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DPhil in Computer Science

About the course

The DPhil in Computer Science is an advanced research degree, awarded for significant (new) contribution to the existing body of knowledge in the field of computer science. You will work with world-class experts in their field. The DPhil normally takes three to four years of full-time study to complete.

The DPhil in Computer Science will introduce you to cutting edge research whilst studying in a beautiful, historic setting that is both student- and family-friendly. Supervision is available via the department's research themes together with cross-disciplinary research in areas such as linguistics, biology, medicine, quantum foundations and quantum computation.

The course combines individual supervision with a selection of lecture courses, transferable skills training and opportunities to participate in leading-edge research activities. 

During your study at Oxford, the department hopes to share with you some of the excitement about the topics the department investigates, and of the understanding the department has gained from research into basic theory and by industrial collaboration. You will also be offered transferable skills training and are required to give presentations to your research groups.

The development of computer science at Oxford has been heavily supported by research grant funding from the government, EU and science foundations, as well as donations and sponsorship from the department's industrial partners. The department is committed to offering you the best supervision and to providing a stimulating research environment.

This is a full time course and you are expected to continue working outside of the University terms with an annual holiday of approximately eight weeks. 

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department of Computer Science 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 Computer Science. In such circumstances a joint supervisor from within the department is also appointed.

Typically you would meet with your supervisor on a weekly basis, at least until you reach the stage of writing up your thesis. In addition to this, many research groups have weekly meetings where members discuss their research or perhaps present other published work. In the case of students who require specific help to adjust to an academic programme or to a new range of skills, the supervisor will work with them to ensure that they have additional support.

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 (and normally by the fourth term) 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 satisfactory completion of any compulsory training courses (e.g. research integrity) and submission of written work. Students who are successful at transfer will also be expected to apply for and gain confirmation of DPhil status within nine 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 whilst also ensuring you are making satisfactory progress and that your work is of DPhil quality.

You will be expected to submit a substantial original thesis which should not exceed 250 pages after at most four years from the date of admission. To be successfully awarded a DPhil in Computer Science you will need to defend your thesis orally (viva voce) in front of two appointed examiners.

Graduate destinations

A good proportion of our DPhil students pursue a career in academia moving on to becoming post-doctoral researchers, and subsequently to university lecturers and professors. Many others join industry or build start-ups. 

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

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.

All graduate courses offered by the Department of Computer Science

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 a strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a four-year undergraduate degree (to the level of a master's degree) in a relevant subject, or 
  • a first-class or a strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a three-year BSc/BA degree and a master's degree with merit or distinction in a relevant subject.

For the qualifications above, relevant subjects typically include computer science or mathematics.

Students require either a distinction in a master's or a four-year undergraduate degree. A four-year sandwich degree with one year spent in industry is not an acceptable equivalent.

Please note that entrance to the course 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 3.6 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 

  • You are not required to submit publications with your application, but if you have publications then please give details in your CV/résumé. 
  • It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.

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.  

Candidates are considered against the academic ability criteria and also the research proposal or statement. If you meet the academic criteria and there is a supervisor interested in your research then you will be invited for interview. If invited you can expect to be interviewed by at least two people and for the interview to last around 30 minutes. The interview could take place face-to-face or remotely.

Interviews will usually be held in January and February for applicants who apply by the December deadline and by early April for those who apply at the March deadline.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading. References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process.

An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed

Shortlisting and selection

Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:

  • socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
  • country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
  • protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.

Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Processing your data for shortlisting and selection

Information about processing special category data for the purposes of positive action and using your data to assess your eligibility for funding, can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

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

Other factors governing whether places can be offered

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

  • the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
  • the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
  • minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.

Offer conditions for successful applications

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our After you apply pages provide more information about offers and conditions

In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

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

Resources

The department will offer you IT provision in the form of a desktop PC, or screen and keyboard if using your own laptop. This is connected to the department’s network. If you require fast parallel computation, you may be able to access the machine clusters at the Oxford e-Research Centre.

Oxford University IT Services runs introductory courses throughout the year. They will also help you to explore facilities available at the University of Oxford which, although possibly not required for your research, may be of interest to you.

As a DPhil student you will have an office shared with other students and housed within your research group wherever possible.

The Department of Computer Science Library contains books, monographic series, journals, technical reports and past theses covering the main research interests of the department. You are also able to access other relevant libraries elsewhere in the University such as the Radcliffe Science Library, the Whitehead Library (at the Mathematical Institute for numerical analysts and formal mathematicians) and the Engineering Science Library (especially for those interested in robotics and machine vision).

The Department of Computer Science houses lecture theatres and seminar rooms in which most of the university lectures in computer science take place.

The department has kitchens on each floor and a central common room where you can meet informally.  There is an active social committee organising events for staff, students and families.

The Computer Science Graduate Society (COGS) is an organisation within the Department of Computer Science that provides organised events and outings for the graduate students and research assistants within the lab. The Oxford Women in Computer Science Society (OxWoCS) aims to support and promote women in computer science. The society organises events throughout the year, including weekly coffee meetings, talks by distinguished female speakers, and industry sponsored events.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. 

For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.

Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:

Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.

Information about funding opportunities for this course can also be found on the department's website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2023-24

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£8,960
Overseas£29,700

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

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.

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 and Funding section of this website, which includes detailed fee status information.

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 Computer 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

Before you apply, a good starting point is to look at the research currently being done in the department and the profiles of academic staff. Academic staff profiles contain information on their research interests and will help you identify potential supervisors. 

You can contact potential supervisors directly but remember they are very busy and may not reply immediately. You should be brief and include some information about your background, your research interests and any relevant experience. You might like to introduce yourself by explaining why their work interests you enough to motivate you to apply to study with them for the next three or four years and you may have read some of their publications.

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 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).

Proposed supervisor

Please enter the name of at least one supervisor to whom you are applying. If you wish to enter more than one name, please list them in order of preference, or indicate equal preference, up to a maximum of three.

Referees:
Three overall, of which two must be academic and the third, either academic or professional 

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.

Generally, you should provide two academic references and a third reference which may be either professional or academic. However, if you have been away from higher education for a long time, you may instead provide one academic reference and two professional references.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and (where appropriate) 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

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.

Research proposal/statement of research interests:
A maximum of 1,000 words

You may submit either a research proposal comprising a detailed outline of your intended research or, if you are not yet ready to submit a full proposal, you should submit a statement of research interests, in English, describing the general area of research in which you are interested. You should summarise the research in this area that you are aware of, referring to existing papers where appropriate. You could also describe a research problem and your initial ideas on research work towards solving this or open problems.

You should include your relevant skills and experience, your reasons for applying to Oxford, and list some of the principal reasons why you consider yourself a strong applicant.

It is helpful to identify a likely supervisor. You should look at the webpages of potential supervisors working in your area of interest and even read some of their publications. You should make it clear why the potential supervisor's work interests you and why they would be the best supervisor for you.

You should be aware that a statement of research interests will not commit you to carry out the exact research work you have described and it is expected that your interests may evolve and change over the course of study.

The overall word count should not include any bibliography.

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

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • the coherence of the proposal
  • the originality of the project
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course (a maximum  four years)
  • 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.

You should be aware that the statement of research interests will not commit you to carry out the exact research work you have described and we would expect your interests to evolve and change over the course of study.

Your proposal should focus on your ideas for research rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations. You do not need to include your MSc dissertation.

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 Guide Apply

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