A close up of macrophage foam cells
Macrophage foam cells in a developing atherosclerotic lesion visualised by confocal microscopy - macrosialin in red, CD68-GFP transgene in green
(Image Credit: Dr Eileen McNeill, Dr Asif Iqbal and Professor David R Greaves)

DPhil in Cardiovascular Science

About the course

This DPhil programme, which includes funding support from the British Heart Foundation (BHF), is for basic science graduates who want to undertake advanced research into cardiovascular disease in Oxford.

This course is taking part in a continuing pilot programme to improve the selection procedure for graduate applications, in order to ensure that all candidates are evaluated fairly. For this course, the socio-economic data you provide in the application form will be used to contextualise the shortlisting and decision-making processes where it has been provided.  Please carefully read the instructions concerning submission of your CV/résumé in the How to apply section of this page, as well as the full details about this pilot.

The programme provides you with a solid grounding in the study of cardiac and vascular biology through access to taught courses and advanced level seminars, and a choice of projects which includes approximately 70 principle investigators directly engaged in cardiovascular research. These cover all aspects of cardiovascular science, including cardiac imaging, cell signalling, clinical trials and human genetics, developmental biology and regenerative medicine, myocardial biology, integrated physiology, and vascular biology. There are multiple collaborations within and between different departments and research themes, and research interactions have been greatly enhanced and facilitated by a British Heart Foundation Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) award, one of only six in the UK.

Year 1

You are provided with a co-ordinated programme of post-graduate teaching in your first year and the possibility of experiencing research in more than one laboratory.

In your first term you will attend a series of seven micro-rotations where you will meet graduate students and principal investigators working in seven broad areas of cardiovascular science:

  • Atherosclerosis, Diabetes and Inflammation (academic lead Charis Antoniades)
  • Cardiac Biology and Imaging (academic lead Craig Lygate)
  • Cardiac Signalling and Metabolism (academic lead Manuela Zaccolo)
  • Contemporary Techniques and Technologies (academic lead Blanca Rodriguez)
  • Developmental Biology and Regenerative Medicine (academic lead Nicola Smart)
  • Endothelial Cell and Vascular Biology (academic lead Kim Dora)
  • Target Discovery and Chemical Biology (academic lead Angela Russell)

Micro-rotations include attendance at lab meetings, journal clubs and hands-on experience of key experimental techniques. They are designed to give you exposure to the many possibilities for cutting-edge research projects, as well as generate interest in areas of research that you may not have had access to previously.

An important part of the student experience is graduate tutorials every Monday morning and Friday afternoon. Topics include how to choose a good scientific problem, how to choose a good supervisor, and classic experiments in cardiovascular medicine. Students give short presentations and write News and Views style articles on recent papers. In Friday tutorials students are asked to reflect on that week’s micro-rotation and start discussing which principal investigator’s project they found most interesting and why.

Mid-way through your first term in Oxford you will choose supervisors for typically two 10 to 12-week laboratory mini-rotations, which will expose you to techniques and research modalities. You will be expected to design and execute experimental protocols, critically appraise research methods and experimental results, and communicate research results and their implications to a wide audience.

Students decide their main research project from one of the mini-rotations, allowing time to develop and write a full project proposal before the second year commences. By doing this you will gain a greater understanding of the cardiovascular research field and can bring a broader perspective to your research project than is possible under the standard three-year DPhil.

The first year of your graduate studies will be overseen by an academic mentor who will monitor your academic progress and be available to offer advice and support throughout the course of your graduate studies. The department aims for you to be associated with one host laboratory for the first nine months of your graduate studies under the supervision of a laboratory mentor who will ensure you receive appropriate training in laboratory methods and in planning, executing and analysing experiments.

Once you have commenced your research projects, you will attend graduate tutorials, to present your latest results and discuss a range of research methods as well as journal clubs where you can discuss papers directly relevant to current lab projects. Your first year is monitored by presentations on your laboratory rotations, typically in the ninth week of each term, ie three times in the first year.

These regular small group meetings and social interactions help foster a distinct cadre of graduate students who share a common interest in, and enthusiasm for, cardiovascular science.

Years 2-4

From the second year onwards, you will spend the remainder of the programme carrying out a specific research project, under the supervision of two named supervisors.

You will have access to a wide range of training in generic research skills provided through seminars and short courses. Examples of the courses that may be available to you include:

  • proteomic methodologies
  • genomics and bioinformatics
  • confocal microscopy and image analysis
  • statistics and experimental design
  • information technology/computing skills
  • written and oral presentation skills
  • laboratory experience.

You are encouraged to develop DPhil projects that bridge the work of two separate laboratories or that involve two complementary experimental approaches. You are expected to attend regular lab meetings and take part in all departmental graduate student training and assessment sessions.

