DPhil in Geography and the Environment | University of Oxford
Mist on Christ Church Meadow
Mist on Christ Church Meadow (Image credit: Noemi Dreksler / Graduate Photography Competition)

DPhil in Geography and the Environment

About the course

The Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) in Geography and the Environment is the department's premier research degree, awarded to candidates who have successfully completed a major piece of original research. The course provides support and an intellectual environment to pursue your own independent research.

The DPhil in Geography and the Environment is offered as either a full-time three- to four-year degree, or a part-time six- to eight-year degree. Currently the expected contact time for the part-time arrangement is thirty days at Oxford per year; the majority of this will take place across the three eight-week terms and will include supervision meetings and core research training.

The DPhil is an advanced research degree which is awarded on the basis of a thesis and oral examination (assessment of other work is not taken into consideration). The thesis should represent a significant and substantial piece of research which is conveyed in a lucid and scholarly manner which shows that you have a good general knowledge of the field of your thesis. You are required to work independently, to take the initiative in exploring a line of research and to acquire new skills in order to carry out your research. You will be allocated a supervisor who will meet with you at specifically agreed times and will agree with you a research plan and programme of work and to establish clear academic expectations and milestones.

If you are intending to read for the DPhil you are normally admitted to the status of Probationer Research Student (PRS) initially. During the first year (or the second year for the part-time pathway), you must apply for a transfer of status from probationer research student to DPhil student. This requires successful completion of a Qualifying Test. This involves the submission of a piece of written work which is examined by two assessors (neither of whom will be supervisors). This process is to ensure that your work is of potential DPhil quality and that the methodology of the research is appropriate and practicable.

Upon successful completion of the transfer of status, you will also be required to undertake the confirmation of DPhil status by the end of your third year (or the end of the sixth year for the part-time pathway). This will also involve the submission of a piece of written work which is assessed by two assessors (neither of whom are supervisors). The confirmation assessment is different to the transfer assessment as the assessors will be focusing on how the research is progressing, the quality of the draft chapters/papers, and on the plan for completion. The assessors will be looking to ensure that you are making the appropriate amount of progress in the development of your thesis, so that your submission will be achieved within the three/four year time limit (or within the sixth/eight year time limit for the part-time pathway).

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the School of Geography and the Environment 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 School of Geography and the Environment.

Graduate destinations

Many graduates are commanding influential positions in multinational corporations, in national, state and international government, in non-governmental organisations, and by continuing with further research.

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

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

Entry requirements for entry in 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 master's degree with distinction (or a distinction grade on the dissertation, as a minimum) in geography or a related environmental field, and
  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any discipline.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 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

  • Part-time applicants will also be expected to show evidence of the ability to commit time to study and, if applicable, an employer's commitment to make time available to study, to complete coursework, and attend course and University events and modules. Where appropriate, evidence should also be provided of permission to use employers’ data in the proposed research project.
  • You are not required to submit any publications.

English language requirement

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

Detailed requirements - higher level

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

IELTS Academic7.5Minimum 7.0 per component
TOEFL iBT110

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced191Minimum 185 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency191Minimum 185 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 not normally held as part of the admissions process for the full-time course. Remote interviews for short-listed candidates for the part-time course will be conducted.

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.

Resources

The School of Geography and the Environment undertakes world-class interdisciplinary research, addresses societal and environmental problems, and advances knowledge within an intellectually vibrant, interdisciplinary research environment that combines natural and social sciences and has geography at its core. The department has five research clusters in biodiversity, ecosystems and conservation; climate systems and policy; landscape dynamics; technological natures; and transformations.

You will be a member of one of the clusters and are encouraged to attend and participate in the organisation of the research seminars organised by each cluster.

The University of Oxford has an extensive library system and the Radcliffe Science Library is the main lending service within the University for the material required for the course. The Social Sciences Library also holds collections which are valuable for students pursuing geography programmes. A tutorial on using the library and IT facilities will be provided at induction by the Geography Subject Librarian.

The department has a computer room available for all graduate students. There are dedicated IT times each day where you can seek help from IT staff. Research students share a social space with academic and research staff and are encouraged to interact with academic staff from across the discipline. The department also offers dedicated working space for DPhil students.

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)£18,455
Overseas£24,910

Part-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£9,230
Overseas£12,455

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, visa and medical fees (such as vaccinations), and field trips. The costs may vary considerably depending on the location and duration of the fieldwork. 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 additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, visa and medical fees (such as vaccinations), and field trips. The costs may vary considerably depending on the location and duration of the fieldwork. 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 encouraged to look at the department lists of potential supervisors and topics before writing your research proposal and to approach specific supervisors directly to discuss your research proposal before applying.

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:
Around 2,500 words

Your research proposal should comprise a detailed outline of your proposed research, written in English. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for evidence that you have a worthwhile research project, you have a good grasp of the relevant literature and the major issues, and that your methodology is sound. The research proposal must address the question of what you plan to accomplish, why you want to and how you are going to do it. The proposal will also be assessed to determine that you have the capacity for sustained and intense work and the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course (three to four years).

The proposal should include sufficient information for the department to evaluate the proposed study and have the right staff expertise to supervise you.

It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to 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 moment.

Written work:
One essay of 2,000 words

The written work must be in English and can be either an essay you have written, a chapter(s) of a thesis, a published scholarly paper or even academic work written specifically to support your application.

This work should demonstrate your ability to write a good academic document though it does not need to be related to the proposed area of study.

An extract of the requisite length from longer work is permissible. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for evidence of good basic knowledge, understanding of problems, powers of analysis, ability to construct a coherent train of thought, and to shape an argument, and powers of expression. The quality of English expression and of presentation may also be part of the assessment. Assessment of this work will take note of the circumstances under which the work was done. Students with disclosed disabilities will receive appropriate consideration according to their particular needs.

References/letters of recommendation:
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.

Your references will support your academic achievements, interests, and personal motivation. In order to assist assessors in their consideration of applications references should be from experienced scholars and teachers of graduate students. In view of this, it is recommended that at least two of the three references are from academics.

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

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