DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences | University of Oxford
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Students working in the OII
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DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences

About the course

The DPhil (doctoral) programme in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences provides an opportunity for highly-qualified students to undertake innovative Internet-related research.

OII's students work on multidisciplinary research across the social sciences. Many projects fit within the following broad themes:

  • digital knowledge and culture
  • digital politics and government
  • education, wellbeing and digital life
  • ethics and philosophy of information
  • information geography and inequality
  • digital policy and online security
  • economics of information and the Internet
  • online platforms and social networks.

Over the course of this three- to four-year programme (six to eight years for the part-time programme), students produce an important and original piece of scholarship that will make a significant contribution to the dynamic area of Internet research. OII DPhil graduates have the qualities and transferable skills necessary to excel in teaching, research, policymaking or business.

Doctoral students at the OII address research questions from across a spectrum of disciplines. OII DPhil students anchor their research in disciplinary questions (in, for instance, politics or sociology), while also situating their research in broader social science theories and methods.  OII faculty are international leaders in their research fields, and their teaching and supervision reflect their innovative research. The diverse cohorts of doctoral students complement the strength of the programme by providing a multidisciplinary peer network for students to engage in ideas, discussion and debate.

The DPhil programme at the OII is also available on a part-time basis. The part-time programme is spread over six to eight years of study and research. The part-time degree offers the flexibility of part-time study with the same high standards and requirements as the full-time DPhil programme. The part-time DPhil also provides an excellent opportunity for professionals in high tech industries to undertake rigorous long-term research that may be relevant to their working life. Please visit the department website for further details on part-time doctoral study or contact the Graduate Studies Assistant.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Oxford Internet Institute and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Please see the full list of faculty members eligible to supervise DPhil students for this programme. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Oxford Internet Institute.

Graduate destinations

Employers recognize the value of a degree from the University of Oxford, and the OII's doctoral students regularly go on to secure excellent positions in academia, industry, government, and NGOs.

Alumni who have pursued academic careers have taken up research and teaching positions at the University of Oxford, Cornell University, University of Hong Kong, Imperial College London, Durham University, University of New South Wales, Coventry University, University of Leicester, University of Ottawa, and Michigan State University. OII DPhil alumni also work in wide-range of organizations including The World Bank, Oxfam, Cisco, McKinsey and Google.

The OII Alumni Wall features interviews from both MSc and DPhil alumni about their time at the Department and career paths after Oxford.

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.

Courses suggested by the institute

Oxford 1+1 MBA

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 a mark of at least 67%and
  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any subject.

It is expected that applicants will hold a taught master's or other advanced degree, normally in one of the social sciences, including law, but candidates from other disciplines embracing the social study of technology will also be considered.

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

  • Strong analytical abilities in understanding the social aspects of the Internet, World Wide Web and related technologies, as shown by the candidate’s writing sample and/or the reports of referees, is required.
  • 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.
  • While prior publication is not required, evidence of successful academic publication will be taken into account and may provide the applicant with an advantage.
  • It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.

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 normally held as part of the admissions process.

All applications are reviewed by at least two members of faculty with relevant experience and expertise. Applicants are shortlisted based on the quality of  written application. Those who are shortlisted will normally be interviewed.

Interviews are usually held around one month after the application deadline. There is usually only one interview held, which lasts 30 to 40 minutes and can be held via Skype or telephone. You will be asked questions about your academic background, your research plan, and why you think the Oxford Internet Institute would be the best place to conduct your studies. The interview panel will consist of at least two interviewers which will normally include the potential supervisor and the DPhil programme director.

Interviews are normally held three to six weeks after the application deadline.

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

In addition to the formal requirements of the DPhil thesis, all OII doctoral students receive regular training in the key professional skills necessary to support their research and future employment. These range from classes on specific tools or skills such as programming in Python or using content analysis software, to more generic training such as presentation skills, academic writing and peer review.

You will attend a weekly seminar (normally convened by the DPhil Programme Director) in which you will present your own work for critique, and critique the work of your peers. The OII also provides opportunities for DPhil students to gain teaching experience through mentored assistantship roles in some of its core MSc courses.

The department's busy calendar of seminars and events brings many of the most important people in Internet research, innovation and policy to the OII, allowing students to engage with cutting-edge scholarship and debates around the Internet.

OII students also take full advantage of the substantial resources available at the University of Oxford, including world-leading research facilities and libraries, and a buzzing student scene. The departmental library provides students access to a range of resources. Additionally, the Social Sciences Library provides valuable additional resources which many students choose to take advantage of.

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

Further information about scholarships and funding opportunities available through this academic department and for this course (if applicable) can be found on the department's website. These may include Grand Union DTP ESRC studentships, and in order to be considered for an award you will need to complete the scholarships section of the course application form and submit additional supporting material. The programme’s website provides more details about the application process, as well as any eligibility criteria that may apply.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Full-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£11,605
Overseas£24,910

Part-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£5,805
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, 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.

Employment

Whilst many graduate students do undertake employment to support their studies, please remember that students on the full-time arrangement of the OII's DPhil programme are subject to limits on the number of hours that may be worked each week. Part-time student are not subject to these limitations.

Within these limitations, many of the OII's existing full-time DPhil students have been employed on a short or long-term basis as Research Assistants on grant-funded projects gaining valuable research experience. The OII also offers Teaching Assistant positions on the MSc degree for DPhil students who can display the appropriate skills. In addition, there are employment opportunities within the University (such as teaching, translation, and research assistance) as well as within the OII.

For full information on employment whilst on course, please see the University's Paid work guidelines.

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 recommended to contact a potential supervisor (or supervisors) in the first instance to get feedback on the fit of your proposed research with the expertise of the supervisor before you apply. Please see the full list of faculty members eligible to supervise DPhil students for this programme. Please note that the OII will only admit students where appropriate supervision is available.

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.

Personal statement and research proposal:
Statement of one to two pages and a proposal of 2,500 words

Your statement and proposal should be submitted as a single, combined document with a clear subheading for each.

You should submit a convincing personal statement (statement of purpose) explaining your reasons for applying to the programme and highlighting your relevant academic and professional experience.

You should also submit a research proposal written in English. An indicative bibliography is required but you do not need to include this in your word count. Your proposal should include an indicative title and a short introduction/synopsis, a discussion of the most relevant scholarly literature, and a research question or hypothesis. This issue or question should emerge from your review of the literature. Please also provide a rationale for the importance of this research topic.

Your proposal should also indicate your proposed methodological approach. This will depend on the kind of research you envisage. If empirical research is planned, then please discuss the likely data or evidence to be collected. At this stage these ideas are exploratory, and likely to develop and change once you are accepted.

This will be assessed for your potential to carry out doctoral research, the quality and coherence of the proposal and the originality of the project.

It will be normal for your ideas to subsequently change in some ways as you 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.

Your proposal should focus on your proposed research topic, rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

Written work:
One essay of 2,000 words

An academic essay or other writing sample from your most recent qualification, written in English, is required. An extract of the requisite length from longer work is also permissible.

The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

If you have not previously written on areas closely related to the proposed research topic, you may provide written work on any topic that best demonstrates your academic abilities.

This will be assessed for evidence that demonstrates your aptitude and potential for research investigation.

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.

Professional references are acceptable, particularly if you have been out of education for some time, though these should focus particularly on your intellectual abilities rather than more narrowly on job performance.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, aptitude and potential for research investigation.

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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