This is a research degree leading to the award of a DPhil in Chemistry. The course admits students across the full breadth of research in the department, which focuses on fundamental science aimed at making significant and sustained long-term impact.
The main aspect of the course is an original research project, which develops research skills, knowledge and expertise in an area of cutting-edge chemistry. You will work with one or more academic supervisors, on a project that falls within the department's research themes:
- Advanced Functional Materials and Interfaces
- Chemistry at the interface with Biology and Medicine
- Energy and Sustainable Chemistry
- Innovative Measurement and Photon Science
- Kinetics, Dynamics and Mechanism
- Theory and Modelling in the Chemical Sciences
Many students work on projects that cut across the traditional boundaries of chemistry, and some work in interdisciplinary fields that exploit the department's strong connections with other departments of the University.
A typical week would primarily be spent carrying out your research, along with attending research group meetings, preparing reports, and keeping up-to-date with the scientific literature. You will also have access to a range of training opportunities, including specialist training within the department on key research techniques. Alongside your research project, you will be expected to develop your transferable skills, and many courses and opportunities for this are provided by the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences division and the wider University.
The Department of Chemistry has a strong and vibrant research community, of which you will become part, and you will be encouraged to attend a range of events including seminar series, lectures from distinguished visiting researchers, and the annual Graduate Symposium.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department of Chemistry 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 Department of Chemistry.
You will join a research group supervised by one or more members of the Department of Chemistry, sometimes in collaboration with other departments.
If you require specific help to adjust to an academic programme or to develop a new range of skills, your supervisor will work with you to ensure that you have additional support.
All students have meetings with their research supervisors to discuss and review their progress. These typically occur weekly or fortnightly.
You will be admitted as a Probationary Research Student. At the end of the first year, you will undergo a Transfer of Status assessment, to ensure that you have the potential to gain a doctorate. This assessment is made by independent assessors on the basis of a report, a short presentation and an oral examination. Assuming that you satisfactorily transfer to DPhil status, your research proceeds with quarterly reporting throughout the rest of your course. By the end of the third year, you must pass the Confirmation of Status assessment, to ensure that you are on track to complete the thesis within a reasonable time.
You will be expected to submit a DPhil thesis within, at most, four years from the date of admission. Your thesis will be read by two examiners, one of whom is normally from Oxford and one from elsewhere, and you will be assessed via the thesis and an oral (viva voce) examination. The examiners will judge, along with other requirements, whether you have made a significant and substantial contribution to your particular field of learning.
This is a new course, formed by the amalgamation of four of our previous courses: DPhil in Chemical Biology, DPhil in Inorganic Chemistry, DPhil in Organic Chemistry, DPhil in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry.
Students who have graduated from our previous chemistry doctoral courses often remain in chemistry. Many continue in academic research as post docs and, later, run their own independent research programmes. Some go into the educational sector, and some go into industry (particularly the health-related industries such as pharmaceuticals). There is a wide variety of other destinations, including scientific writers, patent attorneys, government and the civil service; and a few go into financial services.
The department runs annual careers events for graduate students, and the Oxford University Careers Service offers a variety of specialist support. The department also hosts a large number of visits from prospective employers, where students can find out more information. There is an Alumni Officer, who keeps in touch with graduates, and the department runs a number of social and scientific events for them.
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, 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.
Entry requirements for entry in 2024-25
Proven and potential academic excellence
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 subject relevant to the proposed research. Normally this will be a chemistry degree, but degrees in other physical sciences or in a biological science may be suitable.
Entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.
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
- A previous master's degree (either an integrated maser's degree or stand-alone) is preferred, but is not required.
- Prior publications are not expected but may help to indicate your aptitude for research.
- Applicants with substantial professional experience are welcome.
- It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor and have an understanding of the background to their proposed area of study.
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.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.0||6.5|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*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.
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.
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.
The criteria for shortlisting are academic merit, references and motivation.
