Student with 3 test tubes with coloured liquids
Biochemical research in the laboratory
(Image Credit: Greta Pintacuda / Graduate Photography Competition)

DPhil in Biomedical Sciences (NIH OxCam)

About the course

The National Institutes of Health Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Programme (NIH OxCam) is a four-year doctoral programme. You undertake a collaborative project in biomedical research involving two supervisors - one at an NIH facility in the US and one at either Oxford or Cambridge.

Please note that it is a requirement of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), that all applicants to this course should be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in the U.S.

The NIH OxCam doctoral programme was first established in 2001 and is primarily aimed at graduate students from the USA. You must first apply to the NIH by early December, following which interviews for admission in the following Michaelmas term (October) are held in February in Bethesda, MD by NIH, Oxford and Cambridge University staff. The programme is highly competitive and the approximate number of places available this year is shown in the Key Facts section on this page. You can also apply to the NIH MD/PhD programme.

The selected students are supported financially by the NIH but are full students of the University of Oxford or Cambridge and normally spend half their time in the UK. At the time of selection to the programme, you will not necessarily have decided on your supervisor or even which UK University you will attend. The information below is applicable to accepted students whose primary UK supervisor is a member of the University of Oxford.

The Director of Graduate Studies for the Oxford programme is Professor Michael Dustin, and for administrative purposes all NIH-Oxford students are admitted to the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre of the Division of Medical Sciences. However, NIH OxCam students are not limited to supervisors in the Division of Medical Sciences. For example, many students have supervisions in the Division of Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences. You should explore all departmental websites to discover the full range of opportunities. There are also many students who have supervisions in the Division of Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences.

Examples of previous research areas are Neuroscience, Computational Modelling and Immunology. Students may work with any Oxford/NIH supervisor in any research area and department, as long as the supervisor is willing to host the student in their laboratory. You should explore all departmental websites to discover the full range of opportunities.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre and/or closely-related departments, 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 Doctoral Training Centre and/or closely-related departments. Each student is expected to have co-supervision, meaning that they should select two Oxford supervisors in addition to the NIH supervisor. One of the co-supervisors will be designated as the primary supervisor. Students should meet with their supervisors at least once a fortnight, on average, across a year. 

Assessment

All students will be initially admitted to the status of Probationer Research Student (PRS). Within a maximum of four terms as a full-time PRS student you will be expected to apply for transfer of status from Probationer Research Student to DPhil status.  

A successful transfer of status from PRS to DPhil status will require the submission of a transfer report. Students who are successful at transfer will also be expected to apply for and gain confirmation of DPhil status to show that their work continues to be on track. This will need to done within nine terms of admission.

Both milestones normally involve an interview with two assessors (other than your supervisor) and therefore provide important experience for the final oral examination.

Full-time students are required to submit an original thesis of up to 50,000 words after four years from the date of admission. To be successfully awarded a DPhil you will need to defend your thesis orally (viva voce) in front of two appointed examiners, one from outside the University of Oxford.

Graduate destinations

Students follow a wide variety of career paths, including all branches of biomedical research, clinical medicine, teaching, health administration and commerce. The majority of graduates move to roles in clinical academia.

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

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

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 2023-24

Please note that it is a requirement of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), that all applicants to this course should be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in the U.S.

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 first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a related discipline.

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree.

A previous master's degree is not required.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 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

Publications are not required.

English language proficiency

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's standard 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 standard level are detailed in the table below.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's standard level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.06.5

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

100Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*185176
C2 Proficiency185176

*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 normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Interviews are held in February each year, at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Candidates attend the interviews in person and arrangements are made by the NIH. This may be reviewed if pandemic protocols require.

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.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Some postgraduate research students in science, engineering and technology subjects will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate prior to applying for a Student visa (under the Student Route). For some courses, the requirement to apply for an ATAS certificate may depend on your research area.

