DPhil in International Development | University of Oxford
5 people with four in traditional Peruvian clothing
A DPhil student carrying out fieldwork in Peru
(Image Credit: T Thorp, ODID)

DPhil in International Development

About the course

The DPhil in International Development provides an opportunity for outstanding students to pursue in-depth multi- and interdisciplinary research, guided by leading scholars in the field, into processes of social, political and economic development and change in the global South.

Academics at the Oxford Department of International Development (ODID) can offer supervision in a wide range of subjects, including migration, refugees and humanitarianism; urban, agrarian and environmental development; political and social change and conflict; state-making and disciplinary regimes; public health and social policies; global governance, diplomatic studies, and security; economic growth and structural transformation; macroeconomics and public finance; firms and households; poverty and inequality; and technology. The department also has close connections with other departments and research centres across the University.

As a DPhil student you will undertake your own original research project under the guidance of your supervisor, with whom you will typically meet two to three times a term. The supervisor will help develop and guide your project and, at later stages, provide feedback on chapter drafts. However, you will work to a significant extent on your own, and you will need a high level of motivation and self-discipline.

During an initial probationary period as a Probationer Research Student (PRS), you will develop and begin work on your thesis topic. You will be offered training in relevant research methods, language, computing and other skills, and have the opportunity to attend lectures, seminars and classes in your general topic area. Full-time students are expected to be resident in Oxford for the PRS period.

As a PRS, you will also take one taught course, either in research methods or from an Oxford master’s degree relevant to your research, which will be examined. Full-time students usually transfer to full DPhil status by the end of their first year and part-time students usually transfer by the end of their second year.

Following satisfactory progress and transfer to full DPhil status, you may leave Oxford for up to three terms (six terms for part-time students) in order to conduct fieldwork, if the project requires. You will then continue the course by carrying out your own research under the guidance of your supervisor, with whom you will continue to meet or correspond with regularly. Full-time students should return to Oxford after fieldwork for at least three terms.

You will normally be expected to complete your degree in a period of three years (six years for part-time) plus up to one year (two years for part-time) of fieldwork (if needed). Students who transfer to the DPhil after the MPhil in Development Studies are expected to complete in two years (four years for part-time) plus time needed for fieldwork: they are also expected to be resident in Oxford for part of this time. Further information on the structure can be obtained from the course handbook available via the course page on the departmental website.

Applicants wishing to study part-time while in employment will be asked to provide a letter from their employer confirming that they are supportive of the study and are willing to release them from the workplace for study in Oxford, independent study and any fieldwork necessary for data collection. In addition, where appropriate, students will be required to obtain the written agreement from their employer for the use of their employer’s data in their research.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Oxford Department of International Development 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 Department of International Development normally in a co-supervision arrangement with an ODID supervisor.

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.

The availability of supervision varies year on year and candidates are advised to review the list of eligible supervisors from the department’s webpage for the DPhil course to ensure their areas of interest are compatible.

Each student/supervisor relationship is different and the number of meetings varies, but generally, students are likely to meet with their supervisor two or three times per term.

Assessment

You will be admitted initially as a Probationer Research Student (PRS). At the end of your first year, you will be examined on one taught course (either in research methods or from an Oxford master’s degree relevant to your research). You must pass this course with a strong performance in order to transfer from PRS status to full DPhil status. You also need departmental approval of a fully developed research plan, which you will present in your transfer paper to two assessors approved by the department’s graduate studies committee. Full-time students present their transfer paper at the end of their first year and part-time students at the end of the second year.

Assessment of progress will be made during sessions with your supervisor and also in more formal viva voce assessments – for the Transfer of Status and for Confirmation of Status (usually at the end of the third year for full-time students and end of the sixth year for part-time students). More information on these two assessments can be found in the course handbook on the ODID website's course page.

DPhil students submit their thesis for examination three to four years(or six to eight years for part-time) from the date of admissions and defend their thesis in a viva voce examination which takes place between the student and their two appointed examiners.

Graduate destinations

Graduates of the DPhil in International Development have a strong track record in developing academic careers in universities and research institutions across the world. The department’s alumni now hold positions at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Leicester, London (LSE and SOAS) and Sussex in the UK, and at the Australian National University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Dartmouth College, the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, and the Universities of Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Leiden, Leuven, Melbourne, Peru, Port Harcourt, Rome, Roskilde, York (Canada), the Western Cape (South Africa) and the Witwatersrand (South Africa) overseas, among other institutions.

Other former students have taken up influential positions in governments and major international institutions, including the World Bank and UN organisations such as UNCTAD and UNHCR, and in NGOs.

Read more about the kinds of careers the department’s students pursue on the ODID Alumni page.

“The DPhil taught me crucial skills and an approach to research that I draw on in my work today. I learnt how to speak across disciplines, to conduct multidisciplinary research and teach students from a range of educational backgrounds.” Anne Roemer-Mahler, completed 2009

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

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 faculty

Anthropology DPhil
Migration Studies DPhil
Area Studies DPhil
Economics DPhil
Geography and the Environmnent DPhil
International Relations DPhil
Law DPhil  
Politics DPhil  
Public Policy DPhil  
Social Policy DPhil  

Entry requirements for entry in 2021-22

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 distinction or a very high 2:1 in a relevant social science subject; and
  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a relevant social science subject.

