DPhil in Cancer Science | University of Oxford
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Laboratory work in Oxford
(Image Credit: Ralph Williamson / Graduate Photography Competition)

DPhil in Cancer Science

About the course

This DPhil programme is for basic science graduates, clinical students and trainee clinicians who want to undertake advanced study in the field of cancer research. The programme provides a solid grounding in the study of oncology and cancer biology through the provision of advanced level seminars in the first year and subject specific training in your host department.

As a doctoral student on the programme, you will carry out research in a single laboratory for three to four years on a full-time basis. There is no period of rotation between laboratories. All doctoral students develop their skills through a range of research training and skills development in their first year of full-time study, by attending compulsory and optional courses and lectures in laboratory techniques and generic skills, including scientific writing and statistics, while also carrying out your research project.

You will be encouraged to attend lectures and seminars related to your programme of research and make the most of the doctoral training and research methods provision available across the University. The aim is to tailor this training to individual needs and bring all students up to an advanced level in background knowledge. Later training is focused on the skills required for a successful career in independent research and for clinicians, to successful re-integration into clinical training.

This course has three different tracks and your application will be considered for the track that is most appropriate to your previous study and/or employment. Clinical trainees (track 1) and medical undergraduates (track 2) will enrol on a three-year programme. Non-clinical/fundamental scientists (track 3) will enrol on a four-year programme. Students are admitted directly to work under the supervision of a Principal Investigator who is formally appointed as the DPhil supervisor. Students are based in a research group/laboratory to undertake one of the research projects advertised.

Students begin the DPhil in Cancer Science programme as a probationary research student (PRS). Before the end of their fourth term, students are required to write a report prior to transfer to DPhil status. Progress is evaluated by two academic assessors, who are not directly involved in the student’s supervision. Continuation on the DPhil programme is subject to passing the Transfer of Status assessment in year 2 or 3. The doctoral work will culminate in a thesis that will be defended in an oral examination (viva voce). Students are expected to submit their thesis between the ninth and twelfth terms from being admitted as a PRS.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre 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.

Graduate destination

DPhil in Cancer Science is a new course for entry in 2020, but historically, postgraduate cancer research students follow a wide variety of career paths, including all branches of biomedical research, clinical medicine, teaching, health administration and commerce. Further information about alumni destinations for cancer research students can be found on the Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre  website.

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.

Other courses you may wish to consider

Applicants are strongly advised to visit the Medical Sciences Graduate School website to help them 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.

Courses suggested by the school

Clinical Medicine DPhil
Oncology DPhil

Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21

Proven and potential academic-experience

Degree-level qualifications

The degree-level qualifications that are required for this course vary according to the application type:

Application type 1: Clinical trainees

The requirements below apply to qualified doctors at all stages of training from the foundation training to higher specialist training. 

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 a relevant discipline such as biology, biochemistry, or medicine.

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

A previous master's degree is not required.

For applicants with a degree from the USA or from China, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

Application type 2: Medical undergraduate students

The requirements below apply to medical undergraduate students.

Medical students who are currently undertaking a primary medical qualification (MBBS, MBChB or equivalent)

At entry (with the exception of Medical students currently at Oxford, see below), applicants should provide evidence of successful completion of at least the first two years of a primary medical qualification and 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 a relevant discipline such as biology, biochemistry, or medicine.

Medical students currently at Oxford

Medical students currently at Oxford should have successfully completed the Pre-clinical Course (First BM) and hold or be predicted to achieve:

  • a first class or strong upper second-class BA Honours in Medical Sciences.

All medical undergraduate students

Entrance is expected to be very competitive and it is anticipated that most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.

A previous master's degree is not required.

For applicants with a degree from the USA or from China, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

Application type 3: Non-Clinical/Fundamental Scientist

The requirements below apply to science graduates.

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 a biological, medical, chemical, mathematical and physical science background, as appropriate for the projects offered.  

However, entrance is expected to be very competitive and it is anticipated that most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.

A previous master's degree is not required.

For applicants with a degree from the USA or from China, 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

  • Evidence of a prior interest in the area of research proposed is likely to advantage your application.
  • Prior publications are not required, but research experience and a track record demonstrating an interest in research may be an advantage.
  • It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.
  • Commitment to and passion for a career in cancer research.
  • Reasoning ability and academic curiosity.

English language requirement

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. 

Detailed requirements - standard level

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

IELTS Academic 7.0Minimum 6.5 per component
TOEFL iBT100

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced185Minimum 176 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency185Minimum 176 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 normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Candidates who are shortlisted are interviewed as part of the admissions process. Shortlisting will be based solely on the criteria given above. There will be a minimum of two to three academics on the interview panel. By preference, interviews will be conducted in person, but when this is not possible we will use telephone or Skype (with video) and ensure that applicants are not disadvantaged by using these forms of communication.  Normally the interview will consist of a five-minute presentation of previous project work by the applicant, followed by 15-25 minutes of questioning from the panel.

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.

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 Tier 4 visa. Further information can be found on our Tier 4 (General) Student visa page. For some courses, the requirement to apply for an ATAS certificate may depend on your research area.

Resources

As a student on this course you will have access to experimental facilities, as appropriate to your research. IT support will be provided from both the department hosting your research and University IT Services. You will also have access to library services such as the Radcliffe Science Library and the Cairns Library.

The provision of project-specific resources will be agreed with the relevant supervisor and host department during the planning stages for the research project. You will be based in various units, buildings and campuses around Oxford with the department supporting a wide range of clinical services located in Oxford’s John Radcliffe and Churchill Hospitals.

The CRUK Oxford Centre provides an induction to the programme in the first weeks of study and encourages attendance at divisional and University induction events.

Workspace will be allocated according to 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

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.

Medical students currently at Oxford should refer to the funding advice available on the Oxford Students website. You will need to select the six-year course and refer to the information provided under 'Studying for a higher degree'.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£7,970
Overseas£26,405

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

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 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.

Colleges

The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Cancer Science:

How to apply

You will be required to list and rank up to three projects selected from the Programme Projects Book in your application. It is strongly recommended that you contact potential supervisors directly to discuss the advertised project(s) before you apply. Once you have identified and contacted potential supervisors, you will need to enter the full name and project number of your proposed supervisor(s) in the relevant box on the ‘Courses’ tab of the application form.  For your application to be assessed, you must propose at least one supervisor and a maximum of three, and rank these in order of preference.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s):
Required for all applications. Medical undergraduate students also require a letter of permission.

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.

Medical undergraduate students must provide a letter from their medical school confirming permission to intercalate for the duration of the DPhil programme. You will need to upload this in the transcript section of the application form.

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.

Personal statement:
1,000 words

You are required to submit a personal statement to explain your scientific experience and background, your interest in your chosen project and provide some insight into how you would develop your research. 

Your personal statement will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques
  • capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability.

The personal statement should focus on your personal research experience in this field rather than personal achievements and interests.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally 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.

Academic references are strongly encouraged, though you may use up to one professional reference provided that it is relevant to the course.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and ability to work in a group.

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

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