Resources

You will have access to all the same facilities that are provided to other DPhil students in your Oxford host department. You should check departmental websites for details.

You will have access to the department’s IT support, University Library services, and experimental facilities are available as appropriate to the research topic. The provision of other resources specific to your project should be agreed with your Oxford supervisor as a part of the planning stages of the agreed NIH-Oxford collaboration. There are a number of workshops that are announced via email and posters throughout the year.

You will have access to the seminars that departments, research groups, or groups with common areas of interest organise. Medical Grand Rounds are also held in the postgraduate centre at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Workspace will be allocated according to you individual circumstances. If undertaking experimental work, you will be provided with bench space in a laboratory. If undertaking theoretical research, you will have shared office space.

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 department's website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2023-24

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£8,960
Overseas£29,700

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

Information about course fees

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.

Continuation 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.

Where can I find further information about fees?

The Fees and Funding section of this website provides further information about course fees, including information about fee status and eligibility and your length of fee liability.

Additional information

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.

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.

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. 

The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Biomedical Sciences (NIH OxCam):

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 process

For this course, you must first apply to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by the deadline shown in the NIH application instructions (usually early December). Candidates who are accepted onto the programme by NIH (Stage 1) will then be invited to apply to University of Oxford or University of Cambridge (Stage 2), usually by June for entry in October of a given year. Candidates who are invited to proceed to Stage 2 will not need to go through further interviews or any other competitive process, but will be assigned a college and college advisor.

Application fee waivers for your University of Oxford application

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

You are encouraged to contact individual supervisors before you apply. Email addresses for academic staff can be found on the departmental profile pages.

Stage 1: Apply to the National Institutes of Health

You must first apply to the NIH by the deadline shown in the NIH application instructions (usually early December). Please be aware that you will need to meet all the criteria outlined within the NIH instructions, including the requirement to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in the U.S.

How to Apply to NIH Apply to NIH

Stage 2: Apply to the University of Oxford

Only candidates who are accepted onto the programme by NIH should proceed to submit an application to the University of Oxford. Before proceeding, please read the application instructions provided by the department.

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

Please enter 'NIH-Oxford Scholars Programme' in this field.

Proposed funding source

Please select 'Other Sources (specify)'. This will open a new box entitled Please specify funding source, into which you should enter 'NIH-Oxford Scholars Programme'. Please answer 'Firmly secured' in the Status field.

Proposed supervisor

If you haven't yet decided on an Oxford supervisor, you can list Professor Michael Dustin, Director of the Oxford Programme as your supervisor at this stage in the application process.

Referees:
Three overall

You do not need to add your referees to your application as the department will receive these from NIH. Please enter Referee1 (referee1@ox.ac.uk), Referee2 (referee2@ox.ac.uk) and Referee3 (referee3@ox.ac.uk) in the referees section and tick the boxes to confirm that you are happy for the referees to be contacted. This should enable you to submit your application.

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.

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. You will need to upload a standardised CV to the graduate application form as part of your application. This standardised CV should be generated using the online form that requests certain information that you will likely have included on your CV. Once you have completed the form, you will have 15 minutes to download your CV as a PDF document. 

This PDF document will be in the same format for all applicants and you should not modify the document before you upload it, or submit your CV in a different format. 

Full instructions and a link to the standard CV creation form are provided on the Medical Sciences Division website. The instructions page contains links to example clinical and non-clinical CVs, with details of what to include and suggested answer formats.

If you require help or advice while generating your CV using the online form, please contact the Medical Sciences Graduate School for assistance (graduate.school@medsci.ox.ac.uk).

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 1,000 words

A personal statement is required and must be in English. You can re-use the statement provided in your NIH application.

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

Written work

On rare occasions, written work may be requested from some applicants. You will be notified by the department and given more details of the assignment if it is required. 

Start or continue your University of Oxford application

If you have been invited to proceed to the second stage, 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.

Apply to Oxford Application Guide

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