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.

The master's degree must be completed and a final transcript made available to the department by the end of August prior to the start of the DPhil.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.8 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 required.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

  • Research or working experience in a relevant area may be an advantage but is not essential. Evidence of training in research methods is required.
  • Publications are not expected or required for admission, but any which you have should be added to your CV.
  • It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.
  • 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.

Further guidance

  • It is essential that you apply as early as possible and ensure that you submit all required materials by the advertised deadlines.

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 higher 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 higher level are detailed in the table below.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.57.0

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

110Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*191185
C2 Proficiency191185

*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 not normally held as part of the admissions process.

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 Oxford Department of International Development (ODID) is recognised as one of the world’s leading research centres in development studies. In the UK’s 2014 Research Excellence Framework it was ranked top in its subject area.

As a doctoral student you will become part of a vibrant research community. The department hosts some 70 outstanding academics researching in four broad themes: political change, conflict and the environment; economic development and international institutions; migration and refugees in a global context; and human development, poverty and children. We host a diverse set of research groups that are at the forefront of their specialist fields: the International Growth Centre, the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, the Refugee Studies Centre, the Technology and Management Centre for Development, Young Lives and Changing Structures of Islamic Authority. These all contribute to the doctoral programme by providing case studies, fieldwork support and specialist supervision, alongside scholars working independently.

You will have access to a wide range of seminars organised by the department as well as an enormous variety of events across the wider University. The department has its own lively and well-attended weekly DPhil work-in-progress seminar, at which you can present your ideas and receive feedback from your peers.

You will also have access to training opportunities provided by the Social Sciences Divisional Office, which offers advanced research and career development training.

Libraries

The Social Sciences Library, the largest freestanding social science library in the UK with considerable print and digital strengths in development studies and a specialist librarian, is nearby. This is complemented by the world-class resources of the Bodleian Library and the satellite libraries. As alumni of the University, students can sign up for lifetime access to key online journals.

IT support

Doctoral students have a dedicated work area of the building, with full IT facilities, including computers, printers, scanners and Wi-Fi access. Technical support is available through the department, your college and the University’s IT Services, which also offers training courses. Course materials are available online via Canvas, the University’s Virtual Learning Environment.

Department facilities

In addition to the dedicated doctoral work area there is a common room area where students from all the department's courses can gather. Light lunches are available during term in the department’s cafeteria.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer up to 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2021-22. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. 

For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources. Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages.

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

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2021-22

Full-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£13,600
Overseas (including EU)£24,450

Part-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£6,799
Overseas (including EU)£12,223

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 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

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, depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. Most students will choose a topic which will require them to do fieldwork for their thesis. This will usually be done after transferring status from Probationer Research Student to DPhil status. Students should note that they will have to meet all costs of fieldwork themselves and these costs are likely to include travel and related costs such as visas, accommodation, subsistence, translation and research assistant services if required. These costs will vary according to the location and length of the fieldwork and the department estimates that these costs may range from £1,500 to £20,000. Each DPhil student is able to apply for a fieldwork grant of £700. This is awarded once only. Students who have fieldwork grants from ESRC are not able to apply. Further information will be provided in the course handbook.You may also be able to apply for small grants from your 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 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. 

How to apply

It is advisable but not necessary for you to make contact with potential supervisors before you apply. However, as an offer of a place cannot be made if there is no suitable supervisor in the department, you are advised to check the ODID website to see if your proposed research matches with research being done in the department.

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:
A maximum of 3,000 words

The research proposal should be written in English only and should set out your research topic succinctly. For further assistance, please read the department's proposal writing guide

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

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

This will be assessed for:

  • originality of the project
  • evidence of understanding of the proposed area of study
  • engagement with the extant literature and potential for contribution to existing bodies of scholarship
  • the ability to present a reasoned and analytical case
  • the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course (a maximum of three to four years)
  • knowledge of research methods and sources.

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 significance of your research question and the viability of your sources and methods at this moment.

Your proposal should focus on the research project rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

Written work:
Two essays, a maximum of 4,000 words each

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts from longer pieces of work are acceptable, but should not come from the same piece of work and should be prefaced by a note which puts them in context. Please note that multi-authored works are not acceptable. Work that is not academic, for example journalism or popular writing, is not appropriate.

The writing samples should preferably be on a development-related topic. The word count does not need to include your bibliography or footnotes.

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

This will be assessed for a comprehensive understanding of the subject area; your ability to construct and defend an argument; your powers of analysis; your powers of expression; and your familiarity with the literature on the subject.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, academic preferred

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 intellectual ability, academic achievement, academic writing ability and motivation. Academic references are preferred. Non-academic references, for example from work colleagues, are not highly weighted.

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 button 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.

Application GuideApply - Full time Apply - Part time

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