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 economic growth and structural transformation, macroeconomics and public finance, changes within firms and households, poverty and inequality, insecurity and conflict, the history of social and political change, migration and refugees, global governance and the environment, children and human development, and technology and industrialisation. 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.
You will be admitted initially as a Probationer Research Student (PRS), with full-time students transferring to full DPhil status by the end of their first year and part-time students transferring by the end of their second year.
During the probationary period, 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 take one taught course, either in research methods or from an Oxford master’s degree relevant to your research, on which you will be examined at the end of the first year. 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.
Once the transfer is complete, 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.
Assessment of progress will be made during these 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.
As a PRS 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.
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.
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.
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 overseas, among other institutions.
Other former students have taken up positions in governments and major international institutions, including the World Bank and the UN organisation, 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. 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 faculty
All graduate courses offered by the Oxford Department of International Development
Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21
Proven and potential academic excellence
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.
- It is essential that you apply as early as possible and ensure that you submit all required materials by the advertised deadlines.
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 Academic||7.5||Minimum 7.0 per component|
Minimum component scores:
|Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced||191||Minimum 185 per component|
|Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency||191||Minimum 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.
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.
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:
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.
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: economic development and international institutions; migration and refugees in a global context; human development, poverty and children; and political change, conflict and the environment. We host five research groups and one major five-year project 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.
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.
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.
Doctoral students are provided with study carrels in 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.
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.
There are over 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.
Annual fees for entry in 2020-21
Annual Course fees
|Home/EU (including Islands)||£13,075|
Annual Course fees
|Home/EU (including Islands)||£6,540|
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.
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.
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.
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.
The following colleges accept students for full-time study on this course:
The following colleges accept students for part-time study on this course:
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:
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.
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.
Around 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.
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)
- preliminary knowledge of research techniques 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.
Two essays of 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.
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 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).