Interviews are arranged directly by the prospective supervisors and usually they are conducted via MS Teams. Typically, the interview lasts 30 minutes and it may include discussion on your research interests and subject-related questions.
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. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
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.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
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:
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.
Students are supervised by some of the country’s most gifted research chemists, many of whom have world-class reputations. You will work in an environment which encourages and inspires you to acquire and develop a wide range of communication, study, and research skills.
Workspace will be related to individual circumstances. If undertaking experimental work, you will be provided with space in a laboratory with access to all the required equipment. If undertaking theoretical research, you will have shared office space.
The department has one of the largest and well-resourced research laboratories in the world. You will have access to the Department of Chemistry IT support staff, to the Radcliffe Science Library and other university libraries, and centrally provided electronic resources, technical workshops and glass workshops. Experimental facilities are available as appropriate to the research topic. The provision of other resources specific to your project should be agreed with your supervisor as a part of the planning stages of the agreed project.
Oxford is one of the leading chemistry research departments in the world, with around 80 academic staff carrying out international level research and an annual research income of around £15 million.
In the most recent national assessment of research (REF 2021) 66% of our research output was judged world-leading, and 32% was judged internationally excellent. The department has a number of research themes, including:
- chemistry at the interface with biology and medicine
- sustainable energy chemistry
- kinetics, dynamics and mechanism
- advanced functional materials and interfaces
- innovative measurement and photon science
- theory and modelling of complex systems.
The facilities at Oxford for research and teaching are among the best available in the UK, with a wide range of the latest instrumentation and a huge computational resource networked throughout the University and beyond to national computing centres. Among the facilities available are the latest in automated X-ray diffractometers, electron microscopes, scanning tunnelling microscopes, mass spectrometers, high-field nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometers and specialised instruments for the study of solids.
For 2024 entry and beyond, the Department of Chemistry will offer the DPhil in Chemistry and MSc by Research in Chemistry courses, which amalgamate the previous research degrees offered in Chemical Biology, Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Physical & Theoretical Chemistry.
The University expects to be able to offer over 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2024-25. 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.
Annual fees for entry in 2024-25
Annual Course fees
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.
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.
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 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 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. The current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
Students enrolled on this course will belong to both a department/faculty and a college. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 43 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as societies and permanent private halls (PPHs).
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. Before deciding, we suggest that you read our brief introduction to the college system at Oxford and our advice about expressing a college preference. For some courses, the department may have provided some additional advice below to help you decide.
The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Chemisty:
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. If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance.
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.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
You should make contact with the academic (s) in your area of research to discuss potential research topics and likely availability of funding. You can approach academic staff directly via the contact details provided.
General enquiries should be made to the Graduate Studies Team.
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.
For this course, the application form will include questions that collect information that would usually be included in a CV/résumé. You should not upload a separate document. If a separate CV/résumé is uploaded, it will be removed from your application.
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 the 'Field and title of research project' please enter your proposed field or area of research if this is known. If the department has advertised a specific research project that you would like to be considered for, please enter the project title here instead.
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).
Under 'Proposed supervisor name' enter the name of the academic (s) who you would like to supervise your research.
The department recommends that you name three to four proposed supervisors and list them in order of preference. Your proposed supervisors can be from different sections of the chemistry department. Assessment of your application may be delayed if no proposed supervisors are listed.
Three overall, of which at least two must be academic
Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.
Academic references are preferred, although a maximum of one professional reference is acceptable where you have completed an industrial placement or worked in a full-time position.
Your references will be assessed for:
- your intellectual ability
- your academic achievement
- your motivation and interest in the course and subject area
- your ability to work effectively both in a group and independently
- your research potential in the chosen area
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.
Statement of purpose:
A maximum of 1,000 words
Rather than a research proposal, you should provide a statement of purpose.
Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
Your statement will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying
- your ability to present a coherent case in proficient English
- your commitment to the subject
- your preliminary knowledge of the subject area and research techniques
- your capacity for sustained and intense work
- reasoning ability
- your ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace
- your research potential in the chosen area