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 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 Coordinator.

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 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.

Other courses in this area

Changes to the course

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

Entry requirements for entry in 2019-20

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in any subject.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

It is expected that all applicants will hold a taught masters or other advanced degree, normally passed with a mark of at least 67% (or a grade point average GPA of at least 3.5 out of 4.0), or an equivalent level of distinction- normally in one of the social sciences, including law- but candidates from other disciplines embracing the social study of technology will also be considered.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

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.

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

Other appropriate indicators will include:

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(s)

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. Interviews can be done in person, by telephone or via Skype with or without video. There is usually only one interview held which lasts 30 to 40 minutes. 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.

Publications

While prior publication is not required, evidence of successful academic publication will be taken into account and may provide the applicant with an advantage.

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.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

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

  • The ability of the Oxford Internet Institute to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision 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. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Oxford Internet Institute.

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, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

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.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

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

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

The OII recommends that DPhil candidates should contact a potential supervisor(s) in the first instance before submitting an application. It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.

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 the 'bleeding edge' of 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 2019-20

Full-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£11,160
Overseas£23,950

Part-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£5,580
Overseas£11,975

The fees shown above are the annual course fees for this course, for entry in the stated academic year.

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. You may have seen separate figures in the past for tuition fees and college fees. We have now combined these into a single figure.

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.

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 2019-20 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,058 and £1,643 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 2019-20, 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.

Colleges

The following colleges accept students for full-time study on the DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences:

The following colleges accept students for part-time study on the DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences:

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 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.

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