photocopier, laser printing and scanning facilities, a common room and a reading room. Seminar talks by visiting speakers and many other academic activities take place in the centre. It is also the base for the various research projects based in the faculty

The faculty is fortunate in having two world-class research libraries close at hand, the Bodleian and the Sackler Library. The Sackler Library is an open-shelf lending library indispensable to anyone studying ancient history, archaeology and art; it is also extremely useful for those studying literature or philology.

In the 2021 Research Excellence Framework exercise, the faculty presented the largest number of academics in UK Classics (91). 52% of the submission was rated 4* (world-leading) and 32% 3* (internationally excellent), giving the faculty by far the highest quantity of 4* or 3* research in UK Classics.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. 

For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.

Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:

Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.

Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the faculty's website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2023-24

Full-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£9,270
Overseas£28,020

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

Part-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£4,635
Overseas£14,010

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

 

Course 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 course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

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 course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees and Funding section of this website, which includes detailed fee status information.

Additional information

Full-time study

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) 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.

Part-time study

Please note that you are required to attend in Oxford for a minimum of 30 days each year, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Also, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur further 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 course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.

If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.

College preference

All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs). 

For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges. 

Before you apply

Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. We recommend that you submit your application well in advance - two or three weeks earlier. 

Application fee waivers

An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:

  • applicants from low-income countries;
  • refugees and displaced persons; 
  • UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and 
  • applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.

You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.

Readmission for current Oxford graduate taught students

If you're currently studying for an Oxford graduate taught course and apply to this course with no break in your studies, you may be eligible to apply to this course as a readmission applicant. The application fee will be waived for an eligible application of this type. Check whether you're eligible to apply for readmission.

Contacting the department

Before you apply, you should identify an academic member of staff who is willing to supervise you and has the resources to support your proposed research project. You should do this by contacting them directly. Details of academic staff, including their research interests and contact details, can be found on the department's website.

However, please do keep in mind that prospective supervisors are not in a position to make decisions about admission.

If you have any general questions about course content, teaching, or assessment you should contact the department via the contact details provided on this page. 

Completing your application

You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents. If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.

Proposed field and title of research project

Under the 'Field and title of research project' please enter your proposed field or area of research if this is known. If the department has advertised a specific research project that you would like to be considered for, please enter the project title here instead.

You should not use this field to type out a full research proposal. You will be able to upload your research supporting materials separately if they are required (as described below).

Proposed supervisor

Under 'Proposed supervisor name' enter the name of the academic (s) who you would like to supervise your research. 

Referees
Three overall, all of which 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.

All references are expected to be academic. If you believe there is good reason for you to include a professional reference, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies before you apply.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement and motivation.

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.

Research proposal:
A maximum of 1,200 words

The research proposal should describe your proposed thesis topic in detail, explain why it is important and worthwhile, situate it within the existing research in the area in question, and provide a basic account of methodology as well as a provisional timetable.

The proposal should be written in English. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • the coherence of the proposal
  • the originality of any thesis project proposed
  • 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.

Your statement should focus on your academic qualifications to the extent that they are relevant to your academic plans rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

Written work:
Two essays, a maximum of 2,000 words each

You should submit two relevant academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification. Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible.

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

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

Written work will be assessed for understanding of problems in the area; relevant use of primary evidence; ability to construct and defend an argument; powers of analysis; powers of expression.

Surveys of published scholarship are less informative to assessors, although a judicious summary of a complex problem may be helpful.

Start or continue your application

You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please refer to the requirements above and consult our Application Guide for advice. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application Guide Apply - Full time Apply - Part time

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