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DPhil in Inflammatory and Musculoskeletal Disease

About the course

This programme provides research-based doctoral training for Oxford medical students, offering a choice of interdisciplinary, cutting-edge research projects in an environment that encourages the student’s originality and creativity in their research.

Please be advised that this course only accepts applications from current University of Oxford medical students. Students will need to have successfully completed the Pre-clinical Course (First BM) in order to apply (see 'Entry Requirements' for further details).

In the programme, students will receive a world-leading research training experience in musculoskeletal and inflammatory diseases. Students participating in the scheme will be offered:

  • a choice of interdisciplinary cutting-edge research projects;
  • the opportunity to gain a working in-depth knowledge of the fundamentals of inflammatory and musculoskeletal diseases and patient care through advanced level seminars;
  • a world-renowned research environment that encourages the student’s originality and creativity in their research;
  • opportunities to develop skills in making and testing hypotheses, in developing new theories, and in planning and conducting experiments; and
  • an environment in which to develop skills in written work, oral presentation and publishing the results of their research in high-profile scientific journals, through constructive feedback of written work and oral presentations.

At the end of their DPhil course, students should:

  • have a thorough knowledge of the basic principles of research into inflammatory disorders, including the relevant literature and a comprehensive understanding of scientific methods and techniques applicable to their research;
  • be able to demonstrate originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in their field;
  • have developed the ability to critically evaluate current research and research techniques and methodologies;
  • be able to act autonomously in the planning and implementation of research; and
  • have the grounding for an influential researcher of inflammatory diseases in the future.

Our research themes are as follows:

  • Basic mechanisms of inflammation
  • Inflammatory and rheumatic disease
  • Pain
  • Clinical trials
  • Epidemiology, computational and data science
  • Tissue engineering and remodelling


The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. A supervisor may be found outside the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre. Students will be allocated at least two supervisors, one of which will be a clinical academic. Students will meet their primary supervisor weekly or fortnightly in the early stages of their project.


Students will be admitted to the course as a Probationer Research Student (PRS) and will transfer to the status of DPhil Student upon successful completion of their Transfer of Status milestone. By the end of the 9th term, students will be assessed for their Confirmation of Status milestone with the doctoral work culminating in a thesis of no more than 50,000 words that will be defended in an oral examination (viva voce).

Graduate destinations

All graduates are expected to return to their ongoing training in undergraduate clinical medicine at Oxford upon completion of the course. Graduates may be anticipated to follow a clinical academic career path after graduating in clinical medicine. 

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

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.

Entry requirements for entry in 2021-22

Proven and potential academic-experience

Degree-level qualifications for clinical trainees (Application type 1)

Clinical trainees currently studying at Oxford should hold or be predicted to achieve:

  • a first class or strong upper second-class BA Honours in Medical Sciences.

Entrance is expected to be very competitive and it is anticipated that most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.

A previous master's degree is not required.

Degree-level qualifications for medical undergraduate students (Application type 2)

Medical undergraduate students currently studying at Oxford should have successfully completed the Pre-clinical Course (First BM) and hold or be predicted to achieve:

  • a first class or strong upper second-class BA Honours in Medical Sciences.

Entrance is expected to be very competitive and it is anticipated that most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.

A previous master's degree is not required.

GRE General Test scores

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

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

  • Evidence of a prior experience in the area of research proposed is likely to advantage your application.
  • Prior publications are not required but may be considered an advantage in applying.
  • 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. 

Further guidance

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.

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. 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.

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.  

Candidates who are shortlisted are interviewed as part of the admissions process. Shortlisting will be based solely on the criteria given above. Normally the interview will consist of a five-minute presentation of previous research project work by the applicant, followed by 15-25 minutes of questioning from the panel. Interviews are anticipated to be held via Microsoft Teams for 2021. 


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.


The programme provides research-based doctoral training for University of Oxford medical students. Students will receive a world-leading research training experience that integrates an education initiative spanning patient care, research impact, on- and post-programme mentorship, as well as a specialised, fundamental, subject-specific training tailored to individual research needs.

All the resources of the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre will be available to students and they will be offered training in transfer of status and thesis writing, in addition to a variety transferable skills including presentation.

Additional lectures on a variety of topics will be provided in the first term and return to clinical practice teaching in the final year.


All applicants who are offered a place on the DPhil in Inflammatory and Musculoskeletal Disease course will be offered a fully-funded scholarship, covering course fees for the duration of their course and a living stipend.

Further information about funding for this course can be found on the department's website.


Annual fees for entry in 2021-22

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
Overseas (including EU)£27,460

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.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our detailed fee status information and the Oxford and the EU webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.

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 2021-22 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,175 and £1,710 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 2021-22, 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.

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 Inflammatory and Musculoskeletal Disease:

How to apply

Please be advised that this course only accepts applications from current University of Oxford medical students. Students will need to have successfully completed the Pre-clinical Course (First BM) in order to apply (see 'Entry Requirements' for further details).

Once you have identified up to three projects that you would like to work on from the list of available projects on the department's website, you will need to enter these in the proposed supervisor box on the 'Courses' tab of the application form, making sure you identify them by number, eg #OxKEN-2021/1, #OxKEN-2021/2, etc. Please note, you are not required to name a proposed supervisor.

It is strongly suggested that students contact supervisors of projects they are interested in applying for prior to application.

Student-generated projects in the fields of inflammation and musculoskeletal diseases will also be considered. You will first need to identify project supervisors and contact them to confirm that they would be willing to supervise your project if your application is successful.  To enter a student-generated project in the supervisor box of the application form, please enter 'Stu-Gen' followed by the name of the supervisor.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s):
A letter of permission from the medical school is also required. 

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.

Applicants must be able to provide a letter from the medical school confirming permission to intercalate for the duration of the DPhil programme. You will need to upload this in the transcript section of the application form.


A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 500 words, accompanied by a list of preferred projects and supervisors

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. 

As part of the statement, you should also provide a prioritised list of three research projects (and the associated supervisors) in which you are interested, selected from currently advertised projects. Student-generated projects in the fields of inflammation and musculoskeletal diseases will also be considered, however, you will need to find the potential project supervisor(s). It is strongly suggested that students contact supervisors of projects they are interested in applying for prior to application.

Your personal statement will be assessed for:

  • reasons for applying
  • ability to present a coherent case in proficient English
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • preliminary knowledge of the subject area and research techniques
  • capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace

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

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.

Your references will be assessed for your intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and interest in the course and subject area, and ability to work both in a group and independently.

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 the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.

Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:

Step 5: Start your application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

If you are a current University of Oxford medical student and meet the eligibility criteria for this course, you will need to contact the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre by email ( to request access to the application form.

Application GuideRequest access to the application form

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