DPhil in Experimental Psychology | University of Oxford
Psychology
A stack of textbooks on psychology
(Image Credit: Tudor Popescu / Graduate Photography Competition)

DPhil in Experimental Psychology

About the course

Students on the DPhil in Experimental Psychology will carry out independent research under the supervision and guidance of principal investigators and researchers within a research group or lab. Areas of study include behavioural neuroscience, developmental psychology, perception and cognition, psychological and brain health, and social psychology.

The majority of our DPhil students are expected to be admitted for full-time study, referred to in the timeline below as FTE (full-time equivalent) study. A small number of part-time students may be admitted to the DPhil in Experimental Psychology. If you apply for admission to the part-time course you will be required to show that your proposed DPhil research topic is suited to part-time study and that the supervisor agrees with the part-time schedule.

Part-time study is expected to take place at 50% of the intensity of full-time study, so all timescales below referring to full-time equivalent study (FTE) are normally doubled for students pursuing the part-time DPhil programme. The attendance requirement will be a minimum of 30 days University-based work per year. This will be spread across the academic year to be a minimum of ten days based in the department each term. However, attendance is likely to be higher and will be determined by the demands of the individual DPhil research project and will be agreed with the applicant as part of the admissions process.

First year of full-time study (part-time equivalent: years 1 and 2)

You are initially registered as a Probationary Research Student (PRS status). During your first year of FTE study, you are expected to attend courses, lectures and seminars that will enable you to gain the most out of your time at Oxford and assist you with the design and analysis of your own area of research. These will typically include:

  • graduate statistical workshops
  • skills training courses eg in MATLAB and fMRI methods
  • analysis of research methods.

The Medical Sciences Division also offers a large number of courses on transferable skills such as teaching and communicating scientific findings which you are encouraged to attend as a part of your DPhil studies.

You are expected to be fully integrated within your own chosen group or lab and attend group or lab meetings as well as attending related seminars and conferences.

Second year of full-time study (part-time equivalent: years 3 and 4)

You will be expected to transfer your status from PRS to DPhil before the end of your fourth term of FTE study. For this, you will be required to submit a written report summarising your progress to date, which you will then discuss and defend in an oral examination (a transfer viva).

Third and final years of full-time study (part-time equivalent: years 4 to 8)

During your third year of FTE study, you will need to confirm your DPhil status through a formal assessment to ensure that you are on course to complete your studies within the three- to four-year time frame. You will be required to give a presentation and attend an interview. Finally, your studies will conclude with the submission of a thesis (maximum 100,000 words) and an oral examination, your final viva voce.

Assessment of your progress on the course is monitored through termly progression reports and at three key stages:

  • transfer of status
  • confirmation of status
  • thesis submission.

You will need to have successfully completed all three stages to be awarded a DPhil in Experimental Psychology from the University of Oxford.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department of Experimental Psychology 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 Experimental Psychology.

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. Supervision and guidance may also include co-supervision from other collaborating groups or labs, both within the department or from other departments and faculties within the university or from another institution.

Graduate destinations

A majority of DPhil students remain in academia. Others go on to pursue careers in consultancy and government. 

Changes to this course and your supervision

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. In certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

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

Other courses you may wish to consider

Applicants are strongly advised to visit the Medical Sciences Graduate School website to help them identify the most suitable course and supervisors.

If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

Courses suggested by the department

Psychological Research MSc
Neuroscience MSc
Clinical Neuroscience DPhil

All graduate courses offered by the Department of Experimental Psychology

Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in psychology or a related discipline that is relevant to your proposed research.

You do not need to have a previous master’s degree to apply for this course. However, if you wish to be considered for the ESRC +3 funding then you will need to demonstrate that core training requirements have been met for entry to this course, eg by a recognised master's degree. Please see the 'Funding and costs' tab for details and/or contact the department for further advice.

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 

  • It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.
  • Publications are not required, but if available, publications demonstrating prior experience and proficiency in psychological research will be considered as part of your application.

Further guidance

  • You are required to contact a potential supervisor in the first instance to discuss the area of research you wish to carry out during the DPhil, and to establish whether they are able to supervise your proposed project. If you are planning to study part-time, please discuss this with potential supervisors in advance. 

English language requirement

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's standard level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. 

Detailed requirements - standard level

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

IELTS Academic 7.0Minimum 6.5 per component
TOEFL iBT100

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced185Minimum 176 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency185Minimum 176 per component

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide

Supporting documents 

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.

All applications are evaluated, initially by the potential supervisor(s) who will then provide a supporting statement for the Experimental Psychology Graduate Admissions Committee (GAC). When shortlisting, the GAC will take into account the supporting statement from the potential supervisor, academic record, references and the quality of the project proposal.

Shortlisted applicants will normally be invited to attend one interview which will last for up to half an hour. Around a third of graduate research applicants are invited to interview. Interviews are usually held in late January or early February.

Applicants who are shortlisted for interview will be invited to Oxford, or if unable to attend, may be interviewed via Skype (with video).

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Admissions panels and assessors

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

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

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements: 

Financial Declaration

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

Disclosure of criminal convictions

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

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Some postgraduate research students in science, engineering and technology subjects will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate prior to applying for a Tier 4 visa. Further information can be found on our Tier 4 (General) Student visa page. For some courses, the requirement to apply for an ATAS certificate may depend on your research area.

Resources

You will have access to the department’s IT support and university library services, such as the Radcliffe Science Library, and experimental facilities should be made available as appropriate to the research topic. The provision of other resources specific to your research will be agreed with your supervisor. The department provides some funding towards a computer in the first year and further funding for consumables each year (for a maximum of three years) to students who do not have access to funds from funding bodies.

You will be able to attend the seminars organised by individual research groups or groups with common areas of interest. The department also provides regular departmental seminars during term time, including a series dedicated to DPhil students presenting their own research.

You are encouraged to attend departmental events as departmental seminars and colloquia bring research students together with academic and other research staff in the department to hear about on-going research, and provide an opportunity for networking and socialising.

The departmental social committee holds occasional events throughout the academic year for both students and staff in the department.

Funding

There are over 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Full-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

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

Part-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£3,985
Overseas£13,205

Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Additional information

Full-time study

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.

Part-time study

Please note that you are required to attend in Oxford for a minimum of 30 days each year, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Also, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur further additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.

How to apply

You are required to contact a potential supervisor in the first instance in order to discuss the area of research you wish to carry out during the DPhil, and to establish whether they are able to supervise your proposed project.

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.

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:
Up to 2,500 words

The research proposal should be single spaced and written in English, outlining your proposed area of research. A 300-word abstract should be included at the start of the research proposal. The text of your document should be no smaller than size 10 Arial or similar. The overall word count does not need to include any bibliography.

You should be prepared to defend your proposal orally at interview if shortlisted.

This will be assessed for:

  • 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 frame available for the course (a maximum of four years full-time equivalent study)
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques
  • capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas
  • the suitability of the research topic for part-time study (in applications for the part-time DPhil programme).

It is usual for your ideas to subsequently change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this point in the application process.

Your research proposal should focus on a specific area of research rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, academic and/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.

Both academic references and professional references from employment relevant to the course are acceptable.

Your references should provide evidence of your intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and your ability to work in a group.

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.

Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.

Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.

Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.

Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).

Application GuideApply - Full time Apply - Part time

Was this page useful?*