DPhil in Anthropology | University of Oxford
Wide shot of inside the Pitt Rivers Museum
The Pitt Rivers Museum, housing the University's anthropological collections
(Image Credit: Pitt Rivers Museum)

DPhil in Anthropology

About the course

The DPhil in Anthropology is the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography’s advanced research degree, and is awarded to candidates who have completed a substantial original piece of research in the field. 

The DPhil in Anthropology is the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography’s advanced research degree, and is awarded to candidates who have completed a substantial original piece of research in the field. Anthropology - the study of humans - is a very diverse field and a wide range of research foci are reflected within the activities and structure of the department (see the description of the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography and its constituent units). DPhil students in the department research topics across this wide range of research foci, including migration and migrant populations, social and cultural influences on medical practice and health, material culture and its representation in museums, human cooperation and pro-social behaviour, the evolution of human behaviour, human adaptations and interactions with the environment and technology, and the huge range of topics that fall under the social anthropological concerns of learning about different populations’ versions of the world and relating them to each other.

The programme provides training and practice in developing research skills, especially through fieldwork with human subjects, though this is not compulsory. It also offers practice in analysing, interpreting and writing up research-related materials, and in presenting such materials in seminar-type formats. Upon successful completion of the course students will have developed the skills and a body of work that qualifies them to work as researchers within their chosen area.

Course outline

Most applicants are admitted as Probationer Research Students (PRS) and are expected to complete the degree in 3-4 years (6-8 years part-time). In the first year students attend weekly PRS seminars which provide training in research and writing as well as research presentation and critique; during this period you will develop and begin work on your thesis topic. First year students also take at least two ‘methods modules’ courses chosen to complement their research interests from the wide range offered in the department, will meet at least monthly with their supervisor, and can avail themselves of the many research training opportunities on offer in the Social Sciences Division and elsewhere in the university (e.g. the Language Centre, IT Learning Centre) (these requirements are spread over the first two years in the case of part-time students). You will also have the opportunity to attend lectures, seminars and classes in your general topic area.

Students spend their second year (part-time: third and fourth years) gathering data as part of their original research. While fieldwork is not a formal requirement most students undertake fieldwork of some form. Its nature varies considerably depending upon the research area and topic focus, from traditional immersion in another population, to experimental work, to work with artefacts in museums, for example. Its location will be dictated by the research focus and could be in Oxford or, in principle, anywhere in the world (subject to the usual health and safety considerations). Students maintain regular (at least monthly) contact with their supervisor while conducting their research. In their third year (part-time: fifth and sixth years) students write up their research thesis, and are encouraged to regularly attend weekly ‘work-in-progress’ seminars in which they present their developing work to their peers and staff for feedback; they continue to maintain at least monthly contact with their supervisors for guidance. Throughout the course DPhil students are strongly encouraged to attend the many research seminars, presentations and lectures on offer within the department and elsewhere in the University.

Generally, you would only be admitted to the DPhil programme if you had successfully completed at least one taught degree in anthropology at the required level, whether in Oxford or elsewhere. Exceptions may be made in the fields of cognitive and evolutionary anthropology, or for applicants with a distinction in a taught-course degree that includes some anthropology, but in a closely related discipline other than in anthropology. In the latter case, you would be expected to undertake some coursework in anthropology in the first year of the DPhil course. If you wish to undertake the DPhil with a focus on medical anthropology, you would usually be expected to have previously completed a taught master's degree in medical anthropology.

If you are admitted as a Probationer Research Student (as will be the case if you don’t currently hold an Oxford MPhil, or do but aren’t continuing research in the area of your MPhil thesis), you will undertake research preparation for your fieldwork. Once you have attained the status of a full DPhil student in anthropology (usually by the end of the first year for full-time students or the end of the second year for part- time students), you will be eligible to embark on fieldwork or other research.

If you are directly admitted as a full DPhil student (ie you hold an Oxford MPhil and are continuing research in the area of your MPhil thesis), in principle you are ready to embark on the programme of research as approved by your DPhil supervisor. However, in some cases, your supervisor may determine that you should complete a further programme of methodological training or other preparatory work necessary for your proposed programme of research.

Your research will typically last from 12 to 18 months (24 to 36 months for part-time students) and is then followed by a period of similar length to write up the thesis on which examination for the doctorate is based.

Supervision

For this course, the allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography 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 or co-supervisor may be found outside the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography.

Students meet with their supervisor(s) regularly (typically for one hour, two to three times per term) – i.e. at least once per month. In the case of part-time students this equates to at least once every two months, being at least twice between the start of one term and the beginning of the next. During fieldwork this contact may be written or via video rather than in person, and is expected to occur twice as often where a student is conducting work in a Foreign and Commonwealth Office-flagged location.

