DPhil in Cardiovascular Science | University of Oxford
Confocal microscopy
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 is for basic science graduates who want to undertake advanced research into cardiovascular disease. The programme provides you with a solid grounding in the study of cardiac and vascular biology through the provision of taught courses, advanced level seminars and tutorials predominantly in the first year.

Applicants are advised to visit the course webpage for further information about supervisors associated with this course.

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. This is followed by a three-year research project, under the supervision of a named supervisor. 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 taught components in the first year include attendance at final year undergraduate lectures in the following areas:

  • infection and immunity
  • molecular medicine
  • cardiovascular, respiratory and renal biology
  • cellular pharmacology and physiology

You may take first- and second-year BM courses in pathology, immunology, pharmacology and integrated systems physiology. You will have the opportunity to write an extended essay at the end of each period of advanced study.

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

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

  • atherosclerosis, diabetes and inflammation (academic lead Charis Antoniades)
  • cardiac biology and imaging (academic lead Manuela Zaccolo)
  • developmental biology and regenerative medicine (academic lead Nicola Smart)
  • endothelial cell and vascular biology (academic lead Kim Dora)
  • epidemiology, genetics and big data (academic lead Colin Baigent)
  • target discovery and therapeutics (academic lead Shoumo Bhattacharya)

Typically you will experience research in two laboratories during your first year mini-rotations, to 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.

You will be encouraged to develop DPhil projects that bridge the work of two separate laboratories or that involve two complementary experimental approaches. 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.

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. 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.

From the second year onwards, you will spend the remainder of the programme carrying out a specific research project.

You are expected to attend regular lab meetings and take part in all departmental graduate student training and assessment sessions. 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.

Your progress in the laboratory will be monitored formally via supervisor feedback forms submitted three times per year. You will discuss the report with your supervisor and draw up a list of research goals for the next three or four months.

Graduate destinations

The majority of the students that graduate from this scheme go on to undertake postdoctoral research in laboratories in the UK or overseas.

Other courses in this area

Changes to the course

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

Entry requirements for entry in 2019-20

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, 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 you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

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(s)

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process and are expected to be held in the 3rd week of January 2019.  

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.

Short-listed candidates will be invited to attend interviews in Oxford. 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.

Applicants from outside Europe are normally interviewed by Skype/phone, unless they are in Europe at the time of interview. Applicants attending interview will have the opportunity to meet current students.


Whilst not required, publications demonstrating previous research success in a relevant field is likely to advantage your application. 

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Research or working experience in a relevant field may be an advantage.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre, in conjunction with other University departments, to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • 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.

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, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

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.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.


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.


There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

Full funding opportunities are available for all applicants to this course, whatever your nationality. The Medical Sciences Graduate School website provides further details, as well as information about external funding opportunities.


Annual fees for entry in 2019-20

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£7,665

The fees shown above are the annual course fees for this course, for entry in the stated academic year.

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. You may have seen separate figures in the past for tuition fees and college fees. We have now combined these into a single figure.

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.

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 2019-20 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,058 and £1,643 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 2019-20, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

How to apply

You are welcome to contact potential supervisors associated with the DPhil before you apply but this is not required.

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.


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.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
Up to one page

The personal statement should focus on your interest in, and experience,of this research field (rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations). The statement should be written in English.

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
  • 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.

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.

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.

When you complete your application, please give the following answers where requested.

About your course: Proposed field and title of research project

Please give 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)
  • developmental biology and regenerative medicine (academic lead Nicola Smart)
  • endothelial cell and vascular biology (academic lead Kim Dora)
  • epidemiology, genetics and big data (academic lead Colin Baigent)
  • target discovery and therapeutics (academic lead Shoumo Bhattacharya)

There are around 60 Principal Investigators eligible to supervise rotation projects and DPhil projects. Details of potential DPhil projects can be found on the course webpage. This is not necessarily the project that will be available to you for your DPhil research project during years two to four of the course.

About your course: Proposed supervisor name

Please leave this field blank.

Funding: Departmental studentship applications

Answer 'no' to the question of whether you are applying to a specific studentship. 

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Carefully read the entry requirements on this course page to make sure you meet all the criteria.

Step 2: Check above what documents are required and prepare to apply by reading our Application Guide.

Step 3: Apply as soon as possible. Consult the Application Guide for more information about deadlines.

Application GuideApply

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