Regular mini-symposia will be held, in which first and second year students will give 15-minute presentations on their current research followed by student networking events and informal meetings with committee members.

The taught component during your programme also includes the possibility to attend final-year undergraduate lecture options, including Pharmacology and signalling, Endocrinology and metabolism, Cardiovascular science, Molecular pathology, Development and disease, Infection, Immunity and Neuroscience.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course 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. It is anticipated that students will meet with their supervisors at least once a fortnight, on average, across a year.

Applicants are advised to visit the course page on the centre's website for further information about supervisors associated with this course (see Further Information and Enquires).

Assessment

All students will be initially admitted to the status of Probationer Research Student (PRS). Within a maximum of six terms as a 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 report on progress to date on research and future plans. Students who are successful at transfer will also be expected to apply for and gain confirmation of DPhil status within ten terms of admission, to show that your work continues to be on track.

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

You will be expected to submit an original thesis of up to 50,000 words within a maximum of four years from the date of admission. To be successfully awarded a DPhil in Cardiovascular Science you will need to defend your thesis orally (viva voce) in front of two appointed examiners.

Graduate destinations

The majority of the students that graduate from this scheme go on to undertake postdoctoral research in prestigious laboratories in the UK or overseas. Other graduates have entered the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry.

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

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 relevant biological science subject.

For clinically qualified applicants, please apply to other Oxford DPhil courses.

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

  • Research or working experience in a relevant field may be an advantage.
  • Whilst not required, publications demonstrating previous research success in a relevant field is likely to advantage your application. 

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 and are expected to be held in January 2023.

Applications are reviewed by a panel of academics associated with the programme. A short-list of applicants is confirmed, based on assessment of achieved or predicted undergraduate degree grade, academic references, personal statement and CV. It is expected that the ratio of interviewed candidates to places will be approximately 3:1.

The interview panel will include at least three academics. The interview will last approximately 30 minutes and will include a five minute presentation of work the candidate has performed for a project or dissertation, which may be accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation or two-side handout. This will be followed by questions related to your project or the general field of Cardiovascular Sciences

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.

Initiatives to improve access to graduate study

This course is taking part in a continuing pilot programme to improve the selection procedure for graduate applications, in order to ensure that all candidates are evaluated fairly. For this course, the socio-economic data you provide in the application form will be used to contextualise the shortlisting and decision-making processes where it has been provided. Further details about this pilot, which applies to all applicants to this course, can be found in our pilot selection procedures section.

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:

  • Experimental facilities, as appropriate to your research
  • IT support from both the host department for your research and University IT Services
  • 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 during the planning stages for the research project.

Funding

All applicants who are offered a place on the DPhil in Cardiovascular Science course will be offered a fully-funded scholarship, covering all course fees for the duration of their course and a living stipend. Please see the Graduate School website for further details about funding for this course.

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 Cardiovascular Science:

Before you apply

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

Application fee waivers

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

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

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

Readmission for current Oxford graduate taught students

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

Application fee waivers for eligible associated courses

If you apply to this course and up to two eligible associated courses from our predefined list during the same cycle, you can request an application fee waiver so that you only need to pay one application fee.

Contacting the department

You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.

If you have any general enquiries about the course, these should be directed to the course administrator via the contact details provided on this page. 

Completing your application

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

Proposed field and title of research project

Under 'Field and title of research project' you should enter one or more areas of cardiovascular research from the list below which you would like to study:

  • Atherosclerosis, Diabetes and Inflammation (academic lead Charis Antoniades)
  • Cardiac Biology and Imaging (academic lead Craig Lygate)
  • Cardiac Signalling and Metabolism (academic lead Manuela Zaccolo)
  • Contemporary Techniques and Technologies (academic lead Blanca Rodriguez)
  • Developmental Biology and Regenerative Medicine (academic lead Nicola Smart)
  • Endothelial Cell and Vascular Biology (academic lead Kim Dora)
  • Target Discovery and Chemical Biology (academic lead Angela Russell)

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

Proposed supervisor

It is not necessary for you to identify a potential supervisor in your application.

Referees:
Three overall, academic preferred

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.

Your references should generally be academic, though professional references are acceptable if they are relevant to the course.

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

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
Full instructions and link to standard CV creation form

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).

You can find more information about the standard CV form on our page that provides details of the continuing pilot programme to improve the selection procedure for graduate applications.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 500 words

You should provide a statement of your research interests, in English, describing how your background and research interests relate to the programme. If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

The statement should focus on academic or research-related achievements and interests rather than personal achievements and interests.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying;
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study;
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English;
  • capacity for sustained and focused work; and
  • understanding of problems in the area and ability to construct and defend an argument.

It will be normal for students’ ideas and goals to change in some ways as they undertake their DPhil, but your personal statement will enable you to demonstrate your current interests and aspirations.

Start or continue your application

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

Application GuideApply

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