Assessment

You will be admitted to the course as a Probationer Research Student (PRS), unless you already hold an Oxford MPhil degree in anthropology and are continuing research in the area of your MPhil thesis. Oxford MPhil students may be admitted directly with full DPhil student status.

If you are admitted with PRS status, you will have to apply to transfer to full DPhil student status by the end of the first year for full-time students or the end of the second year for part-time students. 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. Both milestones will involve submission of a c.20,000-word document and an interview with two assessors (other than your supervisor) and therefore provide important experience for the final oral examination. This will normally occur by the 9th term of full-time students and by the 18th term for part-time students.

The course is ultimately examined by the submission of a thesis and oral examination, after three to four years of full-time study, or six to eight years of part-time study.

Graduate destinations

Many graduates from the course enter teaching and research. Others go on to work in government, policy-making, public bodies, larger private companies, development agencies, NGOs and other organisations.

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.

Other courses you may wish to consider

If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

Entry requirements for entry in 2021-22

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 first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in at least one taught course degree in any discipline.

At least one such degree should normally be in a branch of anthropology (eg social, cultural, medical, biological, evolutionary) relevant to their proposed research. Distinction-level students in a closely related discipline may be considered for direct entry as Probationer Research Students on the condition that they undertake some coursework in the relevant field of anthropology in their first year. The final degree result should be 67%, or equivalent.

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

  • Part-time applicants will also be expected to show evidence of the ability to commit time to study and, if applicable, an employer's commitment to make time available to study, to complete coursework, and attend course and University events and modules. Where appropriate, evidence should also be provided of permission to use employers’ data in the proposed research project.
  • Publications are not expected of applicants.
  • This degree involves the close analysis of published sources as well as verbal and written critical reflections in the form of oral presentations, essays and exam answers. It is therefore essential to your chance of successfully completing the program that you meet these higher-level English language requirements as stipulated by the University.

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.

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. 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.

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

You will receive all or most of your academic supervision in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography. You will have a named supervisor, possibly two, who will have overall responsibility for the direction of your work from inception to submission.

Workspaces are available in the school on a first-come, first-served basis, though your college will also have library and workspace facilities and desks are available in the Bodleian and other University libraries. Laboratory and other dedicated workspaces and equipment for methods teaching will be provided where required.

The school houses the Tylor Library, the main subject library for anthropology, and the Pitt Rivers Museum and centre has its own library, the Balfour Library. Most books in the Tylor Library will be available to you on loan, though journals and certain other materials are reference-only. You may also use other departmental libraries, your college library and the University’s Bodleian Library and its dependent libraries. The University has a wealth of electronic resources, some specific to particular libraries.

As a research student, you are permitted – though not obliged - to undertake some undergraduate teaching, where available. Methods and skills training are offered through the school, the Social Sciences Doctoral Training Centre and other institutions.

A programme of research seminars is available, some specifically for research students and others featuring talks by invited speakers, often from outside the university. The principal event in this programme is the departmental seminar, run weekly during term time.

A student-run society, the Oxford University Anthropology Society, runs coffee mornings, talks and other social and academic events throughout the year. Seminars, especially those involving outside speakers, often proceed to local pubs or restaurants after the talk.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer up to 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2021-22. 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 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 college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages.

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

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2021-22

Full-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£17,760
Overseas (including EU)£25,900

Part-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£8,876
Overseas (including EU)£12,953

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 detailed fee status information and the Oxford and the EU webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.

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. Standard travel insurance can be provided by the University. However, students may be required to pay any additional insurance premiums associated with travel to areas with an increased level of risk and/or for travel of more than 12 months duration, and should factor this into their planning for fieldwork.

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 2021-22 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,175 and £1,710 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 2021-22, 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.

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. 

How to apply

You are invited to make prior and direct contact with a prospective supervisor to discuss possible supervision before applying to the course. At least one such supervisor should be a member of academic staff in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography

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:
A maximum of 2,000 words

Your research proposal should state the research question, briefly discuss any key literature, discuss methods and provide a basic research timetable. Your research proposal must be written in English. The word count does not include any bibliography.

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

This will be assessed for the coherence of the proposal; the originality of the project; evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study; the ability to present a reasoned case in English; the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course; 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.

It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.

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

You should submit two pieces of academically-related written work in English, in any discipline. The two items may be separate extracts from a longer work like a taught-course thesis. 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 a comprehensive understanding of the subject area; understanding of problems in the area; ability to construct an defend an argument; powers of analysis; and powers of expression.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, all of which must usually 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.

Ideally three academic letters of reference are required. Only if one or more such letters cannot be provided should professional reference(s) be supplied instead.

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 the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.

Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:

Step 5: Start your application using the relevant button below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application GuideApply - Full time Apply - Part time

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