DPhil in Ancient History | University of Oxford
Books of Classical literature
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. 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. 

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

Thesis titleSupervisor name(s)
Challenging Mithraism: a revisionist accountProfessor J Elsner
Timor et Luctus: The Mechanics of the Roman Republican Army in BattleDr J Prag
The historical development of the Greek city in the Roman period in regards to ideology and identity formationDr C Kuhn
Representing the Dynasty in Flavian Rome: The Case of Josephus' Jewish WarProfessor M Goodman
Greek Religious Life In Roman Asia MinorDr P Thonemann
Language, Nomos, and Narrative in Greek HistoriographyProfessor R Thomas
An epigraphic investigation into the local experience of fifth-century B.C. Athenian imperialism, offering an alternative to diachronic studiesDr P Thonemann
Music, Spectacle And Society In Ancient Rome, 167 BC - c. 138 ADProfessor N Purcell
Structures, Conceptualisation, And Response: Differentiating The Interactions Of Non-Italian Peoples Of The West With Rome, CA 265-130 BCDr J Prag
Beauty and the Gods in Archaic GreeceProfessor J Elsner/Dr C Metcalf
Athenians abroad in the sixth and fifth centuries BCProfessor R Thomas
The interactions in the religious mentalities and ritual practices of Phoenicians, Greeks and indigenous peoples in Sicily from VI to IV century BCDr J Prag/Dr J Quinn
Hope, Fear, and Conceptions of the Future in the Early PrincipateDr 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 thoughtDr A Clark
Aiolian EthnogenesisProfessor R Thomas
Religious Life of Classical and Hellenistic RhodesProfessor R Parker


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.

The faculty appreciates that part-time research students will have non-standard attendance and work patterns. Although there is no requirement to reside in Oxford, part-time research students must be able to commit to attendance in Oxford at least once a week during Weeks 0 to 9 of each term, in order to meet with their supervisor, participate in research seminars and undertake skills training.

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.

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. 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 sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Courses suggested by the faculty

Ancient Philosophy MSt
Women's Studies MSt

Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

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

  • 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 requirement

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.

Detailed requirements - higher level

The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are:

IELTS Academic7.5Minimum 7.0 per component
TOEFL iBT110

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced191Minimum 185 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency191Minimum 185 per component

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

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

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

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. 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. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

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.

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will 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 best 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. 

Your supervisor will be drawn from the Oxford Classics Faculty. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework exercise, the faculty presented the largest number of academics in UK Classics (71). 47% of the submission was rated 4* (world-leading) and 34% 3* (internationally excellent), giving the faculty by far the highest quantity of 4* or 3* research in UK Classics.

Funding

There are over 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Full-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£7,970
Overseas£23,505

Part-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£3,985
Overseas£11,755

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 likely increases 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 section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

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 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 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 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

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.

How to apply

You are encouraged to contact the department prior to submitting an application to discuss the course content, teaching, assessment and to ask any questions. You are also encouraged to approach specific supervisors and explain why you want to come and work in their particular field of study.

The department recommends that you contact a potential supervisor(s) before applying. However, please do keep in mind that prospective supervisors are not in a position to make decisions about admission.

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.

Research proposal:
Up to 1,200 words, typically two to three pages

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.

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 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.

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.

References/letters of recommendation:
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.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.

Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.

Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.

Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.

Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).

Application GuideApply - Full time Apply - Part time

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